Excerpt From Chapter One: “God Doesn’t Make Mistakes”
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From Chapter One:
January 2000. I live in Sacramento, California. Everyone on Earth had just celebrated like they never had before and the “millennium bug” that was supposed to crash computers and make planes drop out of the sky turned out to be the “millennium dud.” I was the caregiver for my 92-year-old adopted grandpa until he passed away at home January fourth. For the two previous years, I hadn’t been to church. The very small church I had previously attended was the first church I ever attended as “Laurie,” and when it had to close its doors I concentrated on taking care of grandpa. But now he was gone and it was time to find a church home.
I grew up in large evangelical churches with the conventional choir, hymnals and pipe organ. I found later that I liked a more “spirit-filled” church with contemporary worship and raising hands in praise. I was also aware that some churches can seem to be at the fringe in their experience and that’s not what I was looking for. I didn’t want a church with people shaking in the aisles and falling to the ground when the pastor breathed on them – that wasn’t my style either.
By this point in time, most churches had some kind of website, so I began my search for a church using the internet. One caught my eye: Awaken Fellowship. They offered a free video about the church. The video wasn’t long, maybe five minutes, but it did give me a good feel for the church. Family-focused, worship focused, and most importantly, Bible-focused. It appeared lively with a fresh, youthful feel to it, so I made plans to go the next Sunday.
As I arrived I saw it wasn’t a big building. It looked like at some point in time it might have been a free-standing movie theater. There was a vacant lot across the street for parking. Inside it had the old maroon plush theater-style chairs with thick cushions and wood backs. It even had a small balcony. I took a seat toward the back half of the main floor.
The worship and the music were of a high standard. People worshiped with their hands in the air. I could see the area between the front row of seats and the platform was filled with people who had come out from their seats to the front, in what was almost like a Christian mosh pit. These people weren’t here to be entertained, they were here to worship God! It was an amazing thing to behold. God’s spirit was clearly in this place and in these people.
I had been to enough churches in my life that I’m always on guard when visiting a new church. I didn’t want to hear only a single verse read from the Bible and then a 30-minute unrelated discourse on the beauty of trees in God’s world. I didn’t want to hear if we had faith in our FAITH that God would bless us. I didn’t want to hear that if we gave $100 to the ministry that God would give us ten times back that amount. I didn’t want to hear that God promised us material wealth if we only believe (the “name it and claim it crowd.”)
I wanted to hear the genuine Word of God taught. I wanted to hear how God’s Word can apply to our life today. What Jesus did for us on the cross, and what we’re called to do as His followers.
The pastor’s message was good, very good. He was passionate in a deep, heartfelt way, and he taught from a solid biblical basis. The pastor’s name was Frank, and he announced that since it was the first Sunday of the month, he and his wife invite any visitors to their home that evening to get better acquainted and ask questions they may have about the church. I thought this was an amazing thing to do, and so I went to their home that evening to learn more.
It was nice getting to meet the “person” Frank (not the “pastor” Frank) and his wife Beverly. I was impressed with how genuine and real they both were. I began to go to Awaken every week. Shortly thereafter I attended their four-week church membership class—what they believe, how it’s structured, etc. I made new friends and enjoyed getting to know other members.
I also let them know that I had a background in music and sound engineering with churches and music groups and would love to serve if they needed me. They wasted no time connecting me with the gentleman in charge of the media folks (sound, video—all of it) and just like that, I was up in the balcony getting acquainted with their audio system. It was nice being involved in a church again, being able to contribute, being able to serve.
A few weeks later I received a letter with the Awaken logo on it. It was from the pastor inviting me to leadership training offered by the church. One Sunday evening a month, selected members of the church would gather for additional teaching from the pastors.
I panicked. Me? Some kind of leader at the church? I’m happy with the way things are! Just me, the church, and a few friends. It’s all good at this point, and I don’t want to mess that up. They wouldn’t want someone who was transgender, how can I say yes to this?
Then I calmed down. I figured they probably sent this out to everyone who finished the membership class. I was nothing special. It was nothing more than bulk mail from the church based on the sole accomplishment of attending four weeks of a membership class. I convinced myself that saying no to this will be easy.
And just to prove how smart I was in figuring it out, I called the church office and asked the church secretary if they sent that letter to everyone who completed the membership class.
“Oh no, not at all,” she said. “The pastors and staff discuss and pray carefully over who these go out to.”
My mind screamed, “Oh, crap!” and I went back into a mild mode of panic.
What am I supposed to do now? How do I say no to this? I felt honored that they saw something in me that made them want to include me. They prayed about me over this. They felt God’s leading about this. Who am I to question it? I couldn’t take this lightly!
But I couldn’t dive into this and have things blow up both in my life and at the church sometime later because I’m transgender. That would be bad for me and it would be bad for the church—neither of which I wanted. If I was going to say yes to this, I needed to have an open and honest discussion with the pastor. You have to understand, I didn’t WANT to have an open and honest discussion with him. I would have much preferred a casual conversation over a taco from Jimboy’s discussing upgrading the church’s sound system or making CD’s rather than cassettes of each Sunday’s message. But I didn’t see any way around this door but to walk through it. I’m not going to leave a church I love, I’m not going to say no to leadership training if they actually prayed, so I had to let Pastor Frank know about my background.
The next day I called the church back and asked for a meeting with pastor and Beverly, and I got on his schedule for the following week.
A few days before our meeting, at the end of the Saturday evening service, Pastor Frank said if anyone needed prayer to come up and be prayed over.
I was worried about our upcoming meeting and went forward. Beverly came over to me, laid her hands on me, and started to pray. At the same time, I started to cry. The reality of what I was going to divulge to them suddenly overwhelmed me and I couldn’t help it. After another moment, she finished praying and looked me in the eye and said the Lord had told her that He loves me, he knows my pain and was going to use me for His church. I hugged her and thanked her. She said, “We’ll see you in a couple days, right?” I looked at her with my watering eyes, nodded yes, smiled and left. Neither of us had any clue at the time what the Lord had in mind for me nor how He was going to use me for His Church years later.
So Tuesday arrives and I pull into the church parking lot. I take a big breath and went into the church offices. Pastor wasn’t quite ready for me, and I had to take a seat for a short time. Those were nervous minutes for me.
Beverly then walked into the room, greeted me with a big smile, gave me a hug, and said, “Let’s go in.”
We walked into pastor’s office, and I took a seat on the sofa in his office. I asked rather sheepishly if it would be ok if we closed the door. Beverly got up to close it, and I took one last big, deep breath.
This was it, a pivotal point for the very direction of my life, my relationship with God and His Church. I was about to reveal to my pastor and his wife that I was a woman that had been born male, and I didn’t know what was going to happen when I tell them.
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