Today I’ve been thinking about a Christian celeb by the name of Vicky Beeching who came out as gay in a national newspaper this morning. It got me thinking not because it’s unusual but because it’s so very usual. The life she had been living prior to today sounds like hell. She lived one life and felt another. It was a disconnect that made her severely ill. It’s weird but true that this kind of inconsistent living does all kinds of harm to us, body and mind. It’s weird that something as simple as honesty, as coming out of the closet, can improve our all-round health.
The closet though doesn’t just belong to gay people; we are all in a closet.
When Lizzie and I experienced our first three miscarriages we kept it hidden away. We told only our closest family. Not wanting to broadcast our pain left us grieving in private. Conversations about cleaning the house turned into full blown storms. We were trying to live a normal life but were no longer in one and our hiding was tearing us apart.
The story of our origins in the Bible is a similar one; a short story about two happy naked people, two people who had nothing to hide. Then it all goes to shit. Blame, anger, self-righteousness, the kind of stuff that went on in our kitchen and with all of that came clothes. They wore clothes for the first time ever. They went into the closet that day, we all did. The article about Vicky says that she was good at hiding and I realised; yeah she was, just like Adam and Eve, just like all of us. It’s all very tragic.
The guy who wrote the article about Vicky thinks the church is a place of psychological torture like Guantanamo. But for me the church family is one of the few things that gives me hope. We moved to a new church just a few weeks ago and there were a few people who, within minutes of meeting us, had told us about their struggles; their mental health issues, their addictions, their troubled families. I don’t know of any other place on earth where that happens. It is like a returning to Eden; getting naked again, not because we’re beautiful and perfect but because we are so loved that we can stand there with our ugly bits hanging out and it doesn’t matter.
That’s right; church is brilliant because it is the place where we can walk around with our ugly bits on display. Or at least it should be. Christians certainly haven’t got it sorted; in this kingdom of the half-baked the glimpses of what could be mingle alongside the normal fakery and the jerks. What really makes me sad though is when someone who has been in the church for a long time feels like they couldn’t be honest or worse, walks away because of it.
Our closets are, for the most part, kept shut from the inside. Of course they are, it’s safer in there. When we came ‘out’ about being childless in this blog we received enormous support but we also received criticism from usually anonymous sources. Surely if we take that risk God will make it all alright? One of Vicky’s ways out when she was younger was to ask God to take her feelings away, he didn’t. There is a prayer in the Bible of someone else who asked for something to be taken away:
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me; “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”" – 2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Not only does this request get turned down, we’re told that it is the way things must be. Honestly, I wish it wasn’t. Just two months ago I got ‘ordained’; I crossed the line from facing forward on a Sunday to being the one talking at everybody else. Sometimes when I think about how we can be the best church possible, I can end up believing that the easiest thing for us to do would be to get the most talented people we could, give them a great plan and take on the world. But I think God knows us better than that. I think he has known for a long time that we are all messed up and what we need is more like a recovery group than a marketing strategy. My hope for the church is that we will all get our ugly bits out so that our Vickys (and Steves and Katies and Mikes) can call it home.