Trying to live love well through the power of the Everlasting.
Recently I was out shopping with my brother. Currently, he doesn’t hold to the Christian faith as expressed by myself, my family, and our community. We walked down the aisle in the grocery store, looking for tea. Well, I was looking for tea. He was just along for the ride. As we approached the tea section, it became clear that the rather attractive young man at the end of the aisle was also browsing through the tea section. The Earl Grey was on the other side of him, necessitating that I excuse myself as I reached in front of him to grab a box. I glanced at him and certainly appreciated being in close proximity to such a ruggedly handsome man, but really that was the extent of my thoughts on the guy.
Not so for my brother. Once out of earshot, we began a (to my mind) hilarious conversation regarding the possible sexuality of the Tea Guy, the assumption that even if he was gay then I would somehow get involved with him, and the confusion over whether my gayness trumped my spirituality or my spirituality trumped my gayness. Finally, reaching the electronics section, our conversation turned to discussing which of the $5 DVDs we should consider buying, and the night went on as normal from there.
That night, in the middle of the movie we were seeing in the theatre, the reason for that conversation hit me square in the face. My brother was confused. He wasn’t sure what or who I really was at the end of the day. When life happened, like bumping into a cute guy in the supermarket, who was I? How did I behave? What guided my thoughts and actions? When all the talk and fronts were stripped away, just who was his brother? He didn’t know.
I realized in that instant that it wasn’t just my brother that was unsure. My entire family, indeed probably my entire community, is right there with him. And honestly, that’s not their fault. It’s mine. I go so far out of my way to accomodate every situation and every person that I have failed to live authentically as myself and who I believe the Living God has created me to be. In the name of loving others well by trying not to rock the boat, I have failed them all, and my Heavenly Father, by subscribing again to a system of living in a way that does not reflect my authenticity.
And suddenly I wondered how many other gay Christians there are out there, walking on eggshells constantly in an effort to not rock the boat and thus feeding a culture of confusion and insecurity. Because honestly, how can I ever hope to show my community, over time, that the fruits of my life as a gay Christian are good fruits that please our Heavenly Father when I’m never living up to the call of who I believe our Heavenly Father has made me to be? In a way, I’ve silently acknowledged a sense of shame associated with my sexuality by living this way. The message I’ve been sending to all who know me is that my authenticity with my Creator is subject to their veto. That is false.
Called to love them well and serve them? Absolutely. At the cost of my authenticity? Becoming something that is less than the Spirit tells me to be because it’s easier for a brother or sister to deal with? No way. I’ve been so obsessed over not offending those who don’t eat meat that I’ve painted both sides into a corner where we’re starving. I’ve been putting my life on hold indefinitely, never challenging the milk drinker to move on to more solid foods, all the while depriving myself of meat. I’ve capped growth for us both. Well, no more. Not that I’m going to callously inject my sexuality without pause or thought, not at all. The Romans passage on offending brothers and sisters holds true; there are times and places to know when to be silent in order to love well. But I’ve adopted a routine of always being silent. That’s what I mean when I say no more. There will be times to be silent, but there will be times to speak up. Times to hold my tongue, and times to live out loud and proud.
This thought has only occured to me just now as I punch it out on the keyboard, but perhaps where iron sharpens iron is where our authenticity clashes with that of our brothers and sisters. Where the core of who we are with the Everlasting clashes with who the core of another is with the Everlasting. Perhaps that’s when we really learn to love as Christ loved, and to give grace. I mean because really, I believe in a God that’s big enough to handle those situations. Big enough to eventually show us where we’ve been wrong, right, and right but wrongly. And the whole mess of a process along the way is called life together. Community. Submitting to one another in love.
When my father and I clash over our beliefs of the death penalty, I believe that we are iron sharpening iron. I adamantly hold to the belief that it is fundamentally against the Kingdom of Heaven to take a life. My father fundamentally believes in the justice of God. Yet at the end of the day, we each can allow for the other’s beliefs to still be covered by the wide and ever-patient reach of God. Even though I believe that one day my father will come to see my point of view, and my father believes that one day I’ll see he is right, we extend grace enough to agree that God has got the situation in both of our hearts. We’re doing just fine.
I trust God with that situation. Now why can I not trust him in the same way with the daily living out of my sexuality? The answer is that I can, but I’m scared. Scared that he won’t prove trustworthy this time. Which is why I know that I have to. Because he is completely trustworthy, even if it doesn’t seem to be working out so well at first.
So taking a breath and praying that God is still trustworthy, I think it’s time to own up to the fusion of my sexuality and spirituality. The issues I’ve been avoiding in the name of love and harmony I now must live out, even if it rocks the boat. I’m trusting that God’s got my back in this, even if time and the Spirit reveal to me that I’m currently wrong. (I don’t think that, obviously, but I think you know what I mean there.)
So here’s what being gay and Christian is to me. Well, at least in part.
I believe that God created me to be a guy that is attracted to other guys. I believe that in exactly the same way that my heterosexual brothers can innocently be attracted to a girl at a supermarket, I can innocently be attracted to Tea Guy. I believe that hooking up with Tea Guy would be wrong and thus I will not do that. I believe that asking Tea Guy out for casual dating does not jive with the deeper heart for a potential relationship submitted to Christ. Because asking Tea Guy out implies something that is more than a friendship from the start, and that’s not okay with how I want to live out this life. And because striking up a friendship with someone that I find attractive isn’t really about a friendship, not on my end. Yes, at the end of the day, my sexuality is submitted to my spirituality in a holistic way that I believe resonates with the Spirit of the Living God.
I believe that one day something will happen with a man who loves the Lord God with his whole heart, soul, and mind. I believe that somehow, somewhere along the way we’ll understand that what we’re about to embark upon is more than just grabbing coffee. I believe that somehow, in some way that isn’t clear to me yet, we’ll date in a way that honors and respects the gospel of Jesus Christ in the same way it honors and respects the brothers and sisters in our communities. Ideally, one day he and I will make sacred vows to one another and our Creator in a marriage covenant. But if not, then we’ll break up. Just like everyone else. And if that happens, then I’ll meet someone else.
I believe that doing so, living authentically, will probably rock the boat pretty hard, but that ultimately God is big enough to handle that. I believe that love – the love of God – will win out over all the clashing of differing viewpoints and convicitons that will erupt from this happening. And when I say love, I mean God’s love. The love that’s painted out here:
And yet I will show you the most excellent way.
If I speak in human or angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship, that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I though like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the things of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.
I don’t believe that any aspect of living this out is a sin. I do not believe that living and loving well within a committed, monogamous, Christ-centered homosexual relationship is something that will grieve the Spirit, if ever that happens for me. I don’t believe that living and loving well as a single, Christ-focused gay man grieves the Spirit any more than living and loving well as a single, Christ-focused straight man does. Quite simply, I think that the only thing that the Heavenly Father is looking for in my sexuality is me submitting it to Him entirely. And I believe whole-heartedly that my sexuality is currently submitted to Christ, and is entirely pleasing to the Father as it is right now.
I get that you might disagree. That’s a conversation for another day.
Today was about providing clarity to myself, my brother, and my community about who I am in the grocery aisle when all the cards are down. Who I am, really, as a gay Christian.