Time and again, I discover my demons of old never actually left. I go through a season where I’m emotionally healthy, spiritually satisfied, and my SSA (same-sex attraction) doesn’t seem like all that big of a deal.
Then, right on cue, in walks that cute guy again. Annnnnnd out flies the contentment that moments ago seemed never-ending.
Instantly, I’m back to spiraling, back to wondering if this faith thing can really work out in the end, or if I’m actually as crazy as I sound when I tell someone I’m pursuing celibacy.
It’s in these moments that God feels like the eternal God of “no” — no sex, no boyfriend, no husband, no romance, no intimacy. No love.
God becomes the God who won’t let me eat the fruit from the one tree I’m craving, instead of the God who provided an entire garden just for me.
My faith shifts from one of following Christ to one of abstention. All I feel is Jesus holding me back from the love and intimacy I desire, completely ignoring the love and intimacy found in the very arms holding me.
And when the only beauty I behold is the beauty of the forbidden fruit, should I really be surprised that I pass Jesus up for the fruit instead?
My problem isn’t Christ’s inability to outshine the appeal of sin, it’s my inability to ever look up from my sin to notice. My problem isn’t my weak will; it’s my misplaced virtues.
C.S. Lewis explains these backwards virtues in the beginning of his work, Weight of Glory:
“If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.”
This is just what I’ve done with God. I’ve made my primary call of obedience a call of abstention. I have placed the highest virtue on what not to do, instead of acknowledging the real virtue found in what I’m in favor of, not what I’m against.
Lewis led me to finally ask the right question: what am I called to?
My primary call is a call to freedom, a freedom rooted in Christ. Galatians 5:1 (ESV) reads:
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
We all find ourselves slaves to something apart from Christ: slaves to passions and pleasures (Titus 3:3), money (Matthew 6:24), and to all kinds of deadly fruits of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21).
Without Christ, I am a slave to sin, and sin’s ultimate wage is death (Romans 6:20-23).
When we take on Christ, we shed this yoke of slavery to sin, and the fruit we instead get “leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life” (Romans 6:22, ESV).
We remove the fruit of the flesh, and begin producing fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Love. Joy. Peace. The very things I’m after when I think about running away and into the arms of some guy.
Ironically, God is trying to say “yes” to those things by saying “no” to my pursuit of a boyfriend. The truth is I am freer in Christ than without Him — celibacy and all.
In 2 Corinthians 1:19-20 (ESV), we learn that every promise of God is fulfilled in Christ:
“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you . . . was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”
Every promise. I complain about all the things I don’t get when I begrudgingly decide to take up God on His “meager” offer of Christ.
And yet I gain not only Christ Himself (if that weren’t enough), but every other promise as well. God feels like the God of “no,” but Scripture unequivocally describes Him as a God of “yes.”
Yes to Christ, my Faithful and True. Yes to Christ, my eternal husband-to-be. Yes to Christ, who pursues me with a fervor and passion that no man on this earth could match.
Yes to the Church, a spiritual family meant to leave celibacy full of rich relationship and love. Yes to committed friendships, to expressions of deep same-sex love rooted in Agape, not Eros.
Yes to Love. Joy. Peace. To the things my heart longs for, above all else.
I’m a human, and my flesh is naturally going to dwell in tension with my spirit. I still wake up many days longing for a husband in bed next to me.
The trouble is, the forbidden fruit rarely looks rotten at first glance; it looks adorable, charming, and like it could make all my dreams come true. But at what cost?
God has not so much said “no” to this one fruit as He has said “yes” to the rest of the garden. I can have this one fruit if I want it, but it requires my giving up the garden, giving up the fruit of Christ Himself, and love, joy, and peace that come with Him.
In the end, I find the cost of following Christ is indeed great, but the cost of forsaking Him, even greater.
My flesh cries out for a relationship, for Eros love.
But in a louder voice still, my soul cries out, “To whom else shall I go? You hold the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
Do you struggle to see God as a God of “Yes”? Do you see Him more as a God of “No”? What have you gained in pursuit of following His call to singleness and celibacy?
I definite resonate. In my corner of the world I feel like people focus so much in what they “can’t” do, all while there are things they can and must do within the bounds the Lord has set.
I’m glad you mentioned same-sex love and affection. Because at first I was afraid you were sacrificing that too. I think there is a lot of love to to around and that our world has unnecessarily sexualized much of it.
And when those hot guys pass me by, I try to not give into the desperate, “no!” feelings and still try to find a yes. I try to invite God into the picture and He usually is OK with me admiring a person..all that he is, and giving the glory to God. That has really helped me with the shame over the past few years.
Glad it resonated! It’s way too easy to focus on the “can’t,” and I think it causes a lot of people to have a pretty stagnant, boring faith. What we can’t do is important! But it always points to a right way forward, and a healthy way to find satisfaction in Christ. Faith is an adventure!
A beautifully written and thoughtful essay, Aaron. You state a great truth for us when you say, “In the end, I find the cost of following Christ is indeed great, but the cost of forsaking Him, even greater.” Ours is a path less traveled (and less understood), but worth the price in secular terms as well as in God’s Kingdom.
Thanks, Edward! Less traveled indeed, and more treacherous because of it. I suspect less traveled brings about a unique beauty also though. Helps to have brothers to walk alongside!
Wow this is just beautiful!
I’m glad to see that the article (i call these articles) after “Do our stories actually point to Jesus?” has so many Bible verses & also Christian quotes. (C S Lewis is one of my favorites btw)
Your way of writing is so beautiful and definitely breathed of the Holy Spirit.
It’s ironic how God offers us everything we want. We think sin will fulfill us but this is but an illusion. He knows the desires of our hearts. The problem starts when we think we’re smarter than God and try to find love by ourselves & by our own ways.
Thank you for the encouragement, Aaron!
Thanks so much! Glad you found it encouraging. C.S. Lewis is a favorite of mine also, and he has such a simple but powerful way of putting things. I suspect he will make many more appearances in my articles to come 🙂
I love it Aaron! Sometimes I have people say to me that they want to leave Christianity all together because its “too many rules” or too many “don’t do this, don’t do that.” But he really is a God of yes! Like you said, you feel like since God is saying no to homosexual sex he is saying no to intimacy for you. But he’s actually saying yes to intimacy. Yes to love!
And not only does He say yes, but those yeses satisfy me in a way I’d otherwise miss out on. Typical God logic turning what seems right to me (man) on its head. Sad how many people seem to think obedience comes at the expense of joy, and vice-versa. In truth its a false dichotomy, and there are a lot of hopeless people because of it.
“My problem isn’t Christ’s inability to outshine the appeal of sin, it’s my inability to ever look up from my sin to notice.”
Yes is always our challenge not God’s, and being blind to what’s true. God is always Yes in his Son. Somewhere in that pursuit you ask about, the embrace of Yes includes the No to what’s not Christ.
Hey, last thing you wrote I said you should consider retiring cause how were you gonna top it. You did Aaron, this was even better.
The Weight of Glory is so good, it’s short but bursting with truth that renews your mind; for me, the best thing he wrote. This tracks with what your post:
“…if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Ugh yes, I love that quote so much. I wanted to fit it into this blog somehow, but I think its worthy of its own post down the road. I get this sense that we need to focus less on suppressing and diminishing desires, and instead spend our energy growing them into what they were meant to be in the first place. That isn’t to say we don’t mortify sin and acknowledge sinfulness in certain desires, but I think in most cases there is some sort of deeper, more central desire waiting to be recognized and satisfied through healthy means, rather than using the quick and easy sinful “solutions” to satisfaction we often fall back on.
There’s healthy desire isn’t there. We can get so screwed up by having same sex attractions that one response is to try to shut down all desire. I did anyway, but that’s screwed up too. You end up less, not free. There’s a verse that says that those who belong to Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. Somehow that became, you can belong to Jesus if you crucify your passions and desires. But it doesn’t say that at all, we’re called to be crazy passionate. There’s another verse that says delight in God and he’ll give us the desires of our heart. I think that’s the freedom we have in knowing Jesus, what we’re called to, to be passionately in love with God and for others, and live in that joy.
Yes! Crucify the desires of the flesh, not all desires all the time. We must become less and He must become more. I think as we walk in that, we allow our desires of the flesh to die and diminish, and we instead cultivate and strengthen the desires of our spirit- healthy desires. Tricky business! But rewarding.
Such a powerful idea, reframing obedience as saying yes to God and all that he offers, when it’s so easy to only see what we’re saying no to.
What I struggle with is seeing the practical ways love, joy, and peace play out in my obedience to Christ. It doesn’t seem like that love/joy/peace can come to full fruition quite yet–but is there a balance I can strike that is satisfying in the here and now?
Thanks for writing this, Aaron!
Such a good point. It’s a wonderful concept, but tough to tangibly see in our day-to-day. I look forward to the day that fullness is realized, but I think in the meantime we are stuck with a certain amount of longing (this being true for all humans, SSA or not). I do think there is beauty in the longing though, as it constantly nudges us into Christ and gives glimpses of His glory. It reminds us that He holds an unmatchable glory.
That said, I think we gain a certain amount of the love, joy, and peace now. In my experience, obedience tends to proceed the fruit, whereas I think many people wait for the fruit to come around before being obedient. I’ve found that against all logic, forsaking Eros love for the same sex has helped me cultivate a deeper sense of love and community than I otherwise could have experienced. Obedience really just boils down to having a faith in right relationship with God. Just like cheating on a spouse has real negative consequences, so too does spiritually “cheating” on God. Sure, we might really want to sin sometimes, but the closeness and intimacy gained by fidelity is so much more beautiful.
This is outstanding writing, Aaron. I had to share it with my wife during her devotions time this morning, and she insisted that I print it as a resource for her. And she does not struggle with SSA (apart from my own). The God of Yes or No? That has been a central question since the garden. Do we appreciate the countless gifts and wonders all about us, or do we focus feverishly on that one prohibited fruit tree? The church has failed so miserably in the area of homosexuality as it has harped almost exclusively on the NO! rather than being the loving and embracing YES! that could possibly open blind eyes. Thank you Aaron! If your financial advice if half this good, I need to call you about our estate.
Thank you so much! That’s encouraging for me to hear 🙂 Even though I use the lens of sexuality to illustrate my point, my hope is any Christian can find it relatable. Its something we all face, SSA or otherwise. And this “yes” and “no” struggle is certainly not exclusive to my sexuality haha.
Great post Aaron! I really liked the CS Lewis quote. I also like the idea of focusing on the “yes”. It reminds me of others who have written about having a “vocation of yes”. Perspective is important! Look forward to hearing more from you.
Thanks, Benjamin! I love Lewis. That line is from Weight of Glory. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.
One of my favorite YOB posts! Such a joy to put this out there. Thanks again for writing it, Aaron. Perspective is everything. Do I see God as the ultimate Denier or the ultimate Giver? A cruel Father or a good Father? That garden metaphor is so powerful. I can’t stop visualizing all the other trees, all the other fruit, all the animals and flowers and rivers and rest of creation to enjoy. And yet why do I obsess on that one fruit? Why do I so often want what I cannot have, the one thing to my detriment rather than the garden to my health and future — not necessarily a man in some specific sexual/romantic sense but, ultimately, my will above God’s?
May we learn to let go of our obsession for the one tree as we walk through an entire garden made just for us.
Praise God! Thanks, Tom. I appreciate that 🙂 I agree that it’s so much more than any one sin. It’s a mentality that goes to the core of our faith and who we are. I look forward to someday seeing God face-to-face and finally getting to experience the fullness that He intended for creation. The flesh makes this a battle we wage daily, rather than a monumental shift that happens in an instant.
I’ll have to to write an in-depth post later. But this one hit hard.
This post is soooo good! Thank you Aaron! I definitely needed to read this when I did. It has reminded me of the passion for Jesus that I once have had and hope to regain.
I’m new to the site, and have been so hungry (without realizing it) for community with my other brothers. I would say that I am currently in a spiritual desert. I am SSA and have been married to my wife for about the past 6 years, but we have been separated for the past year. It has been so challenging to hang onto the idea that God has good plans for me, and that a huge part of that is Himself.
I feel so stuck though. I’ve been trying to follow God’s ideal regarding my sexuality and also my marriage recovery, but it just seems to be causing more pain for me and my wife. I believe that God can satisfy, but in the midst of my trials, He seems no where to be found. I want to be overwhelmingly in love with Jesus again and have the love, joy and peace that you’ve written about; heck and that I’ve told others about. But it seems impossible for me. He feels so distant. I find myself tempted to believe that the counterfeits could provide more solace than this purgatory of spiritual desert and marriage separation.
If I’m honest though, I can see where I have forsaken the Living Water and have dug my own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water (Jeremiah 2:13). A cliche that has kinda stuck with me is: “If God feels distant, then look at where you are. The one who moved wasn’t Him.”
I’m not sure if my challenge is trying to find a way out of this desert, or continuing to turn towards Him and trusting that He’s here with me in the desert even if I don’t feel it.
Thank you for reminding me what it’s like on the other side of the sands. I believe that YOB will continue to help me move towards the man that I want to be.
It’s good to have you with us, brother. Glad you could find our stories and add your own to the mix. Prayers for the journey you’re on right now, with marriage and otherwise. You are not alone.
Glad you found YOB, welcome to the brotherhood! I do think God is present, even when we don’t feel it. Feelings are a tricky thing. Feelings shape so much of how we see and experience the world, and yet they are often based on insufficient or incorrect data/knowledge. We are human, and so our feelings are naturally imperfect, and that leads to a lot of frustration for us. I think real joy and contentment is found in obedience to the Lord, and fellowship with Him. But as I’ve said, I think there is often a gap between what we believe and know to be true, and what we actually feel. I hope finding YOB can help you experience Christ in a new way and encourage you in your walk with the Lord.
Another amazing post Aaron. I can resonate with so much of what you put on here. While God may seem like He says no so often at times, it’s at least for the things that are detrimental to us. So yeah, in the end He is a God of so many yeses. Our flesh can certainly be a wonder, yet horrible, thing. We are offered anything and everything we could possibly want. But at what cost? I think it’s us that comes up with all of the “nos” for the most part. God says YES you can love, YES you can have peace, YES you can have hope, YES you can have second chances. It just all has to be a part of His will for us. Like you said, while the cost of following Christ is indeed great, the cost of turning and running away is so much greater. And for that, I will gladly deny my flesh. Even if it hurts like crazy at times.
The tricky part is figuring out how to tangibly step into those “yeses.” For many, its tough to step forward in faith without already feeling the “yeses,” although I think that is what God often expects of us. He is worth it even when we aren’t feeling it! It’s hard to live into though. I wrote this post because it’s a serious struggle for me, not because I found some “solution” to share.
Thank you for writing this. It truly resounds with my spirit. ❤️
Thanks, Spencer! Glad to hear it.
Thank you so much for saying such a great deal with so very few words. In the end we are alone and we only have Jesus. I have had a wife, she left I think because I’m queer, funny that! I loved her with all I had and still I had a hollowness deep within, I have daughters and a grandchild and I am lost within their love and yet there is the hollow echo within. I have had brief encounters with men ravenous and frighting and oh so very empty. As much as I have loved and tried to love and have been loved I have found nobody that can fill this deep seated loneliness. I am older now and laugh at myself when a guy walks in the room and I get the “ping” and fleeting thought ” we could be…… and I’ll feel fulfilled.” The closest I get to feeling complete is when I am the closest to Jesus. Trouble is I keep tripping of this silly earth suit but soon I’ll get to take it off and be with my friend, contented at last.
Amen. Something to look forward to for sure. Its a tough road, and a lonely one at times as well. I hope you can find some community and brotherhood here!
Absolutely beautiful post, Aaron. Thank you so much for your vlnerability and sharing. I felt like crying, I laughed to myself, and I felt drawn to Christ all while reading this post. I’ve felt wounded for the last week or so and questioning of “why God won’t let me (fill in the blank)”. As you said, He’s asking me to give up the one fruit so that I can have the garden. Beautiful words of truth. Thank you for being an angel to me today by sharing this post.
Thank you, Kass! Praise God. Happy to hear its an encouragement and blessing to you 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting!
Thanks for sharing Aaron. This is so true. God offers us so much. He does say no but he also says yes to so many things.
I’ve been trying to think of my faith as how to live rather than I shouldn’t do this or mustn’t do that. I’m trying to actively choose joy and choose love. Rather than dwell on the negatives. I struggle with anxiety and low mood at times. I’m trying to learn to be content. I have to keep re-fixing my eyes on Jesus.
Also thank you for the CS Lewis quotes and the look back at believers in the past.
It’s a daily struggle. I wish it was something we could figure out once and be done, but alas that’s just not the way it is. I love Lewis and what he has to say on these sorts of topics. He has a way of being a realist, yet hopeful in what reality means for us. I hope you can continue to be encouraged by the blogs and community here!
Just wanted to let say that I have come back to this post time after time in the past two months. It is such a beautiful reminder, for all of life. I follow the God of yes, not the God of no. He will always be infinitely more than enough, I just have to look up from whatever I desire and see the whole garden He has placed in front of me. Thanks for this piece – it is well written & helps me re-orient myself towards the only One who can satisfy.
That’s really nice to hear, thank you Colby 🙂 Important to remember even in the midst of the current chaos surrounding this pandemic.
I had just written two full pages in my journal this morning about this exact same topic. My best friend and his girlfriend and I were all FaceTiming with each other really late last night, who both know about my SSA. I told them I was going through another season where I was hurting deeply, because I wanted a husband to love on so much. And they reminded me of what you just said. That Christ is still worthy of every sacrifice I have to make, because in Him is eternal love, not the love that must burn along with this earth on the Last Day. A harsh reality I have had to face is that even if God were not real, any Eros love I experience must end at the time of my death. Whether God is real or not, this life is still too short and not worth it. But with God, I have the hope of agape love forever. My heart hurts for you Aaron. But we will both be stronger and eternally blessed because of all this. Sending virtual hugs and cuddles and affirmations for you, brother <3
Funny how God times things out like that haha. I have found He often speaks to me through repetition in that way. Sounds like you have solid support in that friend and his girlfriend. We all need people to remind us of what we already know, but often forget. Very true that we ultimately can’t take Eros with us; the love and relationships we build in agape instead may get to be eternal, who knows? I can say for certain though that this journey is easier with brothers by my side 🙂