I was invited to be a guest blogger on the website http://www.liveequal.net. I wanted to share that blog here. Hope y’all are having a great holiday season.
It’s a sticking point. Truly. A make or break. Are gay people made that way or do they choose to be that way?
That’s the question of the hour. Pick a side. If you believe homosexuals are born that way, that intimates God made them that way and for those who believe the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, that can’t be. Flip the coin over, and everyone recognizes that many people seem to be gay, even from a young age, although that also intimates buying into stereotypes (which is totally a blog for another day).
I had a conversation with a friend who has a gay niece. She said she was frustrated because she loved and supported her niece, but just didn’t agree with her spiritually and didn’t understand why that was such a problem. I spent a lot of time thinking about that. Shades of gray … I believed more and more in life that things really aren’t black and white. I’m a registered republican, but have become more and more … purple? magenta? … in life as I’ve walked the scale from hard-core full-out Red back towards more Blue ideals. So I get what my friend was saying. Why can’t we just agree to disagree and love each other? It should work. It makes sense. We should be able to do that.
But here is the problem with that in this realm. Love the sinner, hate the sin translates to Love those sinners, and hate their sin. No sin is worse than another is really your sin of homosexuality is no worse than my sin of … let’s say gossip. No matter how you look at it, if as a Christian you see someone else that you believe is sinning, you condemn that behavior. You have to. It’s SIN. And from the other side, that just sucks.
Let me explain better, and from a parent’s view. Your kids are awesome. I see their flaws and love them anyway. I accept them into my home. AS LONG AS THEY STAY ALONE. If they ever date or marry or have kids, that all changes. I will always love them, but will never accept them. Will never be willing to socialize with them. Will whisper about them when my kids are around. Won’t attend their weddings, won’t throw baby showers, won’t send baby gifts, won’t like any posts on Facebook about them and their families. You see what I’m getting at?
If you haven’t yet faced homosexuality in your own family somewhere, or frankly more accurately don’t realize you have homosexuality in your family somewhere, that doesn’t get you off the hook for studying this, deeply and thoroughly. Someone you know or love is dealing directly with it. And failure to engage is perceived as failure to care.
I get it. I was there. In the days before I knew my son is gay (I refer to the day I found out as G-Day), I had a lot of friends who were gay, and I had searched my concordance for the word “homosexuality” and had read the verses it directed me to. I considered that good. I was wrong.
Back then, I still interpreted those couple of scriptures about homosexuality literally and without full context, and I totally believed homosexuality was a sin (I no longer do). And as such, I could not accept that my God would create someone who had no choice but to sin (although I admit the passages about God hardening hearts and such still gave me pause in connection to free will). But I also heard from many gay friends that they would never chose to be attracted to the same gender. Would never chose to be bullied and made fun of and beat up and rejected because of that. And I believed them, which seemed a conflict.
Of course, I had the answer. Some people are born pre-disposed towards different temptations. Take me, for example. I’ve never been tempted (as of yet anyway) towards using drugs or towards stealing. I have my own sins that I have to work daily to combat (which are none of your business), so I’d have to say I am pre-disposed towards those sins. I felt confident back then that categorizing homosexuality in those terms worked.
Let’s do a little word play with that, shall we?
“Being born pre-disposed towards certain temptations.” Let’s cut to the stop-beating-around-the-bush chase, Edwards, and say what I really meant by that. What I meant was that I’ve seen and known young kids — way younger than puberty — that nine out of 10 people would label “gay.” Yes, much of that is based stereotypes, but is it what it is. So really saying “pre-disposed toward homosexuality” is in effect saying “born gay.” Let’s face it.
But Christians have a hard time saying LGBT people are born that way, because we all know God knit us together in the womb. So how can we say homosexuality is a sin and agree that gays are born that way? We can’t … and that’s the real crux of the issue: did God make us gay in the womb, or did Satan tempt us to be gay during puberty?
My own logic doubled-back on itself when I actually allowed my son’s words and conviction of how he felt — you know, actually listened to someone who IS gay as to what it’s like instead of assuming I knew what it was like — and accepted that he was born attracted to guys. Suddenly I was faced with a couple of new challenging questions. I’m sure you see them already.
First, how can someone be born attracted to the same gender, when sexual attraction doesn’t hit until puberty? The answer to that was again provided for me by my son with a simple statement that slammed me between the eyes: “Mom, (being gay) isn’t just a sex thing.” Wait, what?!?
“Ok, I want to understand this, and am trying here. Explain what you mean,” I stammered.
“I mean, sexual attraction is a part of it, but I’m just drawn to guys. Explain to me why you were drawn to dad,” he said.
“Well … I just was. I can’t explain it.”
“Exactly.” Smart kid. “I’m drawn to guys’ personalities and to the way they laugh and talk and think. I just am drawn to guys and not girls. Not in that way.”
I was dizzy from the idea, which is probably a no-brainer for many of you reading this. If SSA (same-sex attraction) is more than a sexual temptation, and I’ve already accepted that it’s something people are born feeling … hmm.
This actually eased up the moral struggle I had with God not being able to create a person who had no choice but to sin. If homosexuality is more than a sexual act, if it’s really an overall attraction to the same sex, then it’s ok to agree people are born gay. That doesn’t mean they have no choice but to sin. Being attracted to someone isn’t a sin after all, it’s only when you act on that, right?
Jesus made a point of teaching that it’s not just actions that count, but what’s in your heart. Take a look at Matthew 5. Jesus quotes the law not to murder, and adds that anyone angry with a brother or sister is subject to judgment. He goes on to say the law says not to commit adultery, but he says even looking at another with lust has already committed adultery. His whole point is look to the heart, not just to the actions.
So now what? I was at a crossroads. I accepted that people are born drawn towards one gender or the other. I accepted that God made them that way. I understood Jesus’ concept that it’s what in your heart that matters, not just what you do with that (which also nipped in the bud the idea of celibacy). BUT that would mean if homosexuality is a sin, then it’s a sin just to have those attractions whether or not they are ever acted upon.
I had no loophole left. Either homosexuality is a sin — and I would have to accept that God created people to live that life of sin whether they wanted to or not, or …. or it’s not a sin after all, which makes more sense, but puts the literal interpretation of those scriptures into question.
It was time to do some serious studying.
I still believe in the divine nature of the Bible. I still am a devout Christian. I have not turned away from the teachings of my childhood. Let me just start by clearing that up.
I’ve made an amazing transformation in my Christianity. Not from non-Christian to Christian, but more from Christian to … CHRISTIAN. I don’t know really how to explain it. When I found myself in a complete tailspin at the knowledge that my son is gay, I needed something to do … somewhere to go. Growing up in the church, of course for me that was to God, both through scripture and through prayer. Yes, that means I tried very very hard to “pray it away,” and to have God “fix” my son. I prayed for a hedge of protection around him, physically and spiritually, while we sorted this “temptation” out. I’d wake up from restless sleep at 2 am and pray with sweat drops like blood for hours, until God stilled my mind back into sleep. I’d pull my car over along a busy highway and sob out wordless prayers with groans from my spirit.
I also turned to the Scripture. I quickly located the six “clobber verses” — Christians, do you know the entire LGBT world knows the six verses in the Bible that refer to homosexuality by that term, because Christians use them to clobber gays with?? — and wept in despair yet again. I searched for the creation of Adam and Eve … I looked at what Jesus said about marital relationships … I found no loopholes in what I had always been taught. And yes, I was looking for a loophole. I prayed for God to help me somehow. How, how, how?? I had no idea where to go from here nor where to look, what to do.
“Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find …” But I HAD asked and I HAD sought and … nothing. I had overturned every rock and still had no solutions. And I was going crazy. Literally. I gained weight, my blood pressure sky-rocketed, my blood sugar went berserk. I had to let it go. I didn’t know how, but I knew I had to truly let it go and give it over to God. I had already done that through prayers, but this was different. I had to truly leave my son’s soul completely in God’s hands. Harder than it sounds.
That’s when God lead me to the story of the fishermen.
In John 21, Peter and a few other of Jesus’ disciples had spent a frustrating night of unsuccessful fishing. After hours of pulling up their empty nets, over and over again, a man on the shore that they didn’t recognize as Jesus, told them to throw their net on the other side of the boat. For some reason, they listened to this stranger, and when they pulled up the net this time, it was so full they couldn’t haul it into the boat.
I had been fishing on the wrong side of the boat.
I had had a few books suggested to me that I had been hesitant to start, as they were written by LGBT Christians, a term at the time that I thought was an oxymoron. But I was determined to fish in a new spot, so, loaded up with prayers of discernment of truth versus lies, I tossed my net into unknown waters. I read the books. I studied the social cultural and sexual practices of ancient Greece and Rome. When we used to read actually paper Bibles, every chapter had an intro page of who wrote the book, to whom, where and what was going on. I took this to a different level. I also read how the Bible was compiled to begin with, and how the NIV that I read was interpreted, and when, and by whom, as well as what was going on in the world at that time. I read the world history of same-gender sex (homosexuality wasn’t actually a word until the late 1800s). I buried myself in the political, religious and social histories of the LGBT community. I read not just the clobber passages, but the entire books in which the passages were written.
As all of the different pieces floated around in my very-full head, I felt a bit like a pinball machine, with thoughts and ideas bouncing around pinging into each other. But eventually, the confusion began to settle and I had a more clear picture of what the world was like when the Bible was actually penned. I saw how the hierarchy of free man, slave man, every other kind of man and eventually woman, played a part in every story I had every read in the Bible. I saw how the words “natural” and “unnatural” in the common Greek philosophy of Stoicism meant very different things then than they do now. That the scriptural references to homosexuality were all outside of marriage relationships. I realized that when my NIV was being translated in the early 1970s, the gay civil rights movement was making its early strides, and how that likely influenced the harsh word choices of the interpreters. Basically, I saw it all as a big picture, and no longer as individual words.
And my net overflowed.
I’m on a journey like no other. It’s not the journey I would have chosen — wouldn’t even have made my Top 10, truth be told. Frankly, had anyone ever suggested to me two short years ago that THIS would be my path in life, I’d have probably vehemently shaken my head, while inwardly giving a little shiver. But God sees things I don’t, and knows things I can’t, and pushed me onto this road, with me pretty much kicking and screaming.
Two years ago, I found out my teenage Christian son is gay.
I was raised conservative, traditionalist Christian, and while I had several gay friends that I loved dearly, I believed homosexuality was a sin. I didn’t WANT to believe that but I just couldn’t get around the seemingly black-and-white scriptures — even in the New Testament — that made it sound simple. Let me tell you, NOTHING about this is simple. For me, at least. And I dare say for any Christian parent of any LGBT child.
But for my son, it is simple. I asked him one day why he wasn’t struggling with the Bible on this topic and his reply pretty much blew me away: “Mom, being gay is as much a part of me as the color of my eyes, so I know it can’t be a sin or God wouldn’t have made me that way.” This he said calmly and with a confidence few experience. I actually heard inside my head echoes of Jesus’ words “unless you change and become like children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:3)
If you aren’t familiar with the Biblical story of the apostle Paul’s famous life-changing journey to Damascus, it starts in Acts 9:9 and goes from there. In a nut shell, Paul (who was called Saul until the end of this story) had spent his life actively persecuting Christians, and when he left for Damascus he was “still breathing threats and murder” against Jesus’ disciples. While traveling, God basically halted him with a beam of light and asked him the famous question: “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?” He identified himself to Saul as God, and sent him to Damascus. But when Saul got off of his knees, he was blind. For three days he journeyed blindly to the city, where God sent Ananias to heal him and send him out to share his story. He left a changed man of God.
When God used my son’s sexuality to halt my winding walk through life, I didn’t literally see a bright light from heaven, but I definitely fell to my knees in despair. For the next several months, I walked around as a blind person with no vision for where I was going and how I could get there. How could we live our lives thinking our son was spiritually lost? We loved him no matter what and would never reject him from our house or our lives, but the fear was blinding. But my good, good Father didn’t forsake me. Instead he put my own Ananias into my life and she helped direct me toward a path of study that dropped the scales from my eyes and allowed me to see God in a way I never had before — a God with no borders or boundaries. A God that doesn’t need our pitiful human help to change hearts, but who does use us to share His very real love to ALL of His people.
My Blog is entitled “My Road From Damascus” because it’s not about that fateful trip getting to Damascus, although I’m sure I’ll refer to those dark and scary days, as they helped shape me. It’s about the journey after I left Damascus, with a changed heart, a compasion for the LGBT community and an open mind: open to God’s children, to His calling. A heart overflowing with His amazing love. It’s my time to share my story.
When I first was in panic mode over my son being gay, I did what all true writers do: I wrote. At first it was just feelings onto a page — no real organization, just a way to get my emotions out there and to start dealing with them. Especially since as parents, when our child came out of his closet, we went into ours. We hid in our Second Closet for many many months and it was a lonely, quiet place. That just didn’t work for me! So I wrote.
Eventually I realized what I had to say about my experience might actually keep other parents in the same situation from feeling the isolation and desperation. That’s when my journal turned into a book. I wrote sporadically — I’d knock out a few thousand words in a few hours, then it would sit untouched for weeks. At one point, at the pinnacle of my journey, my manuscript sat unopened for several months. When I went back to read what I had written, I cried. Hard. God had moved me so far from where I had started that even my word choices made my heart ache. I nearly deleted it all, but shut my computer in disgust instead. It wasn’t long after that I realized THOSE words and THAT mentality are real parts of the journey. Things pretty much every traditionally minded Christian feels and says and does in our position. And to delete it was to mar the message. So I left it as is, and continued with the wording and heart God gave me at each time that I was prompted to write.
I am having to go back and fill in some important gaps, but if my plan truly is in line with what I believe to be God’s plan, you will be seeing a book on this topic sometime in the future.
If you read my first blog, you will understand what I mean when I say my book is getting me to Damascus. This blog picks up where my book leaves off and follows where God takes me from Damascus to …. ???
I was born in Louisville and after a short stint in Detroit, moved to small-town Oklahoma, where I spent my childhood and teenaged years. We built a home on land that I still refer to as my Tara (Gone With the Wind reference — Sad that I think I need to explain that). I am a country girl and spent my early years’ summer days barefoot and shirtless running around my “neighborhood” (no such thing really in the country) with my best friend who lived up the street. We rode her horse Buttermilk bareback, and climbed onto her Aunt Wilma’s roof from the fence. We rode our bikes five miles into town for Sixlets and a Dr. Pepper, often stopping along the way at our teacher’s house for cookies. It had to be on the way there, because we pretty much always called fake collect from a pay phone so Mom would come pick us up in her truck and we wouldn’t have to pedal home.
My parents had grown up in the city, so moving into country life was a fulfilled dream for them. They tested out different animals — pigs, chickens, rabbits, cows, horses. I still hate live chickens to this day because I had the job of feeding them and pulling eggs, and occasionally cleaning the coop. UGH. Mean nasty little suckers, I have to say. I also learned not to name anything but dogs. Rabbits get eaten (by us for dinner), and even outdoor cats rarely out live their nine lives in the country.
My parents settled on horses and cows. Spring was always my favorite as calfs and foals were wobbling around the pasture. I learned to drive a tractor before I did a car, and actually loved brush-hogging the pasture, wearing my cut-offs and a bikini top, with my Sony Walkman tucked in my seat. I loved my childhood.
I call my childhood home my Tara, because we still visit often, and I always suck in a deep breath of country air and feel my nerve endings vibrating more slowly. I feel rejuvenated by kicking off my shoes, although I can no longer run across the gravel drive without flinching. I love that my kids have fished in the ponds, and roamed the land as I did when I was a kid. I wish there were still hornytoads to catch. I am still amazed at HOW dark it is in the country and how clear the skies are. Nothing like seeing God’s power in the country skies — sunsets, billowing clouds, lightning, the Milky Way. Amazing.
I married a country guy as well, who I had started dating my senior year in high school. And while we both loved how and where we were raised, we have lived near cities ever since.
But we can still smell rain before it comes.