“…it didn’t just ‘get better’ for them. They made it better. Each and everyone of those people rose at a moment in their lives – one that is very much like this moment in your life, suffocated- and at that moment they chose to tell the truth about themselves instead of staying “safe inside the lie.” They realized that, in fact, the lie wasn’t safe. That it threatened their (and so many others’) existence more profoundly than the truth did. That’s when it started to get better for these folks. When they had the courage to say , ‘this is who I am even if you’ll crucify me for it.” – Cheryl Strayed
What accepting my orientation has meant for me as a fully-integrated person has been so much more than “embracing feelings and pursuing attraction.” Understanding the complexity of one’s identity is in all liklihood a life-long process but I do not believe one can actually enter into that process until they can say “I am what I am” without fear.
I ran from myself for a long time because that kind of denial seemed to make sense within the cross-bearing paradigm Jesus describes in this life of following Him. I thought I could think, pray, date men, and work myself into desiring hetero-normativity. I thought I could think, pray, date men, and work myself into connectivity that models the biblical picture of covenantal love between a man and a woman. When I realized that my experience was suggesting otherwise my objectives changed and I went back to the Bible and wise council. I dismissed reorientation and lived out of white-knuckled obedience and this kind of ‘thorn-in-the-flesh’ celibacy. I did my best to maintain the notion that because life was absolutely possible without ‘homosexual behavior’ that there was in fact abundant life to be found in singleness. I thought by this measure surely I could delight myself in Christ and Christ alone and grow out of the incessant heartache and emotional paralysis that is born of believing that this one part of my personality was so beyond the scope of redemption that it needed to be suppressed in totality. I believed that in my “healing” looking like “holiness” I would live above the part of being made in the Image of God (the soul-craving for companionship and intimate camaraderie) that biblically served as His most fundamental metaphor for His love and communion with me and the rest of humanity. When I realized my experiences were suggesting otherwise my objectives changed and I went back to the Bible and to wise council.
As my understanding of both the Scriptures and human sexuality expanded so did my need to suspend my Conservative Fundamentalism on sexual ethics. It wasn’t that I became stimulated by “liberation” or “revolution” so much as I felt pain-stakingly sure that the love of which was natural to me was no more in need of being restored than if my affections were for men. It occurred to me that perhaps being reborn and yet persisting in attraction to women was about so much more than my own journey. This was about reformation. This was about providing a voice within the Church and within public discourse about the horrifying discrimination that well-intentioned Believer’s are fostering in the name of what they perceive to be God’s Kingdom.
You see, what I learned in Bible college about the Early Church within the New Testament text was that the whole Body was responsible for bringing whatever they had- whoever they were – to mutually encourage one another and BUILD UP, not tear down the Church. That being said, the Church should then in theory express the whole range of God’s created order of what it means to have a sexuality which (arguably so) includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and straight people. This in a lot of ways is why Evangelicals formally fought so hard to suggest that homosexuality was entirely a matter of environmental factors…and in so could be cognitively behaviorally changed. It works for safe thinking because it doesn’t challenge the categories we have for what is a Christian and what isn’t a Christian – it doesn’t force us to dig deeper into the author’s intentions for our holy book – If we are told in church that “hermeneutically its just really sloppy and irresponsible to believe that Paul was talking about anything besides gay and lesbian orientation in these passages” then we don’t have to put the hours into personal study, meditation, prayer, research, bullets of sweat or sleepless nights of being baffled by the idea that God would craft in us something special and mysterious just for it to never be understood, or explored, or to find Him in the midst of.
But this ceased to be an option for me. I had to be more honest, I had to be more sincere, I had to really search, and I had to reach. Not for the sake of defending what I was becoming convinced of…but because I needed a way to describe what I was becoming convinced of.
It has come to my attention that the general populous of the faith communities I have long been a part of disagree with these developments of belief and life. Because of this my non-gay affirming friends have pulled me aside to encourage me of how much I’ve been deceived and reminded me how accessible (and necessary) repentance is. Because of this then my gay-affirming friends have suggested that I distance myself from such “insidious oppression” and the various sociological factors (like the institutional church and aforementioned well-intentioned Christians) that have incited such “confusion and pain…”
And I get that, but the fact is that love, life, and faith are messy… People are far better and far worse than the groups or ideologies that they choose to identify themselves with…and the life that I believe Jesus called me into at the ripe ‘ole age of 14 was one that insisted “I must be who I am even if they crucify me for it” on either side of the debate.