I often wonder if I could write a song that could make it all the way to the radio, if there has been enough experience in my life to be able to put it to music so that others could actually hear what is going on inside my mind. Something like David Crowder’s “Come As You Are.”
If you don’t know what song I’m referring to, it goes “…Come out of sadness, come from wherever you’ve been, come broken hearted, let rescue begin. Come find your mercy, oh sinner come kneel, earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal. So lay down your burdens, lay down your shame. All who are broken, lift up your face, oh wonderer come home, you’re not too far…so lay down your hurts and lay down your heart. Come as you are….”
This is one of those songs that I can truly relate to and one that rips deep into my life experiences often stirring me to tears. Some drops are out of sorrow, shame, and regret but others are drops of gratitude for being loved so much that even though I’ve wondered from the church and from God, I’ve always known, I could come back home. The blessing in this fact is that I know with all my heart that I am loved by God. I was created with an almost super-human strength of perseverance and a deep refusal in the belief that my sexual orientation is blasphemous and against God’s will.
I am no theologian or a graduate of Seminary nor do I need to be to know that God simply doesn’t make junk. The experiences I went through were not choices to have been made. I was simply different and others knew it without my even having to speak a single word.
Hatred was directed at me long before I could even begin to fully comprehend who God had made me to be.
In Ephesians 2:10, Paul reminds us that “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” If this is the case, and I have no reason to distrust God, I’ve been made to endure hardship as the scripture reads in 2 Timothy chapter 4: v5 “But you Timothy” – or should I be so bold to suggest “Kris” – “But you Kris, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
My ministry was and is to be who God created me to be… A man with a great love for the Lord, a willingness to express that love even though society told me I was hell bound.
The beginning test of endurance came at the age of 14 when my family moved to Omaha, NE. I was welcomed at first into Junior High but that wouldn’t last long. One day after 4th period was let out; I went to my locker to find the word “Faggot” written in big bold letters with black permanent marker. I was horrified and embarrassed beyond belief. It wouldn’t come off and the kids stared and snickered at me. I hadn’t done anything to deserve this. I was humiliated and had to go to the Principal’s office to have it removed. The removal didn’t happen till school was let out for the day.
After every remaining class, I returned to that locker and was confronted with the humiliation over and over throughout that day. High school in Omaha wasn’t any better but it paled in comparison to what was waiting for me in GA. Prior to leaving Omaha, I was on the path of self-destruction and got myself involved in things that would only serve as warning signs in the years to come. My loving and supportive parents could see that there were behavioral problems and through the assistance of an angelic school guidance counselor, a private Psychologist was contacted and appointments were set.
I recall being very candid with him and sparing nothing in my detailed description of who I was at the core. This was 1988… society didn’t have the understanding they have today. It was the early years of the AIDS epidemic and fear and ignorance was rampant. I didn’t want to be who I was and so my Psychologist convinced me that self-directed violence was a treatment option that I should embark upon. For those of you who don’t know, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines self-directed violence as anything a person does intentionally that can cause injury to self, up to and including death. My treatment was considered to be on the lighter side of the self-directed violence treatment plan. I was instructed to place a thick rubber band around my wrists and when I had a homosexual thought, I was to pull it back as far as possible and release. The resulting pain was described as an aid to helping me cope with emotions/thoughts/feelings.
Essentially, to remind myself that a life of homosexuality was a life full of pain and suffering and that I had a choice in the matter.
To not pull on that band was to give in to the temptation of my natural curiosity. Thankfully, I didn’t see the Psychologist for very long as within a year, we relocated to Atlanta, GA. Moving to the south had its blessings and its curses. In the beginning, only the curses were to be seen. I was now a junior in High School with an unimaginable two years to go before escaping the cruel and unusual punishment by my fellow classmates. Immediately, I was labeled the “F” word and each day that passed seemed to go slower than the day before. I wouldn’t dream of going to the lunchroom for fear of targeted harassment.
For two years I scarfed down packed lunches while hiding behind a stack of books in the library.
It was a place that allowed me to disappear until the safety of the next classroom. There was no teacher support and even the guidance counselor’s remarked that it wasn’t their job to “Follow me around all day to provide protection.” Finally, my senior year was upon me. All I had to do was get through one last year. I prayed relentlessly for my survival as there were moments that I couldn’t even be sure that I wouldn’t succumb to the depression and try to take my own life. I also prayed for a very specific event. Graduation. It was a day that all my family, my parents, aunts & uncles, my grandmother and others would be there to witness.
I prayed without ceasing asking God to keep the students quiet when my name was called and while I walked across the stage.
I had become accustomed to the vile remarks but I didn’t want for my family to have to be exposed to it. Graduation day came and unfortunately a select few still hadn’t had their fill with me yet. I recall grabbing my diploma and knowing that would be the last time that I would be forced to sit through that pain.
Thankfully today, painful moments like the ones I endured are less likely to happen because of the national attention that has been placed on bullying. However, we have a long way go in protecting our youth from ignorance and hatred. Even with the work that’s been done, we still far too often hear about the cruelty and violence of kids in schools. What I’ve described today is only a sprinkling of what I’ve witnessed first-hand throughout my life. I have been blessed in many ways with a family who has never shunned me or made me feel less of a person.
Too many out there haven’t been as fortunate.
They’ve been abused by society and they have been abandoned, judged, and overlooked by many in the church. This abandonment has consequences, eternal consequences, and each one of us sitting here today has a moral and Christian obligation to reach out and with a loving heart show that life is better with God. As United Methodist’s our Church’s advertising campaign says we are a church with “Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors.” Is this just a nice thing to engrave on our marquees or is it literally what we stand for as a community of faith?
It doesn’t mean we will all agree on everything but can we agree that God wants ALL of God’s children who have wondered to come home…just as we are! Churches of all denominations have done the very thing Christ has told them not to do. They have shunned a community that has needed God in times of crisis. The church has made us to feel unworthy of God’s love and for that there will be a time of judgment. God’s greatest commandment is to love one another as we love ourselves and collectively we have failed to do just that.
This absence of the greatest commandment has caused deep wounds that only God can heal.
I strongly believe that God is trying to heal this wound by changing hearts and opening minds to all forms of love. God is offering the church another chance at getting this right. The tide of change has blanketed this country and opinions have evolved toward a community that just 15 years ago was still considered perverted. We, as United Methodist’s, believe that God’s hands are always at work. Isn’t it probable that God’s hands are in this too? No other minority movement has seen this type of rapid evolution. God is a part of this because we are a part of God. God’s miracles of divine evolution are in progress.
There is a lot of work to be done to absolve the pain that has been inflicted on the LGBTQ community. I ask that you continue this trend and welcome back other folks just as they are. Together, may we all grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.