Flashback to about 19 years ago.

On Oct. 20, 1999, I entered this world to begin my interesting journey. I’m sure that at the time, my only concern was completing my pokédex and finding where my mother hid my Twinkies. Little did I know, life had a curveball waiting for me.

At about the age of 11, my mom came into my room to tell me we were going to church and to get ready. I had no idea what to expect; I was trying to evolve my Bulbasaur into an Ivysaur and now I gotta go learn about the Jesus guy — I played a little too much Pokémon. I came into the church, looked around and decided I was bored. Even as a kid I had little patience. I sat in the back very bitter because I wasn’t allowed to bring my DS in but then they started to worship. They played “Every Move I Make” and the dance the worship team had come up with for the song was enough to draw me into the world of Christianity.

My family and I started going to church weekly during which time I learned what it looked like to serve our God and about the concept of sin. The lessons I learned included following God’s word and keeping sin to a minimum so you’ll be allowed into heaven. Easy enough; I can follow what God says. Keeping his commandments meant no disrespecting my mother, giving some of my allowance for tithing, no bad words and being nice.

However, one day I learned about the concept of marriage in church. Marriage was presented as picking one person on this planet to spend a significant amount of time with and love unconditionally. From what I saw on TV and in the church, marriage was between a man and a woman. I can totally do that; my best friend is a girl and she’s pretty cool.

Eventually, I started to date this girl — let’s call her Becky. Becky and I were in love, or at least that is what I told myself. I dated her for four years and I convinced myself we were going to get married. As I got into high school though, Becky started to gross me out. I just didn’t like the idea of kissing her or marrying her anymore. We stopped dating and she was really upset — she had every right to be — and I had a new friend. Let’s call him Jackson. We spent a lot of time together and I started to realize that I really liked Jackson. One day, I told a friend that I liked Jackson and she asked me if I was gay. As a 15-year-old who was completely sheltered from the world, I had no idea what that meant. I went home, looked it up and discovered what the LGBTQ+ community was all about.

Not too long after, I was in a small group when the conversation of dating came up. The group went around the circle asking who everyone was dating or might want to date. Chad said Sally, Nick said Melissa, Jessie said Becky and I had said Jackson — a big mistake. The other guys gasped and I wondered why. My small group leader talked to me after the meeting and told me that liking another boy was a sin. I remember this vividly. He said to me, “Boys who like other boys go to hell.”

I felt the weight on my shoulders triple in size and I fell to the ground crying. It prevented me from telling the ones close to me. I hid my true feelings away and it boiled inside of me for the next four years. I started looking at straight camps on the internet and asked my small group leader to try and change me. After a while, I had learned to just keep it to myself. If I’m not dating a boy, I’m not sinning, right?

After a while, I decided to talk to someone who was very close to me. I told her that I liked boys and even she told me I was wrong. She said if I didn’t change soon, I would never see the Lord’s face. Again, the idea of hiding my sexuality became stronger. It wasn’t until my mom asked that I finally told her. She was and is my biggest supporter and told me it was okay, but that wasn’t enough to hide the pain I had experienced from the church and my friends.

Through my high school years, I stopped going to church for a while and gained a bit of confidence in my sexuality. I joined my high school’s version of the LGBTQ Pilot Program here at APU and was able to talk to people who understood my struggles.

I was in the process of applying to colleges when a friend of mine convinced me to apply to APU. When I arrived here, I had no idea what to expect. My biggest concern was telling my roommate about my sexuality. I decided to hide it from him but my colorful personality gave it away. He ended up being okay with it — praise God — and the group of friends I made my freshman year were also okay with it, so I felt okay. I did meet some people who weren’t okay with it, but I had decided that not being liked by them was their problem.

I started to gain some confidence because a professor once told me, “People tell you that you’re wrong in the eyes of Christ but their eyes aren’t the eyes of Christ. We as humans are incapable of knowing what is going on in the mind of our God.”

I also look to the Bible for some comfort, especially Jeremiah 1:5. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” The Lord has a plan for all of us, and he made us a certain way so we can best follow his plan. Before I ever existed in my mother’s womb, my Father set me apart. Every one of his children was made the way they were for a specific reason. Some were made with excellent voices so they can spread joy through music and others were born with a heart of Christ so they can preach to others. My sexuality could potentially be for a reason that I have hope in seeing one day. To remind me to keep my hope, I also look to Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”The trouble comes in when I or even others lose hope. More often than not, I lose my faith. I wonder why I’m gay and how life might be easier if I was straight. But in times like these, I remind myself, he’s got a plan for me.