This post is part of the “Our Stories” project, where readers submit their testimony or coming out story. It’s important to engage in meaningful and life-giving discussions about a topic that is too often silenced. When you tell your truth, you help someone else accept theirs. This is Anita’s story.
I am a Christian wife of 35 years, mom and grandmother who has been immersed in a lifetime of conservative literal teachings and practices of the church. Only in the last couple years have if found the language, the courage, and the desperate need to figure out how to explain to myself, to my family, and to others in my faith community who I am; why I am different in so many ways and why I struggled to be the best I could be but always with a sense of not quit right. It has been a spiritual journey of love that has unraveled me and put me back together. The journey has involved grief, anger, depression, hopelessness, forgiveness, love, and acceptance. God has guided me every step of the way and has brought amazing people into my life that has shown me such kindness, compassion and understanding. I finally found the words to talk to my husband. I have the tendency to perceive the reactions of others to be potentially negative. He surprised me with love. He doesn’t completely understand but he loves me. I am reminded that it took me a long time to understand and accept myself. I need to allow others that time also. So why even bother at this time in my life? Why go through the pain and fear of rejection? I have a deep compassion and love for those who have left or who have been rejected by the church. I asked my Lord to teach me His ways and to help me better understand His love. Teach me to love others as you have loved me. The words tell us but until we walk the walk the words can be difficult to comprehend. God answers our prayers in amazing ways. He knew I struggled with loving myself and that I didn’t really know why. He caused me to look at myself more closely. You know those unexpected people who come into our lives. Well, God showed me who I was. “Love yourself first, then you will be able to love others”. Oh my, the unraveling began. It was painful and extremely difficult. Time, searching, praying … the answers began to unfold around me. I found other Christians. I was surprised, amazed, and hopeful. The pieces of an allusive puzzle began to fit together with amazing clarity. Oh my, I am a lesbian and God loves me and he wants me to love others like me the way He loves me! So what do I do with this? I must love others. I must let God’s light shine in me. I must reach out to others with compassion and understanding. I spend a great deal of time trying to figure out how to do this with wisdom, grace, compassion, kindness, and love. This is my journey and I have really only begun.