Why We Suffer in Silence: Guest Post Series

Hello, lovelies.  It’s been quite a while since you’ve heard from me. I’ve been working on a couple of other projects (which I am eager to share with you soon). I’ve also been going through quite a rough time during the past few months. Perhaps I will be able to share more details in the near future. But I am so thankful for those of you who have sent messages to check on me. I deeply miss writing for you, and plan on returning for good in the coming weeks.

I continue to be thankful for people like Josha, who continue fiercely on their spiritual journey despite the conflicts that arise around them. Those of us in the LGBT community sometimes suffer in silence… especially those of us who desperately seek relationship with the Creator. Why? Because we must hide who we truly are. Many of us are told that we do not—and cannot—possibly love God if we are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.  Josha has been on quite the journey over the past few years, and I’m so thankful she’s open to sharing it with us.

-Mandy

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by Josha:

458794_72242887“Are you in pain?” Is the question a beautiful, tall, professionally dressed, concerned woman asked me, as if I were at the doctor’s office?

I was sitting in the waiting room, all alone at the car dealership, getting an oil change.

I looked up at this woman who had appeared in the light so suddenly with an unexpected question and my thoughts were, “Is she really talking to me? Where did she come from? Why is she asking me this? What just happened?”

I responded with, “No.”

She looked at me for a few seconds with a concerned face and then asked again. “Are you sure? Someone came to my office and said I should check on you because you looked like you were in pain.”

I tried to recall what was happening before this woman appeared. I was just sitting in the waiting area all alone, contemplating my life’s situation… and then I realized what might have happened. I looked up at her and lied, “Nope, I’m just fine.” I smiled a big, fake smile…her facial expression and pause indicated that she was not convinced with my answer as she said, “Okay” and walked away.

Who was this lady?
And what was my appearance like?
Did my internal angst come out in my physical posture and demeanor?

It was such a bizarre wake up call that I really was hurting. It was as if God was checking in on me and I flat out lied. Suppose this woman was God in the flesh with concern for my pain, this is what I would have shared:

YES! Yes, I’m in pain! I’m 36 years old and I’ve never even experienced a kiss. And I have deep desires to experience that kind of relationship. The problem is that I can only experience this with a woman which is not acceptable among most the people I know. I’m fully aware of my sexuality and feel trapped into keeping it hidden. It is painful. It makes friendships complicated. For the first time in my life I experienced mutual attraction and given an opportunity to kiss and I turned the opportunity down. As I began to get to know this person I was drawn to her more and more as we have so much in common and many of the same values. We find each other intriguing, we motivate each other, challenge each other, and we seem to always enjoy each other’s company.  I was definitely interested in exploring a dating relationship but with prayerful caution. I was holding back so much in the start of this interesting relationship. Extreme caution came from the reality that if I cross that line then I’m not to be in leadership role at church…the reality that some friends and family might be very disappointed in me…the reality that I could get very attached and then this end in brake up. I was being so careful and cautious as things were happening so fast and just when I was about ready to accept the challenges that pursuing a relationship might bring, she decided that a relationship with me is not what is best for her. This is fair, but this stings. And while I’m grateful she wants to remain friends, it is hard as I try to battle my desires and feelings while attempting to be a good friend.  Am I in pain? Yes.

I had good intentions in refusing a physical relationship but now there are moments in which I feel regret not taking the opportunity at that moment to share in a kiss, which is an element of humanity that is so normal and natural.

What kept me from indulging in this kiss? I turned it down multiple times because I was afraid of hurting her, I was afraid of getting hurt, I was afraid of hurting my church family, I was afraid of going down a path that would cause strain in my own family…. but not once was I afraid of hurting God for experiencing something that comes from God. My intensions were pure but I’m left feeling the pain of denying another and myself the experience of touch, of kissing.

Though painful at times, I am okay with how things have turned out. It seems as though we both taught each other something. While I might have taught this person something about boundaries, she has taught me something about the human touch and letting some boundaries go.

It feels like darkness to hinder the LGBTQ population from the joys of the same experiences that people who are heterosexual experience. Most Christians don’t frown upon opposite sex couples when they “make out” before marriage. On the positive side of the pain I’m currently undergoing I’m grateful to see a little bit more of the reality of how hurtful it is for the LGBTQ person to be placed in positions of less than equal standards.

I go to church and see heterosexual couples that have freedom to express their sexuality, sit together, hold hands, and share the experience of worshiping The Creator of love itself. And while people are naturally seeking to match up those who are heterosexual and single, I’m left with instructions to “be single,” “be celibate,” “don’t trust your feelings,” “don’t allow yourself intimate love,” “deny yourself the enjoyment of marriage.” This. Is. Painful.

So how do I cope? How do I continue to worship with this church family?

I’m not at church to be comforted. I don’t attend with the expectation to feel good. I am at this church because I love the people, I believe in the love of God, and I believe that God sent a powerful message of love through Jesus who’s spirit is alive and at work though all our relationships. I hold on to that belief, not depending on my feelings of pain or on my feelings of joy.

I find encouragement from the following thoughts; this is a summary of the book of Zephaniah by Eugene Peterson’s The Message:

“We humans keep looking for a religion that will give us access to God without having to bother with people. We want to go to God for comfort and inspiration when we are fed up with the men and women and children around us. We want God to give us an edge in the dog-eat dog competition of daily life.  This determination to get ourselves a religion that gives us an inside track with God, but leaves us free to deal with people however we like, is age-old. It is the sort of religion that has been promoted and marketed with both zeal and skill throughout human history. Business is always booming.It is also the sort of religion that the biblical prophets are determined to root out. They are dead set against it.Because the root of a solid spiritual life is embedded in a relationship between people and God, it is easy to develop the misunderstanding that my spiritual life is something personal between God and me – a private thing to be nurtured by prayers and singing, spiritual readings that comfort and inspire, and worship with like-minded friends. If we think this way for very long, we will assume that the way we treat the people we don’t like or who don’t like us has nothing to do with God.That’s when the prophet’s step in and interrupt us, insisting, ‘Everything you think, or feel, or do has to do with God. Every person you meet has to do with God.’ We live in a vast world of interconnectedness, and the connections have consequences, either in things or in people – and all the consequences come together in God.”

I show up in my friendship with this new “special friend,” though at times painful, because I love and believe in God. I show up at church where my sexuality is shamed, because I love and believe in God. I find peace in the midst of my hurtful and joyful emotions in relationship with people by knowing that God is present in our “interconnectedness.”

2 responses to “Why We Suffer in Silence: Guest Post Series

  1. Wow. I just read this post, and I gotta say, thank you, Josha, for sharing your heart. And please know you’re not alone in your pain. I am 39 and have struggled with SSA my whole life. My first crush was when I was 10, although I had no clue what I was experiencing at the time. It’s only been in the past 15 years that I finally figure out what was going on when I got in a relationship with another girl. I had dated several guys before, but it never felt “normal” like it did with this girl. For once, I wasn’t scared to go on a date or be nervous…it just felt “right”. I wanted to be with her all the time. I wasn’t checking my watch like I do with guys wondering when the night would be over, and I finally understood all those loves songs that I would hear on the radio. It was all starting to make sense. I have always been awkward around guys. I never knew why, or why my friends were dating and getting married, but it just never worked for me, but one day, it just made sense. But how could I ever tell someone I’m attracted to my own gender? Even now, I struggle…oh do I struggle, and I’m in pain every single day of my life because I wrestle with my faith…is it right, is it wrong? No one can give me a clear cut answer and I just end up ANGRY over it all. It’s just not fair being told I can’t have someone when like you said in your post, heterosexuals can express their sexuality freely. How would they feel if they were told they couldn’t have what THEY wanted? It’s just not fair and this pain is just agonizing. I did not choose to be this way, I don’t care what anyone tries to tell me, it was not my choice to like girls. It just happened, and I cannot make these feelings stop or go away. I have finally come out to several close friends, but most of them are “straight” (I HATE these labels), and they don’t truly get what I go through every single day like so many of us do walking this road. I long to spend my life with someone, but is it ok? I beat myself up many times for letting myself go too far and experiencing things that maybe I shouldn’t have in the past because I think it’s only made my pain and loneliness stronger. The desires I have to be in another relationship with a female just eat me up inside. If I hadn’t let myself do some of the things I’ve done, I wouldn’t actually know what it feels like, and maybe my longing wouldn’t be so strong. I don’t know. I’m rambling, but I just wanted to thank you for your post, and wow, how much I admire you for being so strong to not act on your feelings with your friend. I wish I had stopped some of the things in my past that I’ve done and maybe I wouldn’t hurt so much now. Thank you for being real and sharing your heart, and to Mandy…thank you for helping so many of us by just letting us be who we are without judgment.

  2. Even if you had not done some of what you have done in the past you would still have that longing and desire. My longing and desires are very strong despite my holding back. Just because I have kept to strict boundaries does not mean I’m any less sexual or have any less longings and desires. And I’m learning more and more that our longing and desires for another ARE NOT BAD. God put this in humanity. It is part of spirituality. It is part of learning more about God. And people who are attracted to the same gender ought not be denied this. People who are single and heterosexual also have this longing and desire and I believe that is our common ground. Just as they ought not be shamed for those feelings and emotions we too should be allowed to have those desires without feeling like we did something wrong, or are selfish, or are perverted, or whatever else people blame it on. And just because we wish to be with another does not mean our faith in God is weak. I find that not only despite my pains in regards to the situation, but partly as a result of my pains, I still live a very fulfilling life as I seek to honor God.

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