It’s been a long time since I’ve written out or spoken about my religious ‘state of the union’. I used to be in full-time ministry, and a lot of what I did was explaining, out loud, my thoughts, beliefs, and practices relating to God and the church....heck, it was essentially ALL I thought about (well, I also thought about the most recent episode of Law And Order too...I’m not completely devoid of culture :P).
I became a Christian in middle school, grew in my faith and practices in college, and after graduation stayed on with my collegiate Christian ministry group as a campus staff member. I worked in that ministry full time (both in the states and overseas) for about 6 years after graduation. That period in my life came to a close in mid-2006, when I spoke to my supervisor in the ministry and told her that I no longer believed homosexuality was a sin. She met with her board of directors and they asked me to tender my resignation the next day. This kind of makes sense, because my job was to help spread and teach their beliefs, some of which I no longer held....but as much sense as it made, it was part of the most painful period in my life so far. I instantly lost my job, and because I was in South America on a work visa, I also lost my residency in the country, my apartment, my local church, my life, essentially. And beyond those practicals, I had a good part of my community, the people I consider my family, ripped violently away from me, of their own choice of course...as they now considered that God was directing them not to have fellowship with me, a non-repentant sinner.
That was several years ago now and I’d say my heart has healed considerably, but the wounds those ruptures left have definitely changed the way I see, think about, and interact with churches and Christians.
Well, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. My idea of what a “testimony” is revolves around the person’s relationship with God and the divine, not necessarily with other believers or churches. Thank God (ha!), I haven’t lost God and I know I never won’t. Much of my theology was severely shaken when I started to feel same-sex attraction and essentially my beliefs haven’t stopped evolving since. I can see new perspectives that before, I just would have dismissed as impossible (so why even consider them?) and I see that as a blessing, rather than a ‘danger to my faith’. But stretching what I thought about God, seeing him from ALL these new angles, can’t destroy the truths about what I’d experienced with him beforehand, or the core beliefs I have about him (community/communion, justice, love...among others :). Don’t get me wrong—there were plenty of moments during my struggle when I was sure I was about to ‘lose my faith’, either of my own volition or because I was just too Wrong and God himself was about to dump me. But it just...never happened. God will still meet me in prayer whenever I turn my face up to him. I still keep learning new things about him from every corner of my life. I still can’t think of any god-less explanation of the universe that makes sense to me.
Currently the wife and I are not attending church, although we’d like to. When she got a visa to live in the states (a miracle! I’m serious :) earlier this year, we moved from Argentina to Chicago and have tried out a couple of churches here, but since I’ve been working like a fiend we haven’t been able to visit as many as we’d like and are still slowwwwwllllyyyyy hunting. One of my new year’s resolutions is to go to church at least twice a month and hopefully settle into one by the time my wife starts her first full year of seminary in August. And because we were both involved in ministry for so long, we still have lots of God conversations with lots of people—our ex-colleagues and friends who want to debate about God and sexuality (always up for that :), new queer Christians we meet who are struggling and depressed and need to hear that God still loves them, etc. I’m really thankful for that, because I never want to keep thinking about God or forget that everything is about, from, by and IS him. Everything, though! If I had made that same statement 10 years ago, by ‘everything’ I’d have meant evangelicals, maybe some other Protestants, Catholics on a good day, and probably national wonders like the Grand Canyon—but that was it. Now my ‘everything’ means EVERYTHING. You know—we can experience God in ice cream and empanadas, doing a good job at the office, conversations with Buddhists, conversations with Atheists (!), learning a new language, reading John Irving (and Steinbeck, and Leguin, and.....), vacuuming (this is true!), and on and on and on. I even have a TOTALLY new perspective on the bible, never willing to discount how God used and uses and will use it in my life, but thinking now that maybe it’s so divine because it’s so human...and remember that we humans are not perfect. ( Just a thought, though...I won’t get into the exegesis here as this isn’t an academic debate :)
I’m blessed beyond belief that God still holds me in his arms and shares his world with me, and I want to keep growing in that and being thankful for it and doing whatever he wants for me in this life. I hit some obstacles along the way when my long-held beliefs made me feel like a blatant sinner and that I was somehow leaving God. But luckily he didn’t let me think that for long, and he’s promised me strength and hope to fight (for likely the rest of my life) against those who think I’m astray, apostate, down and out.
What shall the future hold.....