Saturday, October 24, 2009

When Same-Sex Attraction does not Change

Karen, on her blog Pursue God asked several questions about same sex attraction (SSA) and change. I thought you would appreciate some of my answers.

How do you feel about the fact that your same-sex attraction may not change? I have accepted the idea that I will probably be tempted by SSA for the rest of my life. I feel a definite pain at times, since I know that the Bible and the perfectly loving God (!) who is behind the Bible clearly command me to abstain from the gay sex I crave.

How does that affect the decisions you make for your life? I treat the pain as an opportunity to demonstrate by my obedience in abstaining from gay sex that God is absolutely worth it all!

If you do not affirm homosexuality, what would you say to these ex-ex-gays who have clearly put blood, sweat and tears into trying to do what they believed was right? I certainly feel the pain of the same struggle! Instead of focusing on sex, who you are attracted to, and the pain of saying no, think about God and about how good, loving, full of joy, powerful, and eternal He is. Consider that He is worth more than anything we can ever sacrifice!

If you do affirm homosexuality, what is it about the lack of change in sexual orientation that made you believe homosexuality is okay? I do NOT affirm it.

How does change or lack of change in our life circumstances relate to Christian theology and the Christian life? The lack of change which I have experienced is painful at times. Pursuing joy in God through suffering is a very important part of Christianity. The more I have experienced of how good and completely worthwhile God is, the more I have had the grace to say no to homosexuality and to seek joy in God instead. It has not been a matter of forcing myself to stop sinning, but rather I am so affected by the beauty and joy in God, that I see everything else, including sex, as something far less that I can drop for Him. I can gladly demonstrate by my very life and obedience that he is worth far more than a lifetime of gay sex. He is that good!

“In the pursuit of joy through suffering, we magnify the all-satisfying worth of the Source of our joy. God himself shines as the brightness at the end of our tunnel of pain. If we do not communicate that he is the goal and the ground of our joy in suffering, then the very meaning of our suffering will be lost. The meaning is this: God is gain. God is gain. God is gain.” – John Piper

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Jesus Paid it All !

Here is a video of Kristian Stanfill leading in worship with the hymn "Jesus Paid it All". This is a song I often sing to God as I worship in my times alone with Him. Kristian Stanfill demonstrates an intensity of devotion to God that is very evident in in this particular video.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Same Sex Attraction, Silence, and Suicide

Recently I have been meeting weekly with a group of Christian guys who also struggle with same sex attraction (SSA). This has been a great blessing to me. I already have straight Christian friends I talk to about this, but in this group there is a type of uniquely effective encouragement and helpful correction. I believe we need to talk to others about our struggles. Silence only causes more problems!

I was raised in the "Bible Belt" and kept silent about my SSA due to cultural pressure. My family mostly would not talk out loud about this subject and we even developed a system of hints and non-verbal communication concerning SSA that offered "plausible deniability". That way, we could all claim we did not know that I or my brother liked other guys. Anyway, I eventually did find Christian friends I could talk with, but I miss the help that might have been if there had not been that culturally imposed silence.

Two of my friends who struggle with SSA related troubles have been very depressed and nearly suicidal lately. By the way, they are the same guys I called “Tom” and “Austin” earlier in this blog. They are both in family/church/cultural situations that impose silence on them and I suspect that adds to their depression. I have known two suicide victims who I strongly suspect were depressed due to silence about the emotional pain connected to SSA. Here is a link to a blog where the author talks about silence and SSA-related suicides:
I Like Guys. There. I said it.

We need to do all we can to encourage especially Evangelical Christians to stop culturally imposing silence on those that struggle with same sex attraction. Silence can be deadly !

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Solid Joys and Lasting Treasure

Today I was moved by some verses that John Newton wrote. He is probably most famous for writing the words to the hymn “Amazing Grace”. Newton lived an immoral and ungodly life in the 1700s on the crew of several ships, and at one point was the captain of a ship carrying slaves away from Africa. His life was so completely changed when he believed the Good News of Jesus Christ, that he became a pastor in England. As a pastor Newton had great influence in the life of William Wilberforce, the Member of Parliament known for driving slavery out of the British empire. Here is what Newton wrote to be inscribed on his gravestone:

Once an infidel and libertine
A servant of slaves in Africa,
Was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour
restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach
the Gospel which he had long laboured to destroy.”

That struck me with the beauty of what God does – taking something totally evil and transforming it into great good! I cried many tears of joy over these words. Here are some verses to another hymn Newton wrote in 1779:

“See! the streams of living waters,
Springing from eternal love;
Well supply thy sons and daughters,
And all fear of want remove:
Who can faint while such a river
Ever flows their thirst t’assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the Giver,
Never fails from age to age.

Savior, if of Zion’s city,
I through grace a member am,
Let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in Thy Name.
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasure
None but Zion’s children know.”

What can I say?

Solid joys and lasting treasure none but Zion’s (heaven’s) children know !!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

My Friendship with my Brother – Part 5

I remember telling my brother “Brad” I wanted to make sure his life and suffering were not wasted. I asked him if he had anything he learned that he wanted to communicate to others to help them. He said to tell anyone who is thinking of playing just a little with sexual sin this scripture:

“Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” - Proverbs 6:27-28

Brad and I had talked when we were children about what would happen if we were sick and could not speak. We agreed that if that ever happened, we could communicate by a hand signal. Grabbing tighter meant yes and letting go meant no. The night before he died, Brad’s breathing changed. I asked him if he wanted me to pray and he could not speak, so he grabbed my hand, then my wrist, then up the arm to my elbow. I remembered our childhood conversation. I understood perfectly. He was saying yes, YES, YES!! I prayed that God would be with him and help him through this. Brad grabbed my arm again in agreement. I cried. I knew God would go with him in death, helping him where I couldn’t help right now. The following day I was helping a nurse turn him over and he moaned in pain and took his last breath. His heart stopped. It was over....

A few days after Brad’s funeral my parents got a call from Tiffany, Brad’s high school “girlfriend”. She said she was recently divorced and wanted to know how Brad was doing. They told her he had just died. She burst into tears and hung up. She had NO idea that he was gay and sick from an HIV infection. We never heard from her again.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My Friendship with my Brother – Part 4

A few years after college my brother "Brad" (not his real name) found out that not only was he infected with HIV, but also it was an extremely aggressive form that did not respond well to treatment. He was an assistant manager of a retail store and his doctor called him at work to tell him. Knowing he was dying soon, Brad closed the office door and cried for about one minute, until store employees kept banging on the door demanding his attention. He told himself, “I’ll think about that later” and calmly went back to work. Can you imagine his pain? The next year Brad was in and out of the hospital with one nasty infection after another. He was living in an apartment with a male prostitute who would even bring guys into the bedroom while I was there visiting Brad in the living room. There were condom wrappers on the floor. Not exactly a healthy Christian environment.

I invited Brad to move in with me, and he accepted. Many people from my church came to the house and helped him out when he was sick. After one near death experience in the hospital, Brad turned to God. God changed his heart so he turned away from his sin and believed. He told all his gay friends that he was a Christian now, and they promptly abandoned him. I remember sitting next to him, hugging him and asking him if he knew that I loved him now. He said yes! That meant a lot. I couldn’t help but see the change from his previous “unloving Christians” comment. I thanked God.

To be continued...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

My Friendship with my Brother – Part 3

Brad’s “girlfriend” Tiffany dropped out of college and moved back to our home town, and Brad started getting concerned about his sins and his need for a savior, so he joined Maranatha Campus Ministries (MCM). Soon, one of the leaders there discovered that Brad was having sex with another guy in that group and also having anonymous sex with many guys at gay meeting places on campus. If any of you know the history of MCM, you are cringing right now. You can guess what happened next. Brad was outed in a very painful, public way. He was thrown out of the group and his sins were told to all the members. It wasn’t pretty. One of the leaders made sure to tell me all the details, even though I was not a member of MCM.

It finally hit me that I needed to show Brad a little compassion. As you can imagine, he was bitter at Christians at that point. For him, the painful way he was treated by Christians motivated him to differentiate himself from Christians. At the time, being gay-identified implied someone was anti-Christian, so he expressed his disgust with Christians by flaunting his homosexuality in some contexts. I asked why he was “hanging around gays”. I will never forget his answer. He said, “They love me, and that is more than I can say about Christians!” All I could say to him was that I actually loved him and that I am a Christian. This memory still brings tears to my eyes years later.

To be continued…

Thursday, February 26, 2009

My Friendship with my Brother – Part 2

I don’t know if Brad actually succeeded in having gay sex in high school, but he definitely did in college. At that time monogamy was less common among gays and he threw himself into a very destructive promiscuous lifestyle of random encounters. He graduated from high school one year after me, and he and Tiffany decided to go to the same college where I was. He shared a dormitory room with me there that next year. This was before cell phones were common, so we shared one wall phone in our room together.

I remember hearing the phone ring in the middle of the night and getting up to answer it. Jeremy (not his real name), the caller, thought I was Brad and asked me for sex in very graphic, almost poetic, words which I will not repeat here. I firmly shouted back at him, “You have the wrong number!” and hung up immediately. I told Brad that it was an obscene phone call from someone who sounded like Jeremy. This was my hint to Brad that I knew everything he was doing with guys. Embarrassed, Brad just remained silent. We never actually talked about his gay sex out loud until he was publicly outed about a year later. I hope I never act like that again. Brad needed me to compassionately talk through this situation confidentially. Instead, I just dropped hints and put him down.

By this time, God had brought me to a place where I was very serious about following Jesus Christ. Also, I believed (as I still do) that gay sex is sin. I knew if I stayed with Brad I would be tempted to start having gay sex with one of his friends, so I left the dorm and moved in with a group of Christian guys. Actually, that was when I moved in with BC as I told about in a previous post.

To be continued...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My Friendship with my Brother

This post will be about a unique kind of friend – my brother! I decided to post this after discussing it with several friends. I would especially like to thank Jay from Adventures of a Christian Collegian for his very helpful input and encouragement about this.

Brad (not his real name) was a year younger than me and we were always together in my earliest childhood memories. Um, there is no easy way to say this, but we were also together at the very end of his life, too. I was right there when he died and I literally saw him take his last breath…….

Brad also had same sex attraction, but unlike me, he went after gay sex with reckless abandon. I first noticed this when he was about 12 years old. He would stare at good looking guys a little too long and a little too often, and since I felt the same attraction I definitely noticed Brad doing that. We both kept quiet about this to each other and to the family. I saw him spending time with his male friends in high school and I could tell he valued those guys above his “girlfriend” Tiffany (not her real name). I pretended everything was normal and acted like I didn’t notice. I just didn’t want to deal with the trouble that would happen if the garbage hit the fan. You have to understand the environment at the time. We lived in the “Bible Belt” and went to a large (300+) youth group in a megachurch. Any confession of homosexuality would bring down ridicule on the family and repeated public humiliation for us in school, maybe even worse. So, Brad continued to “date” Tiffany and sneak around trying to get sex with guys. I kept my mouth shut about both Brad and myself.

To be continued…