I purposefully haven't said much about my faith since I came out in 2002. I didn't want it to be a distraction to anyone. It has been journey and an evolution. For a long time I wasn't really sure what I did or didn't believe. I was exploring, questioning, and testing everything I had believed for my entire life prior to coming out. On the day I came out I had this long conversation with God:
"God, if you are who I've been taught you are, then you know everything about me. You know me better than I know myself. You love me more than I can comprehend. You are all powerful and can do anything. You want nothing more than for me to do the right thing so therefore you are leading, guiding, and speaking to me to help me do the right thing in every situation. Since you know everything, then you know that I've tried everything to not be gay. You've heard me crying out to you. You've seen my every move and know my heart. You know that I've been trying things your way (or at least what I've been told is your way) for the 30+ years of my life. You also know it isn't working. So, I'm just letting you know that as of today I'm living my life as gay man...and I don't even really know what that means. I wan't you to let me know if you have problem with that. I'll be listening. I'll be watching. I want you to do whatever you need to do to catch my attention."
I meant it with all of my heart. I felt like I was jumping into the deep end of the pool - and I don't know how to swim. But I also knew there was nothing left to try. I had prayed enough. I had cried enough. I had surrendered enough. I had been through enough ex-gay therapy. t was time move forward instead of dwelling on the past.
From that day forward I quit trying to not be gay. I fully embraced who I was. It wasn't without some trepidation. I was afraid of the judgement of God I had heard so much about. I was afraid that life would start falling apart. I was afraid God might take my children. I was afraid God might inflict disease or even kill me. None of this happened. In fact, the most notable difference in my life was the melting away of all the stress and struggles that had defined me for so many years. Now that I gave myself permission to be me the "forbidden fruit" no longer was forbidden. The urges turned to decisions I was free to make. Suddenly I wasn't on the hunt for a quick fix but rather I was exploring what good things I could add to my life to help me live my best life.
Over the coming months I learned that the more I stepped back from the church, the Bible, theology, and dogma the more clearly I saw the world and myself. I put everything to the test. I learned that peace, happiness, and joy were available to all and not limited to followers of Jesus. I learned that meaningful community can be found anywhere in life, not just inside the church. I learned that prayer can take on many forms, including centering myself and living in respect and gratitude of the universe I'm a part of. I learned that it's okay to not know everything and not have answers for everything. I learned to trust myself and listen to the voice inside me called my intuition. I learned to live in rational decision making rather than fear of making the wrong decision.
Over the years of Joel Speaks Out, one of the most asked questions I get is about where I am in my faith today. So today I'm coming out. I'm coming out as a Faithiest. What is a faithiest? It is a made-up word that a friend introduced to me and gave me permission to steal, so I am. I love the word because it implies both believing and non-believing all in one.
I do believe. I believe I am part of something bigger than myself and there is more than meets the physical eye. I believe I am interconnected with the universe around me, everything and everyone in it. I believe I am given all that I need to be the best human beings I can be. I believe it is my responsibility to live in love and respect of all this. I do not choose to name or worship any of this. I simply live in respect of it.
I don't have a need to be a part of any particular religious theology or community. I find "church" in unexpected places with unsuspecting people. When my spirit has been fed, I know I've been to "church".
I live in respect of the fact that not everyone is like me. If you find your spirit fed through being a part of faith community or service, by all means, please continue to feed your spiritual self. As long as you're being built up, not torn down.
Remember that conversation with God I told you about? I now realize that God said everything by saying nothing at all. Today, I'm a very happy and content faithiest.
What about you? I'd love to hear about your faith journey. What have you questioned or tested? How has your faith evolved?
Joel Speaks Out