Monday, January 14, 2013

Shedding Shame

One of the many phenomena of the 21st Century social media boom is online friendships. I have a few friends on Facebook and Twitter that I have never met in person, with whom I have forged a true connection. One such friend is a man I met on an online group called Cedarville Out, which is an LGBT alumni group from Cedarville. (Not sanctioned by Cedarville, of course!)

Sad side note: Please take a minute to read about the proposal to remove the philosophy department from the school. (h/t: James McGrath)

This man who I will call Steve grew up in a very conservative Christian environment, was married shortly after graduation, and recently came out and got divorced. His experience is not uncommon; but, like all of us, his personal experience is completely unique. His ex-wife is supportive. His family, generally, is not. We connected in part because we have similar professions, we both love and own a French Bulldog, and because he is smart and funny as hell on Facebook.

We recently had an exchange over email concerning the holidays. Steve shared some of the recent struggles he's been having with his family, with the changes going on in his life due to coming out, and with life in general. Putting on my fix-it-make-it-all-better hat, I shared some of the things that have given me hope in the last few months: a new church, some progressive Christian bloggers, and Brian McLaren books, to name a few. He told me, without any rancor, that he definitely did NOT want anything to do with the church or with God right now. (I.e., Too soon, dude. Too. Soon.)

It hit me then: duh...that's how I've felt for the last 15 years. Throughout those years, slowly but surely, my spiritual "trajectory" was radically changed. The trajectory went, not just in a new direction, but in a new dimension from the one I was on before.

The trajectory included a time of anger, yes, but it also included a time of profound relief. Relief that I no longer felt shame for being gay--for being Kevin. I went through a long process of shedding my Christian skin...deep enough that I was shedding even my identity as a Christian. And it felt sooooo good. It felt like I was finally becoming real...Velveteen Rabbit! (...apologies to Maria Bamford). I've never felt so much peace! This place was my "rock bottom," and from where I've been buidling ever since. And rock makes a good foundation, no?

Happy side note: Does this analogy remind anyone else of the dragon and Edmund in one of C.S. Lewis' Chronicals of Narnia? I forget which book contains the scene...but it puts the analogy in a new perspective!

So...Steve...where you are right now is a great place to be. I hope you are able to feel some of that same peace from having shed (and continuing to shed) all that shame, and you continue to realize that you are good and worthy, and that you do not deserve rejection from your family or from anyone.

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