Although I had experienced vulnerable community at camp for two summers, I took my double-life with me as I entered my next season at college.
College held the hope for a fresh start. Home meant the weight of my double-life: the pain of lying about porn and “everything is okay” all the time; the great friendships that never felt deep or authentic enough for my broken self.
But college — maybe I could reinvent myself there. Maybe I could move past my double-life at home.
Freshman year, I ventured to a new town knowing nobody. Maybe I didn’t realize what that meant for an introvert like me. But I wanted the adventure.
My roommates were interesting, as all first-time roommates tend to be (only one of the three was kicked out of school). I did my best to start plugging into clubs and getting to know the people, school, and city.
The honors college provided me other intellectuals who dreamed big and wanted to change the world. The “good Christian” part of me knew that I needed to check out the campus ministries. I bounced between Cru and the Baptist Student Union and eventually realized they both fed different parts of my spiritual, social, and emotional needs. So, I invested in both groups.
How can I explain the men’s Bible study I joined? Other than being guys who loved Jesus and went to this same college, I could only see how I was different.
The group leader played on the soccer team, the co-leader wrestled in high school, another guy swam on the swim team, and the other regular attendee served in the military.
My greatest athletic accomplishment to that point was marching band or church volleyball.
Additionally, this men’s group decided on enforcing push-ups as a consequence if we didn’t memorize our Bible verses! And I was supposed to be authentic with this group?
However, my past — this story I was living — did not want to stay confined.
The co-leader, Jon, asked to disciple me. This meant checking in during the week on spiritual matters and intentionally spending more time together. He was a psychology major, so that may have made it easier to get along, as he let down some of his walls as well.
But even as Jon and I began sharing life, I held back.
The lies in my life told me I wasn’t masculine enough for the group. If any of them, especially Jon, knew that I was gay, knew that I had fantasized about guys in the campus ministry, everything would change.
One evening, though, I knew I needed to share my story with Jon. All the mess. All my inadequacies as a guy. The fact that Christian gatherings filled me with a strange mix of hope and guilt.
Looking back, I don’t remember what, if anything, prompted this need to share. At his dorm, I told him I needed to talk. And then I just sat there. Waiting. Trying to find the words.
Finally, I started sharing and the words just flowed. As did the tears.
I told him about looking at porn. Told him how I thought guys were attractive and felt like I had to keep them at a distance because of this. Lamented at how terrible a Christian I must be. Wondered aloud how I could ever move forward.
And then Jon spoke:
I can’t say that I’ve met somebody with a story like yours. But as far as I’m concerned, you’re still Kevin. Jesus’ love and grace hasn’t changed for you or me. And we can keep trying to understand this and follow Jesus and college together.
WHAT? My story hadn’t pushed him away. As Jon prayed, I literally felt a weight lifted from my chest and shoulders.
I left shortly after we prayed. As I wandered campus, a sense of peace remained with me. Maybe this was a taste of Christ’s love. If Jon cared about me, knowing all that I shared, then surely God did — in even greater measure.
For the first night in a long time, I rested easy, blissfully unaware of the journey still ahead of me.
Have you come out to a friend? How was it difficult, and how did you feel in the aftermath? Did you experience healthy vulnerability in community at college?
Thank you for sharing your story, dear brother. Coming out is not easy- and coming out when you have no idea what the response will be is one of the more nerve-wracking things you can do. Proud of the courage you displayed then. And I am so thankful Jon responded so lovingly.
And yet, as you said, it’s a journey. If only we had to come out once and then never bother again. Alas, it seems to be a continual part of our lives. Looking forward to hearing what God did next in your life after this conversation.
When I came back to the Lord, I didn’t talk about my past. No one knew of the life I lived. I was content to just be alive (I had a near death experience) and be able to thank the Lord. Then something happened in the first weeks of January 2016 that forever changed my life. A kid got up in front of the entire congregation and asked for prayers because he was gay. This is Southern Baptist territory, and you never mention the ‘G’ word publically (that only happens in San Francisco), and you certainly don’t mention it in church! Oh the horror!
The congregation was certainly shocked to say the least and met the kid with deafening silence. I saw it as the single bravest act I had ever witnessed. The kid left the church visibly upset and ran away. I went after him, but because of my physical limitations, I lost him quickly. Already the congregation was trying to pretend that this never happened, and were greeting each other warmly (and gossiping about what happened). I walked up to the minister of the church (he was flummoxed by what had just happened) and told him I had the same attractions and would help council him. While I was at it, I also told the youth minister, and then for good measure, I told the boy’s father.
His dad was still enraged, as his son had just publically embarrassed him. Oh the humanity! He was a deacon and this did not happen to good Baptists! (tell that to David Wells!) The boy had run away from home and the family was falling apart. I found out that he was staying at his grandmother’s. I told the father to go and get his son, because it didn’t matter if he was embarrassed and angry; his son needed him. The father did not speak to me again that day, but had shown up in church the next Sunday with his son. He had brought him home.
I then began the difficult prospect of knitting the family back together, as their whole idea of a perfect Baptist family had been shattered. I got to pick up the pieces. The boy was going through suicidal tendencies, and the prospects of being gay. I counseled him and told him he didn’t have to act on those tendencies to be happy (despite the propaganda of the LGBT community). I told him not to make the mistakes of my life.
The boy began to get better and is fully functional. The father was not able to live down the embarrassment of what happened though (homosexuality does not happen here, just in San Francisco), so he and his family left the church and went to another where nobody knew him. We still maintain contact though and I still give him and his son words of encouragement.
Bradley, Each time I hear/read more of your story, I;m astounded that you’ve made it. The world was obviously working against you. So glad that you are here with us to share your experiences and give hope for those of us who are a bit younger.
Yes I did come out to a straight friend in college and it worked out very well. Here is a link to my story:
We had a well established friendship and we trusted each other before I shared about my struggle with gay feelings. He is still my friend to this day nearly 40 years later!
Ah Marshall, thank you for continuing to give me hope that long-term friendships are possible!
I can relate to your experience in college men’s Bible study! I managed to avoid the groups that did the pushups-for-verses thing or (ugh) mud runs, but even so I never felt like I could let down my guard to the whole group at once. I came out to a few of them who became close friends.
It’s hard, but to someone who is in that place, it’s so valuable.
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Hey man thanks for sharing this story. It’s encouraging, even if I’m reading it like 5000 years later ha!
Anyways, I have come out to like 5 people. The very first time I think I was literally physically convulsing. I was 20 years old, and in a similar experience I told the guy who had been discipling me for a while. (ALSO LOL did you attend Cru? I was in Cru for all 4 years of college, hence the discipler). Anyways, my very very first time was a good experience. I told him and he said, “Oh what! That it? That’s all you wanted to say?” And then he went on to affirm me and my position as a son of God. He shared how he couldn’t quite understand the struggle, but that he actually mentored another guy who also struggled with ssa so he wasn’t unfamiliar at least. It didn’t change our relationship in any negative way, and I actually think he was super proud of me to share that with him as his lil pupil. We’re still great friends to this day!
I will say though–whenever I think about sharing this with a new person, I wanna crap my pants still HAHAH cuz I always think “wait what if THIS is the person who will reject me and things will get awkward.” I guess we’ll find out
Nothing like bringing me back to this post! Time is no matter – I expect & hope that people will read this in the years to come as they happen upon it.
Yeah – how crazy fortunate to have the first guy have such a positive/caring reaction, right? I think that made it easier for me to start processing life and faith with others.
As for your comment below, I would agree. Overall I think it gets easier to share my story (and read people), but there is always that hesitancy, not knowing for sure their response.
And yes, CRU. I almost STINT-ed after college, but ended up not being the right time. Much love for my Cru team.
Yeah super fortunate!
And nice! I’m stinting right now actually lol