It was 2013, seven years since I had first admitted to myself that I was primarily attracted to men. I had let a number of friends into the secret, along with two pastors at my church and my immediate family. Due to my understanding of biblical teaching, I had decided not to pursue romance with men.
But I also wasn’t trying to become straight or somehow fit romance with a woman into my life.
This left me in a tricky place, an uncomfortable tension between hope and reality — the hope for relationship and intimacy, the reality of life as an American single. I thought I had everything I needed to make it work: Scripture, a relationship with Jesus, and the help of the Holy Spirit.
What could I be lacking?
But it wasn’t working. I was trying to white-knuckle my way through this weird, often inscrutable life with not much more than 2 Corinthians 12 and a Covenant Eyes account. Both are valuable tools, but neither was much help in my current predicament: I was developing awkwardly strong emotions toward one of my friends.
Like, sure, maybe reading about the thorn in Paul’s flesh was helpful. But what was I supposed to do?
Discouraged and distressed, I nervously met with a pastor at my church and told him what was happening. He asked thoughtful questions and didn’t advise me to end the relationship as other spiritual leaders I’ve known would have done. He offered me some food for thought, a book to read, and a blog link — he wasn’t sure if he agreed with everything there, but he thought it was worth a look.
A blog! I knew there were resources online, but I had resisted the idea of consulting the Internet. Who knew what wackos were peddling what bizarre claims on that wild n’ wooly place, the Web? How would I decide what voices I could trust to guide me?
It was just easier to stick with the things I knew I could trust. But I knew that’s how my resource pool had remained so limited.
I began reading — first reluctantly and then breathlessly — this other blog. Here were the words I didn’t realize had been written or even could be written. Here were people who knew that you can’t always white-knuckle this stuff.
They were trying to parse out the tension I was feeling; they were trying to chart a wise path through the murky water where I was struggling.
Their response wasn’t a platitude about Finding Your Identity In Christ but thoughtful empathy, stories, and more questions. And they didn’t say my frustrations and disappointments were all symptoms of internal immaturity — they offered humble critique of the Church’s shortcomings and how our communities might grow to help us thrive instead of just survive.
It was the first time I got a sense of other people out there, somewhere, who got me. I felt like a zebra who had been raised by horses learning that somewhere there were other weird stripe-horses and that, together, our stripes had a purpose.
But they were still so far away!
Around this time, I stumbled upon these words in Zephaniah 3:
“I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival,
so that you will no longer suffer reproach.
Behold, at that time I will deal
with all your oppressors.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.
At that time I will bring you in,
at the time when I gather you together;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes, says the Lord.”
This image of a scattered, mournful people jubilantly gathered and restored captivated my imagination. What would it look like for my distant tribe to be gathered together? What would it take?
I knew Zephaniah was primarily talking about the people of Israel, but didn’t this reveal something bigger about God’s heart and will that I could lean into? Didn’t he long to change our shame into praise and renown?
A powerful prayer formed in my heart and took hold of me.
“Gather us,” I prayed.
I repeated those words over and over again. I prayed that my scattered and lost tribe would be drawn together, our fortunes restored before our eyes.
It was a prayer for my own benefit, but also for all of us.
Two years later, I started working with my church to create Intersect: a gathering for non-straight people in our congregation. I prayed that God would use me to answer my own prayer for belonging.
Not long after that, I got connected with Your Other Brothers and started spending time with these guys. God has been answering my prayer through Intersect and Your Other Brothers.
I now have people walking with me who know instinctually what kind of support I need and how to care for me.
I’ve run into other complicated relational situations, but I’m walking with people who’ve been there before.
With each passing month, I feel less separated from my tribe. The figures in the hazy distance have resolved into real faces and bodies I can touch.
We will all have our days and nights of white-knuckling it till the sun returns, and 2 Corinthians 12 will always be there when we need it.
But God made us to walk together.
I’m thankful for all of you — whether I’ve met you yet or not — because you’re God’s answer to prayer! I’m here to give back and help build a better place to belong however I can.
Have you seen God answer prayers for your community and belonging? Where do you lack community? How can you give back?