When I was little I wanted to be a hero. A roman soldier, an armoured knight – and then a Jedi knight – complete with light sabre – ok not so little then. I love history still despite studying it which temporarily took away a lot of the fun. So in a recent sermon, I listened keenly when told folk like me are the heroes of the church. We’ve just had our latest bookgroup. A lovely group of very honest folk who read together and are starting to share our lives too. We’ve waded through the current book (Emotionally healthy spirituality) and mostly loved it, finding it challenging – or at least I did. I’ve learned a lot through counselling, through mentors and books about attempting to create a deeper relationship with God and me!
My choice next time is Ed Shaw’s book “The plausibility problem” (where do these folk get the titles!) He argues the church needs to create a supportive community if it’s traditional stance on homosexuality or same sex attraction is going to make any sense in a very different society. Which takes me back to heroes. Because the sermon was on gay marriage – basically single, same sex attracted men and women who live out lives which are celibate despite that attraction are the modern day heroes of the church. That’s my challenge. It’s bloody hard! I’ve fought admitting I am gay/same sex attracted or at the least more than a tad hurt and confused for years. When I was a teenager, already being bullied, the only lesbian couple in the 6th form were ruthlessly teased. I hid my feelings and tried hard to fancy one of the guys in the Christian union – not very successfully. Later, I married, with little or no advice and it was a bad idea. For both. I talked through the subsequent attempt I had at a friendship with a woman with a counsellor, but I ducked the issue and buried it. It hadn’t been much more than an unwise friendship: she threw me out of her life anyway without it morphing into a particularly physical relationship. She “got me through” the counsellor commented.
Over the years I grew in my faith, learned stacks about who Jesus is and how relating to him gives me a secure identity and made solid friends. But I rammed the hard stuff back into the “closet” and leaned hard on the door – it didn’t seem relevant – I accept the traditional bible view so I accepted I wasn’t going to have a same sex partner. Just about – with a lot of questioning of God and feeling extremely lonely at times. Particularly Christmas when we get a compulsory two week break.
But over the past year, I’ve been challenged out of that closet into honesty. I had a friend who asked me “have you got a boyfriend/girlfriend/dog” – after a couple of beers at a college reunion – I thought the “no” answer needed a little clarifying so as she’d had a couple beers too I told her! Other friends before had listened too. Telling my prayer partner was very unnerving – rejection is terrifying. There’s something so beautiful about hearing “so, makes no difference to me – you’re still you” Of course! I hope church becomes a very safe place to be open and transparent – I’ve been pretty fortunate in mine.