So much has been written about same sex attraction and LGBTI (Amnesty International’s descriptive: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) issues, both in secular and Christian circles. Within the Christian community we have great diversity in our thoughts on this issue, as Julia Stronks pointed out in the May 11 issue of Christian Courier.
We have spent countless hours debating (in the Church) which side we should land on. Should it be Side A: the affirming side, where we welcome and affirm those who identify as LGBTI, who wish to pursue and explore their sexuality as it pertains to their identity. Or Side B: the welcoming but not affirming side, where we encourage and exhort our brothers and sisters who struggle with same sex attraction or are LGBTI Christians to remain celibate, or possibly one day entertain the possibility of marrying someone of the opposite gender.
Even in the brief paragraph above different people will take offense to how I have written this out. There are so many gray areas within this conversation, due in part to each personal journey with same sex attraction and LGBTI, that even as I contemplate writing this I know I will miss something. This column isn’t intended to try to persuade; rather, I felt the need to reflect on love and how it won in my own journey with gender and sexuality.
Who am I?
Ten years ago in May, I moved back home to Winnipeg after leaving an eight-year gay relationship and after having a Damascus Road experience with God, which propelled me to lay down my gay identity and to pursue him with all my heart and soul. I found myself sitting at a Love Won Out conference, put on by Focus on the Family. Throughout the weekend I was overcome with a mix of emotions. I knew that this encounter with God meant that I needed to put all my trust in him; I couldn’t lean on my own understanding or emotions. Here I sat around the very people I had grown to despise, “the Church,” while outside a crowd of protesters grew – the very ones I would normally have joined, linking arms and holding up signs. I felt like I was being pulled apart on the inside. Where did I belong? Did I belong here inside with the “churchy folk” or outside with “those people”?
My emotions and intellect, which included memories and philosophy, screamed “OUTSIDE!” but deep within me, this still small voice whispered “Trust me, Kenny! I love you and have the best for you. Stay where you are.”
I listened to the still small voice and in doing so I experienced a washing of love and affection – an affirmation that God was speaking to me and that he had the best for my life. I still felt incredible grief, but I knew that this was a process that God would walk me through. Reality was setting in and I knew that even if this struggle with my sexuality and sense of gender stayed with me the rest of my life, Jesus would be enough for me.
Love won. I can’t remember what was said during that conference, nor can I recall the workshops I attended. I do remember that as the protestors shouted, those inside prayed beautiful prayers of love and compassion. Several people, including pastors, went outside to bring the protestors water and ask them questions. That was when I experienced a different “Church” than what I expected. I encountered deep love, and this propelled me to the cross of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit. It’s interesting that in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, Paul is instructing the Church of Corinth on spiritual gifts – tongues, prophecy and orderly worship. But right in the middle of these two chapters is chapter 13. Paul proclaims a way of life that is best of all. Love. As I read this small chapter, I think of how we can possess all knowledge, faith and spiritual gifts; give everything to the poor and even sacrifice our bodies, and yet have no love for others – then we are just a clanging cymbal. I’ve experienced this love, and it won my heart. Where love was kind, patient, humble, not self-seeking, jealous, irritable or unforgiving. This love rejoiced whenever the truth won out, and it never gave up on me.