Growing Up a “Mistake”
My family and I started going to church when I was 8 years old. It’s about the same time that I started questioning my sexuality, which made the next ten years the most difficult in my life. I remember being taught that being gay is a sin but also having feelings towards men. The result of both these changes in my life happening at the same time led me to believe that I was a mistake or had something spiritually wrong with me.
I had many endless nights of crying out to God for him to make me normal or for him to change me. The emotional and mental toll this has on a child is hard to describe unless you’ve experienced it. Not only did I feel that I was going to disappoint my family, but I felt I would also disappoint God and end up in hell for eternity.
I remember being in Wal-Mart one day around age 12 and asking a family member if my uncle was gay. Their response was that he told them once but they don’t acknowledge it. It was such a hard thing to hear at such a confusing time in my life and intensified the hate I had towards myself for being gay.
The next encounter was at age 15 when my twin sister came out. I heard once again my family’s thoughts on my sister being gay which led me further into the closest. Hearing this at such a young age and having the feelings I did was heartbreaking. The people I love most in this world wouldn’t acknowledge the fact that I was gay. To this day, I still remember it clearly and it’s something that haunted me for a long time.
I’m now 25 years old and I still have an awesome relationship with my family but still also fear that some don’t understand me or they think I will end up in hell. They know I’m gay but they still have their beliefs. It’s something we don’t talk about openly. The ones that know accept my boyfriend and give him gifts at Christmas, but some still refer to him as my “friend.”
I hope one day God gives my family the peace he’s given me and that they can come to terms with it as well. It’s taken me a long time to be okay with my relationships with my family members and accept that they have their own struggles. I know now that I can move forward in my life and my faith even if they still don’t understand.
After struggling with drugs for years and dropping out of high school I finally found some peace with being gay at age 19. I finally came out to my twin sister who was also gay and she brought me to my first gay bar. At that point, I had a hand out of the closet but my fear of rejection from the church and my family not accepting/understanding me was too overwhelming. It was a daily struggle for a long time living in fear and only feeling truly comfortable when I was with friends or around the gay community.
I remember being so happy at a pride parade but also scared to walk or be seen by family, co-workers, the church or people I know outside the community. But gradually over the last couple years, I’ve started to let go of that fear and to finally start seeing myself for who I am and trying to pull the last bit of me out of that dark closet.
I’ve finally started seeing myself for who I am and accepting that I am gay and it’s okay to still have my beliefs. I’ve started to see all the other parts I have to me and it makes me beyond happy. I’ve started to let go of the anger inside of me from the years of hurt, lies and the fear of rejection and I’m trying to replace it with the joy of life.
Life is too short to be rejecting yourself out of fear. It’s too short to be scared of how the church or other people think or feel about you. That’s their own battle and not yours. At the end of my life when I finally meet my maker, I’m beyond confident that he’s going to welcome me with open arms and it’s the judging Christians who will have to answer to him. I’m at peace with myself and God and that’s all that matters.
This last year I’ve seen so much growth in myself and in my life. I’ve been dating an amazing guy for a year and through him, through myself and through friends/family I’ve finally started to see the bigger picture and come to terms with who I am and what life has to offer. It’s been a long struggle coming out, coming to terms with who I am, and most of all accepting who I am. I’m not just a gay guy, I have so much more to me than just my sexuality and it’s okay to be gay and still believe in God.
So as I go into this new year, I hope and pray for all the hurting people out there still: for the people who haven’t fully come to terms with who they were made to be, for the young generation still scared and confused out there thinking that they are a mistake, and for all the people all over the world who still will be persecuted, jailed or killed for being who God made them to be.
I hope and pray for all the people we’ve already lost to suicide and the ones we will lose this year, for all the eyes of Christian’s who still don’t understand and are rejecting their children to open up and see that God doesn’t make mistakes.
I hope and pray that this is another year of great change and growth around the world. Remember you are not a mistake. You are an amazing person who has so much more to you than just your sexuality, and it’s okay to still have faith in God even if the people in the church don’t understand you.
Nolan Rheindel grew up in Estevan, SK and moved to Saskatoon at age 20.
This narrative is a part of our “Out of the Tomb” blog series focused on Christian experiences with gender & sexual diversity.
In the Christian narrative of the resurrection, Jesus enters into the tomb dead and carrying all of humanity’s darkness, fear, hatred, and shame. When he rises from death to life and comes out of the tomb, he leaves all of the darkness behind and steps freely into life. The tomb is the place where everything that is not life is left behind.
For LGBTQ+ Christians and Christian allies, this narrative is an invitation to step OUT OF THE TOMB and find fulfillment, acceptance, and life in the ways in which we have been created in God’s image–including our spirituality, sexuality and gender identity.
Interested in reading more? Check out these other great blogs that are part of the “Out of the Tomb” Series: