Last Wednesday was National Coming Out Day. If your Facebook feed was like mine, you probably scrolled through a lot of heartbreaking and/or inspiring personal stories about coming out as LGBTQ. I saw a lot of rainbow flags beautifully waving in solidarity and support. Amongst all that, someone shared an interview that Ellen did with Oprah after Ellen first came out 20 years ago. It was pretty long, especially for a Facebook video, but I didn’t particularly want to study for my Mexican History exam and I think Ellen is great, so I watched it and several other videos that came up about her experience.
What struck me most about the first interview was how radiant and content Ellen appeared under the noise of people in Oprah’s audience verbally attacking her “lifestyle.”
“This is about truth and having nothing to hide. No one can hurt me,” she declared.
Watching Ellen face that audience and describe the stacks of death threats she received reminded me of Acts and of us. Stay with me…
In only the fifth chapter of Acts, the apostles begin facing ostracization, persecution, and danger simply because of their identification as Jesus people.
“They rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the Name.” (Acts. 5:41)
That’s a level of faith that appears to be illogical and dangerous for me.
But we see it, and some of us experience it. There is tremendous, powerful peace that comes from accepting who we are and being honest to ourselves and our neighbors about it.
I’ll give you a less dramatic example.
As a girl, I was painfully shy. I didn’t order food at a restaurant for myself until I was in high school, probably. It was always something about which I was embarrassed. I thought my timidity was something that needed to be fixed. I knew I was supposed to be like Jesus. How could I be like the great teacher and preacher that Jesus was if I couldn’t talk to people about the soup of the day?
It wasn’t until I recognized that quiet was a part of my God-made soul that I began feeling comfortable with myself. The more I felt comfortable with myself, the more I felt comfortable with others. I had a one-dimensional vision of God as a majestic, authoritative Man. I forgot that He can also be still and small and just as strong. That was the image of God that I was made to resemble, and I’m okay with that. Even when I’m persecuted and told that I should be more extraverted, I’m okay with that.
Oftentimes, discovery of and honesty about our identity results in initial loneliness. In our diverse creation, God sets us apart. In chapter 13, the Holy Spirit told the church, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2).
That was a nice way for God to tell Barnabas and Saul to leave, and they wound up scattered across the known world, doing God’s work, but set apart from their people.
Friends, being set apart is beautiful in the story, but when it happens to you, you can easily feel as though you’ve been set aside.
I invite you to lean in to what sets you apart. Something innately about you may set you apart. Something that happened to you may set you apart. You may be set apart by being set aside by people. Lean in. Embrace. Remember that no one would have blamed Peter and James and John if they had not left their fishing nets. But no one would have remembered them either.