Last week, someone in our Facebook group brought up a question about how to deal with family and coming out to them theologically.
(*** If you’re not in our Facebook group, please just reply to this letter and ask me to get you in. That’s where a lot of the interaction takes place!)
So in this letter I’m going to tell you how I do it. I hope these 3 steps are helpful for you.
1. You’re no longer an evangelist.
I don’t know about you, but growing up in evangelistic churches, as well as an evangelistic Bible college, it was drilled into my skull that I always had to be on guard and ready to convert other people. I always had to be ready to give an answer for the hope I had within me. The pressure on me to constantly share my faith was enormous and unrelenting. I remember one beautiful Sunday afternoon being dropped off by our youth pastor at a beach and sent with bibles to witness to people there. Those poor people were just looking for a place and time to relax with their friends and family. But, there I was to injects loads of my seriousness and intentionality into their day and get them saved. That kind of thing happened a lot. I’m glad to be free from it. I’m glad my victims are free from me too. Now, I don’t have to change anybody’s mind. I don’t have to convert anybody. I just feel like I want to love everybody where they’re at. So when I walk into a room of people who know me really well, there’s no longer that pressure to perform or persuade anymore. I can just be with them. This is about peace.
2. You are your own pilot.
Another huge breakthrough for me was realizing that I was in control of my life. I was no longer a victim of other people or their agendas or persecutions. No matter what my family was talking about I was in control of myself. They weren’t in control of me. Even if we did grow up in a controlling, disciplinarian, or authoritative home, you’re an adult now and they don’t have to control you anymore. They don’t have to control the way you think or speak or behave. In fact, I realized early on that even though there was a lot of pressure to think a certain way, I only pretended to. I was always independent in my thinking. Maybe you were too. So, actually, it’s embracing this reality that matters. I am an independent thinker! When I walk in that room with people all with different beliefs, I am still an independent thinker. They don’t control my thoughts. They can’t control my thoughts. It’s impossible for them to. I acknowledge that and embrace it so I don’t freak out inside when conflicting thoughts, ideas, and beliefs start flying around the room. I don’t have to believe them. I don’t even have to believe my own thoughts. I don’t have to debate them or challenge them or present another side. It doesn’t matter. This is about freedom.
3. You get to decide how to behave and respond.
On the Facebook post, I said that I decide if I’m in wartime mode or peace mode. This might be a bit of a confession, but as a pastor I was often the center of attention. Not because I wanted to be, but because that’s just how things were in the church. So at a gathering or something, I was often asked to say something. It’s taken a while to get used to the fact that this is no longer the case. I can be in a room of people and frankly no one cares what I think. Actually, in the circles where people know I’ve gone through a dramatic change in my theology, they either think I don’t think theologically anymore or, if I do, they don’t want to know what I’m thinking. Often I think this is the case with some people who are close to me. They really don’t want to know what I believe. So why burden them with it? A simple question I ask myself now when I’m in this situation is, “Is this about me?” Often it is not. And rarely when it is about me, when people really do want to know what I believe, then I give them both barrels. I don’t hold anything back. If they want to be clear about where I stand, I will tell them as much as I can about that. It might even just be, “I just don’t know anymore!” So wartime mode is when it’s about me and people want to know what I think. Peace mode is when it’s not about me and people want to just hang out. It’s not a lack of integrity to choose to be quiet. Unless, of course, they start talking in nasty racist, Islamophobic, or homophobic ways, etcetera. Then, for the sake of those who are being attacked and my own integrity, I will often say something. Otherwise, nah. It’s not worth it. This is about self-control.
Remember, most people don’t want to change their beliefs. Therefore, you won’t change them for them. But when they do want to change their beliefs, it often manifests as them seriously questioning their present ones. It’s obvious. This is when I choose to speak my mind. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time. I don’t argue for entertainment.
So there it is. I’m no longer under pressure to change anyone’s mind. I am in control of how I speak and behave. I will share my beliefs when asked or if I have no choice.
I hope this helps.