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?
Ben! I’m so glad you’re joining the blogging team. I love your heart and your voice. Welcome!
The talk of home/safety made me think of a line from a Jimmy Eat World song that lodged itself inextricably in my brain during college: “I fall asleep with my friends around me–the only place I know where I feel safe. Gonna call this home.” I think it resonated so deeply with me because it partially felt true–I was still on that journey of feeling that safe around my friends–but because deep down I longed for that level of safety and security, desperately.
So glad you’re in ministry as a queer man! We need you!
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and your stories.
Thank you Ryan! I love the song quote. I have some people who make me feel that way.
I think I’ve found it to be true that vulnerability breeds vulnerability. With vulnerability, there is always risk, but also great potential for reward. I have been extremely blessed in finding safe people. I feel like in YOB, I’ve found my tribe. I’ve also got some face-to-face community made up of straight people and other sexual minorities which have helped me feel safe and at home with them and with myself.
Thanks for sharing Ben! I feel most at home when I am with other men who are gay/queer/SSA/whatever and who also share similar beliefs about Christian teachings.
I very much understand the wounded sparrow feeling and needing a home. I struggle sometimes to say that I’m a voice for sexual minorities. I suppose I have my own voice, as well as others who resonate with my situation, and I’m trying to cultivate my own home within my own church. Whatever understanding that breeds will follow…
I am glad you are able to cultivate community in your own church.
Among my friends and family, my sexuality is well-known, and accepted to varying degrees.
I have also been able to offer insight to other pastors who are aware of my story.
When it comes to my own church, I have some ability to make the church a safer place, but I am still approaching things with deliberation and caution. I have been able to speak into my own church setting indirectly, as I can always say “I have friends who are (insert favored terminology here.)”
On a personal level though, I am still very cautious about sharing my own storyline. There are some people in my church who know my story, but for the most part, I remain closeted. I speak to things, but from a second-hand perspective. I hope for a day when I can tell my church and have it not be a big deal.
I have a friend who can’t reply here, but I appreciated his comment to this post.
“Thanks for sharing. It’s well written. I like your illustration of ink in a glass of water. I think we all start as just ink in the glass, but as Christians, we are ever filled by the fresh, life-giving water of Christ. We continue to look more and more like we should, but until His return, there will still be the ink of sin in the glass. Everyone experiences broken sexuality in some way or another. And all sexual brokenness brings shame. We need more pastors and churches with your vision of creating a safe space to process through broken sexuality in pursuit of holiness instead of shaming people into hiding their struggles.”
So very very glad to have you on here and in our community Ben! Indeed this community is a home for so many and so glad to have you be apart of it and provide for others who may want to join.
Thank you Eugene! This community has definitely made me feel at home.
It’s awesome that there’s a real pastor writing for YOB. You may be the first. (Is Dean a pastor?) Maybe someday YOB will have a guy who isn’t articulate and can’t write well but it isn’t you, so kudos to whoever invited you.
“How would you feel if you knew your pastor experienced attraction to the same sex?” I’d kinda hope he didn’t think I was a jerk, but tbh I think it would be friggin’ awesome. A pastor with ssa who’s faithful, that’s a guy who it would be good walking this journey with. It’s totally selfish on my part, but having one other guy at church dealing with ssa would be great. There’s this vague sense of always being a visitor at church, but that’s on me not anyone else.
Hey Ben, I hope when that day comes that all your church hears your story, that they see your heart. It could be one of the best days for your church and you. Until then, I sure hope you feel super welcome here.
What you said here “It’s totally selfish on my part, but having one other guy at church dealing with ssa would be great.”
I don’t think it’s selfish. It’s nice to find that we aren’t alone, that there is someone else who “gets it.” Many don’t have that. I used to have more people geographically close who also shared my background but after taking my pastorate we moved, and most of my known community became community at a distance. So the idea of being a visitor in your own church… I feel that as well sometimes. I have a few people who know my story, but having another person who gets it would be very encouraging.
I’ve tried to say things to indicate my views on sexuality, to let people know that I would be safe to talk to, but so far it hasn’t happened. We’ll see what doors God opens .
That’s a pretty big door already becoming a pastor and being where you are. The Midwest is supposed to be all kinds of conservative, give it time. That you’re willing to step thru whatever doors open is being in a great place in your soul. God can use a guy like you.
Yeah, it doesn’t have to be selfish wanting others to walk with. But it sure can be if all you’re trying to do is answer your own deal, which is where that comment came from. Tbh, it’s kinda wishful thinking anyway. Here in the Northeast being out is ok, and if you’re religious there’s lots of rainbow churches for Side A guys, but I’ve never met another Side B guy. It’s what’s good about there being a YOB. Hey, if one of those doors in the future is God having you change churches, consider coming east.
The Midwest is interesting. Indianapolis, IN and Grand Rapids, MI lean theologically conservative. Chicago and Detroit lean more theologically liberal… but really, it depends on the town, main industry, individual churches, etc.
I have been in both environments. I do think the more liberal areas feel safer, as I would be less concerned about being ousted from ministry. I don’t plan on moving anytime soon though… pretty sure my wife would kill me. 🙂
I have a few Side-B friends that I connect with semi-regularly. But it always involves at least an hour one way in the car. I am hoping that some local Side-B people find the YOB blog… maybe through the thoughtful distribution of a few business cards in the area.
In my current church setting, I have been slowly letting people know my story as it seems relevant and comparable to the level of relationship I have with them.
My church secretary (Pat) knows my story and has been a tremendous help to me in thinking through how to approach presenting things to the church.
Pat recently sent me a message:
“In the time that I’ve known you, you are comfortable with who you are and certainly not apologizing for it or trying to change yourself for others. I also have always had the impression that you don’t want to hide your story forever and that within a few years everyone around here will know. I worry about it (only because I don’t want you hurt), but also would like to think that people aren’t going to consider it that big of a deal. Then you can relax and just live. Easy as that, right?”
I’ve always been east coast and picture the heartland as the Bible belt riding a tractor. “Pastor with SSA” doesn’t seem like it would be a big resume builder there. Hopefully by the time people come to know your story, they’ll have seen enough of Christ in you that the ssa won’t matter as much. As someone in the pews, it’s better knowing the pastor’s genuine more than perfect, and that I can see Jesus cause he’s pointing to him.
Hey Ben, hope God surrounds you with more good people like Pat.
I long for the day when being a follower of Christ who also has an attraction to the same sex is not considered a big deal. I am the wife of a man who loves God, loves me, and is also attracted to men, and I so want him to feel as though he can, as Pat put it, “relax and just live.” It hasn’t ever really felt entirely possible to him, and it makes my heart hurt for him and for others as well. I know that there are other couples like us living nearby, but it feels like we are the only one, as it seems safer to share openly if you are side A.
Thank you, Ben, for sharing your story! Being able to read the stories of other mixed orientation couples has been encouraging to my heart! I look forward to reading more of your story!
Thank you for sharing your own heart. There is more Side-A community around me as well. I have some people nearby, but close community is something we are still building. I thank God for the online community he has given me.
If you or your husband ever want to talk or need support, please feel free to email me at the link on my YOB profile page.
We’ve also got Will who pastors! Love all the ministerial voices here at YOB.
Will, Dean & now Ben. . . it’s like YOB is being overrun with pastors 🙂 I’ve been ministered to here by so many who have posted and commented, but I sure do appreciate the heart of pastors who give their life to minister to others.
just wanted to say that even though “same-sex attracted man in a mixed-orientation marriage who also often experiences his same-sex attraction in an asexual manner” doesn’t have a small acronym I like it lol. that and welcome – I look forward to reading about your experiences
Thank you Ashley! I am glad to be here
So grateful for your voice, Ben. It’d be awesome to have a pastor like you, regardless of sexuality. Your heart for God and others is quite evident. Looking forward to exploring of your perspective and hearing more of your stories!
Thank you Tom. I feel very blessed by Your Other Brothers, and am grateful for the opportunity to give back and pour into others.
I feel more comfortable in my church home, but I didn’t always. I came to my church out of desperation, not because I loved God. I had had a massive stroke, and I shouldn’t have even been alive. I kept my secret for three years, and it was only because a deacon’s kid publicly asked for prayers because he was gay that I came out. His family left the church because one simply didn’t mention the ‘G’ word in church. I chose to stick it out.
Even when I asked for baptism last year, the pastor was somewhat hesitant. Someone of my past and background simply does not ask for such a thing, and they certainly do not speak of what they were delivered from (my actions). Still they grieved with me as I mourned the death of my first love (who happened to be a guy), and they prayed for me when I went for my AIDS test. I have become a valuable asset to them, considered an expert in videography and film editing; now I am consulting on the new sound system.
I still have irrational fears of stepping in the church, that everyone is going to jump out from behind a pew and yell ‘FOOLED YOU!’ Dumb I suppose, but it always lingers in the back of my mind. The guy who refers to me as ‘that sodomite’ is largely dismissed, but not rebuked. I guess that would be too much to ask. Oh well.
That sounds like a mixture of joy and pain, especially the hesitancy on the part of your pastor to perform baptism. It is beautiful to hear how they surrounded you eventually in those other areas.
You mention “The guy who refers to me as ‘that sodomite’ is largely dismissed, but not rebuked.”
I had something similar happen. I will share this story more fully later in a future blog post, but when I told my former pastor I was attracted to other men, he decided that the attraction itself was probably sinful, and that he didn’t want to risk me in one-on-one ministry contexts, even in the church with a door open and people one room away. I had been mentoring a student who wanted to go into ministry through his first couple of sermons, but he made me step away. My options were either obey, or come out publicly. I was devastated. I was disallowed from telling the student why we could not meet. Over the next year and a half, my opportunities for ministry within the church continued to dry up.
During that time, I shared my story with the rest of the pastoral staff and the majority of the elders. They asked lots of good questions, listened, and one by one affirmed me in my pursuit of ministry. They did not challenge the pastor on his views, and I sometimes felt like their silence towards his actions were endorsement of his judgement. He also passed judgement on other leaders for different reasons.
Eventually, when it seemed I had the support of the church and most of the elders (and I had been affirmed by the church that I am currently serving in), my pastor (sort of) affirmed me for ministry, although he would not have if I hadn’t disclosed to some people in leadership before I took my current church.
Healing is still happening from that time. Maybe that one person who calls you a sodomite will have their heart changed with time… or their voice will become quieter and quieter in your mind. My former pastor is no longer at my old church. I do sometimes wonder if I need to talk through all the pain he caused me in order to heal more fully. At the end of the day though, I keep coming back to something several friends told me: “You are a child of God. He has called you, equipped you for ministry, and no person can disqualify that calling on your life.” I still have to remind myself of that sometimes.
I pray that God continues to use you in your church and that their love and acceptance of you grows more and more.
The guy who referred to me as ‘that sodomite’ left about six months ago, but words hurt. Not even sure if was meant out of malice. It is possible he had never heard of a homosexual finding God and didn’t know how to react. Unfortunately I have been referred to this and other choice words (especially the ‘F’ word) for so long that I assumed Christians just hated the likes of me. It wasn’t until my stroke that left me desperate that I came back to God and stepped foot in a church for the first time in twenty years. I have to learn to live in forgiveness of people like this, who drove me away from the Lord in the first place.
Benjamin – Many have already said this, but I’m excited to have you join the author side of this community. Excited to to hear more of your story and journey with you.
I don’t know if I have a concise answer to the question about safety. My gut response was the communities that I’ve been in where I was able to share my story and live in the gray spaces with friends. But there is at least one place where I couldn’t share my story openly, yet still felt like it was a safe, healthy space for me. I think this changes my answer to – I’ve felt safety in spaces/communities where I knew / could feel God was present. (and I realize God is always present…..just my awareness of that presence).
In some communities that safety / acceptance came from sharing my story and others sharing their stories. In some it came through doing life together in real (and mundane at times) ways. In all of them there was some aspect of worshiping God together.
First, thank you for the warm welcome!
Second, your own take on safe places makes sense to me. I have felt safe with people and in churches that haven’t known my story. I think it was because I felt like I could share my story, or if I did, that it would not matter. This was usually with people who have a strong emphasis on the Gospel, emphasis on living out the Kingdom of God (which often puts people side-by-side in the mundane), and of seeking the Spirit and Word of God to be working in and through the lives of individual believers and in the community as a whole.
I also realize I just used a bunch of buzz words… but I suppose there is something that tends to feel right when I encounter such people and places.
I do sometimes feel a disconnect though, a question rolling around in the back of my head: “I feel like they would still accept me, but how can I be sure if I don’t tell them?” As you said, maybe that safety could be there for me as I hear other people share their lives and stories, and I gradually get a feel for what God has done in their hearts and lives.
Beautiful post! So glad you’re with us, Ben 🙂
Thank you Kass!
Welcome here…and thank you for your post! I like the statement about wounded sparrows and can relate to that! I like the song, “Broken Wings” which I guess we all have at one time or another. Anyways, I am very short for words right now, but can just a welcome here be enough?
Thank you for the welcome, and the song!
Hey Ben! Greetings from a Kenyan YOBBER and welcome to the stable of YOB contributors. What a great introductory blog post to kick your participation off with. Your well written article both inspired and challenged me. I love some of the analogies that you have used such as:-
“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 have lived most of my years “straight acting” so to speak trying to ignore/minimize/reject the truth about my sexuality preoccupying myself with the busyness of hetero-normative daily life and repressing my true self. Looking back, I observe that very little of it has come naturally to me. I have worked hard to cultivate this persona at great emotional cost. I look past at some particularly difficult seasons of my life and it is by God’s grace that I did not have a nervous breakdown. Feeling like a fraud, therefore, is also an emotion I am very familiar with especially in my journey as a husband and a father. This feeling of “different-ness” started when I realized at the age of thirteen that I was not attracted to girls the way my classmates were and (shock/horror!) I was attracted to boys! (A very common story amongst us YOBBERS I am sure). I still struggle to “be the man” so to speak in my local cultural context as most of African societies are very patriarchal in nature and even in this day and age, the man is generally the undisputed “king” of the house. Homosexuality is illegal in most African countries (mine included) so the main reason most African gay men do not come out of the closet is out of fear for their own safety and loss of family and community. As a result apart from my wife and a few trusted friends, no one has any idea that I am SSA. In spite of this, I still feel convicted somewhat by God to trust Him and reach out to others (as He directs with wisdom) so that I can also be a safe person as you have described to those like me in my church and city extending the grace, truth and hope of Christ who struggle as we do.
“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.”
Although I attend a relatively cosmopolitan church, being vulnerable and more open about my SSA would definitely entail a significant element of risk. Over the last six months, YOB and a couple of local semi-closeted gay people I made friends with recently have been my safe space, allowing me to share and pour out my heart and receive cathartic encouragement and understanding at a time late last year when I was battling mild depression and feelings of isolation and burnout. I feel so much lighter and happier as a result and I feel challenged to “return the hand” so to speak with others who are struggling alone. It is amazing that we, the wounded sparrows (sounds like a Game of Thrones people group) are useful to God to share His love with others and draw them to Him as a result…..my outlook is much more positive than it was this time last year thanks to new friends who identify and empathize as well as articles like yours, Ben and I am looking forward to reading more blog posts from you in the very near future….
Well, first off, super stoked to have another married pastor here!
Second, I identify so strongly with this that the words felt like they were coming from me and not just being there on the page. Thank you for this, Ben. It is often so lonely this path we have — and feeling like such a niche person amongst an already minority group can be overwhelming. I am so thankful you are here and sharing your story.
Third, I know what you mean by not feeling at home because a part of you remains “hidden” or “separated.” One of the reasons I long to be out completely is to rectify this. There is always that doubt that some of those I hold closely would reject me if they knew. I would rather they have the chance to reject or accept me outright than potentially go on a journey that ends with heartbreak for all because this part of my life remained separate for so long.
I look forward to more stories from you, brother. I cannot wait to see what God does through you in the coming years with YOB.
Thank you Dean! I appreciate the stories of the others in this group and I’m glad to be able to speak from I own experience. We are definitely all better off and stronger together.