By 2009, my writing career was in full swing. I was entering my late 20s and enjoying much success. I wrote an opinion column for USA Today titled, "An Evangelical's Plea: 'Love the Sinner.' "
"One of the mantras of evangelicalism over the past quarter-century regarding gay men and lesbians has been 'hate the sin, love the sinner,'" I wrote. "If, however, you Google the public statements made by evangelicals regarding our gay neighbors, you'll uncover a virtual how-to manual on hating sin and little if anything about loving sinners."
I asked readers to do away with self-gratifying monologues and harsh language. I pled with Christians to abandon clichés such as the infamous "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."
"Now is the time for those who bear the name of Jesus Christ to stop merely talking about love and start showing love to our gay and lesbian neighbors," I concluded. "It must be concrete and tangible. It must move beyond cheap rhetoric. We cannot pick and choose which neighbors we will love. We must love them all."
Though no one knew, the article was written with my secret lockbox in view. I was not just asking that we do a better job loving our neighbors; I wanted to know I was loved too.
In response to the article, I was contacted by a gay blogger who wanted to dialogue more about my article. Over many months, we communicated by email and texts. I began to grow comfortable with him, and finally, I shared my story of struggle with him.
When I was traveling through a city near him, we met for dinner, and as we were saying goodbye, we had physical contact that fell short of sex but went beyond the bounds of friendship. Afterwards, I went back to my hotel room by myself, and laid there, sorting through my clouded emotions.
He and I ceased communication soon after, and I never saw him again, but years later, the day I feared finally arrived.
I awoke to prepare a talk I was giving at a local church on the subject of grace. The sermon centered on a solitary question: How do you forgive the unforgiveable? With my coffee maker gurgling in the background, I had no idea the answers I'd come up with were ones I'd need moments later.
I decided to check my email. The sender line read "Google Alert," and the article linked to was written by the blogger I'd met for dinner. Though he hadn't shared every detail, he was threatening to.
I fell to my knees next to my kitchen table with tears in the corner of my eyes: "Lord, I can't do this. I'm not ready. I'm not strong enough."
My heart heard the reply: It's time.
I sat in silence for a bit—five, maybe ten minutes—and my cell phone rang. A friend was calling to tell me he'd seen the same story, but not from the original post. A Christian blogger had already picked up the story. There was no going back.
The following days tasted bitter, and I got a lot of unhelpful advice. One friend told me to "throw the gay community under the bus and save yourself." Another, who was a high-powered publicist, said I should kill the story by digging up garbage on the blogger who wrote the post. But I couldn't shake Jesus' words that those who live by the sword, die by it also. Those who survive by destroying others will themselves be destroyed. My platform as a writer allowed me an opportunity to test that maxim, but I chose a different response.