The book of Jonah has always resonated with me. I mean, sure, I’d rather my story look more like David slaying Goliath, Moses delivering Egypt, or Abraham faithfully preparing to sacrifice his own son for the Lord.
Instead, I find myself in the same boat as Jonah, sailing as fast as I can thousands of miles in the opposite direction of my Nineveh. And why? Because God wasn’t clear when speaking to me? Ha. Not quite.
After all, running away is only effective when you know which direction to avoid.
I simply find Jonah relatable. He demonstrates a certain level of intimacy with the Lord; clearly, God is active in his life.
I grew up Christian and encountered the Lord in many ways from a young age. By the time I entered college, I had weathered a lot of storms with Him and had some experience hearing His voice.
So, when the call came, it wasn’t that I couldn’t hear it; it was that I had no interest in obeying. For Jonah, that call was Nineveh. For me? It was coming out.
I had known I was same-sex attracted for some time. I first noticed in middle school, although it took a number of years before I really pieced it together.
My “solution” for my sexuality was quite simple: I’d tell no one, become straight, and then move on with my life.
At the very least, this was a secret I’d die keeping rather than ever share; I could hardly admit it to myself, let alone another human.
As long as I held onto the idea that I may somehow spiritually sanctify my way into heterosexuality, it seemed like sharing this part of my life would only create undue pain and stress.
I entered my freshman year of college intent on continuing this plan of action. That plan began to crumble, however, when midway through the year someone presented his testimony of being gay and becoming a Christian — but not experiencing any change in his orientation.
Instead, he was celibate and seemed intent to pursue celibacy for the remainder of his life. It was my first time facing a story of someone who didn’t seem to experience any orientation change — nor did he expect orientation change down the road.
I began to realize this might be a longer trek than I had hoped. This guy’s testimony brought sexuality back to center stage in my life.
Through a series of recurring sermons on vulnerability, walking in the light, confessing sin, and sharing burdens, God began impressing on me this need to come out.
I would have none of it.
Instead, I formed a ship of my own of busyness: heavy course loads, extracurriculars, and part-time work. Anything to keep myself too busy to think about sexuality or God’s call to share my testimony.
Even as a spiritual storm raged around me, I took my cue from Jonah once again and slept amid my ship of distractions.
Fear of obedience paralyzed me, and despite knowing fully well how the book of Jonah ends, I stubbornly insisted that God could cast me into the sea to perish. But there was no way I’d face Nineveh.
Throughout my entire freshman year, God’s insistent calls carried on. More sermons, prophetic words from friends, and endless times of reading the Word with prayer that all sent the same message.
God didn’t seem interested in giving up, and while I (thankfully) didn’t find myself in the belly of a fish, I did find myself in my own period of darkness before finally giving in to God’s will.
This darkness manifested, in part, as a series of nightmares. After a long stretch of poor sleep, I had one final nightmare that culminated in what my dreaming mind understood to be a letter from God.
Simply put, He told me that if I wanted to experience healing (whatever that may mean), I needed to make like Jonah in the fish and repent. I must yield to His will.
And so, at long last, I did.
I came out to a guy from a Bible study I’d started attending that year. I didn’t know him all that well; honestly, coming out to him felt awkward and left me wondering if I had made a terrible mistake. Sharing this secret.
Still, I had finally done it! The secret I had sworn to take with me to my grave had finally been shared, even if only with a single person.
Over the next few years, I continued this excruciating journey of coming out. I dragged my feet every chance I had, but with each subsequent sharing, I felt the darkness loosening its grip ever so slightly.
My resolve grew as I came out more and more to others, and God was faithful in His promise that this sharing was for my good, not my destruction.
Here I am now, six years down the road and more or less publicly “out.” I honestly didn’t know if I’d survive at times, but I am so grateful God never gave up on me, even in my disobedience.
In His mercy, He chose not to spare me from the stormy sea that seemed to promised death and ultimately brought life.
And while the darkness was terrifying, it opened my eyes to an important truth: to keep my story hidden not only kept me from healing, it robbed God of His glory. It kept secret the gracious ways He was moving in the area of my life I needed Him most.
Just as Nineveh was not Jonah’s city to choose wrath or mercy for, so my story is not really my own to share or keep hidden; it’s God’s.
Have you felt “the call” to come out or some other call for spiritual courage? What ultimately prompted you out onto the waves, and what’s kept you in the boat?
Finally, let’s welcome Aaron as our newest YOB author!