The gospel begins with the call to change our hearts. Here, a member of our congregation writes powerfully on the changes happening in her own heart, as her ideas about God are turned upside down and she discovers that there is good news for her, after all.
Up until a year ago I had gone to church almost every Sunday since I was 11 years old. In that time, I had grown to love God and I had also grown to really doubt Him and in being honest there have been many times where I have been really angry at Him too. In the 21 years I had been going to church I was constantly at war within myself. I loved God, I loved the church I attended, and I loved the family created within that church.
Have you ever sat in church listening to a sermon and there was just something that did not sit right? A feeling of confusion, a feeling of shame, a feeling of something is just not okay? The longer I was in church the more often those feelings were there. Instead of hearing messages of love, of hope, of God’s grace they were overshadowed by these messages of hate, of condemnation, messages telling me that I would never be loved by God and I would never be accepted into heaven if this secret of mine were to come out, if I were to ever come out.
I first heard about Sanctuary from my psychologist. Her suggestion was for me to check out Sanctuary when I was ready. I Googled it and my first thoughts were, “Was it really possible for a church to accept and welcome gay people? And what would that even look like?” I kept thinking about it, but I was far from brave enough to go and see for myself, not yet anyway.
For years I had sat in a church that condemned who I was. Sermon after sermon teaching me that who I was, was not created by God. Telling me that unless I turn from my sinful desire I would never be enough, putting thoughts in my head that I was broken, that there was something wrong with me because I was attracted to the same sex. I spent year after year praying and begging God to take away this part of me, a part of me that I did not choose and that I did not want. I was surrounded by homophobic people and messages, but the loudest homophobia was that which was inside of me. Every sermon that was ever preached that spoke against homosexuality I had turned inward. Those messages played on repeat over and over again in my head and they still do on occasion.
I need to unlearn all those things I learnt over the past 21 years. I need to work on reversing the messages I received and create new pathways, new understandings, and a completely different relationship with God. I am on that journey right now as I write this. It took me almost 2 weeks to write this email because I kept telling myself that gay and Christian don’t go together. I kept telling myself that, as lovely as the people at Sanctuary are, a gay person cannot possibly share their story in church. There were many texts to Alison, many tears in the arms of my partner, and many starts written and scribbled out.
This last year has been one of change, one of growth and one of new beginnings. I left the church that condemned me, I lost a family that had been an integral part of my life, I left the town I used to call my home and I lost a part of my identity. I have gained a life where I am living authentically, I am slowly building a new circle of amazing people who I can call my tribe, I am with the most loving and kind person who I adore, I am learning to trust God again and letting go of some of that anger and hurt, I am unlearning and learning all at the same time. I still struggle with the term gay Christian and I still have moments of internalized homophobia but as I learn more and open up more those messages I received within a church are slowly becoming less and the messages I am now receiving within a church are slowly becoming a little louder.
As I continue on this journey I am slowly learning to believe that I am a beloved child of God, He created me in His image, and He loves me exactly as I am!
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