I forwarded “My Interview with a “Not Ex-Lesbian” Child of God,” to man at our church who identifies as a gay Christian. He came out to my husband and me a couple years ago and is one of our dear friends. While we chatted on Sunday, he shared that he too desires to make church a safe place for those in the gay community. And then he said something that I haven’t been able to shake. He said, “When I started attending church, I had to go back in the closet.”
Christian friends, there shouldn’t be any closets in the Church.
Whether it’s a secret porn habit, idolizing food, a critical spirit, infertility, a crumbling marriage, the loneliness of a single life, a broken childhood, bitterness over a past hurt, the gaping wound of a lost child, a battle with depression, or fear of the future- we have a natural tendency to stuff our struggles far out of sight. But when there is a closet in our life, the Enemy finds us in that dark place and whispers lies to us about our worth and belonging. “No one else struggles with this.” “They wouldn’t love you if they knew about…” “You had better keep this a secret or else…” Entertaining those lies pushes us further into isolation and the cycle intensifies. So the masks go on, smiles in place, and we allow others to see only those rooms of our life that are swept clean- while we starve inwardly for someone to know all of us, the precious and the ugly.
Coming out of our closet doesn’t mean that everyone has to tell everyone everything. It does mean that everyone should be telling someone everything. The whole “confession brings healing” thing? It’s real. That “bear one another’s burden” thing? It’s a command. “Spurring one another on to love and good deeds” requires… one another. We all need a tight group of people within our church with whom we can be completely vulnerable and transparent. Friend, if you are doing church alone, it ain’t church.
This kind of authentic community requires maturity. First, the maturity to set a guard over our mouths so that others feel safe placing their struggles, burdens, losses and weaknesses in our hands. Second, it requires that we willingly recognize and confess our own sin to others. Third, it involves faithfulness and long-term commitment to one another, underpinning an environment of relational safety.
My gay Christian friend is able to talk with a few people at church about his story, but he doesn’t yet feel complete freedom to share all of himself. I’m praying that through the words of the Child of God we all would risk bringing into light those areas of life that have been concealed. And I pray that the church would be worthy of that costly gift, hold it gently, and allow every member of the Body to shut the door of our closets for good.