On my journey I feel I have been convinced by the Holy Spirit that despite my orientation, a same sex relationship is not God’s best for me and that despite my leanings, stewardship of my sexuality His way leads to greater life and joy even when it involves suffering. Without this “convincing”, without this confidence in a person’s soul, without this faith, adherence to a sexual ethic is just white knuckled obedience at best – which I don’t believe is what God is after for us. So with this in mind, how will you compassionately engage LGBT people?
Resisting desires or stuffing them? As one who has continually dealt with the issue of same sex attraction, I have had to learn the fine balance of dealing rightly with the desires that bubble up from within. There is always a lot of talk about “denying who you are” and “being true to yourself”. I’ve wrestled with these things pretty extensively and have been forced to navigate through the murky, muddy waters that can often be confusing. I’ve also found that this is not uncommon to many believers – have you ever had thoughts and desires spring up and wish they would just go away; you’ve felt shame for even thinking about them and even more shame because you might actually act on them if given the opportunity? I’m guessing if you’re human, you have. [And if you haven’t, keep reading anyway! Maybe this will help some poor soul you encounter sometime ;-) ]
For many, resisting same-sex desires may sound a lot like pretending they don’t exist and stuffing them away. It may sound like trying to push them out of your awareness. However, if any of you have ever tried to push any strong desire out of your mind, you’ll likely agree that the desire only comes back very quickly and with much more force. No? This is like standing at the edge of the ocean and trying to push the waves back with your hands. Pretty frustrating from my experience!
But I believe there is a huge difference and a fine line between resisting these desires and trying to stuff them away. The difference is in your fundamental belief about the character of God. If you believe God is evaluating every thought and the moment you have a dirty one He is shocked, appalled, disgusted, disappointed and enraged, you will likely get worn out trying to “be good” for God. When the desire comes back with twice as much force you will feel twice as much shame. Pushing back the waves of an ocean with your hands is hard!
But if you believe that the moment you have that dirty thought that God is for you and is inviting you to Him, it makes all the difference. In the midst of the dirty thought, lustful motive, or intense desire God is making an appeal for you to “come unto me….”. This changes everything. If you believe that even in the mess God is not disgusted or surprised but He actually, truly loves you just as much as when your mind is free and clear, then the guilt and shame, I have found, dissolve. I could hang on to these (guilt and shame) of course, but why? Why do that when the righteous judge sees me as clean and delights in who I am despite what I think and feel? I believe what God would say to those of us who are trying to push back the waves with our feeble hands is, “Child…..Rest.”
When I hear those words, I’m suddenly free to take my hands off the waves and out of the water and lift them high. In the midst of desire I’m saying, “God you are bigger than all of this that I am standing in and you love me infinitely more.” I start to forget about the waves, although I may be aware that they are there. A particularly strong wave may come and make me stumble or maybe even knock me off my feet for a moment. But I get back up, lift my head, dig my feet in, and rest in the knowledge of His overarching sovereignty, unlimited grace, and perfect strength in the midst of weakness. I know that the stumble didn’t change His love for me.
What I love about God is that when I have sinful desires and thoughts, He invites me to talk to Him. I admit them to Him. “God, you see what is going on inside my head. It sounds good and calls my name. But that is no longer Lord of my life. YOU are Lord. And God I thank You that my faith in Your character at this moment is pleasing to You. And as I submit my thoughts and life to You, you make me free and keep me free.”
There’s no need to stuff desires. There’s no life in that when you do. There’s life in knowing that the perfect God of the Universe is not put off by my inclination toward depravity and rather delights when I choose instead to put on the character of His son and faith in His Word. The real reason I resist those desires is not so that I obey the rules and get a gold star on my chart. I resist those desires because I don’t want anything to be a barrier to the intimacy I have found in simply knowing Him.
So waves may have knocked me down in the past, and if I had my guess, I’m sure there will be more waves to come. But the waves aren’t the issue, neither are they the most powerful thing in my life. Although He certainly has the power to calm the waves or eliminate them altogether, this is not necessary for me to stand and praise Him. I can keep trying to push them back in my own strength or I can dive into the wave and let it sweep me away. I’ve decided instead to stand, resist, and focus on the One that is giving me the strength to do so.
Music for this post:
Having left the gay lifestyle over 8 years ago, I often look back and am amazed at how God has continuously worked miracle after miracle in my life. He has shown Himself incredibly faithful over and over again and it makes me excited to see what else God has in store. When I first started to tell my testimony, I was nervous, hesitant, and afraid of what people might think or how they might react. It was a very different feeling from being “out and proud”. How could I have been so bold and carefree as a gay man yet so unsure of myself as a new Christian? As I told my story, I assumed no one would really be able to relate to it. Maybe, by chance, God had orchestrated a divine appointment and someone struggling with homosexuality would be in the audience. Well, it would be worth it, I reasoned, even if there was only one. If I could provide hope to another person, it was worth me putting myself out there, dirty laundry and all. After all, God went after me, right? He left the 99 for the 1 – He does that often. It’s kind of His thing.
Sometimes no one, to my knowledge, was struggling with this issue. At least they never came up to me afterward and exclaimed they dealt with same-sex attraction too! Did I really expect that to happen? Pretty naïve I guess. Sometimes that did happen, but rarely. Maybe God was just showing that He could do anything with anyone He chose. Maybe it was an example that God was willing to do the impossible if people only gave Him the opportunity. Nothing is too hard for Him, right? Or maybe God just wanted to show a church culture that often disregarded Him that He was still alive and well. Or, maybe still, God knew that people were often bored with “church as usual” and, in order to keep people awake, a young man with an often unheard of testimony on a controversial issue involving sex was sure to keep people’s attention. I don’t know. The possibilities are endless, I guess.
Whatever the reason, I was giving my testimony – for the hundredth time – and realized that most of my issues really had nothing to do with homosexuality, or even sex for that matter. Although there were few struggling with homosexuality (to my knowledge), there were a multitude who were broken and in broken relationships. Many came up to me after I shared my story and expressed how grateful they were that I was open and honest about my life. Although they had never dealt with being gay, they admitted to feeling hopeless, lost, confused, lonely, tired, and frustrated in human relationships. Seeing me “get real” with God gave them hope that soon, mourning would give way to joy and faithfulness would lead to breakthrough.
I was often astounded (and sometimes a little confused) at how people would draw a link between my story and theirs and how they were encouraged despite us having nothing in common.
“Your story really helped me today”, someone would say.
“Oh, are you gay?”
“No, it just helped me with an issue in my marriage.”
Wait, what? My story was about me being gay. Wasn’t he listening? I always thought straight people never listened to me. This proved it. Actually, the more I gave my testimony, the more I realized that most everyone could relate to what I was saying. Weren’t we all in the same miserable boat of continuous sin and repetitive failure until Christ came? Aren’t there a number of things that people choose to stay “in the closet” about (I couldn’t resist) for fear of judgment? Don’t we all struggle to make Jesus Lord over every area of our lives? And do we not all resist the Perfect Love that gently nudges, draws, pokes, prods, and sometimes shoves us toward change so that we can be even freer? I find this is common, all too common in fact. These weren’t gay issues – they were fallen human ones.
Actually, most of my issues really involved me not loving my neighbor as myself. And to be fair, I didn’t love me or my neighbor. So God set me on a path, not to be straight but to follow Him. My goal wasn’t heterosexuality. My goal was, and is, Jesus. The more I love Him, the more I love me and those around me. The clearer I see who I am in His love, the clearer I see His love for you. I could go on, I’m sure.
I guess my point in all this is that sin is, well, sin. It can be ever increasing and all-pervading in our lives. But God’s love is that way too and where sin abounds, grace abounds more. The common denominator for all of us is that sin has wrecked and shattered us and no amount of self-righteous glue is going to put us back together. Brokenness comes in many forms, but Jesus is the great Mender. We’re more alike than we think, I guess.
Some music for this post: Watermark - "Mended"
This is a short testimony of why the founder of Walls Down left his gay life to follow Christ.