“And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this” — Esther 4:14.
My time began in Greensboro, NC on a hot summer day in 1964. Born to loving parents who cared for me and provided everything that I needed, I remember a happy childhood filled with lots of laughter. Being good Southern folk, we attended church, treated others kindly, loved our country, and loved our family. My father was transferred to Hickory, NC in 1975. We began attending an Independent Fundamental Baptist church that year and little did I know how impactful that decision would be to my time. I attended the Christian School connected with the church and became a true believer. I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour. I was baptized by immersion. I attended every single service of the church and especially looked forward to revival services because we got to go to church every night of the week. I sat in the pew at every service with an anticipatory expectancy of what God was going to do in our church and in my life. As the chapel pianist, Senior Class President, co-captain of the basketball team, and recipient of the Christian Leadership Award at graduation, I was the poster boy for fundamentalism. And I TRULY believed.
The next logical step for me was to attend Bob Jones University. I enrolled in the fall of 1982 and attended for the next 3 semesters. Up to this point, everything outwardly fit the mold, fit the expectations of others, and fit my dreams of how I believed I should be in this world. But looks can be very deceiving. For if you were to peel away the layers of my rock-solid, iron-clad presentation to the fundamentalist world, you would have found a very frightened gay young man.
I began to sense my same sex attractions in 7th Grade. But because of the preaching from the pulpit at my IFB church of the “clear word of God” that homosexuality is an abomination, it was understood that these attractions were none other than the work of the Devil to draw me away from God’s plan for my life. And as a true believer, my entire world depended on being in God’s perfect will. So I hid. I played the part of the good fundamentalist young man. And this façade continued over the next several years with increasing white-knuckle intensity until a friend of mine admitted he struggled with same sex attractions. Upon his admission, I finally talked about my “struggle” with same sex desires for the first time in my life. We prayed. We cried. But nothing changed.
So the white-knuckle façade resumed. I attended seminary, was ordained, worked on staff at a church, and got married. But inside, I was dying. The Christian life was always about comparing myself to those who seemed more spiritual than me, and then attempting to line my life up with theirs. Finally, in 1993, unable to bear the weight of my secret any longer, I sought out therapy, and began attending an ex-gay Exodus ministry. And that was the beginning of my journey to freedom. Freedom from fundamentalism. Freedom to Christ. In short, freedom to be who God created me to be.
My marriage dissolved. And for the next 15 months, I threw myself into the ex-gay ministry seeking change in my sexuality. At one point, I was in therapy 3 times a week. My time in the Exodus ministry was indeed a healing time in my journey. A chance to unload years of secrets. But probably the darkest night of my soul was in January of 1995 when I decided to leave the Exodus ministry. The ex-gay therapy was not working at all in any way, shape, or form. I was so tired of trying to be what others expected me to be. I was tired of putting up false personas. I was ready to be honest and authentic. I was ready to follow God – but not by comparing myself to others and then trying to live up to them – but by being the Curt that God had created. By living out my life with God from a place of authenticity. But in leaving the Exodus ministry, I felt I was leaving God. Tears were flowing. My heart was breaking. What was I to do?
Thank God for the promise of Psalm 30:5 — “weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” The power of God’s grace cut through my darkest night and began to lead me to the morning. I started attending a wonderful United Methodist church in Oklahoma City where I was living at the time. And over the next four years or so through prayer, study, worship, tears, cries, laughter, lament, and joy and as I firmly planted myself in the midst of a new kind of faithful Christian community, I fully reconciled myself as a gay Christian man. That amazing United Methodist church literally loved me back to wholeness. I experienced the liberty of living my life authentically: no secrets, no lies, no hiding, no falsehoods. The fruit of the Spirit has never been so free to grow in my life as now. My passion to faithfully follow God grows with each passing day. In short, the abundant life that Jesus talked about and was a constant desire of mine from my youth is now becoming a reality. Not perfect. Not without room to grow. But abundant.
As I look at my life, I see different threads. I see the thread of fundamentalism. I see the thread of my sexuality. I see the thread of my current work within the church. I once viewed these as separate aspects of my life that have brought me to this place. But now, I see these as one consistent beautiful thread, woven together over time with tears and laughter, which have brought me to this place for such a time as this. An Esther moment. A time to proclaim to LGBTQ people caught in the deception of fundamentalism that God loves you. God accepts you. A time to proclaim that you are not damaged, or sinful, or broken, or alienated from God. A time to announce that you are God’s beloved child. And that you are not alone.