Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Punching holes in the darkness - and a letter to my Life Group (Union Chapel/Commonway/Muncie, IN)

I recently received an e-mail from my friend, Beth. She sent this to our "Life Group." In the last couple of years, I sort of dropped out. I haven't felt like I could open up with everyone, and yet I want to let others know why. I've felt like some of the group would actually like to know what I think, and this e-mail inspired my writing today. After you read the message Beth sent, please read what is merely part of my story. I hope to open communication, and maybe you will understand more of why I think like I do, why I advocate for gay people, and why I want to make a difference in the world.

From: beth
Sent: Wed, February 10, 2010 1:25:55 PM
Subject: Fw: Punching holes in the darkness

Treasure Island, A Child's Garden of Verses - those are just some of the
literary classics written by Robert Louis Stevenson. He must have had a way
with words from the time he was a boy. Anne Graham Lotz tells of a night in his
boyhood when his nanny just couldn't get him to bed. Young Robert just kept
staring out the window, oblivious to her talking to him. Finally, she said,
"Robert, what in the world are you looking at out there?" As she pulled back
the curtain, she realized he was watching the lamplighter making his way down
the street, lighting one street lamp after another. Young Robert Louis
Stevenson saw something more. He said, "Look at that man! He's punching holes
in the darkness!"

I'm Ron Hutchcraft, and I want to have A Word With You today about "Punching
Holes in the Darkness."

What an awesome description of the reason God has placed you where you are!
You're not there to shake your head and bemoan how dark it is where you work or
go to school or whatever your environment. You're there to punch holes in the
darkness! So, how are you doing so far?

Just listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16, our word for today from the
Word of God. If you belong to Jesus, He's including you in this. "You are the
light of the world." Think of your personal world and the people in your world.
Jesus says you are their light. "A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do
people light a lamp or put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its' stand,
and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light
shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in
heaven."

Yes, we may live in a pretty dark world. But it is not a world without light
unless the Christian in a situation fails to punch holes in the darkness by
living like Jesus would live there, treating people like Jesus would treat
people, and handling situations and temptations as Jesus would handle them. So
many of Jesus' followers don't realize who they are - His personal
representative in their personal world.

You punch another hole in the darkness every time you show up with joy instead
of gloom on your face, with good things to say instead of griping, every time
you stop for someone who's struggling, when you consciously put someone else
ahead of you, when you insist on taking the high road when it's tempting to cut
corners, every time you weep with someone who's weeping, rejoice with someone
who's rejoicing, and reach out to someone who's being acting pretty unloveable.

The lost folks around you probably won't be all that impressed with your don'ts
or all the religious meetings you go to. They need to see meaningful
differences in you because Christ is in you.

But it isn't enough that they just see that you're different. They need to know
why, or they'll never be able to get out of the darkness themselves. They need
Jesus. And He put you in their life so they could find out what Jesus did for
them on the cross; so they could find out from someone who's living proof that
Jesus is alive and how they, too, can have a life-changing relationship with
Him. Have you told them about your Jesus yet? Humanly speaking, you may very
well be their best chance at heaven - or maybe their only chance.

Every morning, before your Lord, tell Him and tell yourself, "I am the light of
my world." And go out there, showing a harsh and lonely and self-serving world
that there's another way to be. Defy the darkness wherever you go. Punch holes
in the darkness with the brilliant light of Jesus Christ!
Hi Everyone,

What an inspiring piece Beth just sent out. Thanks, Beth.

Sometimes I'm beside myself wondering what you all think of the Boltz clan these days. From most of you, I have no idea. But silence is an indication to me that you just don't know what to say. Maybe by sharing more of what I think you will be freer to be a little noisier - and we can be better support for each other.

As you know, just over 5 years ago, Ray came out as gay to me and our four kids. AT the time, Karen was about 29 and married, Phil, 25, had graduated from Taylor University, Liz was 22 and ready to graduate, and Sara, 18 was a freshman at the same school from where the older siblings had all gone. We were considered an ideal family, Ray was "somebody" in Christian music, and we were all close to one another.

Yes, he told us at the same time - because we did an "intervention," for him, hoping to help him from the depression that had become obvious to us all. We were afraid we were going to lose him any day. I was scared, and it was dear Liz who finally just opened up and said to her dad, "...I was afraid to come home and open your door...and find you..." And you can fill in the blank, since it is still too hard for me to write.

Ray has said since then, that he decided right then to tell us, "I'm gay," and to be honest for the first time in his life. He didn't have a plan, but had thought many times of going to his grave, perhaps an early one, with his secret intact, his pain unrevealed. After all, I had never suspected anything like "I'm gay," to come from Ray, and it certainly wasn't the answer I'd hoped for when we chose to have this meeting.

When this happened, I didn't know what to do, how to act. At first I wondered if he was kidding. Within a second or two I knew he was not kidding, and I didn't have to ask. It showed in his face, in his tears.

So here I was, faithful Christian, married to the love of my life, and now I have found out something that I though was impossible: Christian man, and gay. I always thought that you had to CHOOSE to be gay, or at least want to experiment or something - I just didn't think you WERE that way. There had to be an answer, a solution, and I began praying to find one. And for Ray, I had so many questions: Was he abused as a child? Had he REALLY had that bad a relationship with his dad? (And there were personal questions that I needed to ask, but I am not sharing those with you all.)

There is no way, in an e-mail or a blog entry, that I can take you back to the feelings I had in the winter and spring of 2005. Devastated doesn't cover it. Pain isn't descriptive enough. Alone - of course. And I wasn't even sure God was hearing me as I cried day and night. Plus, all the time, I had to pretend things were "normal."

I'm not sure how long the stages lasted, but I felt like I couldn't talk to anyone. When I did share, in general, it was exhausting. When I shared with some of my best friends, they still didn't see it like I did: I knew Ray was telling me the truth - that he had always felt different from other boys his age, and that, "it's not what you DO, it's who you ARE." Within a day of him disclosing the truth to me, I saw "it" all in his songs: the lyrics, the emotions, the fight to be forgiven, and the hope for change. All the pain was right there in nearly every song!

Gradually, as I read people's stories, I realized this: there are Christians who feel gay all their lives. There are gay Christians who live their lives with integrity, and some who don't. There are people who have been brought up in Christian homes (and non-Christian), with loving parents (and some not-so-much), who were never abused (and some who were), and for whatever reasons, they end up having other-than-heterosexual orientations. Ray just happens to be one of them.

Finally, in Sept. 2008, Ray went public. This was with my 100% encouragement and approval. I was relieved for myself to finally be able to share what I felt - no more secrets, no more "hush-hush," and no more worry "if someone finds out."

Since that time I have been able to move in circles where affirmation of gay folks is rewarded: Soulforce, Reconciling Ministries (which is part of the United Methodist Church), on Facebook, and with other people in my situation. I started an open blog: http://myheartgoesout-carol.blogspot.com, where I discuss how I feel, what I've been through, and offer hope and support for others in the same situation. As much as I've made new friends, I still feel distant from some of the old friends, who, maybe, just don't know how to approach me. I'm offering that as a possibility to give them the benefit of the doubt.

As some of my friends have actually turned from me, left me out, and expressed ideas that show me how much they differ from my views, I have turned from them. I confess that I have turned from some of you, even if many of you have never said or done anything to leave me out. I don't want to do this, as I'm a very social person. I don't want to hide any more.

I have tried to openly express through my spoken words, my blog entries, on facebook, and by supporting GLBT groups financially, that I love and support gay (GLBT) people. Some of them have never been shown acceptance from their church or families. My goal is to show that support and to reach out as the arms of Jesus and express that acceptance. I feel it is my purpose in life to come through what I have experienced, and reflect what I'd want to feel from other people: unconditional love.

When I read the e-mail that Beth sent, I thought I'd reply to all of you at once. Please forgive me for being isolated - I'm not that kind of person, and I don't want to do that to ANY of you. I try my best to live the life I've received, with integrity, honoring the love of Christ. The analogy that Beth shared inspired to me to share these thougths with you, and I want to punch holes in the darkness.

7 comments:

Karen said...

Carol, you are amazing. I hope and pray that at least some of your group can really hear you. You are a blessing.

Anonymous said...

Tell me about how exhausting this process is! But God bless people like you who DO punch holes in the darkness and bring this issue out of the shadows and into the light. I only hope that some day I can be as much of an inspiration to others as you've been to me.

Ralph said...

Thank you for sharing with us. I have always felt that most churches either do nothing good to deal with the GLBT community and that the remainder do actual and very serious harm.

BigMama said...

Thanks for another great post Carol. I've got a situation that's about to go public in my family (not nearly as well-known, but still!) and I expect there to be some blow-back on me, even though it's my husband's thing. Even though our situations are different, I draw a lot of strength and courage from you and your support of Ray. Thank you.

Debra said...

Carol, how raw and honest, thank you so much for sharing with us!

Anonymous said...

Carol, you were so raw and honest, thank you for sharing!

Mary Kay said...

Carol,
As I read that letter, I could not even imagine what went on in your home that day or months to come. I hope there were plenty of people to give you hugs and support.
I do pray for those people who still bash Ray and your family.

I know we have never really met other than here and on Facebook but I did connect with you at one point. I was looking for a song by Ray "Feel the Nails" at a local Christian store for my daughter to sing in church. They told me they did not have it. I then asked for "The Hammer or People Need the Lord." There was nothing on the shelf by Ray Boltz and I was confused. The worker told me they pulled all of his music. I was shocked and the worker asked me, "you don't know why?" He then told me Ray Bolt is gay. I was stunned and my 12 year old daughter and I got in the car and left. The drive home was silent. Then I began to think of all of Ray's songs and they were all about forgiveness and seeking the Lord. Was Ray crying or help I thought. Then my 16 year old daughter who was around 13 or 14 at the time spoke up. She said mom, "none of Ray Boltz's are happy....they are all sad." I think he was pleading for help." Then my daughter asked me, "does he have a wife and kids?" I told her, "yes." We are Catholic and she asked to go to our church and pray for your family. I never thought after the prayer session that I would ever connect with you. God does work in mysterious ways.