Coming Out and Being Authentic about Jesus
“Coming out” about my love for Jesus and my faith has been difficult. As an Episcopalian, I am so good at walking the Jesus walk but have never talked the Jesus talk. Do you know what I mean? Saying things like “Good luck with your presentation. I’ll be praying for you” is socially acceptable. Or, the prayer hands emoji. People can live with that too. Once I started talking about Jesus outside of my church community things got a little, well…weird.
Some people started saying things like, “I didn’t know you read the Bible” or “When did you get so religious?” I think there was a concern that somehow I was different, but not in a positive way. Perhaps they think I am going to preach with each breath I take or talk about the commandments at Starbucks while waiting for my macchiato. Or maybe they question whether I, a flawed person who has made mistakes, could possibly talk about getting it “right” all the time. I even had one person ask how somebody as intelligent as I am could believe some dude lives on a cloud dictating my life.
It’s been really difficult, gang.
The Fear of Rejection
When people come out to the rest of the world about who they really are, their authentic self, it is always a risk. This is true whether the coming out is about sexuality, gender identity, faith, or strongly held, but well hidden, beliefs. The fear of rejection, being cast aside or perceived as less than is very real. Frankly, we don’t even need the big things to stir up those nerves. I bet you’ve had some measure of angst when you haven’t wanted to go with the crowd for a variety of much smaller things. I know that’s true for me.
For example, do you know how many times I have defended my dislike for salmon?
“How can you not like salmon?” “Really, Jen? It’s so delicious. Have you tried it like this” (insert 3,000 ways to make salmon)? The determination to find a salmon recipe I will enjoy is amusing on a good day, irritating on a stressful one.
So let’s just say that making the jump from my anti-salmon declaration to launching my writing career in the faith community has been hard for some people to embrace.
The Freedom of Being Authentic
But for me, even though it’s been difficult, it’s also been freeing.
Taking the steps to dig deep into who I am and coming out with a firm grounding in God – Father, Son & Holy Spirit – has brought me to the most authentic sense of self I have ever had. Sharing the anchor of my faith puts the puzzle pieces together for people who have not understood my motivation or decision making. Now it all makes sense, they say. And that’s a good thing.
As we head into the holiday season, a time when we give thanks for all people and all of our blessings, let’s consider how we can each come out in faith. This is the time to walk the walk of the Thanksgiving food drive and the Christmas giving tree. But it is also time to talk the talk; to share the good news of the season, without fear that saying “Jesus” is a four-letter word. And let me be clear, it is also a time to honor others around you with different faith beliefs. We all have something to learn from each other and embracing those who are outside of our bubble is a wonderful way to start to dialogue.
Each day that we lean authentically into our faith and breathe that faith into our community, our community gets stronger. Why? Because peace and love will be at the center, instead of hate and vitriol. And as we lean in and walk in love during this time, let’s extend ourselves to those who are different. Whether they look different, pray differently, or not at all, or have different views on the world, extend yourself however you feel comfortable. Remember that everybody around you has or wants to “come out” too and you may, by living authentically and walking in love, give them the confidence they need to do the same.