About a month ago I was honored with the opportunity to serve a the pastor in residence at a family camp. I taught a few seminars and just generally got to hang around camp with my family to be available for anyone who wanted, or needed, to talk with a pastor. After one of my seminar sessions I was approached by a sweet older woman (significant details have been changed in order to protect people’s privacy but the story is all very true). She said to me, “I don’t know why but I feel like I can trust you. Can we find some time for you to hear my story?” I said that would be great and so we made a “date” to sit down the next day after I finished teaching my seminar. I knew I was going to hear an important story. I’ve worked at camps, and I’ve spoken at many camps and retreats. God has this fantastic way of pulling people out of their normal life-context, and then meeting with them when they get away at a camp or a retreat. God has this beautiful way of opening our hearts when He can get us to step out of our normal.
The next day I sat down as Regina pulled out her notes. She said, “I really just need you to listen. This is a long story.” For the next hour and more I listened to the story of a woman, who dearly loved Jesus, but who had dealt with a strong same-sex attraction her entire life. She told me everything: the lack of intimate closeness or even hugs from her own mother, feelings of deep loneliness, her first moments of interest and even longing for the same-sex. the ways she would put herself in places where she could see and be in close contact with the same-sex, and her inability to know what to do with all of these feelings, longings and emotions, even the fact that one of her own children had just admitted these same struggles to her and she just couldn’t admit them to her child. At the same time she told me a story of her great love for Jesus Christ. She loved Jesus with her whole heart, and you could see it in her quiet smile. She, the mother of two, told me how she’d married her husband of 50+ years “not because I’ve ever really been attracted physically to him, but because I saw the radiance of Jesus in his heart. So I married him and I do genuinely love him. I’ve just never told anyone my whole story.” She went on and said, “I’ve been coming to this camp for over 50 years, and there have been times I’ve wanted to tell this story, to unburden myself, but I’ve never been able to do it until today.” Talk about a holy moment! Regina in that moment entered into a whole new experience of freedom she had not known in 80 years of life. Let me repeat that – 80 years of life! Somewhere, with someone on this planet, with someone she felt she could trust, she told everything – the entirety of her story and her secrets. You have no idea how different Regina looked over the next 48 hours at camp and you have no idea how hard she hugged me when she said goodbye at the end of the week. As she left she was radiant.
Slowly but surely Regina plans to tell her story to those closest to her. She has no interest in living a completely different life-style. She wants to continue being loving Jesus, loving and staying with her husband, to love her kids and to be loved by her church and honoring God in spite of the reality of her form of attraction, but now she will do it free from keeping a secret. Don’t let 80 years go by without telling the secret that is keeping you sick!