My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. -John 10:27-28, NRSV
I was a campus pastor when I fell in love with a girl. The first thought that came to my mind was that the rage of God upon me would be merciless. All my life, I had heard from my faith community members, from the pulpits, from the lips of the people that I respected and I loved, that to be gay or lesbian was one of the worst sins that exist. My Christian faith and my sexual orientation weren't compatible from that point of view. The way that certain branches of Christianity interpret some verses of the Bible leaves no space for LGBTQ people to feel welcome in God's house. I felt devastated. I loved my ministry and I also loved her. I wanted to have both in my life, but my church didn't give me that option. I cried, I prayed, and I repeated both for years, yet the change of orientation never came.
I asked myself, what if I keep this relationship with her? What would happen? What is my biggest fear? It was to be stranded from God. I thought the Divine would reject me for loving a woman. In my moment of deepest uncertainty, these verses from the gospel of John came to me and filled my heart with God's Spirit. I read them again and again and I even got a tattoo on my left shoulder as a reminder of this great promise. I am certain that I was, I am, I will always be in God's loving hands, and nothing, nothing, can change that reality. I used to think that the biggest threat in my faith journey was my sexuality, but now I see that the danger was rather my doubt about Jesus' faithfulness to me. The danger was that because of what I'd been taught, I believed ideas that don't bring any good news, but only fear and shame. The threat was that I spent time fighting against something that I shouldn't oppose or deny. There was nothing to change or fix in my sexual attraction, because ALL was good. I was in Jesus' hands that whole time, and there is no better place to be.
About the Author
Esther Baruja, native of Paraguay, has a Master in Divinity from ISEDET Seminary in Argentina and Chicago Theological Seminary. Esther's focus is theological-based liberation from multi-layer oppressions at the intersections of race, class and gender. She lives in Cleveland, where she is pastoring at Archwood UCC church in Brooklyn Centre.