Kim Riggins: My self-made closet

I used to have a bumper sticker on my car that read “Work Harder: Millions on Welfare Depend on You.” When I put that sticker on my car, I had a good job. I had a comfortable vantage point from which to cast my stones. Some time later, I found myself laid off and struggling. It’s funny how things work out.

When I became a Christian at 18, I had strong opinions about homosexuality. I took it as my mission to show gay people the “way” to Christ. What I told them was all the things I believed about it. To be a Christian, you could not be gay. Being gay was a choice. I was fervent in both my evangelism and in my prayer. It never occurred to me why this issue was so important to me or why it weighed so heavily on my mind.

I was a “good” Christian. I played the guitar in my church’s praise band. I was part of the children’s ministry leadership. But I felt there was something I wasn’t doing; something I was neglecting. As it turns out, the thing I was neglecting was my own house and my own attitude.

When I realized I was a lesbian, I cried for about three days. I knew what I stood to lose, which was everything that was important to me. What would people think? What would my family say? I already knew what God thought. I’d been telling everyone what God thought about it for years. So, I kept it a secret and begged God to change me. God was silent. I became angry. He wouldn’t change me, yet He hated me for being this way? I had no one I could turn to. I had been so vocal about my opinions on the matter, how could I suddenly come out and admit that I was gay myself? I wasn’t able to hide it for very long. I was asked to leave my church and everything I loved. Friends and family abandoned me.

I was devastated, and I stayed that way for many years. Then, a friend of mine came through town and we had lunch. I confessed everything. This is what she had to say:

“If someone told you, ‘I think God hates me,’ what would you say to them?”

“I would tell them that that is ridiculous. God loves us all,” I replied, and she simply smiled at me. That was it. It was a hard journey to reach such a simple conclusion.

“God loves you.” It’s a cliché, but this time, I was hearing it with different ears and a different mind. I believed it that day for the first time in a long time. I did not come out of the closet so much as I crawled out of it, broken and alone. It was a closet I built with my own hands out of piety. I forgot that God is in the business of loving people. Sometimes, He is in the business of tough love. I begged God to change me and He did. He cut away the anger and filled the resulting void with hope. He cut away the arrogance and filled me with the understanding that the most important thing to God is people, not dogma.

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they

have not seen.” 1 John 4:2