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Archive for June, 2016


Gender Roles – Do They Always Fit?

Thursday, June 30th, 2016


man headI heard through my many years in church community that the husband, in subjection to Christ should be the provider and protector for the family. And it’s been traditionally taught that a woman should manage her children and her home. This little meme says that this is the “Natural Order of the Household.” Really?


This teaching sounded good to me for many years. It seemed to make sense to have some headship to the family system. Some women I spoke with through the years seemed to appreciate their husband fulfilling that role in their lives so I thought it all worked pretty well if it were followed.


I didn’t question it as it’s been taught that this model came from the Bible. Lately, I’ve been doing some internal evaluation about many things I’ve been taught. This is one of those standards that I truly no longer believe is something that is good for everyone, or in every situation.


Sure, a good husband who loves his wife dearly, follows his faith deeply, and honors his family is a good thing! There are situations where this is the very best and it works well. But, those situations are rare to find! Needless to say, not everyone is married and there are many more situations that just cannot fit that model and this causes many problems. I do not believe this is in any way, a “Natural Order.” This is not at all natural for some people and to try to make it so causes some people’s lives to get into all sorts of knots.


This model says that a husband should be the provider for the family, the protector and so on. Well, once again if the husband has a great job that can provide this is wonderful! But this isn’t always the case. So what should one do? And there are husbands who aren’t the best suited for being a protector. Their personality, or their daily situations just may not fit that role.


I find that this model can cause many internal struggles of shame, performance anxieties, and can create endless insecurity. I’ve personally known many men who feel ongoing shame from not being able to be a provider for their families. I also know families where the wife is the main provider due to her education or her career path. This also can undermine a husband’s sense of balance if he believes this model is the only biblical model for his family.


What about single moms, or dads? Where do they fit here? In my former church communities there were attempts to dance around this dilemma and try to find ways to fit this into a neat little box but honestly, it just doesn’t fit and once again can cause a sense of alienation from others due to the sense of not belonging to a “biblical” model of submission.


I’m a gay husband. My husband and I have talked a lot about this model and our own lives. Being in a gay marriage has taught me a whole lot about marriage, family, and submission to models that just don’t fit everyone. In our marriage I’ve learned that we both have different talents, roles, and strengths. We allow those to lead us into our own cohesive home and family. But I’ve also felt at times that I’m not fitting into a stereotype which causes me to have a lot of questions. But in reality, it works for us to mold our home into what does work for us, uniquely. I’ve learned that each person, married or not, with children or not, straight or otherwise, would do well to discover their own strengths and use them. This, is a far better spiritual model in my opinion. God has created us each, individually, with our own strengths.


There are spouses who do well at financial provision. Some do better at home management. Some will do well to see potential dangers and provide protection. Some are better at keeping house, cooking, or home maintenance. These roles are not gender specific – ever! We just cannot put people into those kind of narrow spaces. It just doesn’t fit.


As a man, I’ve always had talents that were often seen as more fitting for women.  I cook well. I clean. I also manage the home maintenance. I do the laundry, run errands and shop for household needs. My husband goes to a nine to five job. He’s good at what he does and works hard at it. He manages the finances, bank accounts and watches over our investments. He is good at that too! He isn’t good at cooking, or cleaning. These things stress him out! We work together equally to make all of this happen. Neither of us is higher, or more significant than the other in our roles. But being gay doesn’t make this unique. Regardless of a person’s gender, these roles are definitely flexible based on each person’s unique design.


As with so many other things, when we try to fit things into religious boxes like this it causes problems and takes away from people feeling good about themselves. The lack of freedom for each one to explore their own roles can cause people to fall back from seeking their own strengths and living out their created design!


In my humble opinion, this teaching of Christ the head of the husband, the husband being the provider, protector of the home, and the wife being the manager of the family and children somehow has been misconstrued and falsely interpreted. When this was created men were perceived to own their wives as property and things were very, very different.


In todays world it seems to me that those who do the very best with their roles, family relationships, marriages etc. are those who no longer believe they need to follow this archaic teaching. Those who discover their own strengths and live by them seem to be the most confident and the most effective at living out their daily lives. I know a man who raises and home schools his children while his wife earns the income for the family. They’ve done this for years and it really works for them. But this family has to constantly go against the grain of traditional religion. They have to live in self affirmation of their choices to live out their strengths and there are some who judge them for being out of sink with biblical teaching.


Frankly, I’ve always been naturally good at household things. I’m random, I’m creative, and I’m flexible. I’m good at managing our home. In my previous marriage, my spouse was great at managing our home. I spent my time within our relationship on my vocation and on outdoor maintenance. Things have changed for me and my role has changed too. These things are certainly not set into stone.


I’m not trying to say that the traditional model doesn’t work because for some it does. But as always, it’s not a one size fits all. Think about it. Does it work for you? If not, then find what does and live in it. There are traditions that are just that, traditions that are not truth.



 

A Response to Andy Comiskey About Mixed Orientation Marriage

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016


mixed-marriage-3I discovered An Open Letter  to “Every Man who Leaves Wife/Kids Because He is ‘Gay” written by Andy Comiskey. You can go to this link to read it:

Letter by Andy Comiskey


Here’s my response:



Reading your article with interest. I met you, Andy, over twenty five years ago. We were many who had chosen to marry women. At that time I found no one who would even speak as you have here. I held my struggle tightly to my chest out of my own fear that someone would discover my weakness. I had not found what I seemed to see others had found. I didn’t find what appeared to be an intimacy that was as fulfilling in those I saw within the community of Exodus.


I struggled intensely with shame, with an intimate disconnect within my soul. As you mentioned above, unlike many you may know, I didn’t hide. I sought help through many years, decades actually, of conferences, one on one counseling, leadership retreats etc. I absorbed all of the things I taught hundreds of times over. I held tightly to what I was told in that God was a big God and there would be healing. I believed there would come a day when I’d find the true intimacy I sought after with commitment and with deep longing and fervor.


I went for sessions of inner healing. I was told I was a misogynist. I sought inner healing for that. I was told I had unforgiveness in my heart towards my family, my mother, my childhood abuses. I believed the diagnosis, the assessment by those who seemed to know. I was told over and over that I was broken, that I was sexually broken. I believed them. I sought healing for those too.


I was married for 24 faithful years. I acted upon all of the things I taught were necessary to find healing. I had thick blinders on my eyes, my hands and my heart. I separated myself from anything that might “tempt” me back to my gay lifestyle. I was as honest with my wife as I knew how to be. There were no secrets other than telling her point blank that I had no sexual desire for her and that I never would. I held that to myself out of the concern that it might wound her heart.


Finally one day, after many, many years of complete celibacy including masturbation, I admitted to myself that I would never find the intimacy I desired so deeply within my heart. I felt alone, isolated, and starving for human affection. I also admitted that I knew deep within that God would never leave a heart longing as I was experiencing. I also admitted to myself that God is forgiving and that all of my sins, past and future were laid at the cross.


I made a conscious decision to trust God more than I ever had in my life at His word. I separated from my wife after becoming completely honest with her. She was heart broken. But I had been heart broken for most of our marriage and she was too. It seemed to me that her heart was cold, not with me, but from me not being able to look at her with the kind of desire that a wife wants from her husband.


I am now married to my husband. The healing that I longed for for over three decades is occurring. The brokeness I was told I had that caused my struggles, I realize was brought about by others looking at my life from the outside with preconceived ideas. I recognize now that I was heart sick and I am no longer so. I’m now heart filled, peace filled, full of joy that I never believed was possible.


I’m not saying this is for everyone. I truly believe a SSA man or woman can find true, loving intimacy with their opposite sex spouse. But I did not and it was killing me, and my wife to remain together. It was closing my heart off to God and others due to the emptiness, a void that was extremely significant.


I’ve now discovered my heart again. It’s far more than accepting the part of me that is gay, it’s far more than finding my gay self, it’s finding me. Finding the John that has been hidden deep inside since my childhood. I recognize myself again! I spent 30 years in the wilderness of trying to be everything that was expected of an ExGay leader, a Christian man and husband. I made a career out of searching for the missing pieces and trying to gain freedom.


Many lives were negatively affected by my pursuit of perfection, my attempts at a healing that never came. I lost a comfortable connection with my daughters due to my dishonesty and religious facade that I believed was truth.


Not every story is the same. Above all, God knows each of us intimately and walks with each of us uniquely along our personal life journey. I’m trusting in God’s heart for me, his redemption, and restoration of the soul that came along to me when I was born.


To pressure two people to continue to live in marriage that are not a match, and that feel the pain and agony of the mismatch, is not healthy for them, or their families. If the soil is workable, than work it. If its not, then move to a new field where it will be.


I’ve often said if I were Catholic, it’s likely my marriage could have been annulled because of the deception with which we married, not known deception, but one later discovered. From the first night together I knew it was a mistake, a horrible mistake. Sadly, within some faiths, once one has signed on the dotted line of a marriage commitment, there’s no out, no turning back, no matter how soon it’s discovered, no matter how terrible it may be to continue.


Peace to all who find themselves married to the opposite sex and yet are conflicted. Sadly, there wasn’t more honesty in years past. Many, like myself, married amiss with false information, wrong expectations, and found themselves to be terribly unequally yoked.


Peace to all of those who are successfully married as well. I know some who have found that.


This is a discussion that must be explored before one is married. A discussion with all of the cards on the table, an intimate and honest evaluation of the heart of two people must be had. A discussion that includes, “Do you realize that your intended spouse may never find you intimately attractive? Are you wiling to go a lifetime living in celibacy? Will you honestly accept your spouse as a great roommate, but not the sexually intimate marriage you’ve hoped for your whole life? Are you willing to make a lifetime commitment to someone who will possibly experience sexual frustration and angst most of their life and that you will never fully understand it? Will you forgive and allow restoration considering your spouse may be tempted so deeply they commit adultery in search for fulfillment for their physical and intimate needs? Will you sign that you’ve heard, and discussed all of these things before got married?”


We need to do a better job of preventative planning so we won’t have to do so much damage control later.


 

Cover Up All the Right Places

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016


join usI come from many years of legalism and strong boundaries that I thought could keep people from harming themselves or others. Boundaries that were intended for safety very often created prisons. I didn’t know, I couldn’t see it for what it was. I look back and can see that in some ways I was smug, and arrogant about how good I believed my standards were. This came to the surface for me yesterday as I read a FaceBook post. My strong reaction brought me to evaluate why I was so reactionary.


A lady in our area posted that she was looking for a grief group. She said she had only one or two people in her life and that she had lost a family member and was having trouble processing her grief.


Several people posted that their churches had groups and a reference to contacting the city Chamber of Commerce for suggestions. Most were just helpful suggestions. That is until I read a post that contained more than just an organization and times available.


But:



ModestyThis person mentioned her church name and subsequently went on to say they didn’t expect her to dress up for their group. She followed with “but be sure that you’re covered in all the right places.”


My mind raced towards a strong emotional reaction to what she said. I thought, “WHAT IN THE WORLD WAS SHE SAYING? Here this person is looking for support, for grace, for help in her grief and this lady wanted to make sure she was dressed appropriately! Like she might come to their grief group in a topless bikini? Or did she think this lady was a town stripper? What prompted her to make sure she told her she needed to be dressed appropriately?


No doubt, she believed she was being helpful. No doubt she didn’t see how her words conveyed a presupposed assumption that this lady just may not know how to dress appropriately for a church grief meeting. Yes, she relieved her from believing she had to dress up, but there were still assumptions that brought her to warn her to cover up. And, I guess I’m glad she stated their expectations up front as it’d be embarrassing for the grieving lady to walk into the group in a sun dress and find that to be less covered than expected.


I also had some other strong responses. “Who would ever want to come to your church?” “You’ve just exhibited to me everything I’ve heard about your denomination.” “RUN!” I thought, who would ever want to go to that grief group?


As I processed my own reaction, I can also see clearly how this statement tied into my own story. It ties into my story of legalism in my own life, how I promoted it, and how it has harmed me. My response was more about me than it was about the lady making sure people were covered up for her grief group.


The lady who is grieving may find a great supportive group there who will love her through her challenges. She may find a group of great friends. Her statement of appropriate dress may breeze by most readers without a hitch.


Come As You Are?


But, I think there is something there that needs to be considered. How does our own legalism come out in ways we may not see it. Do we lay expectations on people at times when it’s really most important just to say, “I love you?” What does it look like to say, and practice “come as you are” when inviting people to our church or support group?


And, I’m still feeling my own story. I’m still ranting in my heart about the unspoken legalism that I see in her statement, “Be sure you’re covered in all the right places.” I still want to jump through FaceBook and say, WHAT?”