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Finally! An update on my time at Exodus.
“…a paradoxical time warp of two months that have flown by in slow motion.”
That’s the best way I can describe how the time has gone by since I returned from Exodus about two months ago. There was so much information to take in that I feel like I’ve only begun to genuinely digest. And, at the same time, so much I feel like I’ve learned and achieved since I got back. Writing this post has almost been overwhelming because I didn’t know how to fit in everything I wanted to say without making it too long.
I met with my small group leader a few days after I got back and, by that time, I had come up with a bulleted list of the things I had gotten out of Exodus (it’s easier to fit all of that into a lunch hour if you prepare a bulleted list!) So I figure I’ll start there and, hopefully, expand on the things I feel like expanding in the future. Before I start, I do want to say that, while I was incredibly anxious and uncertain about going at all, the conference ended up being a very comforting, positive and assuring place to be and I would recommend it to anyone in my situation or a situation close to it.
• “The opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality…it’s holiness.”
Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus International, spoke the first night and this is the point that really stuck out to me. My first exposure to Exodus was actually not in the most positive light. When I was seriously questioning pretty much everything, I found a girl on MySpace who talked a lot about going to church with her partner and I asked her how she fit the two in her life. She responded that she had tried everything to make her feelings “go away” including being sent to Exodus programs among other things. Immediately, that put Exodus in “they’re going to try and turn you straight” category and it stayed there. One of the main focuses of Alan Chambers’ message that night was that they were not here to turn anybody straight. This was a good start for me because it switched the focus for me. I started to think about what God wanted to teach me regarding the bigger picture rather than this specific piece of my life. Homosexuality is a specific piece (bigger and more dense sometimes). Holiness is the bigger picture.
• God shows up more than I think He does because I’m so focused on the time that He didn’t.
One thing that happens organically at Exodus is that you end up telling your “story” a lot. I told different pieces of my stories throughout the conference, but it always included a point in my life when God didn’t show up like I expected Him to. I realized over the week that I’m so focused on that one time He didn’t show up, that I take for granted the times that He did. It’s almost as if He made it blatantly obvious that He shows up and it happened in some cool ways.
Before I left for the conference, I asked my small group leader if she would be one of my accountability partners through the week and we scheduled a few times for me to check in and updated her on how it was going. Once I got there, it suddenly hit me that I was alone. I had been so focused on the actual conference and preparing for the content, that I failed to prepare myself for being completely on my own. I had a great roommate but she was also a volunteer so I had some down time by myself before the first dinner. I got on the phone with SGL (all about assigning letters to people – in this case..Small Group Leader) and updated her on my feeling alone and she offered some words of encouragement.
As soon as I hung up with her, I went and sat on a bench near a group of people who obviously knew each other trying to talk myself into jumping into their group. I’m not the most outgoing person in the world this would have been hard without the added anxiety that hadn’t dissipated at that point. Not a minute later, a nice lady sat near me and asked where I was from. Turns out, the two of us actually live less than 15 minutes from each other here in Nashville. It was her first conference too so we chatted a minute, then her roommate (a conference veteran) came up and all of the sudden, I had a full table of people to sit with at dinner. I wasn’t alone anymore. A few other things like this happened over the next few days and I began to realize that after I voiced my need or struggle with SGL, I found an answer to it not long after. I really feel like it was God saying “If you’ll open your eyes and soften your heart, you’ll see me showing up. I show up for you when you need it.”
Since it’s taken me over 2 weeks to write this post, I’ve decided to do my bullets in installments. So there are the first two, look for more soon.