Amazing Love, Amazing Grace: Reflective Thoughts from My GCN Experience

     This past weekend, I attended the Gay Christian Network Conference for the second time, this year hosted in Houston, Texas. As my wife as I flew from Denver to Houston last Thursday, I reflected on the first time that I went to the conference 3 years ago and all that has happened in my life since then. I was in a very different place then, I had just come out and 2012 was the most turbulent year my life had seen yet. Having just looked death in the face (in more ways than one), I was turning a corner but not yet out of the woods. I came to Phoenix with a heavy heart searching for some hope that my life would get better. Thankfully, I found it. In a workshop I attended, a comment I made apparently perked some ears as I was later approached by a man and his wife who simply said, “Hi, my wife and I wondered if we could take you to dinner.” To which I was a little dumbfounded but replied, “…Ok!”
     That was the beginning of a turning of tides for me, and 2 years later because of the bond that was formed with them at GCN that weekend, they ended up being the ones who stood in my parent’s place at my wedding in June 2014. They helped me get ready and they walked me down the aisle to give me away. Though I didn’t know it when I met them, it turned out to be a divine connection.
     Now attending the conference this past weekend for the first time with my wife, my life is in a completely different place. Not only have I fallen in love, gotten married and purchased our first home together, but my life is finally positioned where I feel like I can do what God is calling me to do, and that is to be a voice.
One of the biggest take-aways I had from this past weekend is that, as the daughter of a executive employee at Focus on the Family who has lost everything since coming out, embedded in my identity is a responsibility to be a voice for those who can not yet speak. God is now using my story to catapult me into ministry and what an incredible ride it is turning out to be!
     This past weekend, I was privileged to have meetings with a myriad of amazing people who are already doing incredible work on the front lines of changing our culture when it comes to these issues of faith and sexuality. There were so many people in attendance at the conference who were living proof of the capability for intersectionality on these issues. That was so needed because there were an equal number of people in attendance who were looking for that proof.
     As we listened to Justin Lee’s keynote on Sunday morning where he talked about privilege and our need to be empathetic rather than sympathetic, I was reminded once again how much the way we interact with one another matters. How much respect matters. How much dignity matters. And how incredibly vital spaces like GCN are, not only for LGBT people, but for parents of LGBT kids and our straight allies as well. GCN is one of the only spaces I know of where people can come from all over the world, from every denominational background imaginable and from differing views and beliefs when it comes to Side A/Side B theology and agree to disagree in a safe space where we can love one another well. That my friends, is true love; unconditional love; amazing love.
     At the end of Mary Lambert’s concert Friday night, she performed her Grammy-nominated song “Same Love” inviting all who wanted, to join her in dancing together in the empty space below the stage. As I slow danced with my wife, tears streamed down my face in a place where our love for one another was validated and we were safe to be our real selves among 1,450 likeminded people. It was one of my favorite moments of the weekend.
     Similarly in the worship sessions led before each keynote speech, I stood there and cried as well because for the first time in 8 years, I was able to stand before God with my worshipper’s heart freely before Him without feeling the stare of disapproving eyes around me or the lurking feeling in my heart of, “If they only knew…” as if being gay somehow disqualified me from standing in church. But here, I was able to unashamedly with a room full of other LGBT believers, parents and allies sing:
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood, His mercy reigns
Unending Love, Amazing Grace
     Amazing Grace indeed. That is what this journey requires of us…amazing grace from God because of our humanity, amazing grace for each other especially when we have differing viewpoints and amazing grace for ourselves to see the beauty inside us and to celebrate that which makes us unique.
     It is that same amazing grace and love that will in turn change our church culture if we, like Jesus, can love our neighbor and let the light placed inside each of our hearts shine brightly for all to see.