National Coming Out Day 2015

I’m a big adventure person.  I love to travel, I love to explore, I love finding out new things and meeting interesting people.  Sometimes I just go, wander, ramble around until I find something that peaks my interest and then I sit with it for a bit.  Wherever the road leads me is fine because an adventure is more about the journey than the destination.  In the journey I am awakened to the beauty around me, the joy in the little things, and the light in those I get to journey with. In the process, I may just discover those things in myself.

Almost exactly two years ago I embarked on what has turned out to be my greatest and scariest adventure yet.  I stepped away from the life I knew towards a life of unknown, but a life I hoped would help me feel like living again.

Over my years I had come to a place where the adventure of simply living felt like daily walking through a thick muddy swamp.  It was cold and wet and foggy and lonely and every step was labored and pained.  I saw no end to this swamp.  There were occasional trees or rocks to rest on and rare rays of light would break through randomly to bring warmth and hope, but for the most part it was just hard simply getting out of bed and trying to keep moving.

Life wasn’t always like this.  If you have met me along my journey I wasn’t faking joy or friendship, I wasn’t always in a place of deep despair, but it was always there to some degree.  I don’t know what brought me to my breaking point, but the breaking point came when I sat in the hospital bed listening to a Dr. tell me I was going to be ok.  That the heart problems I was having were stress induced and nothing physically was wrong with me.  In that moment that should have been a relief, I found myself disappointed I was not dying and would have to go back to my swamp living.

There is so much more to the story, but I can point to that moment as one of significance where I realized things had been harder than I wanted to admit.  I kept thinking that if I could just make it past the next hard thing, the next major stressor, the next project that things would start to clear up.  But the pressure of living only continued to get heavier and heavier.  I didn’t know how heavy things were until I realized that when the Dr. told me I was going to live, the only emotion I felt was disappointment.

So I decided to embark on another adventure.  I decided right then and there to come out of the closet.  You see, while I lived a very stress filled hectic life, the thing weighing heaviest on me was this thing I had never told another soul.  I was no longer able to bare alone the secret I had been carrying my entire life.  I didn’t know where this adventure would take me, to say I was scared out of my mind was an understatement, but I knew I actually wanted to live.

I knew for many people this would be a shock (for many it was not) and I knew it would become scandalous if I stayed in my position as Dean of Students at a private Christian college, so I wanted to be careful and deliberate in my process.  I wanted to tell as many people face to face as possible and I didn’t want to embroil the school in a situation where they would have to feel any kind of responsibility for my decision to go public with the news that I was gay.  I was not deciding to be gay, I was deciding to invite others into the journey I had been walking alone for 30 years, but I still knew it would impact others.  In order to walk this new path as best I could, I decided to step down from my position at the school.

My last day at the school was October 1, 2013.  I walked away from an amazing job with amazing people, stability and a home, to begin a new adventure to figure out who I am and to try to get out of the boggy swamp.

And let me tell you, it has been an adventure.  Along the way I have discovered new beauty and truth I never thought was possible.  I have been vulnerable to the point of feeling raw all the time, but also experiencing a depth of love and acceptance I was scared to even wish for.  I made some mistakes and I enjoyed moments of grace. 

I still don’t have all the answers and I am still in the beginning of this adventure, but I have not regretted taking that step to walk away from everything I knew in order to discover truths that I had not let sink in because of the shame of my secret.  Once I came out I discovered the truths that God loves me, I have people who love me, and I’m going to be ok.  I wasn’t so sure two years ago, but I can say I have at least discovered that in this journey.

The reason I chose to share this today is because it is National Coming Out day.  It is a day set aside to stand in solidarity with those who have had the courage to step out and invite loved ones into the journey of being gay. To take the weight of shame and fear of rejection off of our shoulders by welcoming those we love to know us in a way that was hidden for so many years.  It is a day of reflection.

For many of my friends, this story will feel like I am glorifying a “sinful” choice or encouraging others down a dangerous path.  To be honest, this story is not for you. We can have a discussion later where I would be happy to speak with you in love about our differences of opinion, but really, this story is not for you. (unless you are lucky enough to have someone come out to you today, then please hear the heart in these words)

It is for anyone else who is afraid to invite others into a part of their life that has been hidden and kept them isolated.  It is for anyone who is afraid of what life might look like on the other side.  It is for anyone who feels like they can’t keep living because the weight of loneliness is heavier than the fear of death.  It is for the gay kid and straight kid who just want to know that someone is on their side.  It is for those who have been left wondering if they share their secret will they still experience the love of God, the love of people, and a life that won’t fall apart.

On this National Coming Out day of 2015, I am here to tell you and myself, two years into this beautiful, scary, life affirming, vulnerable, truth learning, friend finding, friend losing, empowering, daunting, hope giving, swamp conquering adventure, that God loves you, you have people who love you, and you are going to be OK.