You may be wondering how this interview came about… I would be honored to explain. A few months ago I met the interviewee’s parents at a church where I was teaching. They told me of God’s grace and His power in their daughter’s life, that she once had homosexual tendencies and had been in a long-term relationship with a same sex person, but that she had been transformed and that she was at peace with herself, God, and others. They told me that she had written a short book and that I could have a copy. The book was a beautiful and sincere account written by an individual who had experienced something many of us long for, overcoming something we struggle with. For many of us the sin we are in an ongoing battle with isn’t homosexuality… it’s gluttony, or lying, or gossip, or something else that is holding us captive. Her story was so inspiring that I asked her if she would do this interview for those of you who read this blog.
I’m hoping for three outcomes. 1) I’m hoping that overly simplistic (and many judgmental) Christians will set aside their overly simplistic perspectives and begin to empathize with those persons who are in a gay relationship. 2) I would like for those who are in a gay relationship or are struggling in this area to hear from someone who really does understand their plight and at least consider that God may have a different plan for them. 3) I want pastors and small group leaders to set aside their fear and be willing to journey alongside those in their congregation or small group who struggle with homosexuality and for those church leaders to walk alongside these people just as they do those people who struggle with other sins.
Yesterday, my questions focused on the early years of Stephanie’s journey with homosexuality. Today… coming out…
Rick: When did you determine that you were going to come out and let the world know that you were gay?
Stephanie: This one is a bit complicated. I never got to have the whole “coming out” conversation with my family and friends…..you know…..that wonderful conversation that we often see played out on tv or in movies where the scene is set and the person gets just the right timing to have that all-important conversation, and the family and friends are at least somewhat accepting of the person. I think every person standing at the gate of “coming out” dreams of that outcome…..that he or she will be loved and accepted by everyone. My reality was quite different. Because of my own lack of self-control, I did not get to “come out,” rather, I was “found out.” When I was “found out,” the response was not at all what I had hoped for. The immediate response was anger, disappointment, disgust, and sadness from everyone – family and friends included. Years later, I still regret not having the opportunity to plan out having “the conversation” with my family.
Rick: Whose reactions were you most concerned about and why do you think their reactions were so important to you?
Stephanie: Definitely the reactions of my family. Mostly because I did not understand why they reacted the way they did. I am, and always have been very family oriented. It hurt me deeply to know that this one little aspect of my life would cause my family to see me as trash, tell me I had to move out, turn their backs on me. I love my family dearly, but their initial reactions were quite harsh and took years to get over.
Rick: How did your gay friends respond to your decision?
Stephanie: At the time, I had no gay friends. I was in this all by myself, except for my girlfriend at the time. I had just graduated from High School by this time, and although I was not much of a social butterfly, I did still have the handful of friends I had gone through several years of school with and my very best friend since toddler-dom, and when I decided to start telling all of them, one by one, they stopped talking to me. Many even cried as I was sharing my decision with them.
Rick: How did your church respond? How do you wish they would have responded differently?
Stephanie: Oh, the church practically threw me out the doors. Of course, it did not help that my girlfriend happened to be a prominent church leader’s daughter. In looking back now, I did a lot of things I wish I had not done. People I had grown up with in the church would no longer speak to me, and some told me that God no longer loved me because of the way I was living. This was enough to drive me away completely. I wish they would have shown a little more compassion and maybe have been able to separate the sinner from the sin and not have been so quick to condemn me to Hell.
Rick: In your opinion, what is the best way for a church to respond when someone in their congregation tells them they’re gay?
Stephanie: First of all, love the sinner, but hate the sin. Sometimes that is easier said than done, but that is what you have to do. Do not treat the person as if this particular thing is all they are made up of. The best way, in my opinion, to minister to someone who says they are gay (I was still gay when I first started going back to church, and this is how I was treated) is love them, let them speak without judgment, pray often with them, guide them through the scriptures and ONLY through the scriptures… and wait on the Lord to do a work. There are many books available which attempt to justify homosexuality in Christianity through use of scriptures, but what these books do is take a portion of scripture and twist it so that homosexuality seems acceptable. I bought one of these books early in my new walk with God, and although God allowed me to buy it, He would NOT allow me to open the book! Every time I went to open this book, I literally became physically ill, and I heard God say, “All you need is My Word.” So church, love the sinner, hate the sin, do not condone the actions of the sin, love the sinner (I can’t say that enough!), pray with and for them often, do not judge, and stick to God’s Holy Word. Love them back to God and let God do the rest.