From Wanderers to Warriors
by Lori Heine
It puzzles many readers of Scripture that the people of Israel had to wander in the wilderness for forty years before they could enter the Promised Land. The fact is that, had they reached their destination sooner, they would not have been ready. When they left Egypt, they were recently-freed slaves. But by the time they finally arrived in the new home God had promised them, they had grown into warriors. And they’d need to be—if they were to take possession of their inheritance.
Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians journey far and wide on a great church search. We may pass through a variety of congregations while we’re searching. And we may need to wander in the wilderness for a long time before we find our true church home.
I have been out as a lesbian, now, for just over twenty years. In that time, I have learned two surprising lessons. The first of these, I immediately recognized as positive. The second seemed negative—until I came to understand what it meant.
The more-immediately-positive lesson was that the people in my life who truly cared about me all accepted me. Those who rejected me turned out to be no great loss. I know that I have been extremely blessed in this, and that many others in our community don’t experience such a happy outcome. But it didn’t exempt me from having to pay some dues.
I soon learned that even though a growing number of churches accepted LGBT believers, that didn’t mean it would be easy to find the right fit. Our spiritual needs vary from one individual to another. On the dark and worry-weary night when I finally made the decision to come out as a lesbian, I knew that as a Christian, I’d be crossing a minefield. I promised God that I would never permit myself to be pulled away from what I believed I had to do to remain true to Him. And I asked for His guidance and guardianship in keeping me from getting blown up.
Our choices are still considerably more limited than those of straight Christians. We are constantly beset by the temptation to accept any congregation that will accept us. There remain many places in our country where that goal is the best an LGBT searcher can hope to achieve. I have been blessed to live in a city with many choices. Which didn’t make the choice any easier.
In keeping with the promise I made to God when I came out, I was determined to find a church home that would have been equally satisfying to me, had I been straight. I’m not willing to spend the rest of my life as a second-class citizen. And if there’s any area in which those committed to Christ should never compromise—if a choice does, indeed, exist—it is this one.
When we come to church, we bring our entire selves. This is the reason so many of us are unwilling to remain in the closet about our sexual orientation. God knows us far more thoroughly than we even know ourselves, and He wants us to be open and honest with Him and with our fellow human beings—especially those with whom we worship and serve Him. It’s spiritually unhealthy to live a lie in the one place where we should most completely be able to tell the truth.
After we emerge from the closet about our orientation, we are perpetually being shown our place. People are always telling us where we belong and where we don’t, what we’re permitted to believe and what we are not. And by no means all of those people are straight.
The problem with so many of the churches I passed through was that though my emergence from the closet about my sexual orientation had been accepted, I felt pressured to remain closeted about other important aspects of my life. I was expected to pass one litmus test after another. My morals, theology and politics were supposed to be determined by what others in the congregation thought LGBT people’s should be—not what I believed were right.
But the only opinion that matters, in the final analysis, is God’s. We are ultimately answerable to no one else. That means that even when we’ve found a congregation where we want to belong, we may need to stand up for ourselves and our convictions. We need to be free to be who we believe God created us to be—in absolutely all that means for us.
There are times when, even though I am content with my church home, I find that I need to stand up for myself. I’ve had to become a warrior. Perhaps straight people need to do that, too. Unlike a lot of straight Christians, who may have become complacent where they have always been, because there has never been any question that they’re welcome, my years of wandering in the wilderness have helped me to become a stronger and more resolute believer. It could be that in forcing me to become a warrior for my faith, my orientation will prove to be not a curse, but a blessing, indeed.
We, too, have an inheritance from God. If we persevere in our faith in Christ, He will show us our place. Truly, if we trust in Him, He will lead us home.
© 2018 Lori Heine
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