Last summer, I went on a missions trip. Before we left the country, my team had a week of training in the U.S. A couple days after I’d met my team and orientation had started, it was time for us to share our testimonies with each other.
I knew I had to say it. The one part of my life I kept hidden from basically everyone. I didn’t have any other option.
I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t share this hidden part of my life.
Not that that realization made it any easier. I texted a friend: “We’re sharing our testimonies with our team and I feel convicted to be really open with them. I’m extremely nervous and somewhat shaking. Please pray for peace.”
My team leader started us off. Not long after he started, I knew this would be a safe group to share in. Two more of my teammates shared, each as vulnerable as my leader. There was lots of crying. It was so good. But I don’t know if I could even keep my composure on the outside; inside, I was a nervous wreck.
This wasn’t going to go well.
How could I even stumble through the words “I’m attracted to guys” when I could barely keep myself sitting instead of curling up into a ball on the floor in shame?
I knew this would happen. How had I even convinced myself that this whole trip would be a good idea?
“Definitely! I will be praying!” my friend replied.
And then it was my time to talk.
“Guys, I need you to pray for me,” I said. “I think God has something he wants me to share with you that I’ve not told more than a few people before. And I’m terrified.”
We prayed, and then I spoke. But there was something different — the thoughts in my head stopped going crazy and the sinking feeling in my gut went away. And without any rehearsing, everything came out without any hesitations, spontaneous crying, or mental breakdowns.
God answered those prayers. And my team accepted me and affirmed me.
“Thanks for sharing, Thomas,” my team leader said. “And now you get to share a room with me for two weeks!” he said with a smile. Later on in the trip, as we lay in our beds staring at the ceiling falling asleep, he and I had some meaningful, deep discussions about sexuality.
The time my team spent in ministry on our trip went well. But nothing was more meaningful to me than just being accepted. I wasn’t a freak. I wasn’t someone to be wary of. I was just Thomas.
For three weeks, I had nothing to hide. It was so freeing. And thinking back on those weeks makes me want more.
Not that it makes it any easier.
I still get tense and nervous and start shaking just thinking about coming out again. Some days it’s better; other days it’s not. But as I’ve come out to more people, I’ve begun to learn to trust God more and lean on him in prayer more.
Says Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT):
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Everyone, welcome Thomas to YOB! And for some discussion below: have you ever known God wanting you to come out to someone, yet you still had a hard time doing it? How have you overcome your fear of coming out, or is that still a struggle?
* Photo courtesy Jez Timms, Creative Commons.