Saturday, November 01, 2008

What It's Not Always About

I think sometimes conservative Christians do a disservice to those struggling with SSA (same-sex attraction) by writing off this struggle as simply a sexual one. Now, of course it is largely sexual, and the sex is often what people have a hard time moving past. It's the starting point for everything else, and, for conservatives, it's the part that the Bible condemns. But for me (and I think I can speak for guys and girls like me), there is a lot more to struggling with SSA than just the sexual aspect, and truthfully, the sexual struggles pale in comparison to the other stuff.

At least for me, it's really the easiest thing to deal with. That might be because it's the most defined. It's not difficult to control one's behavior, especially when you don't put yourself in situations where your desires can get the better of you (as I did when my ex-boyfriend and I stumbled). It's also pretty clear to recognize sexual temptation when it comes along. The line between appreciating a man's God-given beauty and lusting after him is, to me, pretty easy to see. That's not to say it's easy to avoid, but that when I do cross it, I know what I'm doing and that I'm sinning. In other words, there isn't a lot of fuzziness with the sexual side of this struggle. Either you are sinning sexually or you aren't. Either you are thinking impure thoughts or you aren't. If there's middle ground there, I haven't seen it.

Unfortunately, SSA isn't just the sexual struggles. On paper it might be, but when you add together everything else -- from cultural issues to issues of celibacy, contentment, and one's role within the Church -- then you've really outweighed the sexual stuff, in my opinion. One example of this should exemplify all, I suppose, so here we go:

The reason I'm celibate is because I'm SSA. I believe what the Bible (and tradition) says about human sexuality and God's created order, and I intend to follow that. However, simply following doesn't take my SSA away. My relationship with Christ allows with me to deal with it in the same way that we all deal with unwanted desires (sexual or not), but it hasn't disappeared and, most importantly, I still don't have any romantic or physical feelings for the opposite sex. This means that I am likely to be celibate for a rather long time, if not for the rest of my life.

But it doesn't stop there. Just because I'm celibate and committed to that doesn't mean I'm not still human, and for some reason it's hard for folks to understand that sometimes. I have the same desires for love, affection, and companionship as anyone else. This ranges from the seemingly superficial (wanting to hug, cuddle, spend ridiculous amounts of time and energy searching for just the right Christmas gift, etc.) to the downright necessary (the need for companionship, purpose, having a witness to my life and memories, and being witness to someone else's). Those desires aren't the same as the sexual ones, and they need not be lumped in with them. It's odd enough to deny one's sexuality, but denying these desires, well, would just be impossible.

The struggle, then, becomes more about how to fulfill these desires in a God-honoring, Christ-centered way, even if I stay celibate and single for the rest of my life. Honestly, that's the hardest part about all of this, because according to the surrounding culture the only way to fulfill those desires for affection is to pair up in marriage or lifelong partnership. In other words, there just isn't a model for fulfilling those desires outside of romanticism, and romanticism is something I can't have.

I don't have the answer to how I can find what I'm looking for, but I have to have faith that I will. Simply, I don't want people to assume that when I'm feeling lonely or sad about my prospects, it's because I'm pining away about sex. That really, really isn't what I get sad about. At all. Actually, this kind of brushes against another topic, in that Christians often sell men short (all men) when they neglect the fact that, hey, we have emotional needs too. Guys aren't just out looking for sex; they desire committed companionship just like anyone else. I don't care what people say otherwise.

Of course if you're an SSA guy or gal reading this, you know this already. If you're liberal, you think that I should just go ahead and get a boyfriend (sorry, not going to happen). I guess I'm mainly speaking to those conservative Christians out there who have never dealt with SSA and are trying to learn more about the subject, so I encourage people like that to comment. Hope you have a great November, everyone! I'm going to try to post more often this month.

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