The Curse

I’m pretty sure that just about everyone who is or has for any length of time been attracted to their own sex has thought of it at least once as a curse.  For the first several years after I realized I was exclusively attracted to men, I thought it was pretty much the worst thing that could happen to me.  I looked at my friends, my family, my church leaders and thought, “What could they be dealing with that is half has painful and  hopeless as this?”  Other times, I found myself somewhat proud of it because I thought that God must think that I had some deep inner strength to have laid such a difficult test in front of me.

While it was hard coming to the realization of what I was feeling and struggling with the fear and the shame of it as a young teen, I still had so much hope that God would rescue me from it.  I looked at it as some kind of loyalty test and if I just trusted Him and was faithful, that He would make it all go away.  Part of me thought that I could fix myself through sheer strength of will.  Wherever I was at, though, I never followed the train of thought that would lead me to think about what my future would be like if I was never freed from these bonds.

As I became a young adult, I began to realize that my attractions might never change, but I told myself that didn’t matter.  If it was in God’s will, I would find a woman to marry and it would all work out somehow.  However, with each passing year, it looked less and less likely.  The time in my mid twenties was probably the bleakest in this sense because I had lost almost all hope in the future I had dreamed of.  I tried to imagine that I could live a happy single celibate life, but the more I thought about it, the less it seemed possible.  Too many nights alone, too many deep thoughts and feelings left unverbalized, not nearly enough hugs and cuddling (Side note: I think the last time I cuddled with someone was probably with my mom and long enough ago that I can’t really recall it with any clarity.  This action that so many people take for granted is something I look at with mixed feelings of longing and a curiosity for something that feels a bit alien to me).

However, very recently, I feel like I’ve begun to come out the other side.  I still doubt that I will ever marry, but it no longer feels like a death sentence.  I also still have doubts that I’ll develop deep lasting friendships that will endure for even significant portions of my life, but I understand that I can make it without that.  I’m filled with an unnamed hope in something I can’t see or even really imagine, but I’m excited to see what lies ahead and I believe that God will provide who and what it will take to get me there.

Conversion Therapy

Conversion therapy is one of the primary ways many Christians struggling with same sex attractions attempt to change their undesired orientation.  Had I been open and honest with my friends and family about my struggles earlier in life and began exploring the questions that have only recently presented themselves to me, I imagine I would have likely attempted conversion therapy or at least seriously considered it.  However, my first real exposure to it was in college when I first saw the movie Saved.  In the movie, the main character’s boy friend is found to be attracted to other men and sent to the fictional Mercy House where they “deal with all kinds of problems, like drug addiction and alcoholism to de-gayification and unwed mothers.”  This farcical view of conversion therapy where the movie subtlety points out the humor of placing young men struggling with these issues in a private room together gave me a fairly negative view of this method.  Not that I didn’t have the same end goal, but deep down, I really didn’t think that God would allow me to suffer this type of temptation only to have it to be removed by a 12 step program (here I may be showing my ignorance of the actual processes involved in this therapy as I must admit I am not familiar with the standard methods).

The more I prayed and begged God to remove these sinful desires, the more hopeless I became when it didn’t work.  I thought maybe I just had to say the right words or ask in the right way with my body in the proper posture.  I eventually became convinced by sermons given in my youth group that sin’s power over me would be broken by confessing my sins out loud to a brother in Christ.  Due to my fear and self-loathing, it took years of agonizing over this thought before I was finally able to vocalize my struggles and, while this did significantly decrease my burden and relieve much of my loneliness, the desires remained as strong as ever.  I began to realize that if it was in God’s plan for me to reorient myself to being attracted to women, it would happen in His time and that all I had to do was to devote myself to Him and live the best life I could.  I began to identify with Paul and his “thorn in the flesh” which he prayed to be taken from him, but to no avail.  While I would never try to make a case for Paul struggling with homosexuality, it is encouraging to imagine the possibility of such an inspirational biblical figure having once walked the path I now find myself on.

Instead of praying for God to remove these desires and take this cup from me, I now pray that His will would be manifest in my life and that I would follow the path He has planned for me, but that doesn’t stop me from slipping in the occasional prayer that, if it could maybe possibly fit into the plan, that I find a wife to grow old with.

What it Means to be a Man

When I was in high school, the book Wild at Heart came out and everyone started reading it and recommending it to me.  I’d never really been interested in those types of books and this one sounded especially uninteresting to me so I didn’t bother.  Eventually, someone gave me a copy as a gift so I decided to give it a shot.  If you’ve never read it, the author asserts that God created men with a deep longing for adventure, risk, passion and that most Christian men aren’t living in a way that allows them to fulfill these desires.  I immediately began to dislike the book and the claims the author was making largely because I’ve always been so frustrated by people making sweeping generalizations about a group of people and making assumptions about a person based on one aspect of who they are.  It also didn’t help that none of the things Eldridge said about what a man is and should be were things I identified with.  I found it extremely offensive that this man I had never met was basically telling me I wasn’t a real man because I don’t like camping and I’m not looking for some damsel in distress to rescue.

Let me back up a step and say that while I do believe that most stereotypes and general categorizations of people groups have some degree of accuracy, it’s a completely different story to say it’s true of every person in this group or that you can’t belong to this category if you don’t happen to exhibit a particular trait.  The book made me more and more angry as I read and a couple pages into the second chapter, I threw it down and didn’t look at it again for several months.  I eventually decided that maybe I hadn’t given the book at fair chance and I should at least read further to see what else Eldridge had to say about Christian masculinity.  This time, I think I finished the second chapter, threw it down again, and I haven’t picked it up since (in fact, I don’t think I have it any more so chances are I never will).

If I were asked what I think it means to be a man of Christ, I think I would say to have integrity, loyalty, to protect ones friends and family whenever possible, and to generally do your best to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  I think most people would agree with me on this, but the one problem some might have is that there isn’t really anything in my description that differentiates these as masculine qualities.  This could easily be a description of what it means to be a Christian with no reference to gender.  Personally, I don’t have a problem with that, but, because of one phrase in Genesis 1:27 (“male and female he created them”) many Christians believe that there must be a distinction between men and women.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing for transgender surgeries and gender bending, but I do think it’s OK for men to stay at home and cook and clean and take care of the kids.  I think it’s fine for men to be into fashion and design and musical theater.  I don’t have a problem with women making more money than their husbands and being into cars and sports and guns (even though I can’t understand why they would be, ugh).

So, I guess to sum this all up I would say, before you make general statements about all men, all women, all Christians, all atheists, all white people, all Hispanic people, all teachers, all liberals, or all of any group of people, think about what you’re saying and at least consider rephrasing it.  Also, maybe it’s OK for the man in a relationship to be the compassionate nurturer and for the woman to be the strong protector.  It might not be the norm and it might not be how it’s described in the Bible, but honestly, what’s the harm?