In a Sea of Wild Horses: Dismantling Shame (originally featured on The Christian Closet)
Today, as I gaze across the living room of the home that I share with my wife and our growing puppy, I am reminded of the sorrow and shame that used to adorn my doorway. I am reminded of a time in which I clung, desperately, to the fabric of a life that was familiar. I am reminded of a season in which a dark and lonely closet was comforting in a way I was quite certain the light of an unknown corridor could never be.
I am reminded of tear-stained pages lining anxiously-scribbled-in journals, of coded language used to disguise my secret - this “thorn in the flesh,” this “cross that I must bear” - reminded of fearful waking and sleeping, a vision of my future in solitude, the tangible possibility of an early grave.
I am reminded that the breath in my lungs is no small miracle, that the life in my limbs - no mere accident, the joy swelling in my heart - no certain destiny. I am reminded of the years of tears and toil and falling on my knees and face before a Loving God who I once imagined as vengeful and angry.
I am reminded that life is precious and that sometimes self-love must precede the love of another and perhaps, even the love of God. I am reminded that my coming out was actually a coming into myself by way of liberation, love, and longing. I am reminded of the redemption of my long road to self-acceptance and how that painful road washed me up on the shore of gentleness and compassion.
Before I came out - before I placed my fear of Other People’s Opinions on the altar to burn up in flames as I partook in my own sacred communion with the God of the marginalized - I lived a very small and fearful existence. I knew how to excel in all that I could do for other people, but I did not yet know how to be with myself, with other people, or with my Maker in a way that was real and unapologetic and whole.
My internal battle for peace was not resolved by laying down a part of myself forever by conforming to a way of being that others were content to call my “cross to bear.” No - my physical, spiritual, and emotional unrest was dismantled, rather, by my own honesty. By my own holy fear and trembling, my own soul-searching, my own “your will be done” whispers beneath dimly lit skies with none but the uncaring wind as my witness.
My pursuit of joy came not through my own striving but rather through my own surrender. Not the kind of surrender they preached about behind worn wood pulpits, flanked by a towering cross. Not the kind of “die to self and give up all that you are” that so many tenants of the faith demand. But rather the surrender that mandates all of myself is a vessel to be filled by the Spirit of Love and that the perception others may have of me is no longer the idol I worship.
You see, when I discovered that I was fearfully - yes - wonderfully made on purpose, just as I am by the outstretched hand of the all-loving Divine, and that what I once perceived as my greatest barrier was actually my greatest gift - well that changed everything. To be gay and love Jesus in a world that so often understands neither is to be a bridge. To be a unicorn in a sea of wild horses.
It is to stare fear in the face and proclaim that Love will have the final say. It is to keep going, even when the pain of loss is excruciating, the grief of alienation exhausting - because they say it gets better.
And oh, how it gets better. And better. Because beyond the closet door is something holy and wonderful - the All Loving Creator running towards me, arms wide open - calling me out of the shadows of secrecy, shame, and inauthenticity and into the marvelous light of wholeness and freedom from fear.