Today is National Day of Silence, a day designated to call attention to the bullying of gay kids. Here’s a brief description, taken from dayofsilence.org:
“The National Day of Silence is a day of action in which students across the country vow to take a form of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools. Founded in 1996, the Day of Silence has become the largest single student-led action towards creating safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. From the first-ever Day of Silence at the University of Virginia in 1996, to the organizing efforts in over 8,000 middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities across the country in 2008, its textured history reflects its diversity in both numbers and reach.”
When you (I’m addressing the Christian) think about homosexual people, what is it exactly that you think of? If I would dare to assume, I would say that you probably think of a flamboyant, good looking man dancing around in underwear at gay parades, or in a sparkly shirt at a gay club with martini in hand…..or something of that sort. But I’d like to ask you, right now, to take a look at the gay person you’re envisioning….. and hit rewind on that person’s life—10 or 20 years— all the way back to that person’s childhood and teenage years. What you would see, most likely, is a kid who’s outward appearance and presence is exactly opposite of the adult you’ve imagined him to be. You’d see a quiet, tender looking boy—most likely off standing awkwardly by himself at lunch, or maybe with one or two female friends, while surrounded with the mass of stereotypical cliques you find in middle/high school. Jocks, preps, etc. The boy doesn’t find himself fitting in at all with most of the other boys. They’re usually always jocking around or playing some kind of game that involves the athelticism and coordination he just doesn’t have—and he’s a little to squeamish and nervous in spirit to try and be a part of all that. And aside from that, it’s impossible for him to engage in the (sometimes explicit) conversations the guys have about their female classmates since he can’t even begin to imagine to think about those girls in a sexual or romantic way. He’s attracted to the boys. And not in a mere physical way—but he finds himself wanting a real connection, a real intimate connection, with a guy—maybe even one of these guys. But his worst fear is that they would suspect this about him (even though they’ve called him “gay” and “fag” for years).
Sometimes, in random bursts of desperation to fit in with his male peers, he steps into their circle and he tries to act like someone other than who he is….someone more masculine, more manly, more normal— but he ends up just coming off super weird and awkward. Embarassed and reminded once again of his different-ness…. he decides to just keeps his distance from them. On the other hand, he finds himself having no trouble getting along well with the girls. They like to talk about things, just like he likes to talk about things. They don’t care if he’s not into sports or hunting or four wheeler riding, because they could care less about those things. He doesn’t feel the pressure to be macho or impressive… he just feels like he can be himself with them. But as soon as the guys start to take notice, and they start to make remarks about him being a “giiirl.” So he stops hanging out with the girls and embraces the only option left— keeping to himself.
This kid has done nothing but try to fit the image of what the world around him tells him he should look like, act like, and talk like. But all his efforts are futile—-all his efforts to conceal his “gayness” are futile. The names and looks are hurled at him continually….. no matter what he does or doesn’t do. He walks around school, day after day, with the unbearable awareness that he doesn’t fit in. Every day he nervously anticipates the between-class times, lunch, or any other time where he finds himself vulnerable and unprotected in the midst of teengage wolves. The only choice that he has is to hope that one day things will get better— that one day, the name calling will stop, the ugly looks will stop, the constant opposition to everything that makes him who he is will stop.
[Side Note: Many of the gay people you see on TV or on your social media, the ones emphatically and vocalizing their pride in who they are, come from a background just like this. Their entire life, they either had to suppress their personalities, qualities and interests--- or their peers did it for them. They did, one day, finally escape the hell of middle/high school and discover that they existed in a quickly evolving world that not only tolerates them as they are…but encourages them to embrace who they are. All the fear, sadness and anger burrowed deep inside of their souls from the years of pretending and attempting to change themselves now transforms and bursts forth in expressions of jubilant celebration and vocal pride in who they are. I hope that maybe this helps you understand the way some gay people act and present themselves a little bit better.]
You’ll see that the one thing missing from this kid’s experience in his life has been the gospel. Sure, he’s probably heard about Jesus and how homosexuality is an abomination….I mean, this is America. But has he really heard the gospel? I know that when I walked in this kids shoes, I didn’t.
As I experienced my middle/high school years, and the daily internal torment of each day of those years, I was never presented with a worldview like the one I have now. I never was told that Jesus loved people who were attracted to the same sex. Multiple times in my young life, I was drawn to the bible with curiosity and even excitement about God—but then I’d read the verses about homosexuality being an abomination and homosexuals going to hell, and knowing that I was (secretly) homosexual, all I could feel when thinking about God was fear. I couldn’t help that I was attracted to guys. And I couldn’t change and make myself attracted to girls.
How I wish that I would’ve heard even once that God didn’t hate me and wouldn’t reject me because I was attracted to guys. How I wish that someone—anyone—would’ve explained the gospel to me and helped me to realize that I was completely misunderstanding the message of the Bible. God does hate homosexual behavior—- but he does not hate people with homosexual feelings. God does tell us to repent from sinful behavior, which includes not committing homosexual acts, but he does not tell us that we have to change the desires we unwillingly experience. God does not ask to do what is impossible for us to do—but He sympathizes with our weaknesses, understands our weaknesses, and tells us to trust Him to help us with those weaknesses. And the way we trust Him is by believing in and clinging to His Son, Jesus. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, to call to Himself those who are weary from just trying to survive in this world. His offer of salvation is not an offer that we have to clean ourselves up or change our desires/feelings in order to receive–it’s offered to us freely because Jesus purchased it for us with His death. Loving us right where we are at—jacked up, lost and sinful—Jesus stepped into our world and took all of our sin and all of it’s condemnation onto Himself. He meets us right where we are at, right in the middle of our brokenness, and offers us the hope of eternal life. He doesn’t ask for perfection, He just asks us to trust Him and to follow Him….. even if we struggle and stumble along the way. <—This was a message that never reached my ears while I was in school, and it’s the very message that kids who are isolated, confused and bullied in schools throughout the country need to hear.
Those of you who have kids in school, please, explain the gospel—clear and concisely— to them so that they can explain it clear and concisely to the kids in their school who are dealing with this internal conflict Explain to your kids that sin is real and it’s a reality that has affected us all, manifesting in various ways in each person. Explain to them that Jesus died for sin. Explain to them that it is the kindness of God that leads people to choose to trust Him and to repent—-encourage them to be the embodiment of God’s kindness to the these kids at their school.
Whether it’s the bullies at school, the gay community, or any of the many religious factions out there…. everyone is communicating a message to kids struggling with same sex attraction. May the church be a people that not only communicates, but lives out, a message of perfect love, complete forgiveness, and unshakeable hope to the many gay kids who are experiencing hell on earth within their school walls each and every day.
I’ll end this post with a quote from my friend, and fellow misfit, Julie Rodgers:
“It gets better, fellow misfit. It doesn’t get better when the world finally accepts you; it doesn’t get better when you find a group just like you; it gets better when you encounter the Creator who knit you together with such special care, when you choose join Him in His great story of restoration. His story is one where outcasts are brought into the fold, where the marginalized are magnified, where the misfits become the heroes.”