Pressed But Not Crushed Episode 2

3 Things I Learned About The Church After My Husband Came Out of the Closet:

Sarah Graham
by Sarah Graham

2012 was when I found out he was gay. That was the year he said he was leaving me, and it was due in large part to one particular “that guy” who “befriended” him at the gym. I don’t know if I should be angry or grateful. Without “that guy,” I might still be married; ignorantly so, but still… Thanks to “that guy,” the truth came out. The following 9 months would prove to be the absolute most turbulent season I hope to ever know.

  • July 9th – “I’m leaving you. I’m gay.”
  • July 10th – “I’m going to stay for the family.”
  • July 12th – “I can’t do it” (He left).
  • September 10th – “I’m sorry. Would you take me back?”
  • September 10th (later that same night) – “I’m sorry, I can’t do it.”
  • September 11th – He came home.

{Insert a mess of months where he was technically home (but not really). This mess of months saw me fighting in court, …twice…with “that guy” (I won both times)}.

  • April 8th – “I don’t think I’m going to make it.”
  • April 10th – He left once and for all.

One of my primary mantras during these days was “Everything for God’s glory, no matter the cost.” And I believed it. My second most uttered phrase was “I don’t know how anyone gets through life without a church family.” And I still believe it.

In the years following, I wished for someone to do the “flashy light thing” from Men in Black so I could forget and never be triggered. The pain subsided eventually, but the memory of my church family rallying around us is something I now deeply cherish.

They say that life groups are supposed to “do life together.” My entire church family was mobilized, but my small group was on the front lines. In 2016, three years after he had left for good, I reflected on the beautiful hands and feet of my church and wrote these words down.

“From that moment on, everyone wondered what they could do to help. Suddenly, so much energy was expelled into my family. People were praying, visiting, buying things, visiting, writing notes, visiting, giving hugs, and visiting. My family room became a vortex of effort.

Our best friends were there instantly; the first phone call and first on the scene.

My pastor and my aunt followed, trying to make sense of what was happening and trying to figure out what to do next.

Then the circle widened with my small group…my glorious small group, who came and prayed for HOURS with me. I will never forget the sound of friends uncontrollably choked up with sobs, trying to get words out that were cohesive.

The prayers continued for weeks. Family, church leaders, friends…even me and the kids. Right there in my family room.

People visited vigilantly around the clock for more days than I can even remember.

In a world when everyone is in such a hurry to get to the next thing, somehow, everyone managed to stop by my house on his or her way to the next thing. There was always time for that, time to go to the grocery store and pick up cereal for the kids, time to sit and do nothing but pray silently for the right words of hope and encouragement.

[Other peoples’ husbands] were there … tending to the big projects in my backyard, working on my car, and checking that plumbing blockage. [They were] teaching my daughter how to drive and teaching my son how to change a tire. [They came] to throw a ball around with him and take him to the Dodger game. [They cheered] her on at her games and competitions, fixed my water heater, and changed my AC filters…

We all expected life to go back to normal. It was too crazy to imagine things playing out differently.”

Today, when I look back at the church and their response, I see three things that I suspect could be true of many churches, and thus are worthy of note:

The church had never been trained in how to handle “this level” of crisis.  

By 2015, I had been on staff at the church for about 15 years, but I had been a member at the church since 1981. When it came to the working staff, the entirety of the church’s recent history was essentially in my memory alone. I can tell you that in the 80s and 90s, that little church in Orange County did not have the capacity to strike the proper balance between grace and truth. Those pre-millennial years were heavy on truth and not so much on the grace part. It was standard practice for families to silently leave the church – before the grownups could get divorced, never to be heard from or cared for again. Once, when I was a freshman in the college group, a young gal, who was living with her boyfriend at the time, started visiting. She was promptly told she could not come to our church until she moved out. I have always regretted not standing up to the “grown up” who spoke those dreadful words. The church on the corner was not yet a place for sinners to find community, much less to find healing.

A Good leader began changing the culture of the church to traverse “this level” of crisis.  

Enter Pastor Bob.

Pastor Bob came on the scene in 1998. He was winsome and inclusive and -with great intentionality- he shook the hand of every visitor and attender until the culture of the whole church changed. I’m talking a full 180-degree pivot. The church that once anchored itself in truth alone was now literally known as the most welcoming church in town. Truth was still Truth, and no one shied away from it. But gone was that “perfect” (read: false) Christian sheen.

The church was never taught explicitly from the pulpit how to treat a sinner who walked in the door. Instead, the people in the congregation understood their own desperate need for a loving Savior. Therefore, when a person (whose failures were exposed for everyone to see) came to church, the family knew that no sin was too big for God, and they had a duty to love well.

Despite the lack of formal training, my (The) church still proved capable.

In the several months where he was “trying” to make it work with our family, we continued going to church. That first Sunday back was filled with anxiety for both of us. How would people treat him? Would they stare with a side eye? Bristle at the thought of touching him? Would they exclaim poorly executed Christian expressions at him, like “We hate your sin, but we love you,” and other well-meaning platitudes?

All those fears were for naught because that beautiful church on the corner rose to the occasion in spades, and everyone welcomed him back with full devotion and support. No conditional declarations of love, just “We love you. We’re so glad you’re back.” Happy tears were flowing, and the hugs were warm. Men stepped out and started connecting with him for accountability and encouragement.

And even though he ultimately couldn’t find it in himself to finish strong, he would never be able to say that it was because the church rejected him. Even years after his final departure, whenever he came back to church to see the kids in a performance, the church still loved him to the sincerest of their abilities.

I’m so grateful to my church family for loving well. Their demonstration of unique and individualized support toward him, and for me and our children, was something to marvel at, and has changed me for the better.

“And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  ~Hebrews 13:16

Other Pressed But Not Crushed Episodes

Pressed but not crushed
by Sarah Graham

Light in the Darkness
by Brandon Davison

by Sean Beaudoin

Home » Pressed But Not Crushed » Pressed But Not Crushed Episode 2
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