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In Prayer, We Are Fully Seen and Fully Known

Meg Baatz was first drawn toward God as a preteen. “I was really insecure and just full of shame and guilt, and searching for meaning,” she says, but she knew “Jesus was there just loving me exactly as I was.”

Years later, while serving as a Bible study leader in a campus ministry, Baatz says her “faith and sexuality journey collided” as she became more conscious of feelings of attraction to other women.

For Baatz, prayer has been key in her personal discipleship as she holds to biblical convictions on sexuality while identifying with and ministering in the LGBT community. Baatz’s continual sense of God’s faithful, loving presence has characterized her ministry via Posture Shift (which equips church leaders to reach and care for LGBT individuals) and Kaleidoscope (a ministry focused on helping sexual minorities explore faith in Jesus).

What role has prayer played in your life as you’ve navigated discipleship and your sexuality?

Sometimes we can have a very narrow view of prayer—that it’s sitting alone in your room with a Bible open, which is great. But when you read in the Scriptures to “pray without ceasing,” I think of prayer more as this place where I’m aware of the presence of God around me, and I’m also ready to engage in relationship with God. It’s in that place where I feel most seen and known and upheld as a person.

It’s really only in prayer that I’m seen in full by these infinite eyes that are not fooled by any kind of filters or lens or opinions of me that might obscure the whole truth about myself. It’s in this nearness that it’s impossible for me to hide, or to deceive God into thinking that I’m someone that I’m not. But it’s also this place where I have nothing to prove or fake.

Prayer has shown me that God isn’t taken aback; God actually is leaning in to my life and my story with compassion, curiosity, and commitment to draw out his good image in me. This acceptance has been the only stable and sufficient comfort for me throughout my life. With people, there’s always this fear: What are people going to think of me? Are people going to reject me? But in prayer, God already knows and sees all of me. There’s nothing I can say, do, be, or introduce into our relationship that will cause Jesus to be ashamed of me.

Is that something you felt even early in your prayer life, or something that you had to grow into?

I honestly felt that early on. Something that stood out to me was a youth leader who basically said, “God already knows everything about you, yet loves you completely. He also wants to actually hear about your life from you.” So prayer isn’t just, Okay, I exist in a state of being known. It’s that God wants me to actively tell him about myself—even as he already knows everything about me. That was true for the awkward, unpopular, 12-year-old me, and for the 17-year-old me figuring out sexuality, and it’s true now. Even when I’m not consistent in prayer, prayer is consistently there for me because God is present and near; I can always enter into that nearness.

You’ve had a rich background of discipling other Christians who experience same-sex attraction or identify as LGBTQ. How would you describe your approach to ministry?

I didn’t come into discipling LGBTQ or same-sex-attracted people as an elder or expert—I have only ever just been a peer. When I started out in full-time ministry, my approach was informed by a few different things. One was my social work education, which taught me that there is a lot of power in active listening. Some of it was my evangelism skills that I learned in my high school youth group. And some of it was my own experience of Jesus’ love for me, including how I related to him in my sexuality. My approach to discipleship is, in a way, my effort to recreate with another person a dim reflection of the same acceptance, trust, and honesty I feel when I’m with God.

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Practically, this looks like offering space for friends to just process their lives, and I do that in part by putting my own feelings or motives on the back burner in order to maximize the space where they can simply be seen and fully known as respected in their story. Doing this gives them space to consider God’s love for them; this unconditional love and presence serves as a baseline.

What approach or posture toward prayer have you found helpful as you disciple or evangelize others?

My posture in prayer has primarily focused on monitoring my own emotional process as I approach relationships with peers—both those who identify as Christians and those who do not. That could look like asking God, What do you want to say to me through this interaction? The focus is on how God is seeking to transform me and my own heart in the context of that relationship.

I wish this went without saying, but my relationship with a peer rarely has to do with talking about someone else’s sexual behaviors or thoughts. I say “I wish this went without saying” because discipleship with LGBTQ or same-sex-attracted people can often be oversimplified and hyperfocused on “Are you giving into lust?” Christians can inadvertently hypersexualize the discipleship of these peers rather than treating discipleship as holistic.

In prayer, I try to focus on what kind of presence I’m bringing to others as they’re processing their life. So, an example of that might be, Wow, this person’s story has a lot of family rejection and church rejection. What do I do with that? Am I broken by that? What is my responsibility to them and to my church?

Or, I remember when the Pulse nightclub massacre happened, I told God, I feel really numb and apathetic. Can you break my heart over these lost lives? It could also be something like, I feel envy toward a friend who is in a romantic relationship. Now what? Or, I had a friend who came out to me as nonbinary, and in my private time of prayer I confessed to God that I felt a lot of discomfort and fear around that. I asked, God, how do you want to humble me and transform me through knowing this fellow image-bearer who has this story?

When I focus on my own process in prayer, it gives others space to mature in their own process with God and in their prayer life. Hopefully they find in me a relationship that isn’t distracting them from dependence on God but is actually giving them space to do that. And hopefully I am also modeling that. At the end of the day, God’s work through my evangelism and discipleship is going to be a reflection of the level of honesty that I bring into my personal times of prayer.

What lessons could other Christians learn about a life of prayer and discipleship from fellow believers who experience same-sex attraction?

When your lived experience of relationships is complicated, and the extent to which you’re known and loved always seems to hit a ceiling, what draws you to lean into prayer? The LGBTQ and same-sex-attracted believers I know who are thriving are those who have come to know prayer as a sanctuary of tender intimacy with Christ. What their souls have found is not another accountability group, method of behavior management, or a spiritual inventory; they’ve uncovered a secret haven of familiar embrace.

Yes, prayer can be powerful to help sort out circumstances, temptations, and conflicts, but that happens not through an intellectual exchange but through a tangible expression of intimacy with God.

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Intimacy is tricky for LGBTQ or same-sex-attracted believers. With the relationships they’re most naturally drawn to, the caution is to be careful or stay away. And in community, they constantly have their guard up, assessing who is safe to share their lives with and who they can trust. But with Jesus, there is pure and simple rest.

We can’t ever get “too close” to Jesus. We cannot be betrayed by him. We can’t be exiled from him for expressing ourselves too strongly or too honestly. Burdens like loneliness, temptation, and rejection become movable mountains—anthills, even—when you’re unencumbered in the arms of Jesus. I hope for my opposite-sex-attracted siblings in Christ to unearth this same intimacy with Jesus through prayer.

If the Lord said, “Meg, I will grant you that the church can be different in one way within ten years,” what would you ask for?

I would want to see the church stop trying to have the conversation about sexuality at this very high, public level that’s on the internet, that’s very politically tainted and divided, and instead bring that down into addressing sexuality on the level of my neighbor, my family member, my peer—no matter what other people think of me diving into that relationship.

That’s exactly what prayer helps us do. When we are distracted from prayer, we try to engage with everything in front of us—the opinions and voices and organizational positioning, and so on.

We need to get away from that and instead lean into this quiet place of prayer—this place where I’m living out my process, my relational engagement, and presence before the eyes of God who sees the motives of my heart.

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