What did I learn?
Even after I experienced healing from my same-sex attraction, I still struggled with how to view homosexuality. While I did believe that homosexual relationships were not God’s plan, much of the research I did while learning about homosexuality broke my heart. So many gays and lesbians have received ostracizing, virulent hatred, and disownment by family and community just because of their homosexual attractions. Some of the worst hatred has come from so-called Christians.
Many gays and lesbians feel as I did. Being gay is not something they chose. It was simply “there,” and they had to deal with it. Some, raised with the message that homosexuality is a sin, wrote with anguish of desperate prayers to God for years that He would remove their homosexual attractions and nothing changed. They didn’t want to feel this way; after all, being heterosexual is generally a whole lot easier!
So, even though I did not believe that gay and lesbian relationships were a part of God’s plan, I didn’t know what to think or say or how to put it into words. To condemn someone who struggles with homosexuality as a sinner was definitely too harsh. After all, I was there. I was a Christian. I knew I was saved; I knew I was God’s child. But, I had homosexual attractions! I was proof the two sometimes co-exist. The struggle is so hard, so real, and so painful, and there are so few safe places to go with that struggle within Christianity, especially the more conservative parts of Christendom.
I heard the pain of the gay, the lesbian, and the bisexual. Even more, I know. I lived it. I was there. It’s really, really hard. Because the message against homosexuality can be so virulent in conservative Christian circles, someone who experiences homosexual attractions can believe that God must hate them too. Just as I did for a while, they don’t let God into the pain and struggle with them, believing the lie that God is not the softest place for them to land in their pain.
Eventually, I talked it over with my counselor, and she helped me to greater understanding. Her words got me thinking. Below are some of her words of wisdom mixed with my understanding of my own experience and God’s truth as He worked it out in me. Take it or leave it, but know that I write what I do with great compassion and great longing to defend truth.
Is homosexuality inborn?
Possibly. Partly. As I mentioned earlier in this series, science still hasn’t proven a cause. My counselor explained it this way. Is alcoholism inborn? No, not directly. However, studies show that some people are more prone to be addicted to alcohol. If your parent is an alcoholic, it is more likely you will be also. Part of that may be a genetic predisposition to addiction. Part of it is nurture: what you learned from your parents. Because of their predisposition to alcohol, some Christians might struggle with alcoholism all their lives, sometimes living years sober, other times needing to go to rehab.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t Christians. It doesn’t mean they aren’t saved. It simply means they have a weakness they must guard against. It means the devil has one special way he uses to trip them up. If sometimes they don’t maintain their sobriety and need to enter rehab, it doesn’t mean they have lost their salvation. After all, it’s not our “stuff” that determines our Christianity. Our faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us determines our Christianity.. All the “stuff” that we accumulate due to sin and evil doesn’t magically disappear at conversion. Instead, God works that out in us as time goes on. I’m living proof that a person can be a Christian for years with lots of “stuff” that still needs worked out! God will be working out my “stuff” and His truth in my life until I reach glory! That’s true for all of us.
This explanation made perfect sense to me, partly because I have a predisposition to addictions myself. Not alcohol or drugs, per se, but simply the excessive use of something that allows me to escape reality. My mom used fantasy and shopping. My dad was a workaholic. I used media (books, TV shows, and movies) for years. In my case, it may partly be genetic or simply be what I learned from my parents. Regardless, I’ve struggled with it as long as I know anything, so I may as well say I was born with it.
I don’t have an internet connection at my house because nonstop videos at my fingertips is too much of a temptation. I’m very careful to stop using pain medication the instant I can because it’s all too easy to disappear into a drug to escape life. I’ve made a choice to not drink alcohol, knowing what a pull addictions have for me.
The same can be said of someone who has homosexual attractions. Is it genetic? Is it nurture/environment? Is it simply the result of living in a fallen world and having a sin nature? Has the devil gotten a foothold in their lives? Is the cause lies that person believes (as it was in mine)? It could be any of these or none of these. Does it mean that person is any less a Christian? Absolutely not!
Someone who experiences homosexual attractions is little different than a man who is tempted to lust after a woman or an alcoholic who is tempted to drink to insensibility. Both are something we need to make choices about. Simply having the homosexual attractions is not wrong. As Christians, we can feel many things or be tempted to many things, that, if acted upon, would be wrong. Simply experiencing it in the first place is not wrong. It’s what we choose to do with it that matters. So, “being gay” as in “being attracted to the same sex” is not a sin. Acting on it would be.
In my case, though I do believe God healed me of my same-sex attraction, I’m now more careful in my female friendships. Knowing that too intense of emotional attachments can be a problem for me, I’ve put a guard up in my friendships with other women, sometimes checking my heart to make sure my friendships are God-honoring. Because of my experiences in life, same-sex relationships have a pull for me that others may not experience. Am I less of a Christian for it? Definitely not!
Can we trust God to work out His truth in people?
My counselor told me this: “We aren’t here to make people heterosexual. We are here to help people towards greater holiness and relationship with God. It’s up to God to sort out His truth in their lives.” How exactly right she is! I didn’t focus on changing my sexuality. I focused on learning God’s truth, whatever it was, and He eventually worked out His will and His truth in my heart.
So-called conversion therapy and the “ex-gay” movement focused on turning people from homosexuality to heterosexuality. It didn’t work and caused untold pain to hundreds, maybe thousands, of gays and lesbians. Most of the practices of so-called conversion therapy are outright abuse. No amount of “forcing” someone to “be straight” will change them. If there is changing to be done, God is the one who will do the changing, not us.
Is everyone healed from same-sex attraction?
No. Not every Christian has my experience of same-sex attraction disappearing and healing occurring so completely. Some Christians struggle with same-sex attractions all their lives. Some choose not to get married because they feel they couldn’t marry someone of the opposite gender and truly love them. Some choose to get married to an opposite sex partner and yet be honest with themselves and their partner about their struggles. And yet, all of them are a part of God’s family and live out truth and fill a unique role in His church.
Too often, marriage is upheld as the do all and be all, the ultimate status to be achieved. If you aren’t married, some people will pity you and constantly try to match you up with someone. Some may even think singles are not worth as much as married folks or do not have as much to contribute. How far from the truth that is! If we do not get married here on earth, in the end, we do not miss out. Earthly marriage is simply a tiny taste of the heavenly marriage coming between Christ and His bride, the church. After all, Jesus told us that there is no earthly marriage in heaven. Moreover, I am living proof that life as a single can be absolutely amazing with beautiful, fulfilling relationships! Conversely, my parents are living proof that life in a marriage can be akin to hell.
What do we need most?
We need compassion. If there is anything this journey taught me, it taught me that. I can never, ever employ hateful language toward the gay and transgender community. I can never condemn someone who struggles with homosexuality. I will not even judge other Christians who believe differently than I do about homosexuality. Some gay and lesbian Christians interpret Scripture differently and believe God blesses monogamous, homosexual marriages. Though I do not agree, I deeply respect them. The pain has been too real for me to ever stand afar off and judge the hurting and struggling among us. I hope to be, as God is, a soft place for them to land.
One thing I say a lot in the first posts in this series is the idea that my concept of sexuality was messed up and that I needed God to fix my mess. I hesitated to write it that way, as the shame heaped upon those with homosexual attractions has been intense over the years, to say the least. The messages so often have been “You are worthless; You are dirty; You are evil;” or the worst one, “You are an abomination.” (I shudder to even put it in print!) All of those are sooo not true! Whenever I hear something like that, I get really, really angry.
In my case, sexual abuse screwed up my concept of sexuality. That is not the case for everyone who experiences same-sex attractions. Yes, some may be able to point to happenings in their life and realize, “Perhaps I’m attracted to the same sex because ________” and then need to unwind that with God. Others may simply experience homosexual attractions without knowing why, as it’s just always been there. While I do believe that acting on homosexual attractions in a gay or lesbian relationship is not God’s plan for His children, I also never want to add to the shame so many already feel for struggling with something that is so “taboo.”