Monday, August 04, 2008

My Hope

I like Wendy Gritter, and I like New Direction. She's a sweet and Christ-focused woman and I think New Direction is one of the most Christ-centered ministries for people that deal with same-sex attraction. I was upset when I read her recent blog post about a colleague that has been claiming New Direction "doesn't offer hope anymore."

Now, I'm not going to refute that statement here. Ms. Gritter has already done extremely well with that in the linked post, and I highly suggest you read it. I will offer my own personal story, though. I've never been involved with New Direction (sadly, I'm not Canadian), and the only contact I've had with Ms. Gritter is through comments on her blog. However, I think out of all these types of ministries, New Direction's philosopy most closely resembles my own, and even I have been accused, in a round-about way, of not having enough hope.

Usually when someone makes that kind of snarky remark about hope, what they mean to say is that I'm not falling over myself in an effort to be straight. I'm comfortable and happy as I am. I'm not comfortable with my sins or my temptations, mind you, but at the same time I'm not stressed about how I dress, or how I talk, or how I express my emotions, or whether or not a pretty young woman turns my head. The way some of the ex-gay ministries talk, you'd think that a "normal" heterosexual existence with a dog, yard, and three kids was a Biblical mandate.

Quite simply, it's not. Ms. Gritter mentioned how her critcs said they saw heterosexuality as part of God's redemption plan. "Everyone is on a journey towards heterosexuality," they said, "but some people only go a little way down that road." That's their excuse for the same-sex attracted men and women who don't experience change in their attractions (which I would say is most likely the majority of SSA folks). Oh sure, accoding to them we're not sinning by being content celibates, but we're not whole either. We haven't completed our "journey towards heterosexuality."

I got a little mad when I first read that, but then it saddened me. It saddened me to know that there are people who would sell out Christ for something as fleeting as human sexuality. Sure, heterosexuality is a beautiful and God-given gift, but it won't last forever. There will be no marriage in Heaven, and thus, no sex. We'll be in such perfect union with God there will be no need for any other kind of union. So I feel saddened for people who think we are on a "journey towards heterosexuality" instead of a journey towards Christ. I feel even more saddened by those in these ministries who aren't experiencing change, and thus are made to feel like they've only gone "a little way down that road." Sure, they're denying themselves and taking up their crosses and following Christ, often leaving behind years of a lifestyle that they no longer think is right yet still having to deal with the emotions it left behind, but of course they aren't whole. They've only gone "a little way down that road." Give me a break.

Our hope is not in anything on this Earth. Nothing. Not our family, not our friends, not a spouse, not children, not jobs, money, cars, trips, pets, not anything. Our only hope is Christ crucified. Crucified for our sins, receiving wrath so we don't have to. Our hope is the cross. So I have to give an "Amen!" to Ms. Gritter when she says, "How can you say we're not offering hope - when we're offering people Jesus?" That's right. How can you?

Look, it's not easy living without sex, but it's not the hardest thing in the world. No one's asking me to renounce my faith or be imprisioned, or even killed. I'm not being asked to go through the painful process of giving up drugs or alcohol. All I'm asked to do is keep it in my pants and make sure my appreciation of Pete Wentz stays strictly that - appreciation (and yes, I think Pete Wentz is cute, and I even like Fall Out Boy's music. Pick on me all you want).

Maybe some day I will meet a woman who will rock my world, both spiritually and physically. But she won't be some trophy wife to show how much I've "changed." I know I've changed. Sure, you might not ever be able to see some flashy example of it. What can I say? Obedience and belief aren't that impressive-looking. Nor are they what people really want when they try out Christianity. But if they really want Christianity, it's what they'll get, because that's what real change is. I was once dead but now am alive, because of my faith in Christ. I once wouldn't have even considered all this crazy "dying to self" stuff, but now, even though it's difficult and even somewhat frightening, I do it with joy. If that isn't "change," I don't know what is. If that isn't hope, then I don't know what is. And I'm willing to offer that hope to people, and I think Ms. Gritter is as well.

It's a journey of sanctification, not towards heterosexuality. True, I'm only a little way down that road, but the good part about that is that every other living believer is as well, and I can take that journey with them without feeling like less of a Christian, and we can look towards our only hope together.

27 comments:

Pomoprophet said...

Excellent post my friend. I agree with your thoughts. This entire concept of Christians using their idea of spirituality to opress others is so contrary to the way it should be. Claiming others have lost hope because they don't believe the same things. Or instead of encouraging people on their respective journies, causing division because their journey threatens your own.

I don't wnat to get old. But I hope when you do, Jay, that lives like yours and mine and others are shaping the Church in a powerful way.

Samantha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Samantha said...

I enjoyed reading what you've written here. A truth that many people don't understand is that even if you find a woman who "rocks your world," it doesn't necessarily mean you've become heterosexual. It just means you've connected with someone in a beautiful way.

I've been married for quite a few years. I'm deeply in love with my husband, but that doesn't mean I'm attracted to men. I haven't become heterosexual. I simply found someone I wished to live my life with, someone I love enough to express that physically. If I find myself feeling attracted to another person--inevitably, she will be female.

The truth is that God truly does wish for us to come unto him--not, as you've said, get sidetracked by trying to become something we are not. If we look to him always, he'll show us the path we are to take. For me that has meant becoming a wife and mother, for someone else it may mean ministering to his children in a different way.

Thank you for your post. It has given me food for thought today. :)

P said...

This may be your best post yet, Jay. I'd say more, but am off to a therapy appointment with Joe Nicolosi ;)

Jay said...

Pomoprophet: Thanks! I don't really hope to get old either, but when I do I hope to do it gracefully. :)

Samantha: Wonderful point, and I should have made it. You're right. If I get married even that won't make me "heterosexual." I guess one could say I'll be living the dreaded "heterosexual lifestyle," though. Ironic, no? ;-)

P: Oh, I do hope you were joking about Nicolosi! :) Thanks for the compliment, and I hope you share anymore thoughts you have when you have the time.

wendy said...

oh Jay - please call me Wendy for pete's sake :)

thank you. you put flesh on what we try to embody as a ministry.

pomo - i think you and jay and others are already shaping the church of today ..... and i pray for your continued boldness mixed with grace.

samantha - i have many friends who have stumbled (yes, stumbled) on a similar path as you have found - and the honesty and authenticity of your stories are so crucial for the church to hear.

P said...

Yes, Jay. My comment about Nicolosi was in jest.

I pretty much agree with everything you say, but think it may take some time for the church to come around to our way of thinking. The older generation is still rather shocked by the prevelance of homosexuality and the idea of Christians being "healed" of it is the only one that makes sense to them.

Throw the culture war into the mix and we have a volatile situation, indeed. Ultimately, and for obvious reasons, I think the old school exgay philosphy of change is pretty closely tied to the present day political battle in which we find ourselves. In my opinion, both sides of this war fight dirty and I cringe when I think about how all the resources that go into fighting it could be put to better use.

Perhaps that's why the Canadians are the first to get it right ;) At the risk of oversimplifying a highly complex issue, Canadian Christians aren't as interested in legislating morality as those of us south of the border are.

kurt_t said...

Wow, Jay. Sorry to see you got harshed on so bad at XGW. I guess you touched a couple of nerves over there.

Hey you know something, I saw a bear this weekend. Up at Lassen Volcanic National Park. I was on my way to gather firewood by the side of the road. Well, I decided maybe I would gather wood someplace else, because this bear was the size of a UPS truck.

Which leads me to a folk aphorism that I'm going to make up on the spot right here in the CollegeJay comment section. Sometimes which direction you head in depends on the size of the bear.

OK, maybe I need to keep working on that one, but I feel like I'm on the right track.

I hope you have a great year, and don't be afraid to change direction when faced with the possibility of being eaten by wild animals.

Brandon said...

I couldn't agree more with you Jay.

I used to think I had to become straight to truly be Christlike or Christian. I struggled terribly with that because it never seemed to happen. I found great hope back around last Christmas because I realized I didn't have to be straight, but just obey God by not giving into whatever gay temptations I have. That's a hard enough struggle in itself. But I found hope because I realized I could just be myself, God loves me for me (I didn't have to become someone different), and all I have to do is just obey his commandments. But in order to obey, I found myself looking much more to Jesus. And you're right, there is a lot of hope there.

Thank you for writing this post.

Warren Throckmorton said...

Stopping in to give you some props, Jay. Excellent post which I will probably link to soon.

In my opinion, this is where sexual identity ministry ought to land.

Jay said...

P: I agree. I think politics gets in the way in American churches so much, not just on this issue, but on many others. I guess those Canadians have be better at something, eh? ;-)

Kurt: In regards to XGW… Well, I’m a resolutely Southern celibate gay kid with half a college education and really fabulous hair. I say, “Bring it!” ;-)

Speaking of being Southern, I’ve had bear meat before. It’s tough and stringy, but good in stew. My mother saw a black bear and her cubs in the bean field next to our house a few weeks ago. Luckily, our dog wasn’t around and no one was outside, because the last place in the world you’d want to be is between a Mama Bear and her cubs.

Brandon: I’m glad you found this encouraging. I’m always amazed when my random rants touch a nerve with people.

Warren: Thank you! I think that sounds like a good idea.

Laura Leigh said...

http://www.truthwinsout.org/blog/politically-correct-ex-gays-talk-down-to-celibate-truth-tellers/
I guess you caught Wayne's attention.

Good post. I just now found out this blog existed.

Justreadthepost said...

Hallelujah!

Somebody knows the truth!

I hope to get married, partly because I want to have six children; but I prefer to have the Lord sort that out.

Right now I need serious renovations in my spiritual life in ways that have nothing to do with sex/sexuality (although I'll take help there too).

I have serious characters flaws that need fixing and a religious life that needs pep.

But this is the result of people calling SSA a "lifestyle" that one "chooses". If that is true, then the "fix" would be to pick up another "lifestyle". Marriage anyone?

Homosexuality has the same "fix" as all other human flaws: Jesus.
But what do you expect from the bowels of the prosperity gospel?

kurt_t said...

I didn't know that bear meat was stringy. I know a lot of indigenous peoples ate (and still eat) black bear. I've never hunted, so I don't have a lot of experience with game. Now, I used to do a lot of fishing when I was a kid, so if it swims, I've eaten it. Once my friend and I caught an eel out in Monterey. That was revolting. Had kind of a slimey texture. And a lot of bones.

You know something I've never seen a mountain lion. As much time as I've spent out in the wild, I've never seen one, and I don't think it would scare me, though statistically speaking a mountain lion encounter is a lot more dangerous than a bear encounter.

And do you know what mountain lions like to eat more than anything? I've heard this from people who live out in the Sierras. Goats. If you have a goat in your backyard, the mountain lions will come from miles away to eat your goat.

Oh. And back to topic, Pete Wentz?!

Anonymous said...

This is the only entry of yours that I have read, but it was amazing! You articulated many ideas in my own head. I am a Christian, but not one dealing with being gay, yet I want to understand. At my school, there are a few christians who are building bridges between Christians and the gay community, and its hard to know where to start. Of course, they don't love Christ, so they may not see it the way you see it, but basically i wanted to say i found your blog very encouraging.

MR said...

Jay,

You know I agree with what you wrote here, but HOW do we get more conservative Christians to see things this way?

Much damage has been done by well-meaning Christians who just don't get it! I would like to see us somehow work together to stop:

#1 Christians shunning, firing, mistreating gays as if homosexuality is the worst sin.

#2 Christians believing that becoming heterosexual is essential

Brandon said...

Jay, I hope you don't mind me responding to MR, but this is something that I've been dealing with a great deal of in my own church recently.

I simply suggest that we who know better never stop SHOUTING the truth as often as we can, and setting the better example. The kid who goes to my church who recently announced he thought he is gay was treated fairly poorly by a great number of people at my church. They practically were at the brink of running him off and causing him all sorts of inner turmoil. Rather than act as they did, I just reached out to him as a friend to help him with what he was going through. And things have been better with him as a result. And as funny and sad as this is at the same time, some in my church have been dumbfounded by how he's been helped. It's like they don't understand it. Their approach didn't work, mine did, and yet they're scratching their heads wondering why. My response has been that I helped him the way Jesus would have. I didn't push him away, shun him, belittle him, oust him from the church, etc. Instead I reached out to him as a friend, listened to him, responded, and worked with him. And as far as the changing to heterosexual approach goes, I've found that so many still believe it's a choice being gay. There's the problem. So many seem to think that everybody is straight, yet gay people just choose to be gay for some unknown sinful reason, but deep down they're straight. I've found that they have so much trouble understanding how anyone could just naturally grow up to be gay, or attracted to people of the same sex. But just getting them to understand that those attractions in themselves aren't sinful--only the behavior is--is where I think most begin to understand. A lot of people just think straight is normal and all people should be normal, but that's just not real life. Not to suggest I think it can't happen, but I honestly don't believe most gay people can become straight. There again, we're not told we have to be. All scripture tells us is to not give into certain temptations. As long as we obey, we're not sinning. It's just tricky getting people to understand that.

But yeah, if you want people to see things differently, just lead by example. Show them there's a better way.

Jay said...

Just: Thanks for the comments!

Kurt: You know, I’ve never seen a mountain lion. I’ve seen plenty of bobcats, though. They used to come up and drink from the pond in front of our house. It’s been a while since I’ve seen one, though. I wonder if anything drove them out of the area.

And yes, Pete Wentz. Deal.

Anonymous: Well, I think it’s important not to view the issue as “gays vs. Christians.” That’s a bit of a false dichotomy, because there are gay Christians (I’m one of them) . You can never really know whether someone loves the Lord or not. People struggle with things silently all the time, which is why you should never judge anyone. It’s admirable that you are reaching out to them, but I would suggest not coming to them about the issue of homosexuality. If you want to share Christ with them, talk about pride, or anger, or selfishness, or some other sin that you can both agree is actually sin. That’s what won me to Christ, at least.

MR: What Brandon said.

Brandon: Thanks for that reply! You said it much better than I could, and thank you for being a blessing to your church and that young man.

formerlygay said...

I'm going through a sort of transformation these days and I came by to cruise your blog tonight and this conversation was what I needed to hear right when I needed to hear it.

(And WAY TO GO BRANDON!!! Absolutely well-said and well-done, sir!!)

We'll chat later. I should be around most of the day tomorrow. I want to bounce a few things off you.

David in KC said...

As a 63 year old gay Christian, I was interested in the comments about not wanting to be old.

Having been both young and old, I can say that there are pluses and minuses to each stage of life. There's research that indicates that people are happiest in their 50's. I will say, however, that I seldom meet anyone 30 and older who would go back to their 20's.

Jay said...

David: I don't think I made those comments in this post, but I think I mentioned not wanting to live to extreme old age before. I basically want to stay healthy, independent, and involved. I know right now I fear that I will run out of things to do, but of course that's just silly.

I don't want to a burden for anyone else, though, and I would like to stay physically fit enough to live on my own for my whole life. I guess that's all I meant by it. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey friends...

I get so much from reading this blog and the comments. Thought I'd make a response tonight.

I am a Christian man who has struggled with SSA since early childhood, I think as a defense against an abusive and emotionally distant father. For as long as I can remember, I have compared myself to other guys and felt that I come up short in terms of "normal" desires and mannerisms. I came to Christ in college and I have seen lots of growth towards Christlikeness...but my desires for guys have not dissipated much and my mannerisms are somewhat animated. To top it off, I dress well. Well, you can imagine what people think. The other day in class--I am a middle school teacher--one of my students whispered to another student that I am a "homo." I have tried to make my Christian beliefs my public testimony, and in the past, such a comment from anyone would have hurt. But I think that I have to surrender my reputation to Christ, so moments after hearing that student's comment, I decided to be the kindest, the gentlest, most godly "homo" he's ever met.

God bless,
Ernesto

A. Friend said...

Sure, heterosexuality is a beautiful and God-given gift, but it won't last forever. There will be no marriage in Heaven, and thus, no sex.

Our hope is not in anything on this Earth. Nothing. Not our family, not our friends, not a spouse, not children, not jobs, money, cars, trips, pets, not anything. Our only hope is Christ crucified. Crucified for our sins, receiving wrath so we don't have to. Our hope is the cross.
----------------------

You have me jumping up and down.
Very. Well. Said.

So sad that we have to tell so-called "Christians" this basic, basic fact.

But when people have begun to worship themselves (as the ultimate representations of Christianity) what do you expect?

I actually believe that very few "normal" people truly understand what you mean in the second quote about our hope not being in things on earth.
They may get it intellectually, but I highly doubt they really understand it.
Tell them they couldn't marry and many would dump God and /or His word in a hot minute. Just look at the divorce situation in the Church.

TRiG said...

I'm going to have to look up this Pete Wentz.

TRiG.

Ben777 said...

I myself have same-sex attractions but I've committed my life to Jesus, and my resolve is simply celibacy or to fall in love with a woman. With that said, I found what Samantha had to say quite interesting. About not having heterosexual attractions but finding that one man who she was committed to. I'm interested in knowing how that relationship started. Once in a while I find myself having a deep crush on a girl, but the thought of having sex with them is never appealing. It's usually their personality and the way that they smile. But it causes significant pain for me, just knowing that I don't necessarily desire them sexually. I recently developed a deep crush on a girl who graduated out of the college I go to, and it's almost felt like losing a pet, with the way I thought I desired her but knew it probably wasn't right for me. I was praying to God for Him to allow me to "love" a woman fully, wholy, and sexually. However, my resolve right now seems to be that God has given me a nation of men and woman to love, it's just the sexual love that I'm forcing into the picture. I still wonder what His plans are for me, but the only solace that I can find is in knowing that so long as I obey Him in the ways that I know I ought to obey Him, then He will give me the desires of my heart.
Psalms 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.So whatever the true, undefiled me wants, I will get so long as I conform my image to Christ... whatever that entails? God only knows.
Oh, and to the owner of this blog, you will love George Macdonald. Look up the Curate of Glaston and try to buy it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this great post, brother. I'm in the same boat as you and you've articulated my thoughts better than I ever could have!

globetrotter said...

Incredibly well put. It's so refreshing to see someone who gets it. Our Christianity has to be bigger than our sexuality. It's all in the perspective.

I really appreciate this post, and hope that God will continue to work through people like you seem to know what it means to truly seek His will.