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.