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Dear Gay Teens Who Are Actually Just Like Me

My name’s Shawn. Can I chat with you for a moment?

I know you and I probably don’t know each other or follow one another on social media, but we actually have some things in common. Like you, I know all too well what it means to go through school as a gay teenager. I know what it’s like to walk through the halls among your peers, the fear of places like the cafeteria and locker room, and the struggle of fitting in and wanting to be truly known.

You were on my mind this morning, as I began thinking about my school days and what I wish I had known then that I know now. If you don’t mind, I would love to share some of these things with you. I pray these words resonate with you and fill you with hope – something I’m sure you’re desperate to have today, like I was back in the day.

First, know that God does love you.

If you need to really grasp this truth, keep reading that sentence over and over again. When I was in school, rarely did I hear from Christians that God loved me; instead, I heard that God hated me and regretted making me. This only fueled my hatred for God and for life all the more. It was a lie that almost cost me my life and future. A lie that kept God’s true presence and love far from me. A lie from hell, not from heaven. Truth is, God loves you so much that He was willing to trade His life for yours, and Jesus would do it all over again if needed. He made you out of love, died for you out of love, and desires to be in relationship with you out of love. Do not let anyone else tell you different.

Second, your life is valuable.

Because I was told by others that my life held no value and that I would not amount to much in life, I wanted to end the life I was given. I tried a few times. I thank God I never succeeded because then I would have missed out on the miracle my life has become. The same is true for you. As the late Rich Mullins once sang, “You’re on the verge of a miracle / Just waiting to be believed in / Open your eyes and see / You’re on the verge of a miracle.” You have purpose. You have value. Don’t let go of the miracle your life can become. Believe it or not, there are more people for you than against you. Just look around.

Third, give mom and dad some time.

When I came out to my parents, and they didn’t respond the way I had hoped, I convinced myself they hated me. But they didn’t; they just didn’t know how to respond. They had more questions than answers. Being a parent now myself, I want to protect my kids from the ugliness of the world. I don’t want them to struggle in life. I’m sure that’s what my parents wanted, and that’s probably what your parents want, too. But I can’t always protect my kids, and that’s frustrating. Sometimes I feel helpless as a parent; I feel that I’m failing my kids. I’m sure that’s what my parents felt, too, and probably what your parents feel now. Truth is, my parents needed me to be present just as much as I needed them to be present. Don’t give up on your parents, because they haven’t given up on you.

Fourth, trust Jesus; He will not fail you.

The Bible says that Jesus is the Light of the world. When the darkness begins to overwhelm you, The Light remains steadfast. He will not abandon you, ever. Discover who Jesus is, don’t just rely on what others tell you. Don’t forsake truth for lies. Even though it feels like Jesus is absent, He isn’t; even though it feels like Jesus isn’t speaking or listening, He is. When you can’t have faith for yourself, let others carry you with their faith. The death of Jesus brings faith, hope, love, and life to you. Even when you don’t fully understand Him, trust Jesus; He will not pass you by. He is always present.

Finally, let God be the one to define you.

God designs us all to be unique. Don’t allow yourself to be defined by one aspect of your life. Nothing defines you but the One who has made you. As you seek Him, God will reveal to you who He has created you to be. Embrace that over what the world says you have to be.

You are known and you are loved. You will get through this time in your life. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

I’m praying for you and with you – always.

Your friend,

Shawn

P.S. Youth workers, please check out my book to better walk beside teenagers like me: “Ministering to Gay Teenagers.”

25 thoughts on “Dear Gay Teens Who Are Actually Just Like Me

  1. Avatar

    Great article. They need to remember they are like everyone else…a sinner and God’s grace covers all. The hard part is the ones who lead them not to treat them like lepers.

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    So your saying god created man to be unique and to do as he pleases?

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      Not quite, Jake. Instead, we are to follow Jesus, trust Jesus, and be transformed by Jesus. In finding ourselves in Him, do we truly find who we are.

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        Thank you, Shawn, for your insight, courage and graciousness. I really needed to hear that as a person who struggles to minister to homosexual teenagers, not because I don’t love them, but because it’s a conversation that I’m only recently beginning to engage.

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          Thanks for commenting, Jay. You are not alone in this journey. Thank you for being open to learning about and moving towards students questioning their sexuality.

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    Thanks for your article, Shawn. I’ve expressed love and support to my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and am disappointed when other Christians give them vitriol instead.

    I wrote a blog posting refuting point-by-point the “biblical” arguments against marriage equality. Titled “on selective interpretation of Scripture”, it could be found on my blog, titled “Lurz World”.

    It pleases me to hear other Christian voices demonstrating love and support for gay teens.

    My wife is Jewish; there is a time when people in the Church would have stood against our marriage as well (some still would). God’s love conquers all.

    God bless-

    -RW

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    Interesting article, however, you did not mention that the Bible specifically prohibits homosexual behavior. Ministering to the needs of gay teens is important, but condoning their behavior or implying that such behavior is acceptable is definitely not Scriptural. Love the sinner, hate the sin.

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      It is my conviction, and I believe it’s scriptural, that our belonging leads to believing which leads to being transformed. All through the Person of Jesus Christ. As a gay teen myself, all I heard from Christians was how I was going to hell. Nothing was mentioned about a Saving Christ or a Loving Father. Yet, this is where the conversation and ministry needs to start. Thanks for commenting, David 🙂

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    Hi Shawn,
    I read your article but Just so that I am clear on where you are coming from. Are you saying its okay to remain in a gay lifestyle? i guess my understanding of ministering to gay teenagers is showing them love and showing them from God’s word who they were called to be in Christ, not affirming a lifestyle that is clearly against what God teaches.

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      Hi Awele – thanks for commenting. I am more talking about affirming the person rather than their actions. I strongly believe helping teens to grasp a true identity of who they are – especially who they are in Christ, is key in helping them to live differently. A Christ-centered identity fuels people to change their way of life and thinking.

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    I want to make sure I understand what you’re saying. Are you saying that homosexual relationships and homosexual “relations” are acceptable to God? The article does have that feel to it. When you talk about your current “family” are you saying you are married to another male and that you’ve adopted children? It has that feel to it.

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      Hi Dave – thanks for sharing your questions.
      I apologize for any confusion. My “family” consists of my wife and four kids.
      I do not believe that gay relationships are acceptable to God. I do, however, believe that God loves gay people and desires a saving relationship with them as He does straight people. My conviction is that our belonging leads to believing which leads to being transformed, all through the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

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        OK, that clears it up for me. I also believe God deeply loves people with same-sex attraction but that He does want them to live according to His ways. The article sends the message that homosexuality is acceptable in the eyes of God. I was ready to unsubscribe to anything from Youth Ministry dot com because, starting with the title, it really did appear that you were still living in a homosexual relationship. Thanks for clearing that up!

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    I wasn’t sure what to expect when I found this article. It’s really insightful and outstanding, actually! Thanks for posting on a difficult and personal topic. I keep seeing other comments that say “Let me understand what you’re saying” then continue to say things you didn’t say. I recognize that you never said a homosexual lifestyle is acceptable to God, and that you didn’t approach that specific topic at all. Instead, this post was designed to break down the walls that WE as Christians have built, keeping Jesus away from the gay community. I believe there is no sin that Jesus can’t overcome, and we are doing a disservice by telling homosexuals “Jesus doesn’t want you here.” This is a great, great start to undoing that terrible conversation. Thank you!

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    Roger Brown

    Shawn, thanks for your message and your heart for teens who are gay. I love the message of belonging leading to believing leading to transformation through Jesus. One of the things I’ve learned over the years as a youth minister is that while we are right with God at our salvation we are also a lifelong work in progress and apt to fail at any given moment… the difference being is that Jesus keeps us righteousness.
    Thanks again.

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    The church is only now really beginning to understand the fall. In the midst of all the teaching about piety, we have grown to understand that the further get from the cross, the more we realize just how far the fall of man was. It’s convenient ot think that cancer came from the fall but inconvenient to htink that so did every mental illness, and every mistaken understanding of what the image of God looks like. The church needs to come to grips with all these things and the ability to overcome any sin comes form the savign power of Jesus Chirst through the Holy Spirit. Until the church begins to embrace sinners (as Jesus did) and lovingly teach them baout who Jesus is, people will continue to do what is right in their own eyes. That includes most Christians. Our message must be one of reconciliation between a loving father and his wayward children. Then once, the Holy spirit reveals the truth of the Gospel in the person of Jesus Chirst, can we disciple them toward a life in Christ that is pleasing to the father. I continue to be amazed at how we preach the law to sinners, weighting them down with a heavier yoke, while they are desperately in need of a life preserver. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those that are perishing, but to us that are being saved it is the power of God! Give them Jesus, then watch lives be changed.

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    I know this thread was from a while ago, but I feel compelled to comment. Through this article, and your replies to the various comments, you have so eliquently put what I have felt for so long. I have friends who are deeply committed to Christ, yet when it comes to this issue, they stand on street corners with large signs condemning homosexuals calling them to “REPENT OR GO TO HELL.” I feel like many Christians fail to reflect the heart of Jesus in this kind of response. When the woman was caught in adultery and the crowd was ready to stone her, it was Jesus who stepped in and stood between her and her accusers. Why does the church today fail to stand between the LGBTQ community and their accusers. Don’t get me wrong, I whole heartedly align myself with the teachings of Scripture, and I believe it is vital that we as the church hold to calling sin what it is. And I do believe homosexual relations in any form are sin. However, as you have put it, we must lead individuals to belonging, which will lead to believing and transformation. I often wonder if the church changed its approach maybe some would become less hostile to the gospel.

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      Shawn Harrison

      Amen, Matt. You pose a great question for church leaders and Christians to wrestle with and openly answer. What are your thoughts?

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    Benjamin Spears

    Shawn, thanks for sharing! The church has had a pretty dismal track record ministering to gay people– mostly because of underlying hatred/disgust/bigotry. As a pastor myself, the challenge is that when a person’s identity is defined by their sexuality, it’s hard for someone to understand “God loves me, and yet he doesn’t love something that’s a core part of who I am and he wants that to change”. When the “sin” is adopted as identity and even celebrated, it’s hard to speak the truth without coming off as an enemy, as hard as we might try not to. I think churches today have a tendency to either ignore the issue altogether and never teach on it, or speak too forcefully/harshly and preach judgment. Neither of these are good approaches. I really like your emphasis on pointing people to Jesus and letting the Holy Spirit do what he has always done– renovate people from the inside out and bring conviction in his own timing. At the same time, as a pastor, I don’t want to “bait and switch” gay people where we welcome and accept them and preach Jesus, but do so with the hidden agenda that we believe Jesus will eventually change that thing that is a key part of their identity.

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      Hey Benjamin – great thoughts and thanks for commenting. I totally agree with you that we shouldn’t “bait and switch” people. When we approach identity through the lens of community – being the Body of Christ, instead of just individualism, we point to the larger truth that Jesus transforms all people: their hearts, their minds, their identities, their calling, etc. No one is left unchanged when they encounter Jesus. How the Holy Spirit does this and in what timing is totally up to Him, not us. As youth workers, be up front with teens, “Jesus will change your life. He wants to make you His, which may be different than what you’ve been striving for recently.” A student who deals with same-sex attractions can love and follow Jesus just as any person attracted to the opposite-sex. The point is who they wrap their identity around and who rests at the center of their life, not who they think is attractive or not. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

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Dear Gay Teens Who Are Actually Just ...

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