I grew up in a black and white world. There was truth and there was deception; there was right and there was wrong. We knew the truth about salvation, righteousness, and sin. There was no room for questions because all of the answers had been found.
I attended various denominations throughout my life. But the two common threads in each of them were: an authoritarian view on doctrine and the belief that we knew all there was to know.
I found great comfort in this certainty.
Then one day, the questions began.
It all started when someone close to me came out of the closet. This rocked my entire world. I was stunned and shocked.
My faith assured me that this person was in sin, and yet I saw how tortured they felt. I saw how desperately they tried to find a way to reconcile God to these feelings within their soul that wouldn’t leave even after years spent running from them.
Is it possible for a person to be in sin through no choice of their own?
I didn’t know how to reconcile this confusion with what my faith community was telling me.
I didn’t know how to reconcile the revulsion I suddenly saw within my Christian circles towards the LGBTQ+ community with the fact that Jesus is love. How can loathing co-exist with love?
I didn’t know what to do with the pressure I felt to either find a way to bring this person to repentance or be done with the relationship.
It seemed that, in choosing to own their true self and share their authenticity with the world, this person had opened the door for me to start asking questions I had never asked before.
Does God really require gay people to remain celibate for the rest of their lives? Is it a sin to be transgender?
These questions led me down a rabbit-hole to more questions:
Are women actually banned from the pulpit? Did God really create a hierarchy between men and women?
The questions would not stop coming. A gate had been opened that I did not know how to close.
I found myself in situations where my questions were unwelcome. I felt immense pressure to be silent and to put my questions away for the comfort of those around me. I felt like I was no longer fully welcome in my community.
The final nail in the coffin came when I went out for coffee one day with a group of friends from my church. It became quickly evident to me that several people in that group intended to use that get-together as a means to call me out publicly for my supposed heresy.
That was the day I knew that I was no longer safe at my church. My questions were not welcome. My independent thought was considered a threat. I realized that I needed to leave.
But I was terrified.
I had been taught that truth only existed within a few churches. I was taught that, as a woman, I needed a man to discern truth for me. But here I was, a single woman alone in the world trying to grasp for branches of truth. I was terrified.
I was taught to fear the outside world. I was taught to believe that it was a cold and Godless place that would put my soul in danger.
But when I could no longer remain in this church environment that demanded my silent submission, where else could I go?
It was time to trust God’s leading and go into the world.
I took a deep breath and walked out the door.
For a while, it felt like a strange dream. I couldn’t really be out here, could I? I felt as if I were freefalling without a parachute. I was risking my soul and my salvation.
I lost the foundation of the Christian community that had made me feel so safe. I lost the comfort of feeling like I had all of the answers.
There were days when I didn’t know if I still believed in God. My faith was shaken so hard that sometimes I didn’t have the energy to believe anymore. I think this scared me the most on my journey.
For as long as I could remember, God was a constant in my life. He was the One I could turn to in every situation. He was the one I could pour my heart out to when it was broken. He was the one I rejoiced with and worshipped every time I received good news. To feel even a temporary separation from my God was at once devastating and terrifying.
I was scared.
I felt so alone.
But I wasn’t alone.
Someone was there with me.
Someone was gently whispering assurances of Their love in my ear.
Someone was holding me in Their arms, keeping me safe, and giving me the rest and healing that I so desperately needed.
Gradually, my faith returned. My fears and my feelings of loneliness dissipated. I was able to turn back to God and remember that my foundation is not built upon a church, but upon Christ alone.
In time, God led me to a new spiritual home. He took me by the hand and led me through the doors of an Episcopal church. This was a church that I’d been warned about for years. It was supposed to be dangerous for my soul. Yet, it was to this church that God chose to lead me.
For the first time, I saw women preaching from the pulpit.
For the first time, I saw openly gay Christians who were not just accepted as equals but were put in positions of leadership in the church.
For the first time, I found a church where my questions were not considered a threat.
I found a church where I was fully welcome.
I found my home.