Recently, Whosoever conducted a “Stories of Hope” essay contest, asking readers to reflect on what Whosoever has meant to them over the past ten years. We’ll be sharing these stories as we continue our celebration of our decade of ministry to GLBT Christians. The following story won third prize in our contest.
A High School Prayer
High school is a tough time of growing up, and between the years of 1997 and 1999, I did a lot of growing. I was attending a residential academy and struggling with the task of becoming a more critical thinker. The curriculum and the bright students who came from many different backgrounds challenged my simple, unexamined beliefs, and this upset me. I even dropped a class on “The Philosophy of Human Nature” because I felt that the ideas being discussed were not compatible with my literal interpretation of the bible. On the bookshelf in my dorm room, I had a copy of Josh McDowell’s A Ready Defense, a staple of Christian apologetics for young people, and I was always ready to do battle with the secular ideas that floated around the school. Sometime during those years, probably in a Bible Study meeting, I prayed for humility. This was not a serious request, but it seemed like a good thing to want. I didn’t realize at the time that God has quite a sense of humor, and one should be careful what one prays for, because the answer may not come pain-free. In my junior year at the Academy, I fell head-over-heels for my best friend. In trying to sort through those feelings, many of my previous relationships were reframed, and I began to understand that my sexuality was not in line with the standard set by my religious community. This was troubling, as I was the “good Christian girl” in my circle of friends. I was a preacher’s daughter, a Sunday School teacher, a Bible Study leader. I had written letters to the editor of my high school newspaper about the evil of homosexuality! Being gay was not an option. Something had to be done. I was fairly new to the Internet, but there were plenty of resources to help me with my struggle. I joined an email group for ex-gays. The members of this group were wonderful, caring individuals, and when I struggled with whether or not to participate in a Coming Out Day activity on campus, they suggested I participate as a witness to the fact that even Christians struggle with homosexuality. Although I now disagree with much of what the ex-gay movement says, the list was a good place for me to start, because I was not yet ready to question my assumptions about scripture and faith. I was still growing, and I continued searching for understanding. In my online searching, God led me to the community and magazine called Whosoever. Through Whosoever, I encountered faithful people such as Dr. Rembert Truluck and Rev. Michael Piazza. I discovered that there were many approaches to the questions of homosexuality, and while the members of this community did not always approach scripture and faith in the same way, they had all reached the conclusion that God’s love was truly available for all, regardless of sexual orientation. Because it represented a variety of perspectives, Whosoever did not teach me to replace one set of simplistic, dogmatic ideas with another, but it challenged me to accept ambiguity, question myself, and remain humble in my search for understanding. The College Years By the time I graduated from high school, I was facing some very practical concerns of being a young lesbian of faith. I wrote an article for the July/Aug 1999 Whosoever, trying to sort through issues of dating and sexual ethics, issues that were often covered in youth groups and family discussions, but not often inclusive of my experiences. Looking back, I realize that I ended that article with some quick and simple answers, because I was still living in the middle of the questions and did not have many conclusions to offer. Since 1999, Whosoever has accompanied me through college and graduate school, and I have learned a lot in those 6 ½ years. I watched the editor, Candace, struggle with how to respond to anti-gay letters and whether to post these letters and responses online. This made me consider how I respond to those who do not support me, and I began to ask myself if my actions were furthering the cause of Christ’s love in the world. In a more lighthearted moment, while some friends and I watched reruns of Xena: Warrior Princess, we were thrilled to find an article in Whosoever entitled “7 Lessons on Christianity from Xena: Warrior Princess.” Whosoever has provided me with many tools for creating change in my communities. As an open Christian lesbian in college, I was often asked “How does that work?” and after a discussion of my own experiences and faith, I would point people to Whosoever.org for different perspectives. During campus “Coming Out Week” activities, I would inevitably face a well-meaning classmate who would insist she loves the sinner and hates the sin. The entire May/June 2002 issue of Whosoever helped at those times. As I now work with the leadership of a campus ministry in Illinois, Whosoever is an essential link from our website, and I often browse through its issues before leading a Bible Study or discussion group. Becoming an Adult God used Whosoever to answer my prayer for humility in high school. Through this community, God showed me that I had much to learn about faith and diversity. As I came out to friends and family, I had to admit that I had been wrong in my stance against homosexuals in the past. Even today, God continues to humble me through Whosoever. Each issue informs me of Christian leaders who are doing wonderful work for the LGBT community, sometimes risking their own ministerial credentials in the process. My disregard for evangelical authors and speakers has been challenged by Whosoever through articles such as the 2004 interview with author Phillip Yancey. Each time I feel too comfortable in my faith and begin to believe I have all the answers, God finds a way to gently remind me that I am still growing, and God often uses Whosoever. I am grateful to this magazine and the community that has formed around it. I have changed a lot in the past 7 years, and the mentors and friends I have found in the online pages of Whosoever have helped ease the transition into adulthood. My identity has developed more fully, my understanding of faith has been challenged and changed, but through it all I have rested in a secure knowledge that I am, indeed, a Whosoever.