Category: This is Central

That’s Me in the Closet: A Spiritual Memoir

Central Seminary counseling student Steven Andrews recently released a book, “That’s Me in the Closet: A Spiritual Memoir.” The book is a childhood story of trauma, healing, foster care, queer identity, fourth-grade atheism, and a college conversion to Christianity. Anna Carter Florence, professor of preaching at Columbia Seminary, calls it a “groundbreaking book” that “refreshes and remixes” the genre of spiritual autobiography “for a new generation” while telling a “faith-and-life story with unforgettable power, honesty, beauty, and courage.” Steve is a Presbyterian Church (USA) pastor in the Kansas City area pursuing counseling as a new way to do ministry.

The following is an excerpt from the book–

What I wanted, more than anything, was a book. Books had been with me every step of the way until now. Here, on the bottom floor of my college library, in a quiet, secluded corner, I should have been able to find a book.

By fourth grade, I was a committed atheist. In middle school and high school, I was an anti-religious evangelist­—and all that was in the early 90s, before it was cool. However, toward the end of high school and the beginning of college, as the old millennium was fading and the new was emerging, I had been slowly converted from atheism, to agnosticism, to ‘spiritual but not religious,’ and a book was always there to help me jump from one metaphysical lily pad to another.

Now, it is deep into the fall of sophomore year. The Indiana air is crisp on your skin. The leaves crunch beneath your boots. I am hunkered down inside for a night of study. I have been dating an evangelical Christian, Dani, and even through the fog of hormones that cloud my sophomoric mind, I am on the verge of another leap of faith: ready to believe in a Christian God and accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I wanted a book. I needed something clear. Something rational. Something that could provide intellectual cover. How could I, of all people, become, of all things, a Christian? The very thought arose in defiance of everything I held rational and holy.

At that moment, I thought about Dani and all the things that led me here—all the twists of fate that brought me to this strange, all-male college; to the fraternity I reluctantly joined; to the young men who helped me meet the young woman who evangelized me. It had been quite a journey to this library, to this moment. It all felt like too much.

I thought about the journey to the books that thawed my atheism—The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama, and The Perennial Philosophy by Aldous Huxley—and how, through them, I embraced a spiritual vision of the world and an inchoate vision of God. I thought about the Christians I had met who helped me see that there was some good in this faith, that you could be an intelligent person and a person of faith, and that religion could help people become better versions of themselves. Through them, I came to grudgingly admit that faith could, in a limited way, be a force for good in the world.

Most of all, overshadowing the books and the people, there were those twists of fate that shaped my path. All the relationships that didn’t work out the way I’d hoped, clearing the way for Dani. The crushed academic aspirations and disappointed literary expectations that led to a college that was better for me than I could have dreamed.

I didn’t expect to be here, on the cusp of a faith I never wanted, but somehow, it all made sense. It was like the larger hand of an author was guiding the story and had arranged the twists of fate that were, in fact, neither twists nor fate.

In the end, I didn’t need a book. My life was a book. The direction it had taken was evidence of the author of the story, and I was now ready to get to know that author. I thought to myself, using the language of the evangelical church I’d been attending, I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.

For all the things that led to that moment, I cry and curse and thank God.

For all the things that followed from that moment, I do the same.

I am queer. I use the label ‘bisexual.’ I was a foster child. I survived childhood trauma and am in the process of healing from that trauma, but the healing is never complete, and the scars remain visible. I am strange looking. A bit on the small side, with thick, reddish lips and eyes shaped differently from each other.

Above all else, or perhaps because of all else, I am weird. I have been an odd duck in every context I have ever been in, from schools to families to churches to cocktail parties. I am an odd person, and I want to help other people, and all the Christians in the world, embrace their inner oddness.