On this day two years ago, I picked up the phone. That phone weighed at least 2,000 pounds. It weighed a ton. In fact, it weighed so much that I actually chose email instead. In some ways that made me feel like a coward, but at least I could be a calculated coward. And the truth is, it was actually self-care born out of self awareness. And only now, on the other side, am I learning to be as kind and gracious to myself as I have learned to be toward others.

Reflecting on it now, I can still feel that anxiety. I can still feel my heart rate begin to rise and that sensation where my arms seem to be floating and don’t feel attached to my body anymore. There’s something really suffocating about trying to share words that you know will forever alter the course of your existence. For better or for worse.

There are a lot of positives to using written words in coming out.

You create space for the other person to process and can, at times, avoid knee-jerk reactions. You can architect every nuance of what you want to say. Putting words down and picking them back up. It’s like sitting at a chess board and being able to hold a piece, move it around, walk through the various scenarios and possibilities without penalty. But for every positive there seems to also be a negative. The tone of your voice, the expression of your words can be lost. The weight you are feeling may not fully translate across a stream of vowels and consonants. And the waiting. Oh God, the waiting. Did they read it? Are they just thinking through their response? Have I been cut off? It’s a lot. All of it. A. Lot.

But, I’m out and I am fully me in every area of my life. I no longer have to compartmentalize myself into shades of what I think is acceptable in a given setting. It hasn’t been easy and it hasn’t been perfect. Frankly, I have lost a lot of things, my family has lost a lot of things… relationships with people who matter to us, influence in some local church settings, opportunities to share my gifts and live out my calling. I have been condemned by some and erased by others. But do you know what I gained? I gained relationships with people who struggled to say, “me too” and others who have shown me that I can be fully known and fully loved; that I am not flawed. I gained the ability to influence people with my truth and to make a way for others. I gained the opportunity to be my full self in every space and to see others challenged by experiencing Christ in a person they thought to be an abomination; for whom knowing me has evolved an issue into a person.

Redefining the way that others know, see, and experience you is a tall task. Our human experience is something we each hold as sacred. And when another person challenges what we have experienced for ourselves by changing the lens or reshaping our language, we have a tendency to raise our defense. Facing the reality that something I experienced for myself is different than what I believe it to be (whether I can articulate it or not) has the potential to threaten the validity of everything I know. If something that I thought was certain, is uncertain… what else? What other things that I hold dear are not as I believe them to be?

I think this is the unexpected gift we give to others when we come out.

We force others, by simply sharing our whole self, to peel back the layers of their understanding. Whether others accept our truth or not, they are confronted by its meaning… and I believe this creates a deeper sacred space within which for us to hold our human experience.

So on this day, to those who have not yet been able to share their whole self: Whatever fear may grip you, whatever unknown may torment you, whatever potential loss that terrifies you, know this: your story is still being written and it is a holy gift to others. May you have the courage to share it in the ways and spaces that are safe for you to do so.

To those who have been able to claim their full identity: Therefore go! 🙂 Go set others free with your story, with your truth.

Friends, if we are created in the image of God, then we see the most of God’s self when we share the most of ourselves with others.

Ben Weger

Ben Weger serves as the worship leader at Allendale UMC in Saint Petersburg, FL and is a second year seminarian at Iliff School of Theology. In 2014, Ben co-led worship for the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Ben and his wife Leigh have three children and are passionate about building a more inclusive church for the next generation.
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