This is an ongoing “Fruit of the Spirit” series featuring my past perspectives from 2019 along with present reflections in 2020. Check out my series intro here and my first fruit about love below.
Dean from December 2019
Few things are more iconic to me than the song, “What is Love?” I cannot help singing this song with the simple mention of the word, “love.” My wife has heard my poor attempts at singing the famous “whoa’s” more times than any wife should.
But the reason the song sticks with me is the genius of this question – what is love? This simple question is truly one that all people wrestle with. Is love a feeling? Is it something you do? Maybe a state of being or a way of life?
Or maybe it’s a plea to be free of hurt. *wink*
The Sunday school answer of “God is love” feels lacking, as do most Sunday school answers. It’s one thing to say God is love – it’s a completely different life that reflects God is love.
As I look ahead at 2020, I want to grow in love. I honestly believe there is a reason why Jesus says the whole Law is summed up by love – love God and love others.
How can an entire system of sacrifices, rituals, and holiness standards be love? Doesn’t it seem like the opposite of love? Wouldn’t love be more concerned with what can be provided for the other person as opposed to standards for them?
Perhaps I can better understand this concept this year.
As a queer man, why would a loving God permit me to desire that from which I should abstain? Why allow me as a young boy to be so abused as to feel unsafe as a boy and retreat to dreaming of being a girl?
How could God, in infinite and perfect love, let my will so rebel against His holiness? And how on earth do I demonstrate that love?
I wonder what Dean in 2020 will learn . . .
Dean in February 2020
Oh, past Dean, what you would experience in just the first month of the new year.
I thought love would be easy. I’m a pretty loving guy, right? Exploring love through my sexuality would be straightforward (irony slightly intended).
Here’s what I’ve gotten so far:
Love as a queer man has meant caring for people despite the hurt they’ve inflicted on me exactly because of my sexuality. Love tells me that I should refuse to hold these mistakes against them.
Instead, I embrace what Peter says: “Love covers a multitude of sins.”
It doesn’t mean I don’t hold people accountable for their actions. And it doesn’t mean I let myself be a doormat.
Rather, I love people where they are – even if where they are is unable to love me back. I love a person simply because God is love and the Holy Spirit manifests this love inside me.
This ability was difficult this past month. I came face to face with bitterness in my heart. I only came to admit so when I realized I was disliking not only the people who hurt me but also anyone associated with them. Others had done no wrong – yet I held a hurt against them.
As I prayed through how to overcome this bitterness, my “Fruit of the Spirit” journey here came to mind. The expression of love through my sexuality comes from loving all exactly where they are – because it’s what I am desiring from them. Who knew the golden rule would be the answer I found?
I want to be loved where I am in life. Why would I refuse to do the same for others?
What is “love” through the lens of your sexuality? How do you love God and love others?
Love for me is weird. As someone with a bear of a Superman complex, I can state beyond a shadow of a doubt “love is sacrifice” but despite its implications and truthfulness, this still feels like it’s missing something. Loving certain people is hard for me, loving others is easy–sometimes too easy. Love can be drawing back from a friendship because I’m starting to feel dependent on them, or it can be reaching out to a coworker to make sure their needs are met. I still struggle with deciding whether hiding my sexuality constitues love or selfishness–surely if you love someone, you owe them the truth–but I think that’s subjective. Loving God, which I’ve been doing a lousy job of recently, means studying His word even when I don’t feel like it, pushing back against the endless stream of temptations that being gay (or even just being human) produces, and asking Him to teach me to love other people the way He loves them.
Thank you for sharing your journey with love, Michael. So much of what you said resonates with me and, I’m sure, many of us here.
Hey Dean, awesome post!
You stated it so clearly and so concisely that I have nothing to add:
” (…) loving all exactly where they are – because it’s what I am desiring from them.”
I’ll have so much to think about this – it’s almost like a revelation to me.
I can only say: more power to you, man!
Stay in God’s blessing!
Thank you, Anthony! I pray God blesses your time considering that almost-revelation. I love how God can reveal things to us through the stories of others. It’s one of the primary reasons I share. Thank you for sharing this with me — looking forward to the journey with you!
Being able to care for others despite the hurt inflicted on you…man, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Feels impossible at the deepest levels. And yet I want to take on more and more of this impossible the further I journey with Jesus. For if I wind up one day exhibiting this quality in its totality…it will surely be a divinely orchestrated reality. Thanks for these thoughts, Dean. I’m really excited to see what you process as you continue along this series.
It is absolutely a tall task that often requires more than I am able to give. Thankfully, it’s not out of my strength alone. And I think that’s what I grasped unlike many times before — this kind of love ultimately HAS to come from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, it remains impure and prone to turn selfish.
Thank you for being on this journey with me, brother. It will be interesting to see where the next month leads, much less the rest of the year!
Love. I wish their were more English words to properly describe the different forms of love, like in the Greek. For example, I fully understand Agape and am filled with God’s amazing love as He has saved me through Jesus. But, I can also apply Agape to the feelings I have for my wife. I truly “love” her with the love God has placed in me. We are one flesh, a spiritual, emotional, physical one-being, a mystery of one-flesh that God created. I also have Agape love in my relationships with male friends.
But getting to your question, how to relate love and my sexuality? Again, my wife comes into play. My “Eros” love for her leads to our physical union, and penetrates to our emotions and spirit. Actually, a lot of my manhood is tied up in this “erotic” connection. When we are intimate it fuels my manhood like nothing else.
So, how do I relate my SSA and sexuality to love? For me there is an “erotic” connection to men in my crooked thoughts that I have had to suppress and control all my life, I have wanted man/man erotic love all my life. But, I don’t think that is real. What is real between two men, I believe, is Phileo or brotherly love and I don’t believe two men can have erotic love between them. I have truly loved a man and we have acted out sexually (for me it was one man in college 40 years ago), but no “erotic” love like I truly experienced with my wife. I wanted it to be that kind of love when I was with my male friend, but it wasn’t. It was mostly just lust combined with Phileo love for him.
Thank you for sharing your story, Michael. It does seem unfortunate that English only provides one actual word for love. But perhaps that can also show the unity of those different Greek words and express how broad and powerful love can be. Perhaps not — but it’s a hope. 🙂
Love is broader and more powerful than what our English words identify, I agreee. Thanks for the response and thanks for your blog! You are gifted by God!
Your blog post really spoke to where I am at today. For decades I was angry with God. I asked the question that we are not supposed to ask: “why did You make me this way?” Being gay was a dream destroyer back in the 70’s and 80’s. Most things I wanted for my life were crushed in my narrow point of view. I was very bitter with the church and with a God that would allow this to happen to me. I left the church and I did not practice my faith…but for some reason, my faith was still there. The answer for me was to embrace my faith in a different way. I grew up in legalism and so had to renegotiate what I learned as a child with what the scriptures really were saying. Truth needed to be re-balanced with God’s grace. I had to allow myself to forgive God and ask Him to forgive me for my stupidity. It’s taking quite awhile. Things hammered into my psyche early are hard to part with in later years, but I believe it’s working.
Learning to love others has also been an issue. I spent so much time crushing my feelings, that it became habit for me not to show my feelings for others. There was also fear of the pain that comes when good friendships go awry. I am also socially inept and an introvert. Things are better now, but not as good as they could be.
I look forward to seeing where you take this stuff. Thanks Dean for writing.
What a powerful testimony, Sergei. Thank you for sharing! I know that question well — the one we aren’t supposed to ask but still do. “Why, God, Why.” I remember someone sharing with me years ago that God is infinitely bigger than our why’s — so never be afraid to go to Him with those questions. However, we should be ready for whatever God’s answer is.
I pray you continue to grow in God’s love each and ever day. Thank you for being on this journey with me!
When it comes to the topic loving others, my kind usually goes to all the ways in which I think I’m failing at it. Particularly when it comes to issues that hit close to my heart. But sometimes I’m reminded that I can’t force love. Sometimes love is withdrawing from a situation that sucks the life from my soul or distancing myself a little bit. Sometimes I means self care and love so that I CAN love others in a more holy way.
I can also focus on the people that I have in my life *right now* and focus on loving them better. It can only yield a positive result overall…hopefully.
Love absolutely does mean respecting boundaries for yourself and others. I think most people assume love is always close proximity — but that’s not always the case. As you mentioned, Alex, self-care enables us to love better and more fully. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
I know what you mean about love carrying so much baggage, Mike. It’s a word that can just bear so much pain that it loses its identity. Part of my growth process was establishing what love meant in general. I remember reading through the Bible trying to understand even just a general idea of what the Bible might mean with the word, “Love.”
I am sorry my use of that word causes you to cringe — I know many people still know that word only as its slur. I pray that my use of it can remove some of the sting of it.
I think of an old hymn, “Have Thine Own Way.” Truly HE is the potter and we are the clay. For years and years, I thought if I could just pray hard enough–and to be honest, self-will it–the miracle that I so desperately wanted would happen. And for a long while, I thought it did happen. Then the old feelings came back, not from back-sliding, but from changes in circumstances. In my case, the most honest prayer I can offer is “Lord, thy will be done.” It does not even begin to satisfy my desires, my agenda or the agenda of those in much of the Christian community. But it will give me peace.
[…] 2019 along with present-day reflections in 2020. Check out my series intro and my first fruit about love as I talk about joy […]
[…] 2019 along with my present-day reflections in 2020. Check out my series intro, my first fruit about love, my second fruit about joy, and my midway reflections on peace as I complete those […]
[…] 2019 along with my present-day reflections in 2020. Check out my series intro, my first post about love, my second about joy, my third about peace, my fourth about patience, my fifth about kindness, […]