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?