A pastor advised me many years ago to beware of my choice of identity. We were discussing my SSA and comments made by some friends at the time. I was upset that they commonly used “gay” as a detrimental term when they were frustrated.

My pastor did not excuse their words. He sat them down later to caution them on the impact of their words. However, he gave me a thought to consider:

“Be careful what flag you fly over yourself.”

This thought didn’t mean much to me at the time; I believe it needed to marinate. Many, many years later, I finally feel that I am beginning to understand this comment.

The flag I fly over my life determines so much of what I do and how I interact with the world.

If I strictly fly the flag of my sexuality, I view the world solely through my attractions. I see everything in life as related to homosexuality and its community.

If I fly the flag of my gender, then I choose to view my life based upon my definition of masculinity and femininity. This colors all of my opinions and beliefs; it would potentially bring me to choose an alternate path into a trans lifestyle.

If I fly the flag of my career, then I choose to see life as only seeking out Sunday morning success. The more kids and adults I teach, the more successful my life will be.

I have flown many flags in my life. I have chosen the three flags above in addition to many others. I have even made other people the flag of my life.

Yet no flag has ever been able to stand the test of time. No flag has ever stood with me through every terrible and successful part of my life. No flag has ever completely defined me the way I have desired.

Every person, every relationship, every idea, every family member, every leader — all of them failed me at some point.

I know this is where you expect the Sunday School answer. You know: “Jesus is the flag of my life” and whatnot.

But that’s not the case.

I realized that living under a flag was not a way to live. Living under a flag means you throw up your idea or identity and let others just see it as is. It means no interaction. It means no explanation. It means your identity is without influence on others.

That’s not the life I have been called to live.

God called me to live a life that glorifies Him. He called me to serve others. He called me to spread His word and message. That’s not a flag to fly over myself. That’s a life to live. And what’s what I want.

I have forgone the flags that I used to fly over my head. Now, I engage people in conversations and share my life with them.

My identity in Christ is growing stronger, my influence for His name is deepening, and my relationships are more fulfilling.

Life is greater living flag-free.

Do you have trouble viewing your faith and life beyond the lens of your sexuality? What other flags do you fly over your life?

* Photo courtesy saintseminole, Creative Commons.

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  • Dean, this is great.
    Academics have been something I’ve had trouble hiding behind and basing my identity on. It’s so easy to just be the smart guy and never be vulnerable or let other people really hear my story. Yet as I’ve actually opened up to people and shared more of my life, I’ve realized how thinking of myself as just “the smart guy” can really alienate me from other people. Because that’s not ALL I am. It is part of it, sure, but it’s just one piece that makes up me. And disproportionately elevating one part of who God has made me over others glorifies myself, and takes away the glory from God, who should have it.

    • Great insight on what a disproportionate identity truly does, Thomas. God created each of us with an intricate infrastructure- to reduce ourselves to one single characteristic is to sell God short. Thank you for sharing our thought!

  • One thing I find ironic is that when people choose an identity or “raise a flag” above themselves, they think they’re liberating themselves and becoming whatever they want to be. But unfortunately they don’t realize that they’re just boxing themselves into that label and adapting all the stereotypical traits that go with it and they lose their individuality in it.

    • That can be too often the case, Brian. But it is somewhat comfortable to do so, hence why many choose to do it anyway.

  • Such a relaxing post, Dean.
    I guess we were all taught since childhood that we must carry a flag throughout our lives and keep that flag raised up there. This is not a way to live. Sure, it might be good for a while, standing there, atractting stuff, but the flag wears off.
    I’m still in a battle with myself about my cravings, my choices, either sexually or as some character trait. It wears me down, but I know I’ll be able to get there one day and live a live full of God. I hope I can share more of my stories with you guys someday. As a OSA, this helps me grow a lot as a person and in my faith in God.

    • It’s always great hearing from OSA guys about they journeys and the similarities we all share as men. Thank you for reading and sharing, BR!

  • The flags one wears can be an awful burden, and most times we take them on ourselves, trying to please others than god. Jesus said “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
    The flags we wear are the yokes that Jesus was talking about. We don’t have to wear the flag of gay, straight, bi-sexual, religious, or anythink else that society insists we wear. All we have to be is a children of God.

  • This post pretty much sums up the views I held for many years. (this is one reason why I find this blog so enjoyable: it so resembles many of the beliefs I have journeyed beyond, and it is a good opportunity for me to meditate on my past.) I resisted the term gay, believing that to use it would be an idolatrous emphasis on my sexuality, viewing the world, as the authors writes, through the lens of sexuality.
    When I finally started using the word gay, I personally experienced the exact opposite. My fear of the word was just as much an idolatry, and my resistance to it gave it enormous power. My unwillingness to use the word created a block, and was a manifestation of my obsession with sexuality.
    I now identify as a gay man, but gay honestly feels like an incidental part of me. I don’t think twice about being gay, or being in a gay relationship. I feel free to focus on more important things: faith, and justice, and doing good. Labels are important, but so is the degree of focus we choose to bestow on them. I do believe it is possible to carry many labels, but to hold some of those labels more important – more definitive – than others. To me, “gay” is more a description and less an identity.
    I say all this while accepting that my journey is not the only experience. None of this is intended to contradict your experience, only to offer my own story.
    I’ve written some about this process here: http://www.sbradfordlong.com/moving-beyond-the-gay-christian-debate/

    • I always love hearing other’s stories, Stephen. Thank you for sharing yours! I have always held the belief that each person’s journey is unique and understanding that everyone’s perspective differ because of this is key to living peacefully with each other. I like what you said about labels being as important as the focus we give to them. I think what I see is people choosing one label as their core identity and refusing to allow for freedom within that label or for others to share in it with them.
      Again, great thoughts. And I have checked out that post you shared before- I enjoyed refreshing my memory of it with another read through recently. Great to have you journeying with us!

  • I absolutely never identified with “gay”. My SSA was unwanted and brought confusion and conflict.
    Mostly I identified with “Christ follower”, but in dealing with my SSA the past few years after I became addicted to gay pornography, I have come to understand my identity in terms of “Beloved”.
    Chris Tomlin’s song Good Good Father sums it up for me: You are a good good Father. It’s who You are! It’s who You are! And I am loved by You. It’s who I am. It’s who I am.

    • I love that song by Christ Tomlin. That’s a great line to bring up from it as well to relate to this post. Thank you, Alan!

  • When considering whether or not to use the term “gay,” I tend to think quite practically about how that would affect my relationship with my girlfriend. I simply do not need everyone to ask me, “Explain this to me again, you are gay and Christian?” The relationship changes everything. My story is unique, and I serve a great God. Those are the things that define me. That’s it.

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