Reconciliation of faith and sexuality is a long and ongoing journey—one which I know many of you have experienced firsthand. When I finally admitted to myself that I was attracted to women, that struggle became my fixation. Growing up in a fundamentalist environment, I already knew all too well what was thought about (whisper) homosexuals. It was so bad that no one could bring themselves to talk about it from the pulpit or in youth group. It was the unspoken sin… that which shall not be named. So it’s no surprise that I kept quiet when I figured it out. If this is such a sin, then I know God can heal me. I just need to figure out how I can get Him to do that. After all, I don’t want this. I didn’t ask for this. I’ll just pray hard enough. Read my Bible enough. Meditate enough. Fast enough. Make enough promises.
Well, we all know how that worked out, don’t we?
But the fact is, changing my sexuality became my obsession. Whenever people mentioned the word “sin”, I immediately thought of my same-sex attraction. Ugh. I’m filthy. I’m so disgusting. God doesn’t want anything to do with me unless I change. God, help me change… I can’t do this without You! Whenever I felt especially worthless, I would refrain from wearing my Christian t-shirts, jewelry… even my college sweatshirts (I graduated from a very conservative Christian college in the Bible belt. What would they think? All of my old professors? My old friends?) It seems so silly now, but I honestly felt that way.
The years that followed college were tumultuous in terms of my self-image, identity, and self-confidence. Never once did I consider leaving my faith. Jesus was my life. I knew he loved me, but somehow I believe he despised me at the same time. When it came to a point where I could no longer deny that God hadn’t healed me yet, I began to pray. Fervently. I began asking the questions I was always too afraid to explore. (It’s a wonderful revelation when you find that God doesn’t condemn you for asking “why”.) The next six years led me down a path of rediscovery. I got to know God again. I read the Scriptures with fresh eyes. I began to study different translations, and began looking at cultural cues. My journey eventually brought me to a place I never expected, not in a million years. This whole time, God has heard my cries for healing, and He answered them! I got my healing… just not like I expected. I prayed to be straight. Instead, God changed my heart, and opened my eyes to the fact that He loves me just as I am! As you can imagine, this was a wonderful revelation, although not an easy one. That “thing” that defined sin for me was now considered a gift. What do I do with that? It didn’t take me long to see what God was trying to tell me:
I had been fixated on my sexuality for so long, I had ignored everything else. I had become obsessively focused on myself. I no longer made time to encourage others. I was not serving others. I was not the hands and feet of Christ. My true sins and failures were brought to the forefront: I was a gossip. At times I used my words to tear down and not to build up. I let anger consume me unnecessarily. I lacked compassion. I lacked kindness. In my quest to cure myself, I abandoned humanity.
In the same way, I’m convinced that Satan uses the debate about homosexuality and the Church to his advantage. We are distracted, obsessed with plowing our battle lines deeper and deeper into the ground. Meanwhile, people are starving, wars are raging, and hate is impending in virtually every facet of society. Instead of having our hearts broken over the world hunger crisis, we are worried about who is in love with whom. And that little light in the darkness begins to flicker and fade.
We, as a Church, will never agree on everything. But God is bigger than our biases. When it comes to discerning good from evil, light from dark… there is one thing that never fails: You will know the nature of a person by the fruit they bear. You can love or you can hate. You can be a healing presence to the world, or you can be a hurting presence. You can build up, or you can tear down.
As it turns out, being straight isn’t a prerequisite for extending God’s love to the world. If you ask me, that’s Good News.