Home. I have always longed for a place to call home, a place to belong.
I’ve thought of home as where you are safe, known, loved, and accepted. Home might be a place, but it can also be with people.
As the saying goes: “Home is where your heart is.” Because when you are with those who make you feel safe, known, loved, and accepted, you can be “at home” with them; you can belong with them.
In the opening of Genesis, we read:
It is not good for man to be alone.
God created us to know others and to be known. When we don’t feel known, it is hard to feel safe, loved, and accepted. It is hard to feel at home. I think all of us are searching for some version of home.
For years, I felt if other people knew about this particular piece of me, then I’d lose home. I ignored it, hid it away, and when I did acknowledge it, it was to pray that I would change.
I felt like a fraud and wondered, even amid people who told me they loved me, would they still be here if they knew my secret? I also wondered if I never told anyone my secret or took the risk getting hurt, could I ever truly be known and loved by others, and could I truly belong, truly be home?
Who am I?
My name is Benjamin Michael Rutkowski. Call me Ben, or call me Beamer.
I am a husband, a friend, and a pastor. I like spending time with friends and family. I enjoy being a pastor, preaching, teaching, and caring for others. Those are pieces of who I am, things that make up my identity.
Identity is important. I think there is a difference between primary identity and secondary identity, things that are more important than others. Which begs the question: what defines me most?
I am a redeemed child of God, and Jesus is my reason for living. That is my primary identity. I strive to make sure my position as a child of God is the overriding identity I am living by in every other area of life.
With Jesus, I feel at home: safe, known, loved, and accepted. Alongside those closest to me who walk toward Jesus with me, I feel at home.
For many years, though, I did not feel at home. And I still don’t feel at home with everyone.
That brings me back around to that identity piece that, at times, has made me feel like I can never be at home anywhere, at least not fully. The piece of me that made me fear losing family, friends, and the ability to do ministry.
So, what’s my secret? What did I hide away for years in the darkness?
I am not a murderer. I am not a serial liar. I am not an IRS agent.
I like men.
I like men in more than just a friendly way. I am a man who is attracted emotionally and sexually to other men. I am also married to a woman, attracted only to her out of all the women on earth.
Somehow, it works. I am queer. And for much of my life, that has terrified me.
I say “queer” because it seems the best word to fit my experience.
That, and “same-sex attracted man in a mixed-orientation marriage who also often experiences his same-sex attraction in an asexual manner” does not have a simple acronym.
“Why talk about or identify your sexuality at all?”
That is a fair question. Why would I talk about my sexuality at all, especially when it opens me up to potential pain from those who view things differently than I do?
I suppose I could keep silent. I am not “out.” I can pass as “normal.” I am married. I have a core community who knows my story, including my wife.
But I don’t think I can keep silent, not while others out there still look for their safe spaces, their home.
I talk about my sexuality because it is part of my taking steps to make the church a safe place for people like me. And I hope I am able to speak to other pastors and tell them why we need to make our churches safe homes for sexual minorities.
Maybe someday I can tell my church my own story. Maybe one day, I will truly belong.
How does my identity as a child of God mesh with my sexuality?
I visualize my sexuality as a drop of ink in a glass of water: more water than ink, though my queerness colors it all. To ignore this coloration would be foolishness.
I tried ignoring it for years, and it only brought me isolation, disappointment, and pain. Jesus is the living water of my life, and his redeeming work extends to that drop of ink.
With Jesus, I truly belong.
My identity in Christ is first. Practically, that means that although my attraction to other men is consistent, insistent, and persistent, I still choose not to pursue sexual relationships with other men.
I keep the vows I made to my wife on our wedding day. Like Christ, I give up myself and my own desires before God in order to love my wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5).
I feel like God is using me and my wife to help make the church a safer place for other sexual minorities, making it a place they can belong. We have seen people hurt by others who did not take the time to listen to their stories and seek to understand them, only attempt to “fix” them.
We have also witnessed amazing moments of redemption and healing for those who have been hurt by the church. We have been hurt. We are still healing.
God is using us wounded sparrows, and we are gradually building a home for ourselves and others.
We are excited for the future, to see what the church can look like as more and more sparrows find their homes.
May the grace and truth of Christ permeate your life, and may you be a safe person to whom others can turn in order to feel “at home.”
When have you felt most “at home” (or not at all) with others? What caused your feelings of being safe, known, loved and accepted? How would you feel if you knew your pastor experienced attraction to the same sex?