As I thought about the second piece of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” I realized something I was very passionate about that really hangs on the “Ugly.”
I remember hearing when I was a child that red-headed Irish girls are “feisty.” It seemed that included the premise that red-headed girls had bad tempers. As I grew to an adult I began to wonder which came first, the bad temper, or the red hair?
My own “Red Hair” experience
I’ve struggled my entire life with feeling different, being oversensitive about life and relationships, and not relating well to the world around me. I wanted desperately to be something different, to find a way to sort all of this out, but didn’t find any answers.
I finally realized I was gay. Shortly after I came out, I was taught that “homosexuality was sin.” So in conclusion I thought it might be possible to rid myself of this horrible thing called “being gay.” But there was an UGLY side affect to this way of thinking.
Here’s The Ugly
As I pursued the changes I hoped for I reached a dead end road. I found I couldn’t shake something that went very deep inside me. I thought since I was gay, that “I” was bad! If homosexuality is “sin”, then I can only come to the deep, internal conclusion, I am “sin.”
The deep level of shame and lack of acceptance of myself as a person who is loved by God, kept me away from Him, and from myself. The over sensitivity didn’t go away, the struggles of feeling inadequate and insignificant never seemed to lessen and I continued to feel ashamed of my weakened state as a person.
This created a personal environment where I tried every way I could to cover the shame. I tried hard to wash it away, deny it and to stuff it.
“You Can Change”
In my initial introduction to the “You Can Change” message it all sounded so good!
” A new creature in Christ!”
“And such were some of you!”
Who wouldn’t want that? It was all so very hopeful! Desirable! After all, if the “red hair” could go away with the freckles, then maybe the teasing would stop and I could now be like the others. Without a doubt, there are many red haired children who might have taken the option to change their freckles if it were possible.
But, as the pursuit of change went on being gay didn’t go away. There was no change in the understanding of same or opposite gender relationships. The unique understanding of feelings and relationships remained and actually became more complex along with my increased state of shame from the perception that I was bad and unacceptable because I was gay.
“You Must Change”
So, now the message of “change” felt like a mandate. “You must change!” If being gay is a sin, and God hates sin, then the only way for God to love me was to eradicate sin from my life. So, I “must” change this part of myself, push it away somehow.
How can someone change something that is so deeply intertwined within themselves? Is it about sex? Is it about gender? Or, is it more than all of that? I discovered I could change what I do sexually, so I did. I stopped having sex with men. I learned how to get along better with other men and this helped me somewhat socially, however I never related at a deep level. But the message of “change” seemed to beg more from me, a deeper change than I had come to experience after over 20 years of trying.
The Rage Within
Underneath it all was a boiling anger, maybe even a type of rage inside my soul. “What in the hell do you want me to do?” “I’ve been good, I’ve gone to all of the meetings, the conferences, counseling, intensive prayer. What else is there that you want from me?”
God wasn’t changing me. So, I remained sin, less valuable, less courageous. I remained damaged goods that were left with no options other than to learn how to “suck it up” and try my best to fit in, to assimilate into a world that seemed to understand itself, but I couldn’t seem to understand myself.
Another Night of Dreams
Recently God has begun to shed light onto my heart. It seems that the point in all of this is that I am not “sin.” Well, that’s good news! I am not intrinsically bad because I am gay. Well, that’s good news too. It also seems that many of the things I used to say “caused” homosexuality were actually the result of being gay in a world that just didn’t seem to connect.
One night I had a series of dreams that included vignettes of people showing their gifts, talents, and personality traits that were laying strangely separate from themselves. Some of these people were shedding some things, and pushing other things away. God began to enlighten me to things that He allowed, or created within my soul. Things that were unique, special, not ordinary. It seemed He was challenging me to stop trying to change myself and begin to learn to accept life as it is and see the value in it.
At a recent play called “The Boys Next Door” my eyes welled up in tears when one of the boys stood up, shedding the effects of being a “special needs kid” and talked about what it was like to live in his world. He began to talk about the things he brought to life in those around him and how he was being used in his very own special way to enhance life.
I immediately resonated with his heart. I realized that there was a silver lining in the rain cloud of being gay. I am uniquely created by God. He has somehow allowed me to be gay and He promises He will bring good out of all situations for His glory, and He says it will be good for me too! He has a special place for me and my being gay fits into the bigger picture of who I am. To remove it would be to remove a part of myself as God created me to be.
Return to The Ugly
The ugly is that so many within the Christian culture and community have touted the message that gays “must” change, that being gay is “sin” and gays are truly going to lose out on God’s kingdom unless they change. The double bind is a burden far too weighty for anyone to carry.
The message of “change” sets the tone for people to try very hard to comply with its implication and find on the other side of their attempts, failure of great magnitude. A message that they will never measure up to God’s standards for acceptance.
A Far Too Common Message
I received an email from a pastor that has been at odds with my writings. He said:
“John, maybe the problem is that these gay folks just haven’t prayed long enough to fight against this and win the victory.”
YOU SAID WHAT?
Steam came out of my ears when I read that! I felt incensed! Obviously this man has never really heard the heart and soul of gay people. I don’t think I know of anyone who prays as hard, stand as strongly, and endures as long as many within the gay community.
If you ask any gay person who has gone to a Christian for help, the thing that they hear the loudest is:
“Pray, and read your bible more.”
There isn’t much more demeaning that anyone can tell a gay person to do than that. Many can probably quote chapter and verse, and show you the callouses on their knees from praying.
I’m Not Denying There is a Hope For Change
Please hear me. In our life journey, we do experience changes in our personalities, our desires, and some of the seemingly intrinsic features we have carried along with us. And yes, some people do experience changes in their sexuality. I will not deny the uniqueness of each person’s life in Christ and the things that God may do.
The challenge to look at is this. What is the motivation for the message of change? Is it to see someone experience the goodness in God? Or, is it to somehow eradicate being gay from our life, or someone else’s?
Is the motivation to rid someone the burden of being gay so that the shame will go away? Do we want desperately to remove a gay orientation from someone’s life we know because it seems to be difficult for them? Do we want to change people who are gay because we are uncomfortable being around them?
Or, think about this:
Is it better to help people to accept life as it is, gay or not? Is it better to look at someone in their heart and say;
“God loves you right where you are. He has a life for you that is amazing. If you will pursue Him, He will show you the way. Quit worrying about change, and join His pathway of life for you. Seek Him with all of your heart, and He will guide you.”
I Am Finally Getting It!
The real lie that has created the greatest problem is within the front line message that “gays can change.” I am coming to believe that the true attack from the enemy of our souls stems from the message of change that many understand as “you must change.” If the enemy can get people to believe that unless they change, they will never be acceptable to God, then he has found the way to consign them to a lifetime of shame and degradation.
You see, it is this kind of internal shame that brings overcompensating behaviors that are destructive, dehumanizing, and just overall unhealthy. The enemy of our soul loves to see gay people, who are so talented, sensitive, and insightful; feel trapped in a never ending bind of self destruction. So, in setting up the message of change that most likely will never be fulfilled, then he has the lock and the key is thrown away.
Let me repeat this.
When gay people think because they are gay they are intrinsically flawed, the shame builds. To cover the shame we subsequently see in people’s lives addictive practices, inflated and extreme lifestyles. So many times the answer from the Christian community is “change” and it will all get better.
Out of sincere desire and motivation the journey to seek first the kingdom of change ensues. This path comes to no end and therefore the shame only goes deeper.
In an energetic search for change I found a cover of being the good boy, the great Christian leader, the moral one. I gave myself no permission to show “ugly” emotions or to make undesirable mistakes. I stayed away from anything that might in any way reflect negatively upon my reputation.
Internally, I already felt so ashamed and broken I couldn’t afford anything that might add the already heavy load.
As I am allowing myself to be more authentic, the pretty exterior is falling off. My reputation is being called into question and I am no longer fearful of making a mistake. As I accept that I am gay and am willing to let that out I find that many pressures are falling off.
What is the answer?
The answer is to find God’s love in who we are, in how we’ve been created (or allowed to be created) and to rid ourselves of the misappropriated shame from being gay. I have recently come to know many people who now accept themselves, with God’s tremendous love, as being gay. In this transition from shamed, to loved, many of the destructive behaviors miraculously cease. Drugs are thrown away, sexually addictive behaviors stop, relationships get better and people begin to thrive in their relationship with God.
There is a Battle
There is a battle, but who has been deceived? Of course, the enemy doesn’t want anyone to find freedom from destruction. So the battle rages on between the culture who says “change is necessary” and the culture who says “you are loved as you are.” There is certainly a war going on for the souls of those who are gay.