Thursday, January 25, 2007

Life To Life

Well, I've told you before about the small group Bible study that I do with one of the Christian organizations on campus. I'm only "out" to two guys in there: the group leader, Austin, and Blake, a close friend of mine who's a punk rock vegan and wears flip-flops in 32 degree weather (not that we've had any 32 degree weather around here, mind you :) Anyway, my time in the closet with them might soon come to an end. You see, over the next few weeks we're going to be doing a program called "Life to Life."

The object of "Life to Life" is basically to tell the other members of the group your life story -- most importantly, the things that have shaped your relationship with Christ over the years. I wouldn't be honest if I left my sexuality out of such as story, especially seeing as I once admitted in this post that my sexuality has probably strengthened my walk in Christ more than any other factor in my life. So, it only makes sense for me to mention it. I agree with Grace who said that honesty, in the long run, is much more fruitful than deceit. Telling the guys more about myself will help them understand me and where I'm coming from, and I think that's a good thing.

Another aspect of "Life to Life" is to talk about the people who have affected your decisions in Christ. I might have to fudge the truth just a little there. Ultimately, it was my family and church community that helped me originally come to Christ, but it was a few bloggers (most notably the ones linked to here, here, and here) that helped me decide to pursue celibacy. Some of the guys might think that's kind of weird. Heck, even I think it's kind of weird sometimes. :)

Talking about celibacy isn't going to be easy either. There's quite a mix of different Christians in my group. Austin, for example, supports my celibacy, but Blake is a liberal Christian who doesn't think that homosexual sex is a sin as long as it's within the context of a committed relationship akin to marriage. In his case, I've shown some cowardice on my part by not really coming forward with my beliefs. I don't think it would ruin our friendship or anything; I just dislike conflict. But I'd rather there be conflict between me and Blake than have him and the rest of the guys start arguing in the middle of "Life to Life." And so we see the problems that total transparency can call forth. :/

How honest would you guys be if you were doing "Life to Life." Would you brush past parts that might be somewhat controversial, or even embarrassing? It's odd. We all have life stories, but when you actually start thinking about them you see just how complicated, awkward, and outstandingly beautiful they are.

16 comments:

em said...

I think it’s great that you are spending some time thinking about how you share your life with your Christian family and how important that sharing can be. I guess whenever I read the words “Life to Life” it just made me pause and think of a different way to interpret that phrase... instead of just being open and honest (sharing life story to life story), that phrase invokes another thought...

Sharing the life that you have found in Christ, in the midst of your brokenness... bringing life to others who have similar (and not so-similar) brokenness... life to life.

I think that faithful living brings life not only to us but to those that we share it with. I hope that your experience with these other guys is rich. :-)

Anonymous said...

I think honesty is good, bud. I'd share where you spiritually and philosophically - even if some may choose to disagree or not fully understand or embrace it. I'd brush past what is graphic and/or unnecessary in telling the story -- telling them you thought your nerdy prof was hot probably won't add too much to big picture story. ;) Nor would recounting any sexual experiences, to the extent you've had any. But if the body of Christ is going to encourage and support each other, we must have some transparency. I think you're on the right track. Kudos to you.

R

Robert said...

Jay,

Congratulations on your decision! Frankly, I would not censor your decision to be celibate from the group, especially since that is an important part of you. Celibacy can be a wonderful state of being. I know a few friends who have been celibate all their lives and they have found it to be a wonderful, spiritual thing. If your decision does initiate discussion in the group, you may find that discussion to be thought-provoking and positive.

Amanda said...

Jay -

For me, it would depend on the group. I would assume that this group is a group that you are mostly comfortable with. You guys are accountable to each other and encourage each other in life. In that context, I'd be completely honest.

kurt_t said...

I think it would be a lot easier to tell your Bible Study Group you're gay than to tell your Gay/Lesbian Group that you're not into Liza Minnelli.

disputed mutability said...

Hi Jay. Here are my thoughts. Sorry that they're so advice-y. It's just that I've been there before and have some strong opinions on the subject. :)

I think it's great that you have such an opportunity to be honest and straightforward about where you are at. It's awesome that you guys are doing something like this. I've sometimes had problems with Christian groups where I don't feel I can be really honest about where I've been because NOBODY is being really honest about where they've been. So the potential for depth and transparency here sounds really cool to me. I think your sexuality should definitely be told as part of your story.

About the oddness of the role that bloggers played (*blush*) in your taking up the path you've chosen, I know what you mean. I was basically converted over the Internet, and I always feel weird explaining that to people. Like it means that I didn't have enough of a life to actually talk to real Christians in person. So sometimes I just say that I met people without elaborating on the "virtual" nature of the meeting. :)

Remember you are under no obligation to share anything you don't feel comfortable sharing. I don't know if this makes sense, but if *you* are embarrassed about something that you're sharing, the other guys will probably pick up on that and it might make them feel awkward. I would speak from a place of strength. Remember that you are sharing in order to bless *them* with your testimony, not to get deep dark secrets of your chest in a confessional sort of way. Talk about the parts of your journey that you are at peace with, that you have processed. If you've got personal, internal issues with a particular part of your story, I wouldn't use this venue as a place to try to work them out.

Sort of related to that, this may sound cowardly, but I tend to adjust the degree of detail and rawness of my story depending on the context and the audience. My reasoning is that I want my telling my story to be the beginning of a conversation, not the end of one. So I want to keep my audience's comfort zone in mind--I want to stretch them, but not break them. "Everything is lawful"--but not everything is beneficial.

If you want to avoid controversy about your beliefs, I would just speak in a way that doesn't invite it. Again, as I said above, speak from a place of strength. You aren't the sort of person whom anyone should feel sorry for, so don't let your story suggest otherwise! If you tell the group what your convictions are and how you seek to live by them even though it is often difficult, I doubt a rousing debate will ensue. But if you publicly wallow in doubt about your beliefs and your commitment to your path and generally sound pretty desperate, then yeah, that's an wide-open invitation for the pro-gay guys to try to help you out of your predicament.

As far as Blake goes, I don't think it's cowardly to not get into it with him over the morality of homosex. I almost never get into arguments with people about that subject. If they ask me, I tell them what I believe; if they ask me why, I try to explain; if they start an argument with me, I do my best to respond. But I'm far more interested in presenting a living apologetic for my beliefs in how I live my life. Many of the straight Chistians who hold pro-gay views do so because they believe that same-sex-attracted people will be condemned to a life of relentless misery otherwise. In most cases I think we can do more good by quietly proving them wrong than by arguing.

DM

Jay said...

Sheer awesomeness, guys. Thank you so much for all the advice. :)

And DM, how do you do that? It takes me a good thirty minutes to an hour to write a two-page essay, and there you go practically writing one in a simple blog comment. Once again you're totally right. Have you ever felt like writing some works of Christian apologetics? I know I'd buy them. :)

Mainly, I know what I'm going to tell them, it's just how to do it that I'm not sure about. I don't want there to be a dramatic "coming out" scene. That's just not me. So, maybe I just need to quit worrying and let who I am shine. :)

Again, thanks for all the advice. Pray for me so that I take it to heart.

Norm! said...

Hey Jay,

'Coming out' ex-gay is probably more difficult than 'coming out' gay because it requires more explanation. However, it sounds like you've determined these guys are trust worthy. In fact, it will probably seem more like a "scene" to you than to them.

Also, I would be surprised if a liberal Christian were to argue with your personal belief and decision to be celibate/ex-gay. While gay-accepting Christians may personally disagree with your theology, I would think they would respect your spiritual calling.

Good luck at your group. I'll keep you in my thoughts.

Jay said...

Thanks, Norm. It probably will seem more like a scene to me than to them, but then again I'm always over-dramatic. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm running into this situation also. I really don't know how the other person involved will take the news, but as my friendship with them grows I feel as though I have an obligation to tell them. I'm sure you feel similarly. I suppose I'll just wait for a moment that seems appropriate and see what happens. My conscience won't let me keep up my silence for much longer anyway. My advice to you Jay would be the same: do as your heart tells you.

Inheritor of Heaven said...

There are 4 of us who are leading a "Men Behaving Badly" a.k.a. "The Man Class". We have gone through a bit of inner healing and deliverance which has by the grace of Christ set us free in some areas of our lives. We have seen how important it is to be in a safe environment to share our struggles in order to help in that process. Whether struggling with SSA or any other sin, it seems guys need to have other guys they can share their life story with. If done in the grace of Christ, it is amazing to see what He can do. I think the other thing that it does is show us that we really are all on a level playing field. We may think we are alone in our struggles but through this process we can see we are more the same than different. The sin/pain has a different name but the same effect. It blocks us from receiving the love of our heavenly Father and then giving that love away to others. I pray your "Life to Life" will be done in an atmosphere of grace.

Jay said...

Anonymous & Inheritor: Thanks! I'm very comfortable around these guys, and I'm sure that it really won't turn out to be that big of a deal in the end. If I say it with the strength and conviction with which I feel it (and that's quite strong, mind you) then I think I'll be okay.

quakerboy said...

Hello! Just found your blog while surfing the net. I am a gay NC boy too! Years ago, I was involved in Love in Action, an ex-gay group. Thanfully, God in His mercy, led me out of that and out of the "land of masks". I have now been with my partner for 22 years. We are both active in a local Christian Quaker Meeting and seek to be as authentic as we can be before God and our beloved community.

My prayers are with you bud! Taking off masks is really a hard thing to do. I just heard that the word Jesus used for "hypocrite" was actually a word from the Greek plays meaning one who wears a mask. Now that is telling!

God's peace my brother,
Craig

Jay said...

Hi Craig! That's an interesting tidbit about the word "hypocrite." I guess He was telling us all to take off our masks. But sometimes we get worried that the mask is prettier than what's under it, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, great to have you here! You're not the only Quaker I have commenting here, nor are you the only person from Greensboro. Small world, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.....You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world....We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us......it is in everyone. And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others. by Marianne Williams

grace said...

Jay,
There's a wonderful and transparent sort of conversation going on here, albeit all about YOUR level of transparency. ha!

Your question about how honest WE would be in "life to life" did sound like you were asking us to give our opinion of how honest YOU should be...not really how honest WE would be. sort of a "put yourself in my shoes" sort of thing. Did I read that correctly?

Anyway, I do believe in the leading of God's Holy Spirit concerning those matters. Sometimes you just have to "go with your gut" at the time and trust it's God leading you. If you are listening to him all the rest of the day, he won't lead you wrong during "life to life". Does that make sense?
love ya much!
pam