Recently I received e-mail from a 14-year-old lesbian who is struggling with rejection from her parents and her fundamentalist church. Where do GLBT teenagers turn for spiritual help when their own parents and churches turn against them?
Where do you turn for spiritual resources that you can trust and that you can rely on for genuine help?
Spiritual Help In The Bible
The Gospel of John is still my first choice for reliable spiritual help that can be found in the Bible. Start with the Fourth Gospel, and sometimes it might be best to end with it also! The Gospel of Luke also gives practical help that is relevant and personal.
All four Gospels are the logical source for Christian spiritual support that is practical and reliable. Mark is the shortest and can be read with great benefit in one sitting. Matthew is long and detailed and assumes a lot of knowledge of the Jewish religion and traditions at the time of Jesus.
When I taught college courses in the Gospel of John, I memorized the whole book and found it to be well worth the effort. Filling your mind and your memory with the material in the Gospel of John can provide you with a vast spiritual resource that will keep you focused on the truth that Jesus promised would set you free.
Spiritual Help Within Yourself
First, let go of the spiritual resources that don’t work for you. Your own experience is your best teacher. If abusive legalistic religion has hurt you, abandon it and look somewhere else for spiritual help.
Trust your own sense of what is right for you. You have learned a lot from your own spiritual journey. Think through and write down the spiritual resources that have already been helpful to you. What has helped you may not have been helpful to your family or friends. Your spiritual life is uniquely yours. Listen to what God is telling you through your own mind and heart.
Many of the e-mail responses to my web site come from people who have learned to trust their own feelings and to accept themselves in spite of religious abuse and rejection from their own families and churches. A lot of GLBT people are making great personal spiritual progress on their own.
Learn Who You Can Trust
You can learn a lot that is helpful from other people in your life, but you have to be selective. Nobody has all the answers, and no other person really sees you and your life exactly the way it is. Find and select your friends with intelligence and care. Jesus did, and even Jesus selected a Judas.
Sometimes we are attracted to other people because of their good looks or other superficial characteristics. Don’t let attractive people seduce you into self-destructive ways of thinking that don’t really fit you. You can learn from the successes and the mistakes of others without letting them control you. This is true of your parents, family, close friends and others who have emotional ties with you.
Let God Help You
God is the world’s expert on spiritual resources that really work for you. When all else fails, and it will, turn to God. But that,s the real problem, isn’t it? Who is God and what is God really like for you? The hateful vengeful “god” of much traditional religion is false and misleading. God is not discovered at the end of an argument. God is experienced as a spiritual event in your own life.
The saying of Jesus in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and nobody comes to God except through me,” does not mean that people could not experience God unless the knew about Jesus or followed the traditional church interpretation of Jesus. It simply means that the way to experience God is the way Jesus experienced God: through radical trust and obedience.
Jesus made it perfectly clear that God is not “out there somewhere” but that God is within you and surrounds you at all times. God is your most reliable and available spiritual resource. Don’t let others take that away from you because of their ignorance or bad judgment.
Test The Spirits
Preachers, teachers, writers, parents and friends often try to build their own sense of self worth by criticizing and rejecting people who are different from them. Jesus had to deal with this throughout his life. Read Matthew 23 for the scathing response of Jesus to unhealthy judgmental self-serving religion. Learn to avoid the spiritual mess created by sick religion. Then read 1 John chapter 4 for the positive side of discovering yourself in the light of God’s love and your own personal experience of love and life.
The author of Invitation To Freedom and Steps to Recovery from Bible Abuse, Rev. Rembert S. Truluck served in Metropolitan Community Churches in Atlanta, San Francisco and Nashville from 1988 to 1996. He earned a doctorate in sacred theology from Furman University, serving from 1953 to 1973 as a Southern Baptist preacher. He resigned as a professor at Baptist College at Charleston (now Charleston Southern University) and became an MCC pastor after being outed to the college’s board of trustees.