a letter to my christian friends in the lgbtq community


The way I approached people and life came to a crashing halt last summer when I had no choice but to look my fear of getting it wrong in the face and see the damage I’d done to the people around me with my careless judgments. It was mid-August when my shift in perspective began, when I found out something about a friend of mine that, when I’m honest, hit a fear chord deep within me. For all the Bible classes I’d taken, for all the messages I’d sat through, for all the mentoring that had been given to me, I was in unchartered territory with no idea what to do.

So, like anyone else who’s afraid, I rooted out the problem. It was such a deep, resonating fear and I was sure that God was on my side. I’d always wanted to hold my faith in one hand and my desire to love people deeply in the other…but wasn’t there a line? Wasn’t there a boundary? Wasn’t there a darkness even God wouldn’t step foot in? It was what had been taught to me all my life in the sorting of sin into meh, okay-but-not-great, bad-but-not-too- bad, bad-and-let’s-not-talk-about-it-just-ask-Jesus-for-forgiveness-and-it’ll-be- fine, and oh-my-gosh-how-do-you-live-with-yourself?

I used the standard Christian line, “I’m doing this out of love. I have nothing but love for you, but I can’t watch you go down this path,” and sent my friend on their way. With one bang of my gavel, I’d banished a friend from my life and broken a friendship because of my own fear. The following week of my life was one of misery, listening to nothing but Steven Furtick messages and feeling a restlessness in my spirit I couldn’t get away from. Had I done the right thing? You’re supposed to rebuke out of love, right?

It’s a long story how I arrived at the point I’m at, but the tipping point was when I was searching for answers and realized the problem was me and my fear, not my friend. My friend was living life on their terms and walking in spirituality the way that made sense for them and I was arrogant enough to make myself the judge and the jury over something that had nothing to do with me. Less than a week after the heinous texts I’d lashed out, I called my friend at midnight and said, “Can we talk?” We went for coffee at midnight and sat across the table from each other, my friend listening through guarded eyes while I spilled my pride and apologized with tears running down my face.

What I’ve learned over the past 10 months since that night in August 2019 is that I’d rather be uncomfortable than comfortable and hurting marginalized communities. In my perspective, being comfortable is deadly. Being comfortable is as anti-gospel as it gets. Being comfortable is to let the enemy use your neighbor as a punching bag. I will not stand by and let my friends suffer in the name of Jesus just because I’m so paralyzed by my own fear of needing to get it right. I will stand and shout who Jesus really is until my voice is cracking and raspy and they’re sick of hearing me.

That brings us to pride month 2020. I’ve been a secret ally for a couple years now, starting to listen a little more than I spoke. It’s been seven years since I quoted Romans 1 to someone who came out to me and thought I had all the answers because I was required to take two Bible classes a year in college. It’s taken me awhile to come to this conclusion, but all I know is I don’t know all the answers and I don’t need to know them to love my friends in the lgbtq+ community.

As someone who follows Jesus and believes He is who He says He is, my duty is to save a seat at the table for you. My duty is to uplift you, care for you, and listen when you need a friend. My duty is not to hold Jesus hostage from you for political gain. Jesus is not on a leash. He is accessible to us all. If I was just allowed to come to the cross as I am…why can’t you?

And even if you’re not a christian like I am, my duty is to see the humanity in you and love you even if we disagree on our faiths. That shouldn’t even be a question, but there are a lot of christians who don’t see it that way and I know that because I used to be one of them.

I don’t sit here and write this to you now as a theologian or as a spiritual gatekeeper or as someone who has all the answers. God knows I don’t. I don’t have a phD and I haven’t sat with scholars dissecting biblical theology. I don’t have a divine checklist in my back pocket of what’s right and what’s wrong. (Believe me, I’ve asked for one.) Yes, I’ve read the arguments on both sides. Yes, I’ve read the verses. And I don’t know, friend. I really don’t know all the answers.

But here’s what I do know: you’re deeply, madly loved just how you are. I know you’re not a mistake. I know you were created intentionally and you’re beautiful.

I haven’t always been a safe space, but I’m here now and I do know that I will be your ally, your friend, and your soundboard. I won’t try to wash away the gay because a.) I can’t b.) you can’t c.) you being gay has zero to do with your identity.

I know that I will fight for your right to exist, your right to love, your right to marry, your right to have a family, your right to be right there in the middle of church with the rest of us without judgment or harassment. I know that in the question, “Can I be gay and a christian?” the answer is a resounding yes. I will attend your wedding, show up for your baby showers, cheer you on, and answer your call at 3 am like I would for any of my other friends.

No matter what the world tells you, all that I really know is that you are welcome here. When you break the gospel down to its core, the message is simple: We are all broken, but valued and loved by God. Jesus is the only one that has ever been perfect and he conquered death. Until He returns, we are to take care of each other, worship the one, true God, and take the light to the dark places. That’s it.

Yes, you have your flaws. God knows we all do. And friend, being gay is not one of them. Lean into Jesus. Go where He leads. And don’t feel a need to owe any of us any sort of explanation as to where you land.

In solidarity and much love,

Amanda

stories from my time in the dark: you matter a lot more than you know.


2017 was supposed to be my year.

I’d walked into the year newly 24, down sixty pounds, with a solid job and solid people around me. And then in one fell-swoop, my world came crashing down around me when I lost my job. Between February and July, I’d slipped into a deep depression, gained all the weight back, and all the carefully-crafted confidence I’d placed in self-image and self-accomplishment slowly burned in front of my eyes. It was that year, that summer specifically, that life handed me a crash-course on my mental illness that had been in the shadows since childhood. 2017 forced me to look in the mirror and see that the battle was far from over, my body war-torn and exhausted.

The worst part about struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder hands-down are the intrusive thoughts, the snake-like fear that winds around and starts to squeeze the life out of you. OCD is a deep anxiety, a deep need to cleanse and purge and perfect so our brains tell us that the way out this hell is a lot of ritual, a lot of feeling the need to tame a monster that may or may not exist, a lot of believing what everyone says about you because your brain is convinced you’re bad, so anything negative said about you must certainly be true. And with this over-active, twisting mental illness, it’s hard to decipher whether a hard time is a momentary relapse or something urgent that should be taken care of immediately.

By this time, spiritual fears and ideations had been plaguing me for nearly 8 years. Those fears combined with my mental illness took me through a rigorous loop of fear and ritual and panic attacks. I didn’t know anything was wrong; I just thought I was so bad I was unredeemable and God was punishing me. I didn’t know there was a way out of the dark.

At that time, I feasted on people’s opinions of me like they were my lifeline. A negative Facebook comment would send me into a spiral. A comment from a well-meaning friend or relative that caused me to feel misunderstood would make me want to disappear and be new. I constantly and anxiously wrote mental narratives of what would happen, what people thought, and how I was being perceived. With the loss of all my hard work and accomplishment that year, I had to face the reality that even with all the external changes and newly-found approval, nothing had changed inside and I was still sick. Summer of 2017 was the closest place to hell I’ve ever been.

I was lost that summer. I was suicidal that summer. I was sick that summer. I was angry that summer.

In June of that year, my brother offered to let me escape my reality by staying at his apartment in Atlanta while he was on vacation. Convinced being alone would be my refuge, I agreed, packed a bag, and drove the 2.5 hours between Greenville and Atlanta. I arrived on Saturday with my brother and sister, but by Sunday afternoon I was completely alone with my thoughts.

For two nights I stayed up into the early hours of the morning, the sheets stretched up to my chin. I distracted myself from the fear by watching rom-coms and scrolling social media. It was anything to keep the fear at bay, late-night phone calls to my dad, opening up my Bible and just wishing the peace would flow over me but not knowing how to find it. It was prayers to God that felt like they didn’t make it past the concrete ceiling of that one-room apartment. It was panic attacks that left tears streaming down my face, replaying suicidal ideations through my mind again and again. “What if I did something? What if I snapped? What if, what if, what if?” Being in my head felt like being in a boxing match with my demons while being covered in tar, nearly impossible. My brain became a horror film, my own imagination that had seen me through childhood hardships suddenly an unpredictable place, strewn with intrusive thoughts and laced with fear. Anything could be a trigger during that time, even after finding my therapist later that summer.

My stay in Atlanta lasted a total of three nights and a part of one day, before I packed my bags and drove home to Greenville like the runaway I felt like. On one of those nights, though, I caught a glimpse of sweet relief from the fear that was raking me across the coals. Above me, in a second-story apartment late that night, I could hear someone walking around before bedtime. I heard someone puttering around their one-room apartment: putting up dishes, turning off television, brushing their teeth. I wanted to pound on the walls of my mental prison and yell, “Can you help me?” but instead I stayed quiet and just listened, my heartbeat slowing for just a moment.

Someone was up there, living.

Someone was near.

I sank down into the fold-up bed a little deeper, staring up at the dark ceiling and thought, “Please keep moving. Please don’t go. Please stay.” When they did finally go to bed, I felt somewhat calmer, just knowing I wasn’t alone, and eventually drifted to sleep.

I would go through that mental space twelve times over to get to sit here, on my porch, and write you this letter, friend. If you take nothing else from this essay, take these words: you matter more than you know. Much, much more than you know.

I learned from experience that night that sometimes simply being present is all someone needs from you. It doesn’t matter if you have the words, the resources, the experience, the definitive answers, or the charismatic personality.

You have no idea if something you’re doing is giving someone else encouragement to keep going. That scary, vulnerable Facebook post? Share it. That person you’re thinking about? Shoot them a text. That person you can’t talk to but you keep thinking about? Send up a prayer. Sometimes it’s something as simple as giving yourself permission to mill around your apartment on a summer night because you can’t sleep.

You never know when you being awake is helping someone else get rest.

Someone needs you today. Someone needs you in the most simplistic, yet profound of ways. Someone needs to hear your voice. Someone needs to hear your story. Someone needs to see your awkward, real moments. Someone needs to see you running late into a meeting with a coffee stain on your shirt and your hair messy. Someone needs to see you trip up. Someone needs to see you mess up. Someone needs to hear you fumble for words.

How do you help others? By showing up and bringing your humanity. By doing what you can. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together and we all are little pieces of a much-broader picture that we don’t understand yet.