When they hear I’m attracted to men but married to a woman, straight people — particularly Christians — sometimes ask if I expect my attractions to “change” in this life.
I usually respond, “What do you mean by change?”
For the longest time, I prayed for God to change my same-sex attractions. To make me straight. I do still pray about my sexuality, but I no longer pray that God would change my attractions to heterosexual.
Regarding testimonials to change of attractions, I am somewhat cautious as false testimonies have been given; at the same time, though, everyone has his or her own story to tell. I do caution and remind those who point me to stories of “change” that even if they are true they are descriptive, not prescriptive.
Can change happen? Absolutely. God can do anything.
Will change happen? For most, even those who develop an attraction to the opposite sex, same-sex attraction (SSA) remains (see Yarhouse’s Ex-Gays?: A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation; or click here for a PDF summary).
From my own research and experience as well as interacting with many other believers who have prayed for change in churches that say, “Change is possible — if you just pray and believe,” I am cautious of anything that looks like a “name it and claim it” mentality.
God can and does heal. But not always completely in this life. And not always how we expect. Some things don’t get fulfilled until later.
Paul, an apostle, prayed for a friend’s healing from sickness, yet it didn’t seem to be a guarantee. Sometimes God’s answer is “no” or “not yet” or “not in this life.”
Says Paul in Philippians 2:25-27 (ESV) —
I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy [emphasis mine] on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
I’ve been married to my wife for over eleven years. I am attracted to my wife; however, she’s the exception. Otherwise, my attractions are exclusively same-sex.
My attraction to my wife has grown. And my attraction to the same sex remains present. I don’t feel this SSA has lessened significantly. What has perhaps changed is my ability to walk with this attraction in healthy ways.
If God chooses not to heal, not to have mercy with my SSA completely in this life, I don’t view it as sinful to acknowledge the reality of what is. I believe God gives the strength and grace to walk well in it.
The person claiming, “I do not have cancer because by His stripes I am healed” still has cancer. I can deny that I still experience same-sex desires, as can others.
But if those desires are still there, it becomes a false testimony.
Depending how “change” is presented, it can be made into an idol and lead to pain and frustration when change doesn’t happen.
Some might say, “But you are married! Shouldn’t all SSA people pray for that?!”
I am married to a woman. That is also descriptive, not prescriptive. A mixed-orientation marriage (MOM) is not for everyone. Of those in Yarhouse’s longitudinal study, those few who developed attraction to the opposite sex by the 4-year mark still reported attraction to the same sex.
Please don’t misunderstand: being in an MOM can be wonderful, but going into such a marriage blindly and without realistic expectations can be a recipe for disaster. Ask good questions and count the cost.
I still experience attraction to other men. Is that an assumption of identity or an acknowledgment of present reality? Ultimately, I feel better equipped than when I first got married to walk well in my marriage and in my sexuality.
My wife, Marie, and I are happy. Even thriving. We’ve learned and grown, and God has taught us both a lot. Ideally, I think that’s how the Christian life is supposed to go as we walk with God and each other.
And we will always have more areas in which to grow.
Philippians 1:6 (ESV) —
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
While some healing and good happen in this life, I am also reminded that we only get pieces of that now. We are in the Kingdom of God now, but our world is broken by sin.
We are in the Kingdom of God now, and we are also in the “not yet.” The full consummation of what will be in Christ is yet to come.
1 Corinthians 13:12 (ESV) —
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
And yet we are redeemed. I am washed, and I am waiting.
I would like to live in holiness with my sexuality, as in all areas of life. And holiness does not necessarily equal changed attractions.
How do you feel about the “change is possible” narrative? Do you presently feel more at peace with your sexuality than you did previously? For what things, if anything, do you pray regarding your sexuality?