Ebenezer Collective | COMING OUT FOR CHRIST
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Cheryl Reed

In the fall of 2009, my daughter Logan left for college. This left me in a place of despair, loneliness and isolation. For the first time in my life, I felt truly alone and was grieving the loss of motherhood as I knew it. With Logan moving away, it meant that many other things in my life would be ending as well. My life had been so wrapped up in my daughter’s life with all the sports she participated in, school functions, club soccer travel, and just wanting to be the best Mom I could be for my daughter – always wanting to be there for her. My adult friends were all those parents who were involved in the various activities over the last 18 years, so after Logan left for college, it felt like I lost everything that was familiar and comfortable. My home changed from a home full of laughing teenage girls to house of deafening silence. That’s when a slow buildup of panic began to overwhelm me.

It was at that point, that I began reflecting back on my life and looking at it with a totally different perspective. It was a spiritual perspective. My journey with Christ has not been one that I can say I’m proud of because I left Him during my young adult years. I grew up with my mother taking my sister and me to church ALL the time. My father spent Sundays fishing and told me it was his time with God, which I easily accepted. My father was also an alcoholic, which caused me to be afraid of him as a young child, not understanding the effects alcohol can have on behavior. Although, over time, he would become one of my best friends before he died of cancer in 2001. While I was in high school, he came to know Jesus and accepted Him as his Savior, Hallelujah!

I was a child of the 60’s and considered myself a “flower child” growing up – I saw images of peace, love and happiness, and had a very adventuresome spirit early on. My parents were married when my mother was only sixteen because she got pregnant with me. She was not equipped, nor ready to handle the bundle of joy I was, or really wasn’t. My sister came along when I was 2 years old and from that point on, I became very jealous and would have nothing to do with my mother. According to my mother, I became very independent at a young age and practically raised myself. My mother was too young to realize I needed all the affection, attention and nurturing only a mother can give during those early years. She still needed mothering herself. My childhood included sexual abuse at the age of 8 by a teenage boy in our neighborhood. Believing it was my fault, I dealt with feelings of shame and I never talked about the incident until decades later.

I decided at a very young age to follow Jesus and understood very well His promise of love and eternal life. It was John 3:16 that spoke to me and helped me understand the simple message of believing in Christ. My young faith grew into my teenage years and I began attending Christian coffee houses with a 60’s hippie influence. I was meeting tons of new people and making great friends who all had one common goal – to passionately praise and serve God and to point others to His love. A particular person would come into my life and change it forever. That person was a woman who I met at the new church I began attending. I was 17 at the time, and was mysteriously drawn to her, but I was unable to pinpoint the reason why. She was a woman who struggled with same sex attraction, struggling to stay on a path towards Christ. I was unaware of her struggle until I had been slowly seduced by her over time. I thought I was strong enough in the Lord to defeat whatever Satan put in front of me. I wasn’t. Satan himself can make all things seem so beautiful and right and loving. God’s word tells us in 1 Peter 5:8, “[he] prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I bought Satan’s lie of being born this way and took on a false identity of pursuing what was pleasing and acceptable to me. My flesh became the loudest voice, drowning out any attempt by God to win me back. This one experience would lead me away from Jesus and His church for the next 30 years.

I spent the decade of my 20’s in gay bars indulging in all the drugs and alcohol I wanted. By age 27, I had been in 3 relationships, one of which was with a woman 19 years older than me who was an abusive alcoholic and who battered me to the point that I attempted suicide in order to escape. In my late 20’s I met a woman who I would be with for many years. She was a professional, an attorney with a well-known airline, and I was enjoying a dream job with JCPenny Corp. But I was living in two different worlds, walking very carefully on a path between gay and straight – always being cautious about what I might say in my straight world, fearful that someone would discover the secret life I was living.

I never believed my life would be complete without a child. I knew from the time I was in 2nd grade that I wanted to be a mommy. I had already named my future daughter “Sunshine” by the age of sixteen. After a year and a half, I got pregnant through donor insemination and the most beautiful baby girl came into the world (although her name wasn’t Sunshine). We wanted to have a second child, so my partner decided to adopt a baby from China since there was a huge need. A sweet and beautiful baby girl came to us at 7 months of age. Although I had long since left God, I thanked Him for the gifts He had given me because I knew that is exactly what they were. Those two little girls saved me in a way from a path of total destruction, and caused me to pause and think about God a little bit more. I took them to church a few times, but could never resolve my spiritual life with my lifestyle – something that tormented me for the majority of my life, so I never took them back. After a few years, I began worrying about something, but I didn’t know what. It felt like something was lurking underneath the surface. I eventually discovered my partner was having an affair which sent me into an emotional crisis. I was broken into a million pieces. At times, I didn’t believe I could care for myself or get myself through the intense emotional breakup. How could I carry around a million broken pieces? But I held myself together, hiding behind a mask of happiness in order to protect my girls’ hearts. I moved out and into another house nearby. We both made the decision early on that we would never use the girls against one another and would always keep their best interests at heart, no matter what we were struggling with at the time. We wanted to spare them pain through this process, being ever so protective of their emotions and feelings. The weekends I didn’t have the girls became very difficult for me. I began drinking a great deal on those weekends to suppress my pain, and when it didn’t work, I began cutting my arms over the kitchen sink. I was releasing the pain each time I made a cut. It was symbolic in a way, watching myself bleed was like watching the pain go away and leave my body. It felt good –  it felt right at the time. I couldn’t commit suicide, I would never do that to my girls, so I dealt with my pain through drinking and cutting when I was alone. I thought about God during those times, but I was just too far away to reach up, too lost, too consumed with my pain to look to Him to save me. I was certain He would never want me back. I knew my betrayal hurt Him deeply.

Over time, a busy life replaced my brokenness. There would be one more relationship, the last relationship living with my false identity and attempting to resolve my spiritual self with my gay self. Those feelings were consuming me, and I needed to figure it out, so I decided to end the relationship. I hated myself for breaking another person’s heart, but I had become restless, tormented and confused and had reached the conclusion that I needed resolution with the conflicts in my head and heart. I began reading books on the subject, but found conflicting information and didn’t know what to believe or feel. I still didn’t seek God’s help. I was in the process of trying to save myself, by myself. I was seeking a truth that would ease my guilt, instead of His truth which alone could set me free. (John 8:32)

Throughout it all, and hidden from me, was God’s masterful plan unfolding in my life. Life again, got extremely busy and there was no time for me to think, read books, or search for answers. It was called “being a parent with kids who were involved in everything.” I was happy at the time because I didn’t have to think about my life.   I was single and didn’t want anyone new to come into the girls’ lives, so I decided I would just wait and figure that out once my daughter went off to college. I went on to experience several deep losses over the years – losing my father in 2001, losing my 17 year career at JCP Corp., and having to sell the home of my dreams. I hid everything inside, always needing to be strong for someone else, putting on different masks for different situations – all the while carrying my broken heart pieces everywhere.

This brings me back to the beginning, the fall of 2009, when it took total silence for me to be alone with God. In an empty house, no voices, no distractions, it was just God and me. I was scared for my life – my eternal life – because I had not resolved anything. I left Him, but He never left me and He was so willing to take me back. Who does that? That thought alone breaks my heart and makes me love Him so much. God then put me in a company working with several believers that attended a local church. I also began attending and started my path back to Christ. He had so much patience over those 30 years, waiting with His steadfast and true love for a sinner girl like me, who had fallen so far down to a place where I had no choice but to yell out for my Father to help me, to save me, to show me how to get up with all of my bruises and broken heart pieces so that He could make me new again. He picked me up and piggybacked me as He was putting the pieces of me back together. Isaiah 42:16 says, “I will turn the darkness into light before them and make rough places smooth; these are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” He has shined His light into my darkness and is smoothing over my rough places as He sanctifies me to be more like His Son – making me spiritually and morally new and glorious in His sight! I’m His daughter now and I call Him, “Abba, sweet Abba!” I have seen God’s masterful plan over my life. He wanted me back – regardless of my past, my shame, my sin and guilt – He’s wanted to restore me, love me all along – HIS GRACE for me is overwhelming at times! I feel like He is fulfilling the prayer of Paul in Romans 15:13, as I am constantly being filled with His joy and peace, which overflows with so much hope – hope for today and hope for all of my tomorrows! I say His name when I wake up and when I close my eyes at night – Jesus, how worthy You are Lord, You are worthy of all my praise! “And every breath was a hallelujah!”

Amanda Buccola
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