By Pieter Niemeyer
Usually, taking a flying leap is not advisable. It can be hazardous for your health. However, taking a leap of faith, is another matter to consider. I took a leap of faith to share my story, regarding having a gay sexual orientation. Some advised against it, thinking it far too risky and hazardous. They may be right. But somehow I felt that this was a leap of faith that God was encouraging me to take. Something akin to the hope of Psalm 91:11, “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, That you do not strike your foot against a stone.….” as opposed to a testing (see luke 4:10).
In this light, two thoughts became focal points for me in this regard. The first, “love will hold you through to the other side.” A conviction that God is love and I, and those who share love together with me, will be held through to whatever the other side will be. The second was, “The way is made by walking” (the title of Arthur Boers book regarding his journey of the Camino). Not knowing the ultimate destination, yet knowing that getting there requires taking the next step regardless of the struggle.
Joan D. Chittister says, “It is struggle that is the foundation of hope, not hope that is a hedge against struggle.” Christian spirituality recognizes the importance of struggle, vulnerability, courage and hope. Growth in faith and love take deeper root and produces better fruit when we have faced our fears and taking this leap of faith has allowed courage to be born anew.
Susie, my wife of 22 years, is the epitome of love, friendship, and the commitment of “for better or worse.” She has been a source of strength and encouragement on this difficult path. You see, a year and a half ago, I needed to speak my truth, and face my fears, and tell her my story regarding my sexual orientation. Since many straight people assume that self identifying as gay means being sexually active with other men, I need to clarify that they are wrong. Identifying as gay is much more than just what one does with their genitals. Heterosexuals know this to be true for themselves, but often over look this in regard to non-heterosexuals. However, I think that is one of the toughest things for a spouse to hear from their loved one, and yet God’s grace held us both through that difficult conversation and we are both committed to upholding our marriage commitment with fidelity, love and hope. One could say we have a queer marriage, however, it is the acceptable kind in the eyes of our denomination (another conversation for another time).
In preparing for this conversation I felt like God was asking me to step up to the edge of a cliff and jump. As noted above, this was a profound call to trust. I shared with her my journey as a youth coming of age and my wrestling with this reality in which there was no place to share this struggle that I could see. I recently discovered that there were family members who suspected a long time ago that I was gay, but that was something never discussed, or at least not with me, and not in any positive way. When I was a young man the predominant cultural bias was that being gay was something to ridicule and shame. Therefore, staying in the closet was practical in protecting my vulnerability and securing my safety. This was not about lying to myself, nor to anyone else; it was about caring for myself in a context that was not safe, besides, I thought this would be something that God would resolve in time. Even though being in the closet was an act of self-care, it was not a healthy place to be, especially long term, as God clearly wasn’t changing anything regarding my orientation. Coming to terms with my authentic self and setting aside the oppressive imposition of heterosexism, which required the closet for survival, was God’s Good News to me. I can declare together with the psalmist, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” A part of God’s good diverse creation.
I discovered that in facing my fear, taking that leap of faith, God was not absent in the jumping, nor the landing. Susie and I are believing that our queer love will hold us through to the other side and that the way will be made by walking, one step at a time, recognizing we do not walk alone. God is in the midst of our queer community, our queer menno community… our mennoQmunity!