Six of the most scarring words in history: “Hate the sin, not the sinner”

“You obviously aren’t praying hard enough”

Words from a counselor when I was 19. It was the first time I went to a counselor since the mandatory sessions after my parent’s divorce. No offense, state legal system, but as a really young kid, your mandatory counseling was one of the most scarring parts of the entire divorce. And to be honest… this experience was just as bad.

I had been going for a while, but this was the first week after telling the counselor I was attracted to women. She told me if I was still struggling, I obviously wasn’t praying hard enough. She told me all I needed was her to teach me and for me to get my “sin” under control.

She told me not to worry; she didn’t hate me, she just hated my sin.

Scarring words those are. “Hate the sin, not the sinner”

I know most people mean well by them. They mean it for those who hurt others and for those who do wrong. They mean it to be kind; to tell you, as a soul, you are wonderful, but your actions are not. I can, in some ways, understand the saying.

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But as a 19 year old battling with her faith, fear, and sexuality, telling me you didn’t hate me, you just hated how I felt was a wound I would carry for a very long time. It would also be a tool used inside my own depression to convince myself I was broken, disgusting, and a sinner for how I felt and who I was attracted to.

So when I began realizing this wasn’t something I could run from, that it was part of me just like the blood in my veins and the hope in my heart, I tried to hide it. I couldn’t change it, I couldn’t pray it away, but I could damn well hide it. And that was my theory. I could mask it with serial dating and careless commentary that held no volume. And I could have relationships in private.

I’m not insulting privacy. I’m a private person. You’ll never see me post on twitter about my relationship problems if I had any. You won’t see me having public sex or anything of the sort. And I understand the process of coming out – I understand it because I just went through it. So please know my commentary on private relationships isn’t a stab at others, it’s how I went about these private relationships that is the problem.

You see, I had private relationships and still tried to date men. I tried to pretend that my want or attraction to women was only temporary. I only felt that way because I hadn’t found the right guy yet. This wasn’t true. I didn’t hurt people on purpose, but by bringing them into my broken reality, I chipped at pieces of them too. I thought I was going around the system, instead I was truly just hurting everyone…including myself.

And honestly, this small piece of my story is an amplification of something I keep saying. Words are powerful and words matter. I did all the hiding and broken navigating because of the seeds planted by someone who told me my sin was hated, my insides were hated. That I wasn’t praying hard enough. Does that justify the pain I personally caused? No. I own that. But it does give insight into the reality that words really do have influence.

Today’s confession is: I still carry those words around. They no longer sit like an open wound. Over time life has callused them, reopened them, and healed them again. But the scar tissue will always be there – a scarlet letter I wear without choice. All because of thoughtless words… proof that the pen will always be mightier than the sword.

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(Book Confession #30) http://www.lulu.com/shop/rae-schneider/the-mysilenthalf-project/paperback/product-21700967.html

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(Graphic Borrowed from John Manzo’s blog on Jesus never saying anything about homosexuality)

“How can you justify being a lesbian to God?”

Book Confession #5

 

When I realized I was attracted to another female for the first time, I was scared out of my mind. I was also young enough to be intrigued and somehow even gutsy enough to make a move, but in the light of day and in the movements of my daily existence, the “natural” response I had was to lie; to put on a mask and pretend that intense feeling in the gut of my stomach didn’t exist.

And this “natural” response grew and matured as life aged me. My ability to play make believe only excelled as I grew older. While others grew out of it and grew into the life they were meant to live, my fantasy world was “real” life. My expressions and emotions became as plastic as they were practiced. I was numb on the outside because I told myself I wasn’t allowed to feel on the inside.

I have this question plaguing my thoughts,

“Why was it easier to lie?”

It was easier to lie because the family consequences were great. It was easier to lie because frankly that’s how I was going to survive. Even in the mid-90’s when I hit puberty and found myself to be another casualty of the middle-school awkward phase, I knew that the secret planted deep inside me could not take root and flourish. I had to continue to keep it in check by trimming away feelings and expression in order to remain as barren as possible. It would be the only way I would blend in and survive.

This is the message of my childhood and adolescence years that I’ve carried into adulthood… that life is about surviving. No wonder I’ve gone through deep waves of depression in adulthood. No wonder I have times where I have no idea who I am, or what I’m doing, or where I’m going. I’ve been living as a shell of a human being, depriving myself of real emotion and connection.

I got a DM on twitter the other day wondering (very kindly I might add) how I could justify being a lesbian to God. And I’d love to answer that here today. There are hundreds of misconceptions about Christians – some created outside the faith, but most created inside. There is this blind assumption that once we are Christians struggle and hardship deplete – that’s just not the case. But what is the case for me and hundreds out there like me, is that in the midst of my struggle I had a rock to hold onto.

God pours His grace on me hourly every day and calls me loved regardless of anything and everything. It is in that understanding of love and grace (that I have not earned, yet am loved without limit anyway) that has allowed me to be more open with who I am. And that’s how I justify being a lesbian to God…. I simply don’t have to justify it at all. God doesn’t call me to be perfect, straight, plastic, and without free will. God calls me to be me and He calls me His, regardless of my criteria.

I think it was easier for me to lie, and it’s easier for so many of us to lie, because that’s what we believe we have to do to belong. We want to be included. We want to have worth. We want to be seen. And if whatever we say could damage that, could take away our belonging, or value, or whatever it is, it terrifies us. And we protect this “belonging” no matter how broken it may be.

What I’ve come to realize (and my faith has deeply helped me in this) is that I want to belong in a real way. I want to have real worth and real value, and I want to be seen and heard for who I really am. I don’t want to be a half person and I don’t want to belong by the standards of other people. That’s why I’m here, that’s why I’m growing a voice.

Today’s confession is: my entire life I’ve merely just survived and called it “belonging”. I’ve fought my whole life to be accepted as a half person. I’ve worked myself into depression, exhaustion, and heartache in order to belong to something that rejects most of my secrets. I want my life message to change. I want my worth to come from who I am fully, not what part I can play well. I no longer want to survive a plastic belonging, but I want to find and even help create a belonging that is whole and real. Everyone deserves to belong…

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The Confession that started it all (Repost of Confession #1)

I haven’t done this before.

Not the writing, I’m a writer. What I mean is I haven’t been honest before. I’ve lived in a web of lies, suffocation, and fear.   Fear of exposure and mostly fear of self.

My first crush was when I was twelve years old. I remember feeling overwhelmed and silly yet crazed. Rumors swarmed our school that I was… gay. I remember feeling mad, how could they think that? Now later in life I have come to understand anger is never a first emotion rather one that protects whatever we were really feeling and I was feeling fear.

Fear that I was actually… well… gay. Fear my mom would find out. Fear I would be hated in my random Midwest town. Fear of the church.  So I did everything I could to create the opposite exterior. I talked about boys as if I felt the way my friends did (and I so desperately wanted to) and I acted grossed out by the prospect of girls liking girls. This got me through high school. And though some of the rumors remained lurking in the halls (or at least in the halls of my mind) I was able to convince myself, and those around me, I was straight as an arrow.

College came and I fell for a guy. Excellent. The curse I had inside me was broken -I had prayed it away. The problem was I still wanted to kiss girls. I still felt a deeper connection with my closest friends then with the men I dated. When my serious boyfriend and I broke up I began a series of serial dating that would last for years. Searching for a feeling. Hoping to find a connection. However every relationship would eventually end. There was no sexual connection for me – no craving that so many spoke of. I cringed when I was touched and I cried when I would go to sleep wishing this next nice guy would fix me.

The problem was… it never happened.

And now more than a decade later I’m going to use this blog to process and begin peeling back everything I’ve never said. I’m going to work on becoming a whole person. This is the process I need to begin.

Welcome to my journey –

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(Confessions that are published in the book are no longer available on the blog unless reposted)

Confession #14

There’s this moment that happens… these days it happens more and more.

I can be standing in a room full of people, fully focused on something completely different and my hands will start to sweat. I’ll feel this moment creeping into my veins, pressing itself into my thoughts, and will ultimate block out any other moment happening around me. My heart pounds so loud that it echo’s in my ears, often times I look around hoping no one can hear the clamoring.

This moment, the one that happens without warning, is what a lot of people call panic. For me I know it as the moment I feel claustrophobic inside the well-designed closet I’ve found myself accustom to. It happens when people ask me when I’ll settle down which is both because A) I know they are asking me about settling down with a man which sounds like death wrapped up in a migraine served with a side of prison time. And B) because I am terrified of talking about the future. I don’t know why, it’s not my most flattering feature but I think it has to do with the fact I’ve never seen a relationship function properly long term… I’ve seen them blow up, I’ve seen them fake it, and I’ve seen them get by… but I don’t call any of that functioning. Plus I’m a closest romantic stuck with commit-a-phobic tendencies. I’m a ticking bomb waiting to happen. I run and I hide and very rarely play fair.

The claustrophobic head spins happen in less controlled situations as well. Like when I’m in the middle of teaching and while I’m physically saying a sentence with my voice, a different voice inside my head haunts me with a question of, “will they still listen when they know all of me?”  It plagues my very core. Sometimes it takes several moments to know where I am in a message and to get back on track. Every time I’m scared someone notices, but no one has ever said anything to me.

Sometimes I can be in the middle of hearing about my sister’s relationship successes and I’ll start to feel the air leave the room. I’ll chock wondering if anyone else feels the oxygen draining around us but I realize it’s my chest that has tightened not hers. I think this happens because she is brave and I’m a coward. In everything she does, regardless of the responses or repercussions or even feelings of others she plows forward and gives everything she has.  I care too much… I care about the hearts of others, I care about their needs from me, I care about how they will feel, I care if I hurt them. She isn’t vulgar and she isn’t cruel… she’s just brave and I am a much weaker animal.

A shrink would tell me it’s panic; I just call it my daytime nightmare. It’s my inability to be fully me and I’m terrified everyone knows I’m only partially present. I’m not fake I’m just absent of full emotional participation. My compassion, my aspirations, my joys, and my heartbeat for people is real. Vibrantly real. It is the most important part of me; it is my livelihood and my greatest need… to love others… to let them know they are needed and wanted and cared for. But while I ask them to invest fully I keep parts of me back; the part of me that deeply and passionately love women and the one that has known since I was thirteen that the reality of marrying a man wasn’t one… it was a mirage of pretending I could pull it off. I can only partially invest, but I hypocritically ask them to fully engage.

Today’s confession is my wholeness is what I desire more than anything and what I fear even more than that. I’ve lived partially for so long that I keep wondering who am I really as a whole person? If I become whole will that cause people in relationships with me to have to be less… because I have been less in the past? How will my wholeness affect our oneness? I am scared of finding my wholeness, but I am incapable of stopping the search now. Today’s confession is it scares me how little control I have over my need to seek this out….