I met “Robin” at a Christian concert festival in the Midwest. She saw my booth and came up to me to inquire about the purpose of our ministry. The conversation started out very rough, but then it transformed to a depth where we were able to connect in a meaningful way. Robin has reviewed and given me permission to publish our conversation. She gives me permission not because she agrees with my theology, but because she sees the value of our ministry. Here is how our conversation transformed over two+ hours:
Robin: So why are you here? Are you one of those hate-monger ministries who try to convince people to change?
Bill: Hi, my name is Bill Henson. I am founder and president of Lead Them Home. What is your name?
Robin: My name is Robin.
Bill: Robin, it’s nice to meet you. I am not here to try to convince people to change. I am here to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with many who feel condemned and judged by the church. I know that many people feel judged by the church. I want to make sure they do not miss out on the invitations Christ extends to them. That’s why we exist and that’s why we’re here.
(Robin grabs a LTH brochure and walks off. An hour later, she returns.)
Robin: Bill, I want to apologize. We disagree on doctrine – I know that from your faith story in your brochure. But besides that, I agree with 90% of the work that your ministry does. Thank you for doing this work. Do evangelical churches actually invite you to come speak?
Bill: Robin, we are speaking at evangelical churches and campus ministries all the time. Yes, of course they invite us. They not only invite us – they are hungry for a more Christ-centered vision for ministry in this area. They are tired of the Culture War approach.
Robin: That is not the evangelical church I left. They were all too willing for me to leave.
Bill: Robin, our ministry exists for people like you. I care deeply about people who feel condemned by the church. This is THE reason why our ministry exists. Robin, would you like to sit down – I’ve got an extra chair. I’d really like to hear your story. You understandably are very concerned about my kind of ministry – trust me, I understand your concerns. We can talk more about that, but I’d be honored to hear your story…
(Robin sits down and we end up having a two+ hour discussion that ranges from theology and Biblical interpretation to her personal story. She talks, I listen. Her story is actually quite interesting and in some places disturbingly sad. Along the way, she sheds tears. I pray for her.)
Robin: Bill, I know I said I was at peace with all of this. But the reality is that I do worry if it is OK with God. I know I was beating you up with theology early in our conversation, but I do doubt whether my theology holds up or not. I feel a good deal of anxiety about this.
Bill: I understand. Surrendering this area of my life to Christ was the most painful thing that has ever happened in my life. No one ever asked me to ‘change’, but God invaded my life and led me to surrender this area of my life to Jesus. On the one hand, Christ has been so faithful to care for me. But on the other hand, it was difficult to come to that place of surrender. I did so under conviction of what God’s Word says about this issue – as I understand it. But it was tough. My heart goes out to you. I know how it feels to experience spiritual anxiety.
Robin: Yes, it is quite painful. I want to tell you one more thing. I want you to pray for me about something: I tried to commit suicide last year.
Bill: Robin, I am very sorry you had to go through that. I am glad you’re here today. How are you doing these days?
Robin: I am doing better. It’s tough at times, but I don’t think I’ll be back in that place again.
Bill: If you ever feel suicidal again, will you promise me that you’ll remember that my wife and I are here for you 24 hours a day. I know you have many friends that can help you, but I just want you to know that we are here for you and we do not stand against you.
Robin: Thanks Bill. I have a question for you: are you sure you were not just in some really bad gay relationship?
Bill: I was in a really good relationship actually. There was long-term commitment, emotional satisfaction, shared interests and sexual pleasure. I loved my lover quite deeply. He was and is a wonderful person. To this day, I admire him for the person he is. I was well-loved by him.
Robin: What about the church: are you sure you did not just over-react to their condemnation?
Bill: That’s a great question. I definitely felt condemned by them, many times. But Robin, it is almost like they were easy to “write-off” for me. I did not grow up ‘in the church’ so I don’t have this story of leaving the church or being shunned by the church or by my family. In fact, the greatest gift my family gave me was unconditional love and acceptance. I knew they loved and accepted me no matter what. I went to a Bible-based church but it simply did not harp on the issue of homosexuality. So I had space for searching spiritually. But those evangelical voices – even from a distance, I heard them. Yes, I heard them alright. But somehow, I knew that Jesus loved me so I did not really listen to them very seriously. But that was only one voice. The gay liberation voice was also shouting its message – from a distance, I heard that voice as well. It always came across as “anything goes” to me. That’s what bothered me. So I knew that this also was not the Jesus I was discovering in Scripture. So I just put both these extreme “voices” on the side as I pursued my love for Jesus. It is His love and knowing Him that brought me to the place where I surrendered by whole life to Him. What about you?
Robin: Well, I did grow up in the church…my whole life. I got baptized in the church, went on mission trips, married my husband and dedicated all four of our children IN the evangelical church. So as I was telling you, when I left my husband and our four children for Beth, my church basically asked me to leave. I could not even show up without someone yelling at me or telling me what I need to do. It has been quite a painful process.
Bill: So how are your kids doing in the midst of all this?
Robin: Three are fine. My oldest won’t talk to me. I’ve tried to reach out to him but he lives with his father and doesn’t want much to do with me. He’s 13 so that makes it kind of hard for him to handle having a Mom like me right now. I miss him so much. (tears)
Bill: Robin, Jesus loves you. Can I say a prayer for you? (we pray) Robin, I want to ask you a question: why did you leave your husband for Beth?
Robin: I finally got tired of the emotional abuse. Even though I grew up in the church, there was emotional abuse in my family – a lot of anger. And so I guess I was destined to marry an angry man. Finally one day, I just realized that I don’t have to take it anymore.
Bill: So did you have any prior same-sex attraction? Or are you bisexual?
Robin: No, it is not about the sex. It’s about the safety and security. Men never were willing to give me what I really needed. Now, I have someone who knows exactly what I need and she is more than willing to give it to me. Trust me, the sex is not the driver for me. I did not want my three daughters growing up thinking that they have to live in an abusive relationship. My ex-husband is a leader in the church but he’s an angry man. I simply could not take it any longer…
Bill: Robin, has anyone in the church ever validated that you were abused?
Robin: Of course not. I was just told that he’s a typical man. That this is how men are. That I should just keep being a good wife and mother.
Bill: Robin, you were abused. I want you to hear that clearly. You were abused. I am so sorry that this happened to you.
Robin: Me too. (tears) I just want my son to know how much I miss and love him. And I’ve been in so much pain over all this. And people just judge, judge, judge. I have to admit that I have used their judgment to justify my relationship. I cannot believe I am telling you this, but it’s true. Until today…until I encountered your ministry…I could just look at evangelicals as bigots. I cannot imagine living without Beth’s love so please do not think that I am just going to get up and leave her. But for the first time, I am realizing that I have much to think about.
Bill: Robin, you are a beautiful woman of God. Jesus loves you so much. I want you to know that my wife and I are here to walk with you. Please know that you can contact us anytime.