Universities, especially Christian universities, can be one of the most difficult places for LGBT+ young people. Yet when a Christian university has the right posture, it can also be life-giving. At Lead Them Home, we have aided multiple Christian universities in improving their care of LGBT+ students on their campuses. Liam, whose story is featured in Guiding Families of LGBT+ Loved Ones: Second Edition, shares a little of his experience as a student of a Christian university.
A One-Man Show
This may not have happened to you, but I remember a time when I saw my first live-action play as a kid, and I was, of course, enthralled. They captured such amazing wonder, told outlandish stories, and brought in fantastic characters, especially for the small town Southern Baptist boy. Fast forward a dozen years or so, and all of a sudden I realize the play was a one-man show with my neighbor Tim playing the king, jester, and the dancing tree on stage-left.
Timbo, I now know why your king was always a little winded.
I have often times felt akin to poor ol’ Tim as a student attending a small, private Christian university, both before and after coming out. Pressures unspoken, as well as bluntly outspoken, have scared me into playing many roles depending on who I am around. Around self-proclaimed theologians in class? Oh, yes, I am a monk living a solitary life of prayer. Around girls who still come to me for fashion advice? Clearly I am just a well-dressed athlete overflowing with testosterone. Around any number of LGBT+ friends sipping almond milk coffee in corner shops nearby? “Hun. Ney. Let’s talk about yesterday’s Ru Paul’s Drag Race elimination.”
Who Do I Turn To?
I was a one-man show, constantly running to the closet I thought I came out of, just so I could grab another outfit to put on. I wanted to belong anywhere, everywhere, and spent much of my energy not necessarily trying to pray it all away, but simply covering my sweaty shame with another layer of deodorant as I ran off to play yet another character. After so many years of being kicked out of churches, I assumed the Church, all the Church, all Christians everywhere, did not want me.
After so many years of being kicked out of churches, I assumed the Church, all the Church, all Christians everywhere, did not want me.
So if the one Body I am called to be a part of doesn’t want me, who am I to go to? The Church answer of “Jesus” seemed to fall short just as much as Church did.
How sweet His patience is, though, and how great His orchestration. The Good Lord knew (obviously) what He was doing when He placed me in a Christian university. I was literally DROWNING in opportunity for intimacy, but I refused to see mere raindrops of brokenness as anything else but inundating ocean swells. The Father raised up a brotherhood to come alongside and run the race with me. He guided me in conversations as I came out to more and more professors and leaders on campus, so that when words like “faggot” and “disgusting” were thrown at me, I had mentors and support to turn to for help. Not only that, He even brought me to a local Church body that told me: “If anyone is disqualified from His grace because of their sin, we would leave before we would make you go.” What a gracious God indeed.
Leaving the Facades in the Closet
My years at the university had (and still has) its moments of great struggle, but I learned — albeit stubbornly and slowly — that there was no need for the ensemble of outfits and facades. I did not belong to the Kingdom of God and to the Bride of Christ for people’s sake, but ultimately for the sake of Yahweh’s Glory. If God, my Beginning, End, and Everything in Between, has so abundantly showered me with acceptance and love, I can leave all those outfits in the empty grave my Jesus made room in.
If God, my Beginning, End, and Everything in Between, has so abundantly showered me with acceptance and love, I can leave all those outfits in the empty grave my Jesus made room in.
I am His, which frees me from begging to be in anybody else’s circle, and it also frees me to bless everybody else’s circle with the same love and embrace I’ve been faithfully shown by my Savior. If that’s what God intended for me to learn through going to a Christian university, I wouldn’t just say the struggle was worth it. I would reach to say, in comparison to the weight of His glory shown, I’m not sure what struggle there is to concern myself with.
If you are interested in how your educational organization can better care for LGBT+ students like Liam, check out our upcoming Posture Shift training events here.
Josh has an M.A. in Biblical Literature, and his greatest passion is help people grow in their relationship with Jesus.
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