Throughout my post-gay experience, I have wrestled with the correlation between orientation (my attraction, desire and draw to other women) and identity in relationship to my faith. I also believe it is one of the hardest and most important issues for “gay identified Christians” and Christians who struggle with same sex attractions (SSA) to come to terms with. I understand the struggle and know the depth of pain and frustration one can face with this issue. The conflict is emotional, mental, and spiritual. It requires courage, patience and making hard choices. This journey will require navigating the muddy waters of faith and sexuality to reach a point of resolve about one’s sexuality and beliefs.
In my last post I stated that orientation in its rawest form is attractions, desires or a draw to other people and/or things. Webster’s dictionary defines it as a person’s feelings, interests, and beliefs: a main interest, quality, or goal. For numerous years I strongly believed my attractions were the defining components of my personality and identity. Within a year of conversion to Christianity, I began to wrestle with the possibility that sexuality and sexual attractions were not primary factors of one’s personhood/identity. Webster’s definition of orientation implies that orientation is fluid in nature and can change throughout the course of a lifetime. Think about the elements listed in the definition: Feelings, Interests, and Beliefs. These things change frequently in our lives. It is reasonable to think that these characteristics are subjective and fluid.
That’s a far cry from the idea that a person is “born this way” which implies an idea that is objective and unchanging. It felt like a sucker punch deep down inside of me every time the thought came into my head, that orientation was not identity. I was more than my sexuality At the same time, I was challenged by verses like this:
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT
Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like Him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free (lesbian). Christ is all that matters, and He lives in all of us. Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Colossians 3:10-12 NLT (emphasis mine)
This was a radical concept to think God wanted me to become a new person from the inside out. One whose primary identity was found in becoming like Him. For me it implied the Christian life was less about my sexual orientation and more about my character and motivation for living. Was it possible that discovering freedom came from setting aside who I was and what I wanted?
In her book “Dwelling in the Land” author Jeanette Howard says, “I am often asked if I am free from homosexuality, but I think it begs the bigger question “what is freedom?” I believe freedom is not necessarily the lack of desire for something or someone, it is the absence of compulsion: freedom is the introduction of choice.”
This has been true for me as well. Over the course of time, I realized I may not have a choice about my attractions and desires; but I do have a choice to follow the central mandates of Jesus found in Matthew 16:24-26, Luke 9: 23-25 and Mark 8:34-37.
Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice (self-denial) is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for? Mark 8:34-37 the Message (emphasis mine)
For me Jesus’ mandate meant surrendering my sexuality, attractions, and desires and pursuing sexual purity and honoring his intended purpose for my life. At this point in my post gay experience I can say this about my sexual orientation; what once propelled me into relationships with other women and could be likened to loud blaring music, the only thing present when I entered a room, is now more like white noise; still present, but only remotely in the background.
For my Christian readers who struggle with SSA and “gay identified Christians”, may I ask, what will you do with Jesus’ mandate in terms of, your sexuality or sexual identity?
Thanks for following my journey,