When I first saw these words on the written page I had to look within and ask myself, are you standing firm? If I had to be honest about everything in my life I would say no I am not standing firm. If one were to take my life in parts, then yes I stand firm on many issues and believe, for instance, my career, my finances, and my friends.
As I try to reflect on my relationship with God, I do know one thing is certain. He is standing firm in His commitment and His love for me. Is that true going the other way around?
I grew up in a typical Southern home or what I thought was typical. We had a family of five, mom, dad and three kids. We attended church every Wednesday for Prayer Meeting and Sundays for Sunday School, then Worship. Back in the evening for youth choir, Training Union and then Worship again. My mother played the piano or organ, father sang in the choir, and all the kids were in some type of music program whether we wanted to be or not. It was expected of all of us. At the age of nine, my parents divorced and over the next nine years things continued as they were just as a separate family.
My mother eventually remarried a wonderful man and started a new life with him. She eventually converted to Catholic faith so that they could worship together. Boy did she convert!! I went off to college and started to establish my life.
Throughout my years of living at home and growing up I knew, as so many others know in their hearts, that something was different. I was always interested in my male friends more than my female friends and even remember "fooling around" with many. As I went through high school I did what every young, Southern Baptist, all American male would do, and I dated females. It was expected of me, right?
After I went to college, nothing really changed in my life. I dated girls, but fooled around with guys on the side. The secret life that no one knows about, right? The fact that I became a Minister of Music and Youth did not change this. I felt called to do some type of work in the ministry. I felt this at a young age just like I felt the desire to be with men. How could I be gay and be in the ministry? This just didn't make any sense to me and from everything that had been preached to me and everything that I read in the Bible, it was wrong. It was a sin.
While in my mind I felt that everything I did was a sin, in my heart I felt different. I knew that my God was an awesome God, a forgiving God, and a loving God. The Bible even said that "whosever believeth in me shall not parish but have everlasting life." How can you contradict that?
Through all of this internal conflict that raged, I still had my friends, family and church asking me over and over, when are you going to settle down and meet a nice young girl? After five years of this, I gave in, I crashed, and I didn't stand firm in what I believed in. I "found" the girl and married. Do I need to say more? The marriage was based on a lie. I knew that I loved my wife in my own way but not the way that a man is to love a woman or partner. My life started falling apart. I began to question my existence and my relationship with the church, my wife, myself and more important, God. How could I undo everything? Everything that I was was falling apart around me. I searched for everything I knew and found no answers. The one thing I found constant was the love I knew was there from Jesus and knowing His love was unconditional.
I ended up asking my wife for a divorce and at the same time turned in my resignation as Minister of Music and Youth for the church. Many people begged me to stay on and continue in my service. There again, the things that I had heard all my life would not allow me to stay. How could I be a minister when I was divorced? The Bible was clear on the issue of divorce and Southern Baptist churches don't allow men to become Deacons if they have gone through divorce. To top off this whole issue was the lack of support I was receiving from the church pastor. He, I thought, was my friend and then my pastor. Not once did he offer to meet with me and pray with me or counsel with me. I felt like I was not only betraying my church and God, but I was also being betrayed.
I left that church and took with me all the turmoil I felt. I carried the feeling of abandonment with me for many years. I moved away, to New Orleans, and dedicated my life to a life of party and men. For ten years, I never looked back at what I was doing.
Three years ago, I had an experience that brought home to me the fact that I was still in God's fold. I had to undergo major bypass surgery and realized that He had not forsaken me. I tried with everything I had within myself to die while laying in that hospital bed. I listened as my heart monitor slowed down and the respirator I was on for "assisted breathing" was slowing. I tried to die, but God had other plans for me. To this day I am not sure what those plans are but I am here.
My relationship with the "church" is not here. I have probably been to church a total of twenty times in thirteen years. That in itself is amazing for a "dyed in the wool" Southern Baptist that had a key to the door of the church. I realized that I could use the fellowship of other believers in Christ to build me up but I could also rely on God to be my strength and my salvation. I no longer needed the "approval" from the church for my life. Everyday is still a struggle and I know that this will continue. My family knows that I am gay and while they support me they do not support my "lifestyle." I have heard over and over from my mother the same Bible verses that are used to "destroy" the gay believer. I have been warned of my eternal damnation. Does this make me doubt? NO! I know that my mother means well and I will love her because she is my mother. I also know that my Father in heaven is still there for me just as He is for my mother. I know that He created me just as the Bible states, "He created them one and all."
Standing firm. Yes, I am standing firm in my desire to love God and one day love a partner, as He would have me. While I may not always show it, I am seeking His guidance in my life and I know that He loves me for me. I have a good life, a good career that I am making a positive impact on the lives of youth in need, and friends. More importantly, I have a relationship with God that I don't always appreciate, but I do know that He is always there. One doesn't need to be out protesting, staging a sit in, or organizing a pride rally to be standing firm in their sexual orientation. In my heart and mind, I don't think that one needs to be preaching from the pulpit, singing from the choir or organizing a prayer rally to be standing firm in their faith. One simply needs to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, and believe in His love for you, His forgiveness for you and His support of you. Be proud in that.
Copyright © 2001 by the author
All Rights Reserved
Richard T. Rossiter
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