I recently shared some ideas of how I thought affirming Christians could be stronger allies to the LGBTQ+ community, one being more vocal about their journey to becoming affirming. I think many of us who grew up in Church communities didn’t grow up in an affirming environment and I am no exception. After I shared that push to allies, I thought, Wait, have I even shared mine?

I remember being 14 in my freshman chorus class and my friend asked me, “Do you think being gay is a choice?”

I answered, “I guess so, yeah.”

My friend’s jaw dropped. She gasped and shook her head.

She didn’t say we couldn’t be friends. She didn’t cancel plans with me. She didn’t ever act unkindly.

Our families voted differently and we each saw the world very differently at that time. I came from a religious family and she didn’t. Somehow we still found common ground to remain good friends throughout high school and I look back at that friendship as one of the most grace-filled I’ve ever experienced.

We eventually lost touch because in my senior year of high school I moved from North Carolina to Georgia. Changing schools in the last year of high school is tough and I don’t think I’d wish it on anyone, but I’m able to see the gifts in that journey. I went to a college I loved and met my wife there.

But before that, senior year is kind of a blur. I moved through different friend circles, worked part-time at Panera, and struggled to find a solid group. But there was one friend I immediately connected with.

She was athletic, funny, and confident beyond her seventeen-year-old self. She was easy-going and kind, never weirded out by the new kid, but curious and welcoming.

I remember how she came out to me in French class by saying, “I have something to tell you about me. Something big. But I won’t say it. You have to guess. I’ve never said it out loud. Everyone else has to say it.”

After a few awkward back and forths, I asked, “You’re gay?”

Her eyes widened and she lit up. Joy embodied.

It wasn’t until our friendship (her courage) that I began to imagine something different for my life. It’s not like I hadn’t heard of gay people before then, but being close to someone and seeing their fullness encourages others to find their own too.

It took time but eventually, I was able to say that what my friend found for her paved the way for me, too.

It sounds nice and wrapped in a bow but sheesh, it was hard. I came from a religious family and had a faith that was real. I believed in Jesus and the Bible and good and evil. I never thought gay people were evil but I didn’t believe they were part of the “good” category. So realizing I was somewhere in that mix was not easy.

I had a foundation though that wasn’t just built on the Bible, rather I felt I knew God. Knew His voice, knew His love, knew His comfort. While I was coming out, I cowered away from it, afraid that when I felt Him speaking to me, He would say how wrong, deceived, maybe even evil I was.

I shut God out because I thought he might do the same to me. But what I found is how God provided in ways I needed. God was in my counselor that helped me through the darkest time of depression. God was in the friendships I lost from youth group saying, “Not here.” God was in the moment when my wife and I were humiliated in church saying, “This isn’t home – go.” God led me to the woman who eventually became my wife and said, “Here is joy. Here is love that looks as close to mine as you’ll ever see.”

My wife Olivia and I

Try as I did to shut God out, He provided in ways that met me where I was in those years. He was never angry with me for being afraid but was gracious in my wandering. When I finally started listening to His voice again, He never asked me who I love. He only asked how.

I love the image in the Bible about a good tree growing good fruit and a bad tree bearing bad fruit. As someone who often tries to see the world in black and white, this image is one I get. The relationship my wife and I share bears love, patience, humor, ease, peace, and understanding. It does not bear anger, rudeness, selfishness, or deceit. It’s a relationship that bears Holiness in His image.

So if someone were to ask me now if being gay is a choice, I’d answer:

The only choice is to follow Love. 

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