Have you experienced life as a child of God who identifies as a homosexual? I have. What follows is only a small part of my story which is, admittedly, intensely personal. But that’s OK. I am ready to tell you about it on National Coming Out Day 2021.
Ever since the moment I prayed to God for the first time as a child, I have experienced an ongoing conscious oneness with God, even if only on the fringe at times. I know this is true beyond the shadow of any doubt. As I search back to my earliest memories of thinking about God, my relationship with the Divine feels completely innate. What a blessing to be able to say this.
It is as if my connection with the God of my understanding always has existed. Since the moment I became aware of my separateness of being (separate from my mother, when I understood for the first time that I was an “I”), I have been consciously reaching out to the source of my being. My own mother and father taught me how. They modeled a life of prayer every day by beginning and ending every mealtime with prayer in the name of Christ. Each and every meal.
After the example of my own mother and father, I understood myself as a child of God, both by human birth and by baptism, brother to Christ and all the rest of humanity so near and dear to a God of love. To this day, whenever I pray the Lord’s Prayer, my memory is filled with the smell of toasted raisin bread, as it was so often on the table at breakfast, filling my nostrils with goodness as we prayed together in unison, as a family. Yet another God-filled blessing in my early life.
I became aware of my sexuality well before I went to school. Let it be clearly understood that no part of the experience of gaining that awareness was traumatic for me. I say this because many people, upon learning that one identifies as a homosexual, will want to peer into one’s childhood in search of some trauma that may be blamed for the “deviation” they presume to be caused by a little-understood experience too shameful for it to even be mentioned.
In my experience, the real trauma came not from an early experience of sexualization but rather from the rejection I experienced when I tried to talk about it openly.
After a lifetime of reviewing these memories, my criterion for evaluating them is to understand how they shaped my understanding of my relationship to the source of my being. That understanding was severely shaken when I was first told in Sunday school of my separation from God. Yes, the news that I was seen as evil from the very beginning was very difficult for me to digest.
“The real trauma came not from an early experience of sexualization but rather from the rejection I experienced when I tried to talk about it openly.”
It would take me many years of life experience to understand the meaning of the “sin” message, which for me, at the tender age at which I first heard it, presented a profound contradiction in the terms which up until then had been used to describe my relationship with the Almighty. I was told that I belonged to God, and I believed it.
One of the ways I dealt with my sexuality as a Christian through the years was to regard my “deviant” sexual self-understanding as an “accident,” as something unfortunate about my life that I had to “endure in patient suffering” and only ever speak of with the utmost discretion. I saw it as a private cross to be carried which was, at worst, an embarrassment to my family and at best, not the most interesting thing about me. I saw it as something incidental, something that never would need to be mentioned, hidden away, deep in “the closet.”
Today I understand that since my sexuality strikes at the core of who I understand myself to be and the way in which I see and relate to the outside world, it therefore has everything to do with my purpose in life, with my calling and with my witness to Truth as I understand Truth. You see, for me, Truth is Christ. And I firmly believe that the Christ I follow is for absolutely everyone because Christ is source of all that is. In the Christ of my understanding, everything belongs. Nothing is wasted. All is made new.
I may be many things, but at my core, my sexuality puts me in a minority. In so many ways, it puts me at the “fringe” of society. It allows me to see and hear things differently than those who are at different places on the spectrum of sexual self-understanding and experience. The place where I stand, at my core, from where I view the world, is where I always have been, watching. Watching and waiting on the sidelines, as it were. Until today.
“Today I choose to leave my post as a watcher. I am here to say, ‘Here I am, Lord — send me!'”
Today I choose to leave my post as a watcher. I am here to say, “Here I am, Lord — send me!”
Send me to the others who are watching and waiting to see what happens to those who stand out and dare to speak their truth. Send me where you have sent so many other saints throughout history who were also homosexual, women and men of great standing who gave their all to you, unashamedly (many of whom are universally admired and whose sexuality was revealed only after their death).
And you know what? Ever since I began to speak to God with my whole heart, including the truth about what my sexuality allows me to be and to see, the fruit of the Spirit has blossomed on the tree of my life, and many have taken notice.
There is now maximum love, abundant joy and a peace like never before, all of which is the real force compelling me to give myself back to God to serve as God chooses and wherever my life now takes me in my ministry to the church as a priest and beloved companion of Francis.
Yes, I am gay. And I am happy, whole and free from all yokes of condemnation, all because of Christ, who is the source of my being and in whom my everything is held together. To quote a favorite campfire song from my youth, “I wish for you, my friend, this happiness that I’ve found! You can depend on him, it matters not where you’re bound!”
In honor of all gay Christians like me who have gone before (especially those in my family line), on National Coming Out Day 2021, and in quiet confidence that those who have known and loved me will continue to do so, I remain a humble friar in the cause of Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria — only to God be the glory!
Friar Nicolas Maria is a priest and friar in the Companions of Francis whose primary ministries are spiritual direction and life coaching. Based in San Jose, Calif., he is a spiritual fitness coach and is the founder of ARBOLARE, an interfaith virtual community dedicated to spiritual formation. In his leisure time, he is an avid historian and bibliophile and loves spending time in nature.
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