I was born into an agnostic family, yet I had a deep longing to know God from a young age. When I was 5 years old my parents let me attend a local church, and I did so alone because no one would go with me. I learned the basics about God in Sunday School and continued to attend a conservative church. By the time I was 13 I understood what it meant to be a Christian and how to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior. I had all the academic knowledge about salvation but due to some spiritual turmoil in my life I waited another two years. When I was 15 years old I went with my church youth group to a Billy Graham Crusade. It was there that the Holy Spirit moved in my life and I had my conversion experience. It was that day that I asked Christ to come into my life permanently - regardless of what the future would hold. As it turns out I was the catalyst for others in my family becoming Christians as well.
The two year delay in accepting Christ was due to the fact that I was trying to deal with the turmoil of coming to grips with the reality that I'm gay. I have known that I am gay since I was six years old, but back then it was just that background type of knowing. I didn't have words for it, I just knew that I saw the world very differently than other guys. When I hit puberty the reality of those background feelings became foreground feelings - just like any other normal adolescent coming into their orientation. My un-chosen orientation made no sense to me in light of what others were saying about gay people. I had no one to talk to about any of this. I knew better than tell anyone at church or my family what I was feeling. So at age 15 I let myself come out of this cloud of confusion, start the process of accepting myself for who I was, and to become a Christian. I had a grandmother who taught me to honor my God-given humanity and respect myself as a Child of God. Other gay kids were not so lucky. I knew that I genuinely loved God and I knew that what other Christians were saying about people like me just did not seem to add up.
When I was 17 I felt God calling me into mission and ministry but because I was honest with myself about the fact that I am gay I was automatically disqualified by other Christians. I knew better than to even try to have a ministry at that point in time. I wanted to attend a Christian university and I was blessed to be able to do so. I attended a conservative Christian university and got a degree in Business Administration. Not such a "spiritual" degree but despite that I was able to take New Testament Greek for my language credits, study under some of the brightest Christian scholars in the country, and become immersed in a totally faith based environment for four years. I loved it. It was the most wonderful time of my life. We had mandatory chapel three times a week and I sat at the feet of some of the most amazing Christians on Earth. My gay friends ask me, "why did you go to a Christian university?" and my easy response is, "because I am a Christian!"
I have come to understand that we are all given a personal framework by God in which to dwell. That includes many things. We have no idea why some people are gay or left-handed or transgender. They just are. God in his wisdom did not create a bland world of sameness. The richness, color, and diversity of our God is represented in his creation. I am a part of God's wonderful, colorful, diverse nature. God is multi-faceted and so are His people.
As Christians it is up to us to integrate our faith into our lives. My deep and abiding Christian faith informs my sexual orientation. Just like a non-Christian straight person lives a life quite different to a Christian straight person, so it is for gay and transgender people. A gay person that is a Christian will have their lives informed by their faith. This seems basic, so it comes as quite a surprise to Christians that think all gay people are "less than" other people.
I (like people on both sides of this issue) do take the Bible very seriously and I am quite conservative. In the Bible I cannot see anywhere that God commands us to "understand" others. Even if we don't like some people, we are commanded to love them. This is not so that the other person will "feel loved" but rather because you will be a better, more Christ-like, person if love and grace are practiced. Christ turns everything on its head. Things are not as they appear to be. We are not held to earthly paradigms. Christ told us that the poor will always be with us. Why then are we commanded to feed the poor? We know that they will just be hungry again in the near future. The reason is because we ourselves are transformed by the act of loving and giving to others. We do not feed the poor merely because they are hungry, we feed them because it makes us better Christians and delivers the Gospel example to this needy world. It is the same when Christians extend grace and love to gay and transgender people. When we extend grace and love to people that we do not understand - we ourselves are transformed. People like me who are different are placed in your presence so that you can practice unconditional love. We are a test. We are God's gift to you.
Despite being wounded by the church I have to put my personal sorrow and indignation aside and hold fast to Christ. I must personally hold on to the same Christ whose grace is not always extended to me by my Christian brothers and sisters. If I took it personally I would have left my faith a long time ago. Why should you love others when they do not love you back? Why should I love my fellow Christians when they do not often love me back? It is because that is what Christ has commanded of us. We must extend love and grace if we are to be real biblical Christians. It is not an optional extra.
There are very few courses of action to be taken by gay people in the church. They will either reject God because His ambassadors were so un-Christlike, or they will end their lives because they have been told they are "less than." I chose a third way. I chose to be a gay Christian and that decision has made all the difference. Being gay has made me a better Christian because I had to get serious with the Gospel despite what others were wrongfully telling me.
My spiritual challenge is the exactly the same as it is for straight Christians. I need to own who I am and know that God in his love did not make a mistake when he created me or other gay people. When I do that I understand that nothing can separate me from the love of God. My journey continues.