I attended Sunshine CRC in Grand Rapids from the age of four until I was nineteen. My parents were heavily involved in different ministries, so naturally my sister and I were as well. As a middle schooler and young adult, I spent almost all of my free time at church: I participated in youth groups, mission trips, coaching teen Bible Challenge, singing, drama, and so on. When I was young, I felt most safe while at church; it was probably the only place that I felt safe and loved.
After I came out as gay and started dating Terra, I had a very difficult time. Almost all of my Christian friends stopped talking to me or treating me like a person. People I had known my whole life made it clear to me that I was sinning against God, and if I wanted to be included back into the fold I would need to repent immediately. It made me question my relationship with God and whether I mattered at all to my Christian friends. My family was no exception when it came to ostracizing me. After some time, some of my old Christian friends started tolerating me at an arm’s length, but they no longer wanted a close friendship. This was so painful to me.
I’ve been with Terra for 14 years – since meeting her through mutual friends. We are married, and she has been so supportive and is always there for me. I am currently disabled, due to a health condition for which I have had several surgeries. My body deteriorated to the point where I was basically bedridden for four years. Terra was the only one around during all of that — the only person who was a constant support to me. I was fighting with my mom a lot, because the way she talked about my relationship with Terra and the way she told other people about our relationship, was quite hurtful. But Terra single-handedly paid all of the bills, took care of me, helped me get dressed: she and I were all we had for a while. That was very stressful for both of us, but we knew at least had each other. She worked full time and has done an exceptional job of taking care of both of us. She sees it as a problem for both of us to get through together. Our relationships with our families are better, but they are still strained. Yet Terra and I still have each other, and we really rely a lot on each other.
I do not experience God through church anymore now. I was very angry at God for a long time for the way that all of my friends and all of my support network treated me. It’s just been in the past year and a half or so that I just started praying for God to help me stop being so angry. Then a few months ago, I asked God back into my life. I had realized that he was the only reason that I was good and happy at all, and that every good gift comes from Him. However, I know that I still have to be careful with who I share my renewed faith with. I told my mother, and her reaction was quite painful to me. In fact, she would disagree with me about the fact that I am a Christian at all because of the fact that I’m married to Terra. So I still very much have to guard my faith. But I’ve seen God work in my life in the past year and a half or so since I’ve started to listen to him again.
I want the church to know that when you keep pointing out what you feel is wrong about other people, you’re not helping anyone. You’re not pushing anyone to do better or feel better, or to have the same beliefs as you — you’re just ostracizing them. Even saying something kindly is not helpful. All you’re doing is driving people away, making them feel angry and hurt. I feel like it would be helpful to me if people would look for common ground instead of making me feel like I’m wrong, I’m going to hell, I’m evil. All it did was shut me down. If all these people are telling me I’m wrong, am I? Why would God make me this way? It’s not like I said, “I want to be gay; Let me figure out how to go do it!”
It’s been difficult to find supportive friends. From my past, just one or two of my friends are supportive and loving, and they don’t live close to me. This is a stark contrast from how many friends I had before I came out, so now I definitely find it hard to trust new people.