Mandy | Coming Out Christian

I’m a Christ-follower who had to get real with Jesus about my sexuality; I want to help others do the same. There is a chasm between the Church and the LGBT community, which primarily stems from ill-education and a lack of understanding about exactly what it means to be gay. I’m a very small part of a giant movement that is trying to bridge that gap. I’m not here to change people’s minds. I’m just here to advocate loving and life-giving conversation on a topic that is too often silenced. As someone on both sides of the issue, I can accurately say, love is the answer. And we can learn how to love each other without having to agree on everything. -Mandy

Testimony:
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a very loving, Christian home. Both of my parents were an intricate part of my life. I was extremely involved in my church, and felt a very deep and intimate connection to God. I had a virtually perfect childhood. Surrounded by friends, family, teachers, peers, I became very confident in who I was as a person. People always ask how old I was when I “discovered” I was gay. Although I guess I always knew there was something different, I didn’t really know what to call it. The word “gay” never crossed my mind… because in the rural south, that wasn’t an option. “Those kinds of people” were simply not talked about, and so I never considered that I could be one of “those people”. Although I couldn’t really explain why, anytime I overheard derogatory language toward gays and lesbians, I got a knot in my stomach. Somewhere deep down inside, it affected me. In high school, I had developed the closest friendships of my life up to that point. I considered myself to be a very passionate, loyal friend. I experienced feelings of deep jealousy with certain friends if they chose to spend their time with someone else. Not that I didn’t want them to have friends… I just wanted them to have that special spot reserved for me. It was like… well, it was kinda like this:

Don’t feel bad, Fortune… it took me just as long to “get it”. And it would be much, much longer before I came out.

This same, confusing pattern continued on. I was around 19 years old when I couldn’t ignore it anymore… I was in my sophomore year of college (at an ultra-conservative university, mind you). That’s when I had my first physical relationship with another girl. Once I did this, the shame began. The things I’d always heard in church were clear, and echoing in my head. I just knew that there must be some horrible, psychological problem… and that I was headed straight to hell. I prayed, I fasted, I bargained with God, and I even explored ex-gay ministries… I was still gay. Time went on, crushes came and went, and I graduated. Perhaps this was just a phase. More time passed, and the pattern continued. I kept praying… but in my mind, I just knew that a perfect God wouldn’t want to hear from a filthy, disgusting person like me. So, although I still firmly believed in the reality and holiness of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, I stopped praying. But still, I put on the charade. I wanted communion with God so desperately… but I thought that I had to clean myself up before I could go to God. It wasn’t until a few years later, that I realized it worked the other way around. You come just as you are, and let God do what He will. So I began my studying. One thing stood out to me above everything, and that is the life of Jesus. I noticed the kinds of people he chose to be around. He surrounded himself with the social outcasts of his day. The entire foundation of his ministry can be summed up in one word: love. After digging deep, I finally found what Jesus said about gay people:

jesusandgays

With renewed worth, and a deep sense of love and belonging, I began to pray again. It was at that point that I discovered myself as I was meant to be. I was liberated.

Most conservative Christians or members of the religious right would say that I have backslidden into a life of sin. They would claim that all of my studying and soul searching has only led me to the easy road of justifying my sexuality. One thing I know for sure… the road I took was not the easy one. It took many years, much struggle, and a lot of tears to re-learn the Scriptures, and un-learn the religious rhetoric that I had been taught as truth. Now, for the first time in my life since childhood, I can say that I have peace. I have found the courage to be honest with those who mean the most to me. Don’t get me wrong… coming out is a process. There are still people who don’t know about me. But I no longer lose sleep worrying that people will find out. Personally, I feel as though this is a journey I must take in order to help others like me who suffer under religious oppression because of their sexuality. Simply put, I believe education is the answer. We need to spread the word that it’s entirely possible to be Christian and gay. The “Great Gay Debate” in our churches keeps people from the greater work of God’s kingdom. It’s my dream that one day, we will all reach of point of understanding and compassion with one another. When we carry out the Greatest Commandment by truly loving each other, then we can move forward in the common goal of serving others in the name of Jesus Christ.

If you happen to be someone who personally knows me (past or present), and if all of this is a shock to you, I’d like to ask you to take a few minutes to read this post. It’s especially for you. I love you.

-Mandy

11 responses to “Mandy | Coming Out Christian

  1. I cannot pass the opportunity to comment on the above story. I’m still reluctant to share at times, but Praise God for the work that Mandy has done with the Lord! I stumbled across this story, that sounds so very familiar, in efforts to seek hope and encouragement. It doesn’t happen often, but after reading the story I don’t feel as alone….for now. So, again, praise God! I still wrestle with what I know to be true and with the messages I hear from church family. It is hard to find total peace when I can’t be fully transparent with everyone that I know. I’m not ashamed of who I am, I just don’t want to hurt people. And many will be hurt even though I have never indulged in a sexual relationship. I have not stopped serving the Lord throughout my journey and I’m working hard at not becoming bitter toward “church” and I am still able to be loving toward those who say I’m headed down a sinful path. I continue to pray what it says in Psalm 119:73 “Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands.” I want to learn the Lord’s commands of love and compassion more and more. And I want to be at total peace with how the Lord has formed me and made me. I try to be strong and to keep the faith I have had for as long as I can remember, but there are times I feel so messed up, lonely, and disheartened, despite my focus on Jesus and who I am in relationship with God. May we all learn how to move forward in serving others in the name of Jesus Christ no matter where we are at in life.
    -Josha

    • Josha,
      Thank you for pouring out your heart and sharing a bit of your story. I pray that you will always find this a safe place to discuss and explore your faith. I echo a big AMEN to your last sentence… may we truly allow God to meet us where we are. We must never buy into the lie that we cannot serve God because we are still “figuring things out”. We are all His children… and we can serve Him, and let Him love us, no matter what!

      I pray that you continue to find Him in everything. And remember, although you may feel alone sometimes, you DO have a family, made up of people just like you (and me) all over this world. There are so many out there who are going through the same things you have been through. We have to let our voices be heard and find comfort in God and in one another. God bless you! :)

  2. Wow! I’m so thankful for this unexpected breath of fresh air. It is one more place (and there are few) where I can pursue and share my faith experiences and not have to view my sexuality as a sin. A place where I can be fully me! What a blessing! I look forward to sharing and exploring in this place. Not to seek ways of justifying myself but to purely grow in the wisdom of Christ. I want to say so much, but for now will just say, I’m grateful to have more connection to people who have BOTH a heart for growing in the reality of Christ and who validate my sexuality. I need that. Thanks for the encouragement Mandy!

    -Josha

  3. So, I was just checking out the redesigned blog (still super excited that Mandy is a published author now!!) and came across Josha’s first comment, and Josha, I was really struck by your statement “I’m not ashamed of who I am, I just don’t want to hurt people.” You have no idea how much I relate to that sentiment. Not wanting to hurt or disappoint people or to make others feel uncomfortable defined so much of my early coming out process (and still does with a few family members, former church leaders, etc). But what I found over time was that not hurting the people I cared about really meant allowing them to continually hurt me. And not only was I allowing them to hurt me – I had made that decision for them. I just assumed that they couldn’t handle who I really am and didn’t even give them a chance to prove me wrong. And sometimes (probably most of the time) I was wrong. Mandy is out to a woman that I always feared would be deeply hurt if I came out to her (we grew up in the same church) and the woman handled it with far more grace, tact, and love than I ever would have thought possible. Back when I was afraid of hurting people, I lost relationships anyway because, whether I mean to or not, I push people away when I’m hiding something from them. In hindsight, I think that the distance I put into some formerly close relationships probably hurt the people I cared about more than knowing my orientation ever could have. And now that I’m older, wiser, and out to most people in my life, I can say that while I may have made a few people uncomfortable (they got over it) or disappointed some others along the way, I don’t think my queerness has actually hurt anyone. And if you’re worried that your nearest and dearest will live the rest of their lives in fear of you rotting in hell, do your research first and be prepared to show them what the Bible really says (or doesn’t say) about homosexuality. Some people in the church have been exposed to other perspectives and rejected them, but in my experience, the vast majority are simply uneducated and you may be able to change some hearts and minds. Stay strong and best of luck on your journey, Josha!

    • Wow! Well said, Kelli. It’s so true that sometimes we end up being the ones who enable others to hurt us continually. I certainly echo your feelings about distancing yourself from old friendships. I still feel that I’ve maintained distance from a few of our high school friends, for the same reasons as you: What if they hated me because of my sexuality? But as a very good friend of mine says, “Sometimes people will surprise you. If you don’t come out to them, then you take away the opportunity for them to respond in love and grace.” Which is so true, but much easier said than done.

      When it comes down to it, it’s really all about two things: First, do you really believe that God loves you right where you are? And secondly, are you seeking truth? If the answer to both of these is “yes”, then you have true freedom to find your path, and to discover what being gay really means for your faith.

  4. Yes, well said, Kelli and thank you. I love this conversation and I think it is because I’m communicating with more people who have walked the same path as myself.

    Through out this journey I have been praying to be spirit led on when and how to tell people. I have been slow and discerning and have told a few people in my church in private settings, one on one. I have been surprised by some reactions that are positive however these people are still needing to process all this too. It has really taken people off guard. BUT I have also had a couple of very disheartening conversations. And one person told me “You will hurt people if you continue down this path. You will hurt the teens.” I’m involved with teen and children activities and many families consider me their “adopted” child or grand child. Also, people want to try and figure out why I’m “this way,” and blame it on some of the most strange ideas in efforts to not accept that I was just born this way. I’ve been discouraged in efforts to educate and to share and feel stuck again. I think that is part of why I’m so grateful for this place of conversation.

    I have come to terms with this part of who I am and in relationship to God and I’m absolutely sure that I’m seeking truth. I think I start to doubt these two things when I have less contact or conversation with those who validate my sexuality in combination with being around even more people who don’t. It is easy to start doubting and then when I doubt myself I feel like my faith is weak and that maybe I really am being led down a “path of sin.” I wish I could just move on. I think that is where I’m at. I’m trying to figure out what “moving on” means. Does it mean telling more people? Does it mean leaving my church family (I don’t like this option at all)? Does it mean pursuing a relationship (I don’t think this is a good idea until I don’t feel like I’m messed up)? Does it mean secretly telling people in private? I’m not sure what it means to “move on”, but I wish I could move on.

    It is so bizarre. I function so well at work and at church and in society, but then I feel so “messed up.” And at this point I think part of why I feel “messed up” is because even though I’m okay with who I am, I am keeping it a secret. Maybe it is time to start sharing in private with people again.

    I think the bottom line is that all of this is just going to take time. I have to keep reminding myself that there is wisdom and the power of God at work in the midst of time.

  5. I feel compelled to follow up on what I read this morning of Kelli and Mandy’s thoughts and in what I wrote. After church today I ended up having lunch with a couple who I have been wanting to share with. I had an overwhelming amount of assurance that it was time to talk to them, thanks to the above conversation. And it went beautifully. They were most loving and open to understanding. The Elder even requested to borrow the film “For the Bible Tells Me So.” Apparently, they have been facing this topic with others and have been seeking God in all this too. So it is evident to me that God has been at great work in the midst of time and experiences. And back to Kelli’s thoughts on the relationship aspect of not sharing vs. sharing, really hit home today. I do feel closer to this couple more than ever and if I had not moved forward with sharing, the three of us would not have had the opportunity to wrestle with this together in a positive way. I know that it will not always be like today was, but I guess I have learned that even if people take it really hard and negatively, it is not necessarily a bad thing….it’s opportunity to grow.

    • Praise God!!! That is amazing! I’m so glad that it went well! And it’s a huge step for them to request “For the Bible Tells Me So”. It’s one of the most comprehensive films available on the topic. Oh, please keep me posted and let me know how things unfold! Congratulations for taking a very important step, Josha! I will continue to pray for you on your journey. :)

  6. Thanks for linking to me on Twitter. I looked around your site briefly and am looking forward to having more time to dig around and read.
    I did completely read your “about” page and can say that I have the exact same story…right up to the point of accepting yourself. I now sit here in tears because I just can’t get to that point. The struggle is neverending and I currently find myself in the most hopeless and defeated point I’ve ever been in. I’m starting to claw my way out of the hole again now and am hoping to find some helpful info.
    Thanks again and look forward to chatting more in the upcoming future.

    Tony / bigTseattle

    • Tony, I’m so glad to hear from you. Your note on Twitter the other day tugged at my heart, because I know that place of darkness all too well. I still find myself there occasionally. It’s a constant tug-of-war: trying to be who everyone thinks you should be, and at the same time, realizing you can never be anything but yourself. I respect your honesty. I look forward to chatting with you, as well. It’s so good to know that we don’t have to go this road alone.

  7. I’m so glad to read all the comments on this site! It’s so nice to know I’m not alone in my walk in all of this. I, too, have been “hiding” for quite some time. I’m even “hiding” on this page for fear of who might know me and see my comment. I’m so tired of hiding, but when you’re supposed to be the “perfect Christian”, we’re scared to let our true self shine. It’s so ridiculous because aren’t we supposed to come as we are to Christ? Why shouldn’t we be that way in our Christian family without being shunned or judged? I think we have it all wrong in the church and it’s just got to stop. As much as I struggle with this, it is just nice to know there are others out there who understand and are dealing with the same things that I do. I used to feel so alone, but now I see there are others just like me. I have come out to several close friends recently, and I’m SO blessed to have them in my life, they stand beside me, and they continue to love me… just where I am.

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