Moving to a new city and starting fresh on a different coast can be exciting, frightening, daunting, and incredible all at once. Making new friends, starting a new job, and searching out local haunts while finding inspiration around every corner are just a few of the benefits of moving somewhere completely new and different. Finding a new church, on the other hand, can be tricky and overwhelming.
There is an array of criteria to consider: Do they like gays? Do they say they like gays, but really they just tolerate gays rather than accept them as equals? Can I get married in the church? (Truth be told, I always envisioned my future wedding on the beach somewhere, but still, it would be nice to know that I could get married in a church if I wanted to!) Do they follow the Bible? Is the church so gay-friendly that it becomes more of a gay convention and less of a service? The hunt for a church is both time-consuming and emotionally vexing, and even though this is New York City, there are not as many gay-friendly churches as one would suppose.
Luckily, I found a church I love. I have been attending it for quite some time now, but it wasn't until recently that I took the next step and signed up for a small BIble study group. I have always been a big believer in small groups and Bible studies, because I feel like there is something so comforting in knowing you have a group that will pray for you, listen to you indiscriminately, volunteer with you, and debate theology, if you feel so inclined. I had been putting off joining a group because I was waiting for the right church, and also because my experience with a previous Bible study group still haunts me every now and then. Even though I was blessed with an amazing women's group in San Francisco, I was still nervous about coming into a completely new band of strangers and opening up my heart.
And so I signed up. It didn't seem like that big of a deal until the day of the first meeting arrived and I found myself seeping anxiety throughout my day. It's so interesting how something so far in the past (we're talking eight years ago) can have such a profound effect on the present, even when your mind is attempting to assuage your beating heart with more current memories and positive experiences. On my bike ride over to the apartment, I went back and forth about whether I should tell everyone that I am bi. I wasn't sure how to bring it up, if it was necessary to broach the subject on the first night, and if I should prepare a retort should things turn dark.
Without realizing it, I'd been emotionally preparing myself for a less-than-warm reaction, bracing my heart as well as I could, refusing to be caught off guard again. Earlier in the week I had voiced my concern to friends. It pained me to do so, because I am one of a few Christians in my large circle of friends, and to be perfectly honest, it's kind of embarrassing to admit that even I am scared of Christians sometimes. They were encouraging, of course, reminding me of all that I've been through and the survival and growth experienced. My girlfriend was sweet and supportive. She even gave me the idea to bring up the New York Pride parade to "test the waters," so to speak.
This turned out to be the perfect segue. As soon as I mentioned Pride, one girl lamented the pains of being single. A Christian lesbian! In my small group! I told her to check out my comic, JesusLovesLesbiansToo.com, because it sounded like we had some life experiences in common. The revelation about my comic revealed that there was another comic creator in the group. Minutes later I learned that another girl was a children's book illustrator. Considering that I had just finished writing my first children's book, I took this as yet another sign to add to the growing list -- a sign of good fortune, a sign that God was listening to my prayers, and a sign that I was right where I was supposed to be.
The group assured me that my church was a safe place for a bisexual Christian and her girlfriend to attend. They welcomed me with hugs and jokes and warm smiles, and I am sure they would have been shocked if I had admitted to the worries bouncing around my brain just hours before. I briefly made reference to the negative experience of my past Bible study group, but I didn't dwell on it. That happened, but it was an isolated event, and it was a long time ago. I am here now; I attend a church I love, and I am part of a loving group of people who embrace me and all that I am.