The Great Exchange

One topic that has come up for me a lot over the years is homosexuality. Same-sex attraction is the reason that my ex-husband decided to divorce me. He certainly has his own story and I don’t attempt to tell that here (I am not outing him to the world, he has already done this). That is parenthetical to what I really wanted to say, but important for you to know about my perspective.

You may or may not be surprised if you knew how many Christians struggle with same sex attraction. I know several. Before you get upset with my using the word ‘struggle,’ recognize that I’m not making a judgment- all of the people I know would admit that for them it is a place of great difficulty. I myself glimpsed into that struggle by marrying a man who was not attracted to women.

Was I fully aware of my own foolishness? No. Talking to a friend last night about this issue, she expressed thoughts I carried years ago when I got engaged…. Don’t we believe in a big God who can do anything? Doesn’t he love to heal his children and give them good gifts? If this man wants to be heterosexual, isn’t that honoring to God and won’t God honor this desire?

The foolishness on my part wasn’t in believing that God is good and that he can do anything. It wasn’t foolish for me to support the earnest desire my ex husband had to honor God. He has since come to believe that those were our mistakes, but I do not.

Two things have become skewed in our world that make this issue so complicated. What is good and loving? And, what does it mean to be human?

These two things do not only impact those who deal with homosexuality, they effect everyone who wants to date or marry. Our culture has put sex in the same category with breathing, and nearly every desire into the category of deserving. The idea of Rights should have its own post, but to step there for a moment I want to say that where we go wrong is when we fight for our own rights and surrender the rights of others. Nothing will be good until we all do the exact opposite.

I follow the blog of this honest man in Kentucky named Nate who shares very transparently about his desire to follow God, and how his life is impacted by his attraction to men. One thing that really strikes me about his story is the recurring theme of surrender. Surrender is the word that God gave me on Thursday concerning my seeking to not burn out as a missionary and it was also the word he reminded me of last night when talking to my friend about singleness, dating and sexuality.

What does it mean to surrender my life in such a way that I let go of the “right” to be a wife and mother? What would it mean for all of us to let go of the assumption that we deserve sexual intimacy or satisfaction? What if this thing that our culture wars over is similar to beggars fighting for a crust of bread while refusing an invitation from the king to a great banquet? I’m not saying that God is inviting us to a spiritual orgy, but I do believe that the good he has for us is much bigger and better than romantic love.

That is difficult to see, I realize. I’ve lived in a Christian community for over ten years now and I’m just beginning to see that this is true. That is not to say that Christian community is fully walking in this truth, but considering I work with no single men older than 23, I have a unique opportunity to test (lean on) God in this area of his all-sufficiency.

Two years ago any time I tried to consider what it would be like to stay single for the rest of my life, I got so panicked I could not even have a conversation about it with God.There are places inside of some of us that have been so starved that it seems like feeding that hunger is the only way to survive. I also had all of these identity things to work through; for example, what does our culture think of single, older/old women? I had to wrestle with my own stereotypes, I had to look at myself honestly and let go of who I desperately wanted to be…. at least how I wanted to be seen, which was, unfortunately fused to how I saw myself.

But imagine another world with me. Imagine that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about you. Imagine that it matters completely what God thinks (like a child with their dad)… and then further picture that this opinion that matters most to you is that of God’s very real and fierce acceptance and love of you. Yes, you.

Why would he do that? Why would he totally embrace and delight in you with all of your petty grievances, all the straying thoughts you wouldn’t dare tell others, all of the past hurts committed by you and against you that you don’t know how to forgive.

Jesus is still the only answer to these questions.

A guy friend of mine who has spent several years in limbo between homosexuality and Christianity said once that no one else can really understand his struggle. He thought it was unfair that so many other people are so free because their desires match their beliefs. I know some happily married people we could all point to as proofs of his statement, but it misses something real and unseen by most Christians. Heterosexual marriage is not the reward Jesus came to give us and many heterosexual Christians do not live a desire-fulfilled life because they, too have overlooked the real reward.

We could go back and forth for a long time with Bible verses about singleness verses marriage, but that is not actually the point I’m trying to make. What I’m trying to say is that everything needs to be surrendered. Everything. While I was at home for Christmas I spent some time with my ex-husband and he asked me what I thought a person with same sex attraction was supposed do with themselves within Christianity. Do I believe they can “pray the gay away?”
I’m coming to believe that this question misses the purpose of Christ’s death on the cross. He came to save us from what all of us deserve and he did that by laying down his right to life, his right to royalty, his right to justice. As his follower, how can I do any less than lay down my rights to marriage and sexuality? The exchange that God has waiting for me involves receiving so much more than I could ever deserve. What I receive is God himself.

 

13 Comments

  1. Kimmi
    Jan 25, 2014

    Very good perspective Peggy. A lot that I am going to need to re-read and chew on.

    • pegster
      Jan 25, 2014

      Thank you, Kimmi.
      I’m still chewing on it, too!

  2. Alexis
    Jan 25, 2014

    Very humble and gracious thought-provoking post. So true. It reminds me that the Christian walk – thought we are all different, we are similar in so many ways. Thanks (Kimmi’s friend)

    • pegster
      Jan 25, 2014

      Thank you for your comment, Alexis!
      I do long to see us all walking together in love instead of warring over differences. I keep picturing Jesus laying down his life and I pray that he will give us the grace to respond in kind.

  3. Christine
    Jan 26, 2014

    This is a humble piece and I agree, we are called, as Christians, to lay down all of our life to God as a response to his grace as Christ laid down his life for us. This includes our sexuality, our future, our hopes, our dreams, our singleness or marriage, our children. It is hard. It is something God works with us all on every day, nudging (sometimes gently, sometimes not) us forward where we are holding back from him.

    Assuming for a moment that homosexuality is wrong (this is not a stance I am taking, just supposing), I think the far greater problem is the idea that someone would be in “limbo between homosexuality and Christianity.” These two are not opposite things!!! Christ died on the cross for everyone and the church does a disservice to people making them feel that Christ does not love them for who they are. Christ asks us to give ourselves to him in response to Grace – not before the Grace. First one accepts that Christ died for us – regardless of our sins. Then we begin the long journey of learning what it means to follow Christ, of finding the ways we have sinned, of how to repent, to turn the other way, to give ourself to him, to grow in him. The failing of the Church is to say that homosexuality, if you consider it a sin, precludes you from becoming a Christian. If sin prevented us from becoming Christian, we would all be lost. If everyone needed to give up all of their sexual sin in order to be good enough to become a Christian we’d all be lost.

    The bitter truth is that I have yet to meet someone, including Christians, who do not deal with sexual sin in their life on a regular basis: temptation, lust, pornography, infidelity, etc. Again, assuming that homosexuality is a sin, it still should never be a barrier to someone becoming a Christian anymore than the everyday struggles and failings against sexual sin should stop a heterosexual from becoming Christian. God’s grace is sufficient for all of us and he wants to know and love us. There isn’t a bar to cross before that happens. His Grace is sufficient.

    • pegster
      Jan 26, 2014

      Christine, thank you for your thoughtful response!

      I agree with you about God’s grace being sufficient and sin not being a barrier to coming to God because Jesus already crossed that barrier… I said that he was in limbo because that is how he saw himself. He saw himself between choosing one or the other.

      I’m not picking on gay people, or excluding them from walking with Jesus.

  4. Rebecca
    Jan 26, 2014

    Exactly what I was talking about with a friend today… thanks for putting it so well into written format!

    • pegster
      Jan 26, 2014

      Thank you, Rebecca, for responding!

  5. Anonymous
    Jan 26, 2014

    It seems to me that the unique nature if homosexuality as sin, especially when it comes to marriage is that it implies no repentance and living with intention to go forth and sin. Additionally, because homosexuality has so been focused in the marriage debate lately we forget what the lifestyle is more often times about. I praise God that a relative of mine has renounced that lifestyle and found a loyal and supportive wife. I can only hope and pray they are not being naive much as seems to be how you and your husband (ex) feel. There are no easy answers on this topic. I do believe there is a place for homosexuals in Christs church…which brings another question… Do you think god calls on us to renounce same sex attraction just as we should renounce many other sins that are in our interest of self indulgence? That is, are all homosexuals not capable of heterosexual relationships at all?

    • pegster
      Jan 26, 2014

      I think the question of whether people are called to renounce homosexuality and the question of whether they are “capable” of a heterosexual relationship are two very different questions.

      I know that Jesus accepts those who come to him, regardless.

      For the person who walks with him and keeps falling back into sin, there is immeasurable love, grace and the Holy Spirit to help that person get back up again and again and Jesus does not get tired of this, although the person who falls may feel more and more frustrated with themselves. There is no limit to his patience and forgiveness and love.
      I think the only way out of sin is to walk minute by minute with Jesus, discovering his goodness and love and confessing weakness to him. I have seen that the more I know him and walk with him, the more I need him every moment. I become weaker, but he becomes stronger in me.

  6. Wendy
    Jan 28, 2014

    Peggy, thank you for writing about the hard things lately. It’s been refreshing to see you illumine areas that are difficult to talk about sometimes. This topic, especially, is dear to my heart, and your comments lead to the perspective that we all need. We’re not so different at all; we all need to lay down all our rights. So good.

    • pegster
      Jan 28, 2014

      Thank you for your comment, Wendy. I would love for this to be a continuing conversation, because I feel like there is still so much to learn!!
      Love you, friend.

  7. Brent Johnson
    Jan 28, 2014

    Thank you for this thoughtful reflection, Peggy. Your experience with the collision of heterosexual marriage and the homosexual “struggle” of your ex- affords you a unique and legitimate perspective. I don’t know if you saw the Grammys on Sunday, but Macklemore’s performance of his song, The Same Love, was laced with religious imagery and the verbal dismissal of the bible and any exclusive claims of Christianity. It was a little ambiguous, a message hovering between “all religions are worshiping the same God, who created and blesses homosexuality” and “religion is the enemy of peace, love and cultural progress.” What was very clear was that American culture has passed the tipping point. The national movement embracing what is referred to as Marriage Equality continues to gain momentum and has an inevitability about it. I am confident that a national Constitutional Ammendment mandating marriage equality is less than decades away.

    Knowing that I will be raising children in a culture that is shifting so suddenly on this issue makes the stakes very high. And my role as a pastor requires me to find a stance in here that upholds biblical truth and embodies agape love to everyone. That means everyone. We are all looking at this issue, many Christians enjoying the water of American culture lapping peacefully at our shores as it has for as long as we can remember. But the Grammys moment that ended with Queen Latify presiding over 30 or so marriages–hetero, homo, mixed races and ethnicities–was like a tsunami siren, saying–no, shouting–clearly that there is an inescapable cultural change coming that will overrun so much that American Christians have taken for granted in the safety of this culture we think we know. A tsunami is coming and we’re still playing in the mud on the beach like children.

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