I’ve long heard a common refrain among fellow gay or SSA (same-sex attracted) folks in the church, and it’s something I’ve honestly never been able to relate with. That’s not to put myself “above” others; it’s just my reality.
The refrain is some variation or combination of: Why did God make me this way? Can’t He change or take away my sexuality? Am I a mistake?
Many of these guys (and gals) have tried to “pray the gay away,” and I can’t recall ever doing so. From a young age I felt a certain draw to the other boys, and while I felt shame for the lingering looks and daydreams, I never blamed God or even asked Him to take it away, add a splash of heterosexuality, or what have you.
It’s broken my heart hearing the countless stories of self-hatred over one’s sexuality. To hear of people’s difficulty and impossibility to trust God as a good Father when they have felt, or feel, inherently flawed or abandoned.
I never struggled with feeling flawed in God’s eyes; certainly among the other boys, I have. From locker rooms to lunch tables to sanctuaries, I have long felt that I beat to another masculine drum than the other guys – playing another instrument altogether.
A masculine anomaly? Yes.
But a mistake of the Creator? Never. Until recently, that is.
Alas, I think I am finally grasping this concept of being born in the wrong body, born with some defect, born without a divine quality check before I occupied the womb. Born in such a way that I now truly wonder, Why, Lord? Why, oh why?
On our latest podcast episode, I told the story of my recent medical travails, culminating with the diagnosis of a rare autoimmune disease. After thirty-three years of pretty amazing health, my body simply started failing me. I couldn’t work out, couldn’t walk, couldn’t even stand up for too long. Congestion turned to sinus pain, and lethargy turned to full-on anemia, my skin turning ashy and yellow.
I couldn’t breathe out of my nose, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t do much of anything, including keeping this website going. For weeks I was more of a mess than I’ve ever been, inside out.
When I got the diagnosis for this disease, one with no known cause or cure, a brokenness with which I will reckon for the rest of my life, I had a face-to-face with Psalm 139 like never before. The famous psalm that once evoked the wonder and delight of God as a masterful knitter of life suddenly made me question everything.
Wait. Am I fearfully and wonderfully made? Because having an autoimmune disease . . . is not wonderful. My body is literally attacking itself, and this does not command my fear or respect of the Almighty.
No sooner had I started vomiting my angst with the Lord, I was struck by this oft heard but never felt “pray the gay away” refrain. That grappling many of you once experienced, or continually do, feeling like you’re God’s failure, lost, a product of His abandonment.
Maybe “grappling” is putting it mildly?
For whatever reason early on, God helped me see the beauty and blessing in my sexuality. I started coming out to myself and others at 19, started anonymously blogging my story at 21, and ultimately came out to the world at 26.
Along the storytelling journey, I connected my story with others’, befriending many along the way, and I never saw anything about my sexuality as a flaw or curse, evidence of spiritual abandonment. An inconvenience, maybe, at worst.
In many ways, my sexuality rescued me from a lifetime of loneliness otherwise. I always had a hard time making friends with the other boys. Gay ones, straight ones. Now I’ve got plenty of amazing men in my life.
Of course, I’ve struggled sexually. I’ve struggled mightily with porn and digital promiscuity. But so do straight guys. What an equalizer sexual struggle is among men.
I’ve never once dared ask God to take away this piece of myself — for I’d then be asking Him to take away a gigantic chunk of my relationships, my work, my personality, my very me-ness. My story.
That others have found some measure of hope and life in my story and the story of YOB adds layer upon layer of confirmation of God’s sovereignty, His goodness. His authorhood.
Indeed, God made me this way, and I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
But an autoimmune disease? It’s hard to see the beauty in this bend. What redeeming thing can come from something that literally wants to kill me?
Again and again I’ve asked the Almighty, how is this disease — my very body — wonderful?
The future of this story remains unwritten, at least from my vantage of a page, but I do feel the love. I feel it poured out on me like never before. The support within YOB and from so many others beyond.
Thank you, all. What a thing not to stagger through this life alone. I’m leaning on the Lord more than ever — physically, financially, spiritually — and I’m leaning on my fellow man, too. Seeing him with sore, yet fresh new eyes.
One immediate byproduct of this disease is this rise in my empathy meters. For if my attractions have helped me connect with fellow sexual minorities in the church, this disease is helping me feel for the disabled, the afflicted, the ones with bodily pains and torments that I’d not begun to fathom until I checked into the hospital in the middle of the night for an emergency blood transfusion.
And in a roundabout yet direct way, this disease is helping me connect with those of you who have tried to pray the gay away. Those who feel broken and unseen by the Almighty. Those who have given up on Him because He gave up on them first.
I see you. I get the angst more than I ever have.
It’s a fallen world full of brokenness and sheer ruin, and it’s convenient and completely natural to blame God. Why doesn’t He do something? What’s He waiting for? We trust He will make all things right one day — so why not now?
Jesus healed. I believe God still does miracles today. The stories are out there. So why not me? Why not us? Why not now?
And what about this issue of sexuality? What’s “broken,” and what isn’t? Is “healing” or redemption a clear zap to the summit or more of a deep hike into the canyon?
I do not claim to know what God is doing or not doing, or why, or for how long, or how much is within His grasp and how much falls onto the “fallenness” of His created universe.
And so I feel for those of you with tear-soaked, bloody pages or even full volumes of God-issues. Those who pray and plead and scream, “God, heal me” or “God, take this away” or “God, where the hell are you?”
I’m penning those pages, too.
I don’t have any answers on the Almighty’s behalf, but I now have a new hand to extend, or arms to open for embrace, or a shoulder to support that I didn’t have as much of before.
It’s okay not to know why God does what He does or allows what He allows. It’s okay to be angry with Him. It’s okay to vocalize our angst from the shadow of the summit.
But let us not stay there. Let’s wrestle and journey toward God together. I really think this delights His heart.
We were not made to walk the path alone, and this canyon is calling us deeper.
Have you tried to “pray the gay away”? Do you struggle with seeing any redeeming aspects of your sexuality? How have you better empathized with others through new perspectives or experiences?