I have watched – over many years – the reaction to men who have come out of homosexuality through the power of Christ and entered heterosexual marriage. While many LGBT+ leaders have cried fraud, many evangelical groups have used such stories to prop up culture war arguments against LGBT+ people.
Lost in this clash is a sad reality: the “former gay man – now heterosexual husband” story is often misunderstood and misused. It is misunderstood in that this kind of testimony falsely fuels the notion that most gay men can become “straight” if they really want to. In reality, most people who experience SSA by their teens will carry such attractions – regardless of beliefs and behaviors – throughout their lifespan.
Unfortunately, this easy-ism – that we might call “change” or “healing” – becomes an albatross around the hearts of teens and young adults who experience SSA. Some church leaders, parents and counselors end up projecting easy paths forward that are NOT easy at all. This misuse becomes a serious risk factor for young people leaving the church, distrusting family, or possibly even giving up on life altogether.
For this reason, I am quite cautious about when, where, with whom and how to share my story. I often preface my story with numerous caveats intended to caution evangelicals against lording it over LGBT+ teens and young adults. To avoid this mistake, I think the number one ingredient is remembrance.
Thankfully one gift God has given me is the ability to remember previous stages of life: specifically, the emotions, feelings, fears, doubts and anxieties that I once carried. This, by God’s grace, equips me to walk with younger folks in a spirit of compassion for their hurts and confidence in God’s sovereignty over the short- and long-term of their lives. All parents, counselors and church leaders overseeing the spiritual and emotional care of LGBT+/SSA youth and young adults must possess a degree of remembrance.
I remember 18! I loved God. I loved my parents. And, I was a hopeless romantic hungry to share love and intimacy with another man. By the time I was 24, after nearly 12 years of repression, all this energy “came out.” Honestly, at that time, there was no stopping it. No claim, passage, teaching or warning could eclipse the power of my desire to express romantic love. I was determined to experience what I had denied myself of for so many years.
Prior to coming out, I had already attempted to embrace the idea of never experiencing romantic love for an entire lifetime. This reality had slowly taken away my hope over a decade, and I eventually became suicidal.
Today, I am 45 years old. The thought of surrendering my right to express romance in a same-gender relationship is not nearly the burden it once was. Time, life experiences and the journey of discovering God have allowed me to wrestle over this burden and eventually come to a peaceful place of acceptance. This peace was not an easy one – it has been a costly peace that has taken years to arrive at.
The single factor that made this possible in my life was the invasion of God’s Holy Spirit into my heart at age 29. Without that experience, who can stand against the power of desire? No one. In fact, many of us – gay and heterosexual people alike – struggle to contain sexuality within the biblical box even with God’s Spirit. I am not suggesting this is right – this is simply a statistical fact. I like to keep it a level playing field…
It bothers me, then, that we often use the testimonies of older men to prevent teens and younger adults from entering same-gender relationships. We lord this kind of story over them with coercion, warning, judgment and insensitivity. We misrepresent the “ease” of letting go of SSA for an entire lifetime. We over promise the potential for them to experience heterosexual desire. We fail to listen, understand and validate the pain and fear they experience. And, we do not remember what it was like when we were young: how powerful romantic inclination was in our own life.
I am not perfect, but my heart desire is to have nothing to do with this kind of emotional and spiritual torture. I cannot say that same-gender relationships are pleasing to God. The biblical record is clear about this both in what is said and what is not said about homosexuality. Beyond that, it does not shock me that teens and young adults struggle to accept the idea of giving up their romantic inklings for a potential life of loneliness – for the rest of their long lives. This is a human response, not a sinful one. This is a common response, not a unique one to LGBT+ persons.
For this reason, I am determined to walk with teens and young adults “where they are” and focus on offering them unconditional acceptance rather than demanding that they accept my beliefs. What good will it be to coerce righteousness in others through religious pressure? Such as approach all too often produces legalism that fails to lead people to Christ. Rather, it forces them further into self-effort and exhaustion. The more authentic and redemptive witness is to prove to young people that God will never leave them nor forsake them. This is not a method or an approach but a way of living before God and others.
To close, God despises every attempt to lord religion over others. Listen to Ezekiel 34:4: “You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the
injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost.
You have ruled them harshly and brutally.” Following the fingerprints and footsteps of our Good Shepherd, let us be a people who rescue, hold, comfort, listen to, assure and prove through every action, attitude and word that we will love our LGBT+/SSA young people right where they are.
No matter what…
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