I am in the process of quitting smoking — a month into one of the hardest tasks of my life.
Sure, the nicotine withdrawals make quitting difficult. But those symptoms can be controlled by use of the patch. Smoking has been a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety.
What caused such stress and anxiety in my life?
It could have been grad school. I didn’t start smoking until grad school. I was working for a degree in theology, and this mean, hyper-masculine Hebrew professor caused me so much stress that I picked up smoking.
Was it my professor’s fault? Hebrew is a difficult language, but this professor made me question myself as an individual and my calling in ministry.
Was my professor the reason I got hooked on smoking?
I do think he was the straw that broke the camel’s back. But this opened up deeper issues.
My attraction to the same sex caused me a lot of stress and shame.
First, I had the stress of not dating while my closest friends dated — along with the inevitable loneliness bound to come about.
Second, I also faced the inevitable rejection. I was in school for the sole purpose of serving in some sort of church ministry, and same-sex attraction (SSA) is not always accepted in ministry settings.
Even if one abides by the rules set by that organization.
Prejudice is real. I have been rejected by various ministries in the past.
I once worked at a Christian camp, and a month into the summer I told my boss about my SSA. I figured my reputation had been solidified to that point, and I should be safe.
Well, that didn’t work. My interaction with the campers got greatly restricted. For some reason being attracted to the same sex was the same as pedophilia in their eyes.
I have so many other similar stories of prejudice.
We SSA people know prejudice well. There’s a reason there’s an LGBTQ+ community — because oppression and prejudice were experienced.
This puts the SSA Christian who holds to the traditional sexual ethic in a weird spot.
We disagree with many ethical actions of those in the LGBTQ+ community, but we experience the same prejudice and oppression as they do and we want that oppression to end for us and our brothers and sisters who are also minorities.
It is a tricky balance.
This prejudice has caused me so much stress and shame, and as I got closer to working in ministry the stress built and my smoking habits increased. There was no way I could deal with this.
Everything I’d worked for could end because of an attraction — not by any act that I’d done.
It was unfair and wrong.
Notice that I am making a distinction between moral action and inaction. A religious ministry has a right for standard in moral action, but when no action takes place they do not have a right to reject people who agree to that standard and make every effort to uphold it.
My SSA was this elephant in the room. As I entered into ministry, I knew my SSA could end it all in one swift move.
Nonetheless, I felt called in this specific ministry setting and moved forward.
I had this hope that maybe, just maybe, things would turn out. I hoped that instead of being rejected I would be loved. I hoped that people would notice their prejudice and change once they met me.
I spent much time in prayer — but also smoking.
I have now been in my current ministry setting for a bit, and I recently came out to them.
The response from everyone has been incredible and loving. God provided in many ways, and my wildest expectations were exceeded.
For the first time, I think I can actually quit cigarettes because my SSA is no longer a cause of concern. I know that I can practice my gifts without concern of rejection.
For many who read YOB, we are afraid of prejudice and rejection. We wear a mask in many of our churches and communities because of that fear. We live in constant anxiety and stress.
I want you to know that you can have hope.
You do not have to live in anxiety, because people can get over their prejudice.
Hold on to the reality that you are God’s child, and prejudice and shame can never take that away.
God is working on his people; therefore, there is hope of acceptance.
Have you experienced prejudice in the Church because of your same-sex attraction? Have you experienced love from the Church after they found out about your SSA? Do you bear any stress and anxiety about taking off your mask?