- by Joe Cobb -
On the evening of August 10, 1998, Leigh Anne and I went to dinner and then to Borders Books and Café for our anniversary.
One year after my initial “coming out” to Leigh Anne, describing my struggle with my sexual orientation, we were still working with a marriage and family therapist to determine the best way to move forward in our relationship. I was torn by hope and fear.
My hope was to find clarity regarding my sexual orientation. My fear was everything else: radical change, an unknown future, and endings I couldn’t comprehend.
I went to the poetry section and picked up Emily Dickinson.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches on the soul
And sings the song without the words
And never stops at all.
Leaning against literature, while reading poetry, I looked down the aisle of science fiction and mystery.
A clerk walked toward me followed by two men. The third man wore a red bandanna, brown curls of hair peeking out from beneath.
As he turned the corner between mystery and science fiction, he winked and smiled.
I nearly dropped Emily Dickinson.
This will be a terrible and liberating gift.
(Excerpt from Our Family Outing: A Memoir of Coming Out and Coming Through)
This was a defining moment in my spiritual journey. Dwelling in holy fear is not something I intend to do my whole life, but this moment was surely filled with such.
I had known since the age of 10 that I was unique and special. I had known of my attraction to men since then, but had struggled to accept this within. When I received my call to ministry at the age of 19, the ministry became my entire life focus. My sexual orientation got buried in my well of denial.
A college classmate once asked me if my going into ministry was a running away from my sexual orientation. I apparently told him, yes. From that moment on, I devoted my entire passion toward ministry. I met Leigh Anne. We seemed a perfect match. We were married, supported each other in our ministry paths, had two children, and imagined a full life together.
When a well of living water goes untended it will, at some point, bubble up and find new ways of breaking through.
That night on August 10, 1998, living water sprang up within me and both terrified me and liberated me.
This gift, which I confidently believe was from the Spirit, challenged me to be real, honest and authentic: with myself and with Leigh Anne.
And so, the next day, during our last session with the marriage and family therapist, I told Leigh Anne.
God’s Spirit doesn’t mess around when it comes to authenticity. God’s call in my life at age 19 was a call for my authenticity and an invitation to be open to all the ways God awakens us to be honest in our lives.
And I am eternally grateful.