Sunday, August 9, 2015

Coming out of the closet .....

To say that the last several weeks have produced events that were a tad bit globally newsworthy would be like saying that Michael Jordan once had a "tad bit" of jumping ability or that Bill Gates has a "tad bit" of wealth. Indeed, unless you have been under a rock or perhaps excommunicated from social media altogether, you would probably agree that we have recently been inundated with extraordinary occasions of being drawn to that which makes front page news. Regardless of which side of any of these issues you may find yourself, recent events have at the very minimum stirred the emotions of our culture unlike anything in year's past.

Nearly 4 decades ago in 1976 the world was mesmerized by the feats of an American male athlete named Bruce Jenner.  During the Summer Olympics of that year in Montreal, Canada, Jenner won the gold medal in the competition that many would describe as the most difficult in the Olympic Games. At the conclusion of all 10 track and field events of the Decathlon, Jenner stood alone on the top tier of the world's greatest sporting stage and was transformed into the ultimate "Alpha-male". He soon became a household name becoming the spokesperson for everything from Wheaties to sporting gear to automobiles. Jenner was also thrust into the world of Hollywood and made numerous guest appearances over the years on a number of different television shows. In recent years Bruce Jenner has probably been best known for his role on the reality show "The Kardashians", but alas, much to the chagrin of some and the joy of others, now Bruce Jenner has gone into "the closet" as "Bruce" ..... and has come back out of "the closet" as "Caitlyn".  This former Olympian's recent decision has shed a greater light on "coming out of the closet" perhaps more so than ever before in history. Read on.

"Coming out of the closet" is a phrase that is generally associated with a situation where an individual, who most have perceived as a heterosexual person, announces or reveals in some public way that they are rather a homosexual, bi-sexual, transgender, etc.  The culmination of many things can cause a person to decide to "come out of the closet", and yet regardless of what those things might be, the common thread through it all is the weariness of that person feeling as though they have been living a lie. Through it all there is the burden of trying to be what everyone else expects that person should be. Through it all there is the fear of what others might think if they actually knew the truth. Through it all there is the very valid concern that once "out of the closet", friendships will be lost, families will be fractured, and the future will be uncertain. And yet, in spite of the reasons above and I'm sure many more, there are undoubtedly countless people who "come out of the closet" every single day. There are undoubtedly countless people who decide to roll the dice and become transparent and honest. I don't care who you are or which side of the debate you dig in, at the very minimum you have to give those who "come out of the closet" credit for having a certain measure of courage, realizing that their decision of revealing who they really are could cost them everything, and everyone, that ever meant anything.

There would be some who would question me using the word "courage" when referring to a person "coming out of the closet". There would be some who would say that "courage" is a word that should be reserved and used when defining the character of a soldier who fights for the freedom's of his/her country ..... and I couldn't agree more. Some others would say that the word "courage" should be used when describing the good and honorable folks who are police officers, firefighters, emergency medial personnel, etc. ..... and I couldn't agree more. Still others would say that the word "courage" should be used when identifying those people both young and old who battle debilitating diseases every single day, those warriors who spent more of their time in a hospital than at home with most every minute of their lives having to fight that which is destroying their health and the ability to have a pain-free existence ..... and I couldn't agree more.   All that being said, it would be my opinion that those who "come out of the closet" also have a certain measure of courage also ..... and many, many times "coming out of the closet" has absolutely nothing to do with being gay. Let me explain .....

I once knew a preacher who many years ago decided during the course of one of his sermons that he would be open and honest with his congregants. He shared with his church family the fact that at one time he had struggled with alcoholism. In other words, he "came out of the closet". He went on to share some of his experiences that had lead to his use of alcohol and then explained that it was no longer the problem for him that it once was.  To his delight there were many people who were deeply touched by his transparency and who appreciated his desire to let them know that he was just as "real" as they were. And yet, amongst those who appreciated the preacher's honesty about his own struggles were others who were appalled that he would have shared his personal struggles of the past.  "How dare he share such a thing from a pulpit" went through the minds of, and out of the mouths of, more than just a few. Regardless of what your definition of it is, it took a great deal of courage for that man to stand up in front of the church he served and verbalize his vulnerability while all full well knowing that it would change how some people thought about him. "Coming out of the closet" as an alcoholic had it's virtues as well as it's pitfalls, and there was no way to know how many of each there would be.

So here is the thing. "Coming out of the closet" isn't just a "gay thing"..... it's a "human thing". There are many of you who sit in front of a computer or hold a tablet while reading this and you are just as "in the closet" as anyone has ever been. Oh, you may be as heterosexual as they come, but, just as soon as you get done reading my ramblings you already have a long list of pornography sites that you are prepared to visit, just like you do countless times every day ..... behind a closed "closet door". There are others of you who after reading these words will go to your kitchen and retrieve something in liquid form that will help you cope or deal with whatever happens to be currently ailing you. In fact, many of you will retrieve enough of that liquid that it will cause you to verbally, physically, mentally, or sexually abuse the very ones that God has entrusted you to protect. Or, you may very well go swallow a pill, stick a needle in your arm, or inhale a line of dust or illegal vapor ..... all behind a closed "closet door".  There is another silent segment of you who feel the burden of a religion or theology that is no longer yours. You go through the motions and speak the party lines while yet having lost the true passion of such a long long time ago. You continue denying the feelings in the depth of your soul to accommodate the feelings of everyone else around you. You feel as if though you are in a spiritual black hole that is continually perpetuated by the mundane and habit. You feel bound by heavy chains of religious bondage ..... all behind a closed "closet door". Of course we couldn't even begin to discuss the tremendous amount of (and widely accepted) pre-marital and extra-marital sex that goes on "behind closed closet doors" in every corner of the world. If time would allow I could list a multitude of other "behind closed closet door" activities that take place in the lives of those people who you would never dream of doing such things. The Apostle Paul was spot on when he said "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". (Romans 3:23) Chances are, more of those sins are committed "behind closed closet doors" than any other place. And chances are, you probably have as many of those "closet doors" in your life as I do mine ...... a bunch.

So, what do we do? Do we continue living a lie? Do we continue walking about town and through church doors pretending that we have it all together? Do we continue fabricating smiles to hide the deep pain that perpetually exists? Do we continue saying the right things and going to the right places in hopes that those right things and right places will hide who we truly are? Do we continue living out a life of perceived problem free hypocrisy? You have to answer those questions for yourself as do I. And yet, if handled in an appropriate and balanced way, your answers to those questions could bring you a tremendous amount of freedom and healing. I am certainly not suggesting nor advocating that we all just air out every single bit of dirty laundry that exists in our lives. I am certainly not suggesting that we throw complete caution to the wind and jump out in front of everybody as naked as the day we were born. Please, please for the love of all that's good, don't do that. What I am suggesting is that we all begin to self identify those harmful things that we do behind our own "closed closet doors". Only you can identify that which threatens your relationship with not only those whom you love but also the precious relationship with your Heavenly Father.  Once you do that here is the tricky part ..... come out of the closet.

Again, I'm certainly not suggesting that you take to the social media airwaves and fling open your closet door. What I am suggesting though is that perhaps you seek out a support group of some kind. I am suggesting that you seek out people who have like-precious-struggles. You seek out those who hurt the way you hurt, struggle the way you struggle, are dependent the way you are dependent, and are weak the way you are weak. Try to find others who cry the tears you cry, ache the way you ache and teeter the way you teeter.  Find others who understand what it is to live behind your closet door because they have lived behind the same one of their own.

If you choose this journey it will not be easy. There is nothing initially painless about "coming out of the closet".  There will be some difficulty. There will be some anxiety. There will be some apprehension. There will be some fear. There will be some uncertainty. And here is the deal ..... all of those concerns are associated with how we feel people may treat us after they find out which closet we have come out of. Always remember, your true unconditional friends will be your true unconditional friends. Period. Regardless. In spite of. Whatever your closet might be will have no negative effect on those friendships. In fact, often times your "coming out of the closet" will create an even deeper bond in an already healthy relationship. There will be some others who you thought were friends who will fall by the wayside as a result of you "coming out of the closet".  And it will be OK. I promise. God will send you all the additional people you need to help you in a very healthy way navigate the journey you are on.  He will not leave you alone.

So, it's time. Identify whatever you have to identify. Acknowledge whatever you have to acknowledge. Face whatever you have to face. Grab that doorknob and open the door ......