Beginning in 2007 I was in and out of relationships and flings with other believing girls who were either struggling with the same confusion or what are sometimes related issues like emotional dependence and/or promiscuity. Sometimes girls who don’t like girls will kiss you just because they want to. I don’t get that, but Katy Perry sang about it one time so evidently it’s true & presents its own unique set of problems….but anyways
All of these experiences both the intentional and the more impulsive would always begin because they felt right and would inevitably end because we were convicted at some strange soul level that they were wrong. I began to tip toe around what existed as somewhat of an ‘underground’ gay community and although conversations were held regularly amongst one another about what we all were respectively experiencing we did our best to maintain confidentiality.
This is a lot easier to do when you don’t play softball. I played softball (insert your lesbian stereotypes) and so inevitably my name was included in all the little gay whispers that floated through the hallways and bathrooms throughout my sophomore and junior years of high school.
What would come of this though was more than just the internal torment of wrestling with homosexuality but rather the anxiety associated with secrets, living a double life, with loneliness, with the idolatry of doing “what was right in my own sight.” I was broken and restless but I just couldn’t be honest about that.
I’d pray and pray (…and pray) but the gay just wouldn’t go away.
As anyone isolating themselves because of identity issues does I sought out Google and various online searches for solace. I spent hours upon hours upon days upon weeks on the internet looking for counsel, advice, insight, and/or instruction.
That was a mess. There are a number of reasons the internet is regularly referenced as a web and I am convinced it has less to do with connectivity and more to do with proverbial spiders and poison.
I did end up coming across a response on Yahoo answers that made reference to the concept of “channeling affections.” Up until that point the only channeling I knew about involved psychics, contacting the deceased, crystals, candles, and other creepy things so I was a bit skeptical….but I gave it read.
The blogger suggested that one could attempt to take what they felt for another human romantically and project that onto Christ. This seemed pretty holy, so for my entire senior year I made every effort I could to grow in this direction. I saw far more success (behavior wise) in this than that whole “just don’t act on it thing” but its functionality began to wane as I prepared to go to college.
I ended up attending school and playing on the women’s soccer team at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama. From day one of the religion courses I took… liberal theology began to reek havoc on my mind, especially in reference to what it meant to understand “self” and “human flourishing.”
So naturally my head opened and my heart wandered.
I got into a relatively inclusivistic line of thought and somehow this ended up in an almost entirely works-based concept of God? “Do good. Be good. & Get God.” That is a lot of cheesy alliteration but it seemed to fit what I thought I was looking for so I went with it and consequently was drawn to other’s who “went with it too.”
That is when I met her.
I hate pseudonyms so I’m not re-naming…but we’re going to call her “She.”
(…or She Who Must Not Be Named if you want to appreciate the Harry Potter allusion and can do that without assuming I fell in love with Voldermort.)
Now at 19 I wasn’t really sure what I believed about people “in love.” I’d known infatuation and emotional dependence but this was something entirely ‘other than.’ I had NO framework for what I began to experience that December but it was deep and soul-stirring. My heart was singing notes it had never sung before and all of a sudden every dumb sappy song I ever heard and Nicholas Sparks piece I had ever read made sense. She and I made sense.
Perplexing so though… I couldn’t shake the notion that this was outside of God’s design for intimate human relationship. Perplexing so even a part from conservative biblical community I had an overwhelming sensation that this was sin. Now I know that seems to stand as contradictory, you know…sacrificial, selfless, committed love and sin coexisting within the same situation…but that’s just how it was. Perhaps what this could go to say is that even though God is love…love is not God. In other words, love is not an end within itself and must be appropriated in order to be a part of His intended relational paradigm.
This became my world though. I did my best to live but some weird college freshman version of ‘situation ethics.’ As long as my lifestyle and decisions were oriented around what I decided on my own accord was “loving God” and “loving my neighbor” then all would be noble and right in my world. As evangelicals have long maintained though, when there is no absolute standard to gauge one’s system of morals on though… everything just gets really subjective and inconsistent.
I should be the first to admit though that the confusion and frustration that surmounts from subjectivity and inconsistency was almost worth what I found in my relationship with She.
I think in every heart of every human that has ever existed is a hunger to know total security, total affirmation, and total concern. We want to totally belong, to totally give ourselves to that something of which we belong, and to intimately know the affections of another no matter the lengths one must go to or the price that it will cost us. I believe God uniquely programmed this into our species to bring about His glorification and our complete enjoyment but it all just went wild and disordered post-Fall-of-Man. As a result we seek that essential human need in everything except God and after choosing those other things over and over and time and time again we kind of get “given over” to all those other things – “enslaved” to them one might say.
(If you’re singing Britney Spears circa 2001 in your head right now. Stop. That is not where I was trying to go.)
As much as I knew how to make up my mind at that point though, I’m telling you that I really did. There was nothing more I wanted than to make a real, fully-functioning, fully committed, absolutely monogamous, and self-sacrificing life with She.
BUT I SWEAR
God just wouldn’t let me. I could not go to church, listen to her lead worship music, read the Bible, or share the message of Jesus…or really have much to do with Jesus without being confronted by my inauthenticity. I was trying to hold my ideas of ‘the best design’ for my life and God’s historically established design for human life (although being contrary to one another…) in the same happy hug and that just made my insides really itchy. My devotion was divided and my skin was crawling.
I did EVERYTHING I could to subscribe to pro-gay theology but that was like trying to breath under water. I prayed for it to be true. I begged to be able to make sense of the gospel through this lens but it just wouldn’t fit.
By the end of my freshmen year something had to give. After a number of conversations, examinations of the four gospels, a few dozen articles (arguing from both sides..) podcasts, interviews, and sleepless nights of desperate prayer I began to come undone. I was overwhelmed with this idea that God had something different for my life, for She’s life…and I didn’t know what ‘different’ meant but just simply that we were being asked to
take this one risk.
So we broke up and my journey to openness, honesty, and transparency began.
I finally acknowledged that hiding was only suffocating me and If I didn’t vacate that dusty, dark, and damp closet I was going to explode.
I ended up serving at the same summer camp I had in the past and as camp goes I was exhausted regularly. I was exhausted but I had so much time to read Scripture, to be in short…but daily solitude, and to start from the foundation of Jesus’ most bare message. My heart was obviously wrecked over the course of that two months but I kept being pointed back to God’s attribute of “long-suffering.” I was reading about Christ’s forbearance with tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, the sexually immoral, and all the in-between too. I was moved by the kindness of God and sensed a warm invitation to turn from myself and be set free.
Set free from everything. From my pride, from my selfish autonomy, my bitterness, and all that anxiety I talked about from the secret life.
(Again, if you’re thinking ABC Family’s original series. Stop. That is also not where I was going either.)
I was just really sorry. Not lousy feeling, I got in trouble so I’m saying sorry, sorry. But sorry. Sorry for the attitude of my heart, for a state of mind which declared my own perspective ruler of all morality and choice, for the attitude of heart that traded soul-satisfaction for flesh-relief. The attitude of the heart that transferred my frustration with human limitation to anger with God….I learned that summer in very profound way that the goodness of God is entirely reflective of His character and not really of our own “noble” behavior.