About three weeks ago I tweeted this…
On World Vision: What hurts the most is the thousands of LGBT Christians like myself who still struggle to find their place in the church.
— Tim Schraeder (@TimSchraeder) March 27, 2014
…and 2 days later followed-up with an interview about it here.
Now that the dust has settled a bit, I thought it would be a good time to say a few things.
I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not I should say or write anything about it on my personal website. I had mixed emotions, after all, this site has moved from being a personal blog to more of a landing page to hopefully score some new work and clients. And, sharing what I shared a few weeks ago made many people, myself included, worry about how sharing news like that would impact my business given the niche of customers I work with [evangelical Christians] and the weight the words I shared carry in that community.
Minus a few random negative comments and a parody Twitter account, I have to be honest and say that the response I’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. Even though I was in the fetal position on my couch for a majority of the day I posted that tweet, the amount of love and encouragement I received was overwhelming. I told one friend, “I’ve never felt so loved and encouraged in all of my life.”
If you would have told me a few years ago I would muster up the courage to share my truth, I would have said you were crazy. After all, my whole life has revolved around a community that I’ve always felt excluded from. And that sucks.
It left me feeling torn…. and hopeless.
It led me down paths of destructive thoughts and behavior.
It made me feel less than human.
It left me feeling like I had to fight for acceptance while pretending to be something and someone I wasn’t.
It left me feeling alone.
I s o l a t e d .
And I felt like at any moment
my whole world could come caving in.
In the midst of all of these emotions and feelings… fear, anxiety, hopelessness, and loneliness…I had hope.
As I began to do what I feared the most: sharing my story with others, I received a reaction I didn’t expect.
We all have a tendency to expect the worst when it comes to sharing vulnerable parts of our stories with other people. And me being me, I over-dramatize and read into everything (I think it’s being overly self-protective… probably need to talk to my counselor about that one) and couldn’t imagine any positive outcome from publicly expressing the fact that I am a guy who loves Jesus, believes in the cause of the local church and has given the greater part of my life to serve it… oh, and I also happen to be gay.
DEATH SENTENCE. IT’S OVER. YOU’RE DONE. THEY’LL NEVER HIRE YOU AGAIN. THEY’LL NEVER ACCEPT YOU. YOU DON’T BELONG HERE. GOD DOESN’T USE PEOPLE LIKE THAT… And a flood of other things I’ve thought or have been told by other people repeated themselves like a really bad playlist in my mind.
But the truth is once I was able to have the courage to share my story, the response I’ve received from nearly everyone I told was the same:
we love you,
we believe in you,
and we are for you.
Sure, there have been a lot of questions, not everyone has been initially 100% down with what I’ve had to say, and, there are a few very close friends who ‘agree to disagree’, but that hasn’t put a damper in our friendship. Not yet anyway.
The road I’ve traveled to get to where I am today is a story that would fill chapters of a book that you probably wouldn’t believe. Example: The time I went to a week-long ex-gay conference where they preached to us that we could change by changing our behavior and subsequently sent the guys to learn how to play football and sent the girls to go get make-overs from a local Mary Kay consultant. Yeah, it was like that.
And as horrible or as funny as that may seem, there were also the really, really bad parts. Like the time I didn’t get out of bed for 5 days and my cell phone was shut off because I hadn’t paid my bill and my co-workers came to check on me because they assumed the worst. These were co-workers from a church who knew that I was in the process of accepting the fact that I wasn’t going to change and I had to figure out what that meant for me and my future.
In the midst of this up and down roller coaster of a ride, however, I felt what I had for so long carried as a burden turn into a responsibility.
A friend said to me once, “You know some day you’re going to share your story and it’s going to not only set you free but also hopefully inspire others like yourself who are in the Church to know that they are not alone.”
So, as I said a few weeks ago, that’s why I decided it was time to share my story.
I don’t believe that my identity is wrapped up completely in my sexuality. Yes, it’s a huge part of who I am, but there’s so much more to all of us. I’m a son. I’m a brother. I’m an uncle. I’m a friend. I am a self-professed coffee snob. I am an Apple fanatic. I’m a Christ-follower, or I try to be. I make a living being called a social media strategist. And from as far back as I can remember I’ve been the chubby kid. And, as of a few weeks ago, people now know I’m gay.
That’s a lot of labels, but the one that I choose to own is simple. In the words of one of my heroes [and someone, like me, who loved the Jesus and was also gay]:
“Your true identity is as a child of God. This is the identity you have to accept. Once you have claimed it and settled in it, you can live in a world that gives you much joy as well as pain. You can receive the praise as well as the blame that comes to you as an opportunity for strengthening your basic identity, because the identity that makes you free is anchored beyond all human praise and blame. You belong to God, and it is as a child of God that you are sent into the world.” – Henri Nouwen
I’m God’s child. And so are you. And once we can peel back all of the other labels that we or other people use to identify us, the sooner we can get on with what it is we are called to do with the time that we have here on earth.
I know that the whole of the Bible is God’s Word, and I don’t at all claim to be a theologian. But, when I look at the words Jesus spoke recorded in the pages of the New Testament, I read words of compassion, understanding, love, and acceptance for those that the religious of the time deemed to be sinners. He loved the unlovable, hung out with sinners, condemned the religious institution, and called people to simply follow Him by loving God and loving others, He included the marginalized and gave honor to the lowly. Everyone was welcome. He warmly accepted those who the religious turned away. He shunned those who judged others and wasn’t afraid to show His emotions. And He ultimately showed His love for us by giving His life for ours. He told us to love others and lived His life showing us how. Through Him, we are now all children of God.
I know some of you reading this may not agree with everything I’ve said or accept the idea of the “lifestyle” that you perceive comes with someone admitting and sharing what I did, but here’s the truth: I’m still the same Tim you’ve always known. The only thing that’s changed is that I’ve chosen to get real about something that’s been a difficult thing for me to share. It doesn’t change who I am or invalidate the work I’ve done… it just brings a new dimension to it all.
I called all of my current clients before I posted that tweet and one of them said, “Us working with you has nothing to do with your sexuality or anything like that. We hire you because you are the man for the job.”
Those words were so encouraging to me because I know there are so many other people like me out there who are the men and women for the job and who have amazing contributions to make to the Church. My prayer is that they will experience the same response I have. I pray that the Church can stop looking at what they perceive as an issue and begin to see the people… children of God who have been uniquely gifted and created to do great things for the Church. I pray that other LGBT people will begin to find their place in the evangelical Christian church. And I pray that all of us, all of God’s children, will begin to look past the different labels we may use to define one another and see ourselves as we all truly are: children of God.
They say that the truth shall set you free and that’s exactly how I’ve felt over the past few weeks. I pray that others, too, can experience that freedom in taking the risk to be vulnerable… to share their stories… and to know they are indeed not alone.
We all have a journey, we all have a story, and it serves us well as individuals and as friends to have the courage to share who we really are with one another. The life we have is a journey and we can’t walk it alone. We need one another and the freedom that comes in sharing our stories with others.
So yeah, that’s what I have to say about that tweet.