Sunday, September 27, 2009

Goals

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34, ESV)

I have always had difficulty with this verse. More specifically, I have had difficulty living out this verse in my own life. I am a natural worrier. I worry about the future all the time. I have very specific goals for my future, really. I want to go to graduate school. I want to teach high school for awhile. I want to be a published author, and earn enough money so that I can adopt a child on my own. I want to become a university professor later in life. I want to be an upstanding Christian who is content in his singleness and an encouragement to others who struggle with SSA.

I want to help make it so Christians don’t flinch when they hear the term “gay,” and maybe even help the language of those who struggle something a little clearer (I really see no reason why “gay” and “SSA” can’t be interchangeable, but some people will only use one or the other for reasons that simply don’t make sense to me). I want to help make it so ex-gay ministries refocus their goals on helping people live lives obedient to Christ and their values, instead of focusing on marriage or heterosexuality or “freedom from homosexuality” (I really, really hate that phrase, since it’s so misleading; I’ve never met an SSA man, even a very faithful and loving married one, who didn’t still have pronounced homosexual attractions, and I wish those guys would be as candid with their public testimonies as they are in private correspondence).

So I have a lot of goals. I have a laser focus and a very driven heart when it comes to reaching those goals, and I often act defensively when confronted with something that will threaten those goals (just ask anyone who has ever gotten into an argument about ex-gay terminology with me). For example, I have a very difficult time with Christians who refuse to even support basic civil unions for gay couples, because it’s usually these hard-line conservatives who don’t want to allow gays to adopt—not even single ones—and that threatens one of my most treasured goals. (On a mostly unrelated note, I also get annoyed at Christians who don’t support gay marriage but who say they’d support civil unions, but then don’t do anything to actively promote civil unions or things like hospital visitation rights; put up or shut up, people).

Are my goals necessarily God-ordained? Well, that depends. Certainly my goal to be a faithful and obedient single man is. After all, the only reason I don’t have a boyfriend right now—and hopefully will never stray and have one—is because of Him. I do think that many gay Christians can marry heterosexually, and I support them when they do if they have been honest and cautious about it. I don’t see that as my own particular calling, simply because I think I can do a lot more as a single man. I want to show Christians that a single gay guy can be obedient, loving, Biblically-sound, and have a heart that seeks Christ. I want to show that it’s possible.

But maybe the other goals are things God doesn’t have in store for me. I’m in the graduate school application process. I certainly have particular places in mind that I’d want to go (Baltimore, Colorado), but what if I only get accepted at a school in North Carolina, and have to stay here? Or what if my family hits financial ruin and instead of getting to focus on my writing I have to go live back home and take care of my mother and be a teacher in the same high school I graduated from? These things are certainly possible, but I think I’ve reached a point in my faith when I can say that, even if those kinds of things happened to me, I could still count my many blessings and praise God. My goals seem good and valuable and are precious to me right now, but if they turn out to not be His goals, well, he will show me. I just need to keep at them and stop worrying about them, I guess.

27 comments:

U.T. said...

You know if you actually do work towards these goals, and glorify God along the way, your life actually sounds pretty exciting for a single celibate guy.

Brandon said...

Jay, I think you're a remarkable person. I think your goals are very good ones to have. Just keep God as your focus and I'm sure you'll be fine whatever happens.

May God bless you. :)

MR said...

Jay,

2 things:

The cure for worry is to know God and how trustwory He is ! He will surprise you in the unexpected ways He provides for you to reach His goals for your life.

I pray that you will not only know and focus on your goals, but also that you will be emotionally devoted to pleasing God and helping people. To be truly persuasive and to actually sway people, you must involve emotions as well as logic and determination.

Richard said...

Jay, reading your blog these past months, I thank God for His good work in your life and your growth as a Christian.

Living a single, celibate life for the past thirty years after becoming a Christian, I have accomplished much more both in my professional life and ministry than I would have first thought possible. And, I assume there are many like me with a similar story. I am praying God keep you in His good and perfect will for your life.

Regarding the “ex-gay” ministries, God has called us, not to reparation but to transformation, as a people separated from sin in the pursuit of holiness. Indeed, one purpose of the Church is to help people live obedient to the truths contained in Scripture. Perhaps, one day we will be able to live openly in the Christian community as people who struggle with and overcome a myriad of temptations, including SSA, in order that God be glorified. Perhaps, one day all Christians will look through the sins of others to see people created in the image of God and whom God so loved to pay an indescribable price to redeem them from sin and reconcile them to Himself.

Mark said...

I do think that many gay Christians can marry heterosexually, and I support them when they do if they have been honest and cautious about it.

This is a tough one for me to hear. I'm one of those that tried that route. Twenty-seven years. Three children. Impaired relationships. Anger and pain. Suicidal depression. These are the outcomes in my own experience.

I know many others who have also gone that route. I'm active in a forum where christians (straight, bisexual and gay) involved in mixed-orientation marriages are trying to sort their lives out.

The bottom line is: two people considering such a thing at the outset have little clue what's involved and the heartache that is likely in store for themselves and their loved ones down the line, sooner or later.

From vast personal and first-hand experience, it is not something to be considered lightly, if at all.

Jay said...

Do you have a link to that forum? Or is it private? I'd like to see it. I have some friends (college-aged, mostly) who are considering that route. So far, they seem to be completely honest with their girlfriends, who seem to be very accepting.

Most of the problems I've seen reading testimonies about this subject seem to revolve around dishonesty on the SSA partner's part at the outset of the marriage and/or unrealistic expectations about orientation change. What problems exist if these things are not present?

donsands said...

"I just need to keep at them and stop worrying about them, I guess."

Yes, but in our flesh, in this world, and with the devil roaming about, it's very difficult indeed.

If we see anxiousness as sin, then we are simply to ask the Lord to help us overcome. It may take a lifetime, but our Savior is our Good Shepherd, and he will help all His sheep in our sanctification, little by little. All the while Jesus having taken our sin upon Himself, even becoming sin and a curse for us, and His precious blood has washed all our sins away, and he has imputed to us His righteousness. The Gospel is beyond amazing!

Jesus will mainly use the Church to purify the Church, as His Spirit works within the Church: Pastors feeding the sheep, the sheep having fellowship with one another, and baptism and the Lord's Supper are essential for us to grow in God's grace as well.

But "numero uno" is the Word. We need to hear it, read it, study it, and meditate upon it prayerfully with the Spirit of Christ filling us, and comforting us in His love and truth. The Word cuts deep to convict and also encourage.

Here's the verse that came to mind as I read your post Jay:

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." Col. 3:1-4

Have a blessed week in His love, grace and peace.

MR said...

Jay,

Mark brought up an important subject. I hope he comments back.

I can only comment from my own limited experience as a celibate Christian man with SSA. I did have a girlfriend years ago and we did consider heterosexual marriage. The reason she could not agree to that was that she didn't "feel loved" "in that way" by me, even though we had a great friendship.

Both the guy and the girl must be fully aware of the other's SSA issues, which may always remain a temptation. Even then, both must realize that they may feel a lack of sexual love at times more than "normal" couples would. If they love each other enough to gladly help each other fight that difficult battle, they can consider marriage.

Daemon said...

Jay,

Thanks for the words you put here for us to reflect on and read.

It is good to know I am not alone, in the unknown. Many people are not OK with finding truth as a continual process, rather than an isolated epiphany.

I am praying for you man.

U.T. said...

Would like to hear what Mark says too, as I want to know more on the experiences of people who tried the marriage route or are willing to do it.

I think our perspective on homosexuality needs to be heard.

The gay rights people say we can't change so we should just give in to our desires.

Some Christians are for monogamous homosexual relationship but, honestly, as much as I would like to believe them, I can't seem to buy their arguments at all. The rest will say we can change and get married if we truly want to. But the high failure and relapse rates really make me rethink if marriage is truly an option for us, or that we can even change at all. In fact most success testimonies I hear are by people actively involved in the ex-gay ministry, several others have kind of "disappeared".

How about, acknowledge that we can't really change that much, but we have to accept that celibacy is a viable option for us and that it isn't necessarily a bad thing, with God on our side to provide for everything that we need. How about, churches making this a more open topic to talk about so we feel more inclined to build healthy and honest relationships within the church and reveal our struggles with SSA more, wouldn't life be a lot better for us.

larkspur said...

I've already commented on my failed heterosexual marriage on another post, so my story has been told.

The forum that I think Mark refers to is GCN which I'm personally familiar with. It's really the "I" word that Christians don't want to hear about with "mixed orientation" marriages -- infidelity. A straight sexual relationship is not the same for a gay person as a gay one is.

I must admit I'm a bit amused as gay people who have never engaged in an intimate relationship heterosexuality (especially one involving lifetime commitment) -- extol the workability of such. Anyone can engage in theoretical arguments; those of us who have actually travelled the road know the angst. It kind of reminds me of how no one can *really* know what it is like to carry and give birth to a baby unless you have done it. So I keep my mouth shut on that; only the women who have done it can give an accurate description.

Am I saying that mixed orientation marriages *never* work out? Of course not. But my spouse was aprised of my feelings before marriage -- fully so and the lack of orientation change is just that -- lack of change. I heard one gay guy refer to heterosexual lovemaking as being a bear in a three ring circus. Bisexual guys would obviously have a different story. But gay men and women have different stories which seem to more often than not come out in the wash. Maybe...in a logical framework...this is why Exodus does speak of change -- it's necessary. (Even though I believe it rarely occurs.)

Looking forward to hearing Mark speak...

Mark said...

I speak not only of the mixed-orientation marriage forum at GCN, but also of my experience with a gay dad's support group that I've been a part of for a number of years. It isn't a specifically Christian group though a good percentage of the guys who come through there that identify as Christian are of the evangelical Christian stripe -- guys who entered into marriage with high hopes and no small amount of explicit and tacit encouragement to do so. Guys who had a call to ministry and felt like that entailed having a helpmate alongside to help.

I have no idea how common infidelity is in these situations -- it would be hard to generalize both in terms of frequency and how often it's the straight or same-sex attracted partner; after all there are *two* people in the relationship who ultimately are being shortchanged in their need for true intimacy, physical as well as emotional.

The almost universal result is a broken marriage and a broken home.

It isn't just about the mechanics of physical intimacy -- orientation encompasses more than that. But for many, that's a huge obstacle.

It's important to realize that entering into a life-long commitment is challenge enough without introducing this kind of multiplier into it.

Jay said...

Well, I know a handful of newly-married mixed-orientation couples (the men would identify as "ex-gay," but also in most cases admit to still being mostly SSA). Granted, in all these cases I have heard only positive things. All parties involved seem to have deep relationships with one another, and some even have children (on the way or just born).

What kind of advice or warning do you give to couples like this, especially those who aren't (yet) having any problems other than what normal heterosexual couples have?

Mark said...

Advice: be willing to be honest -- even when it hurts. The same-sex oriented spouse will ultimately find themselves between a rock and a hard place: the trust of their spouse will be tested with their friendships with members of the same-sex and usually little to no option to create friendships with members of the opposite sex (which would be safer from a fidelity standpoint) for appearance sake.

Warning: life has it's stages. You might be making it now but be prepared for challenges down the road. The reliable statistics that exist (cf Straight Spouse Network) show that a small minority of mixed-orientation marriages succeed in the long run. Heck -- the statistics for marriage overall aren't that encouraging, *especially* in religiously conservative geographic areas, irony of ironies.

From all appearances, my ex-wife and I had a wonderful, wholesome healthy marriage -- right up to the moment when we stood up in our Sunday School class and announced our divorce. Almost 30 years. People in mixed-orientation marriages develop amazing coping skills for avoiding the pink elephant in the room and presenting precisely what they think God and the church demand of them.

Anonymous said...

I echo what Mark says. My wife and I are in the process of divorce. She knew of my attractions before we married. We were both of the belief that I would my homosexuality could be controlled, if not diminished, over time. Just last week, she told me that she would recommend to anyone trying to help SSA teenagers or adults to NEVER get married and procreate. It's just not fair to both spouses, or their precious, innocent children.

Thanks for your blog! I enjoyed reading it.

Jay said...

Mark and Anonymous: I understand what you are saying. But never is a very strong word. Like I said, I know several married couples. I don't think God is putting marriage on my heart; I have the gut instinct and the overall logical analysis of my own personality that convicts me to be single (despite all the challenges that entails).

At the same time, I know variety of SSA men (and one SSA woman) who have been married over a decade, or a few years, and one couple who got married a few months ago. They all still struggle, and their wives are all very well aware. None of them seem to be very involved in Exodus, and are very forthright and honest about their orientation still being largely where it was. Yet they've worked out arrangements with their spouses, and they're working on things honestly and realistically as they can. I don't think anyone in these marriages is expecting to become fully heterosexual.

So what should they do? Jump out now just because of the statistics? I can understand cautioning SSA youth to consider celibacy instead of marriage. At the same time, some people do make it work, and many guys think that they will be able to be like those few. Where do we balance caution with letting adults making their own decisions, especially if they seem to be being very honest about the situation (to themselves, their spouses, and others)?

The Muser (aka Beautiful Mama) said...

Wow--I wish all of you bloggers had been around when I was in my 20s, struggling with my sexuality, and at Wheaton college! I really appreciate your criticism of "ex-gay" ministries and the dishonesty inherent in claiming "freedom" when in fact most people gain no more than weak bisexuality (still leaning mostly toward homosexuality) and often experience no long-term change in their orientation (and often really hurt their straight spouses when they marry and then later realize that the "healing" they experienced didn't so much stick! I went through 4 different ex-gay programs. In many ways my struggle was a lot easier bcs I was always strongly attracted to the other sex and fell in love and married someone of the other sex (even while being immensely attracted to other women), but all those ex-gay programs really did me a lot of harm. Anyway, I've come to a different conclusion about the possibility and holiness of being Christian and actively (monogomously) gay than you have, but I really appreciate your story and your really clear thinking on what it means to be a Christian and to care for the rights of all people! Blessings to you in your journey.

Saul said...

I agree, Jay.

Cautioning for the reliability of figures and sources, I've heard that 80% of mixed orientation marriages end in divorce, compared with 50% of same orientation marriages. Significantly worse, but not a case for 'never', I don't think. Plus, there are other factors. For example, at least some of the mixed orientation marriages, probably most, would have involved non-disclosure. Some involved unrealistic expectations of full heterosexuality. Etc.

Proceed, with caution, but always be prepared to accept and embrace the celibate life, is I think the right advice.

TRiG said...

I think you'll find that most aphorisms (and the Bible verse quoted at the beginning of your essay is short enough to be considered an aphorism) should not be universally applied. Sometimes it is right to worry; sometimes it isn't.

Aphorisms are designed to provoke thought. They are not simple rules to be followed. Often, they are impossible to follow as rules.

TRiG.

larkspur said...

Jay,

The point is not becoming fully heterosexual. I don't think that is the point that anyone is trying to make. IMO the issue is how to successfully repress or suppress the gay attractions all the while trying to remain sexually attracted to one's spouse. This is why so many get exhausted after so many years of this balancing act. I feel frustrated in trying to explain it to folks who have never been in the situation. Until you have been there it is near nigh impossible to comprehend.

I find it interesting when you mention the word "arrangements" with one's spouse. Because without realizing it, I think you have stumbled upon what really happens...you make arrangements. For me, it was porn. And eventually 2 affairs over 20 years of marriage -- one night stands. Would having fallen with a best bud been any better? I think not.

I don't know who your friends are or how well you really know them -- as to how deeply they share. But I really don't know that many gay men and women -- Christians -- who have been able to maintain fidelity over a LONG period of time. I am not excusing myself, but I'm actually amazed that my infidelities were not more pronounced. Give your friends 15 or 20 years and see how they are maintaining their relationships.

I hated to hear it at 21, too, but Jay, you just haven't had that much time to live (and make mistakes). Life looks a lot differently on just this side of 50, trust me. But I didn't know that in my twenties and took things at face value, too.

And, no, couples should not jump ship, but neither should they live in the type of angst so many of us have. It's not fair to the children for one thing. I had no children but deprived my spouse of a real marriage with kids because I wanted to be "normal". I wanted to look normal and be normal in society and amongst friends and to please God by living straight which is what I believed was the only type of relationship He allowed. And I found an intellectual companion in my spouse -- a fellow Rice Student -- understanding that had eluded me for much of my life. But, thank God that we have advanced, yes even in the Church, to understand that sexual orientation is not chosen and rarely changed.

Jay said...

I understand what you're saying, Larkspur, although I am somewhat curious. How is this kind of marriage different from, say, a man whose wife undergoes physical changes (gains weight, loses figure through childbirth) and who loses attraction towards her? Certainly there are heterosexual marriages where sexual attraction decreases or almost stops completely, and yet due to the Christian faith they persevere.

I don't think the people I know who are married are doing this to be "normal." Some of them are part of Exodus ministries so I do question their motivations (unfortunately). Others, however, have views about as anti-Exodus as I do. They hate seeing their marriages used as "signs of hope" by their churches and communities. They are very honest about the struggles, and many of them are just like what you said -- struggling with healthy heterosexual intimacy, and suppressing gay urges. I'm not saying it's not exhausting, but these are people who love their spouses and love the Lord and have to deal with some special challenges.

But doesn't every couple have to deal with special challenges? Whether it's illness or in-law drama or the loss of a child or inability to conceive or a child with disabilities or busy work schedules or decrease in sexual desire -- every couple has major things to deal with.

Although I don't see marriage as my own personal path, I don't have a problem with people seeking it. So long as they are extremely honest with each other, and don't show their wedding rings as a sign of some kind of orientation change. I know around Exodus you won't find many (if any) couples like that. But that doesn't mean that there aren't some mixed-orientation marriages that do work, and we may caution folks about the difficulties that go along with such a path, but we don't have a right to tell them whether or not to seek it.

donsands said...

When a wife and husband join in marriage, they used to confess, "Until death do us part."

Now they promise until divorce do I part.

here's what the Lord says, for what it's worth. (And I'm not saying God doesn't show grace for those who have been divorced.)

"And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’
‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mk. 10:6-9

Hope the Word of God helps.

Jay said...

Don, I think we all know what the Word of God says. It's just hard to live it out sometimes. Heterosexual men have a strong, innate desire to become one flesh with a woman. Men like me have no such desire, and in many cases the thought of being physically intimate with a woman is repulsive (this is why I have no intention to marry, of course).

The question is how does a man who has no desire to be of one flesh with his wife continue in a marriage? You're right. Divorce isn't a good thing. But how do they make the marriage work when the issue of intimacy is such a problem? These aren't easy questions and they don't have easy answers. Simply quoting a Bible verse doesn't always give someone the support they need. Sometimes people just need to be heard.

donsands said...

"Don, I think we all know what the Word of God says"

I realize you know the Scriptures quite well Jay, but I would guess to think most people in the Church today don't really know the Bible as they should, but they know what the TV teaches, and what society says.

I think the Bible is the main food we need for the renewing of our minds. Much of the Church is dumbed down in my opinion. We might think we are smarter; but are we really?

I never think of someone simply quoting the Scriptures as wrong, if that same person is coming from a grace and love perspective. i welcome the Word of god.

That's just me.

When i was an elder and I had to deal with many problems the people in the church were having, i would pray and read the Scriptures, and allow them to vent of course.
But it seemed a lot of times they didn't want to hear what God says in His Word, but simply wanted to ramble and ramble on.

I brought the Bible into this discussion to perhaps help cut through some of our surface thinking.
"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."
And this is a good thing for our souls.

But i'm glad you have a great blog where people can also come and share their hearts. And that's exactly what I am doing as well.

I believe you actually have one of the best blogs around Jay.
Keep up the Good work.

Jay said...

I understand, Don. I'm sorry for snapping at you. I know you come from a graceful, truthful perspective, and I really look up to you and admire that.

I think what I mean to say is that, although the Bible is the ultimate authority and ultimate truth, it doesn't have a step-by-step "how to" guide for the multitude of unique and specific issues human beings face. We all know what Biblical marriage is supposed to be based on the Word of God, but living that out is very difficult (and not just for gay guys).

I think when you just quoted Mark 10:6-9, and left it at that, it seemed like you were simply throwing a verse at the issue. It's a good verse, to be sure. Marriage is a union where God has taken two and joined them into one. But the practical questions about whether or not a homosexually-oriented man should marry, how such men should live out their marriages if they do, and how they should navigate the delicate issues of attraction and intimacy that many heterosexual men don't have to deal with, aren't exactly spelled out in a sequence of Bible verses.

donsands said...

"..how they should navigate the delicate issues of attraction and intimacy that many heterosexual men don't have to deal with, aren't exactly spelled out in a sequence of Bible verses."

I'm with you there. I guess I can be too doctrinal at times.

May the Lord help us grow in His grace upon grace, and in His knowledge. Amen.

Jeff S. said...

I have gotten behind in my blog-reading so I'm sorry for not responding sooner to this thread in Jay's blog. I would count myself as one of the friends Jay refers to, married 17 years and going strong, two kids. Faithful to my wife as I said in my vows. Yes, I've struggled with porn on occasion, but I sought accountability for that and seek to maintain a life of purity in that and other areas. I shared with my wife about my struggle with same sex attraction when we were just social dating. As our friendship and then love grew, we felt God specifically bringing us together. Sure, I hoped that my attraction towards men would diminish or disappear over time, but even if it has not, my love for my wife has only grown stronger.

In my blog a few weeks ago I posted the following as advice to other guys who struggle with homosexuality if they are considering marriage: "Do I recommend dating and marriage, if they desire it, for any men who struggle with homosexuality? Only if they have a real desire to marry and have children, only if they (and their spouse-to-be) face it with the realism that attraction to men may possibly continue or resurface to some degree, only if they do not see marriage as being better in God’s eyes than being single, only if they have shared about their struggle with same-sex attraction in detail with their potential future spouse, and only if they have a strong expectant faith that in God all things are possible. Even then, it is a major decision to make, but as Jones and Yarhouse point out in their findings, change in some form is possible for some people. I am one of those people." Jeff