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?
As I look back…I struggle to see a moment where I did want this taken away from me. I wanted (and still want) help to remain chaste and free from porn and masturbation. But I don’t feel like I want to change my gayness. Even if I were to marry a woman, sure…I’d want a full relationship with her, but my feelings for men seem to be in the packaged deal.
I too believe that I have immense blessings because of my attractions. I’ve been able to empathize with others on the “margins” (but to God, who is really ever on the margins?). I also feel like I’ve come to understand the traditional order of marriage in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise. That’s not to say I won’t still pursue a same-sex relationship…preferably celibate…but I can’t quite describe the beauty there is in being drawn to other men, being able to admire them in godly ways. I wouldn’t want to pray the gay away now.
Good thoughts, Alex. Thanks for sharing! I really love how Ryan described one redeeming aspect of his sexual orientation on our last podcast, like being let in on this “cosmic secret,” this natural ability to admire the beauty of men which stems straight from the Creator himself. I resonate with that, and you know, I’m starting more and more to see the beauty in women, too. Been focused on men for so long that I’m starting to notice how beautiful all humans are, inside out.
Gotta love The Message for its poetry, crusts and crumbs and such. Here’s to enjoying more of the full loaf in these years to come.
All human flesh is broken and a bit corrupt since the days when Adam and Eve got thrown out of the garden. King David was a mess in his own way (author of PS 139). He coveted another man’s wife, he committed adultery with her and then he had her husband murdered. We are all broken in some very weird ways, both spiritually and physically. For myself, I am not only gay, I have epilepsy and some brain damage. I never dealt with any of that well (I was angry) until I figured out it was not really my fault or God’s fault. It is the state of the human race. But by the grace of God, I am what I am…His child, rescued by Him, washed off and ready to go. Praise the Lord and pass the ammo.
Love your attitude and outlook, Sergei. You are indeed His child. You are indeed rescued by HIm. You are indeed “washed off and ready to go.” Such excellent phrasing. Though I’m sure it’s been a journey for you to arrive confidently at those statements.
We’re all on this fallen planet together, and it’s such a blessing to find one another as we stagger toward the Light.
Beautifully written, Tom! Its very similar with me, I was born with maladies that affected my health in my young adult years. Had to deal with that on top of my sexuality. But ultimately I feel these struggles and experiences have helped me to better connect with and emphasize with other people like us. It has served a purpose. Its also sort of weird, I don’t think I’ve ever tried to pray the gay away. I simply didn’t want to notice it, just hoped I would go to sleep and wake up with it magically gone. I did pray for brothers however.
My heart definitely goes out to you in a new way after all my physical issues of late! A newfound respect and admiration for the journey you’ve led, Eugene.
Eugene, hopefully you already know of the great respect and love I have for you! You and Tom are both suffering from far more serious medical issues than mine and you are both focused on loving and helping others instead of the destructive self pity so many fall into.
I just have to deal with osteoarthritis in my knees which can be painful but it won’t kill me. Even this has helped me understand a little more about suffering and given me even more empathy for others in physical or emotional pain.
Much of my emotional pain as a teen and young adult came from dealing with unwanted same sex attraction and fear of bullying. Yes, I prayed for those feelings to leave! This suffering has probably done even more than physical pain to help me empathize and love others.
I always enjoy your perspective, Tom! I “prayed the gay away” for years. I thought that I had to be rid of my SSA before my life could get started (find a girl to date and eventually marry.) I had it stuck in my head that I wasn’t normal because I wasn’t like the large majority of my peers, which I was constantly reminded of every time I watched TV, scrolled through social media, and asked about my dating life by my family and new people I met. After finding YOB, though, I’ve come to realize that I don’t have to fit in to any particular societal mold. I am exactly who God made me to be, and he doesn’t make mistakes. Sometimes, I wish it hadn’t taken me 33 years to accept this, but I’m sure I’ll eventually look back and see His perfect timing.
Break the mold! God can, and will, and does use all molds, single and married and what have you, for His glory. Glad to have you here with us, brother, and thanks for the words of support.
Thanks for reading!
Thanks Tom, this is good!
“Indeed, God made me this way, and I am fearfully and wonderfully made”.
Hmmm…Did God really make me this way? That is truly a bridge too far for me. I believe God made me a heterosexual man because that is His divine order: “Male and female He created them”. My Adamic nature, abuse, trauma, shame, and my own contribution got me to this place. That is clear to me. I don’t think I see God saying, “Well, I think I’ll make Mike gay.” What purpose for His Kingdom would that serve? Sure, I could empathize and encourage other SSA men (as you do greatly Tom), but I believe that occurs because He is fully redeeming us from “what Satan meant for evil”.
I do not lament the years I spent “praying the gay away”, it’s just a part of my story and it drew me closer to God because I knew He knew the answer to my dilemma. He understood my cry’s, He understands them today. Is OSA the goal? No, there is not a superior orientation, it’s just “is what it is”.
He doesn’t look down on me, He fully understands and knows my story. Do I wish I had begun and ended OSA? Sure, Jesus was and that fits better into His plans for our lives-for perhaps marriage and procreation. But I’ve embraced my SSA and God did redeem it for His glory because I believe I am a better man because of it. The struggle drove me to His cross in so many ways, a stronger relationship with Him.
Can I revel in the beauty of the male physique? I think so, and He understands why I feel that way. Do I wish I had the same excitement for women? Sure. They too are marvelous and wonderfully made creations, and I am extremely attracted to my wife-the only woman I have ever been attracted to or ever will be on this planet. But I can rest in Him that He can take my brokenness and pain and suffering and turn it into a miracle. He is bringing clarity and wholeness to me and my SSA in ways I never thought possible!
Whether God made me attracted to men or with some proclivity toward that sexual orientation, or some combination of both, I do confidently feel “wonderfully made” regardless. He’s certainly used my orientation for abounding good, no question. Thanks for sharing some of your own story as a married guy, Michael. Always eager to hear from other perspectives amongst this diverse spectrum of a community.
Thanks Tom! You are doing such an amazing work of God! I will receive your fearfully and wonderfully made concept and try to apply it.
So I came across this website by complete accident a couple days ago while searching for something on a completely different topic. As a SSA teenager I have searched often for answers on how to reconcile my Christianity with my sexuality, but had never come across this site. So when unexpectedly I find this article above I was compelled to immediately falls to my knees and thank God for answering the questions I have struggled with for years. The Lord truly works in strange and unique ways.
There is something so incredibly brave to be able to stare your sexuality, or really any part of our ever-defective make-ups, and say that while I am not proud of it, I am not ashamed of it. I know my sexuality was not a choice, so to me I can’t fathom why I would try pray it away.
I truly cannot express my gratitude to you Tom, and all of the other YOB bloggers, for the amazing content and laughs I have had in the last 72 hours. I started listening to the podcasts, and I never have I laughed at such serious topics. Normally gay guys can be a little pretensious, but your combination of personality and topic is just too good.
Anyways I guess that was my small way of introducing myself and thanking everyone, include you commenters, for all the great insight.
So glad you found us, Lucas! There’s always room here for one more. I hope our blog, podcast, and community bless you in the journey. Thanks for sharing a little of your story here, and feel free to share more as you feel led! Blessings, brother.
I love this, Tom. So honest and raw, but also so full of hope. Its tempting when people are struggling to simply spout scripture at them like “all things work for your good.” And yes, it is true. But we mourn with those who mourn. That’s the beauty of this brotherhood, we no longer have to mourn alone. We no longer have to journey through the unknown alone. We find we aren’t alone in our questions, our doubts, or our wrestling with God. God uses our afflictions to help us comfort those suffering similarly. I’m sad to see you have to walk this journey with your health, but I am grateful you have already experienced ways in which it has deepened your faith and enhanced your ability to minister to others.
Indeed, we no longer have to mourn alone. Have felt that brotherhood on so many levels. Such a beautiful thing for which I am forever grateful. Grateful for you and all the others, Aaron, for walking with me on my new health journey.
Thank you for sharing, brother. Considering how I was made has been a long time inner debate — my sexuality, my gender, my body, my own illnesses. I’ve had to consider God’s care and handiwork in all of it. It’s a difficult conversation and journey and it’s not one we typically choose to take. But it can bring much of it if we follow through with it. Praying for you on your journey, brother.
I definitely want to continue processing my autoimmune disease, along with my sexuality and disconnected sense of masculinity, again and again, both with God and others, never again letting it rot and fester under a rug or bed or deep dark cavern. So grateful for you as a precious outlet for such processing! Much love, Dean.
I hear you Tom! I myself have question myself on why God made me the way He did. Over the years I have resorted to 2 Corinthians 12 were Paul talks about his thron in the flesh. We don’t know what his thorn was and I don’t want to make any assumptions but in verse 9 it “My grace is all you need, My power works best in weakness.” I think of our struggles weather sexuality or mental, God can still use it in ways to bring others to Him. I think there is alot of beauty in that!
I come back to that passage again and again in my journey, Lee. God absolutely has used my struggles for His glory, whether to point myself back to my reliance on Him, ultimately, and to connect deeply with others in their faith journeys, too. Not super grateful for the thorn itself, but I’d be blind and ignorant and honestly prideful not to admit the goodness that continually flows from it.
[…] first hit, I did my best to work out from home. But it just wasn’t the same. And then when I got diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, all notions of vigorous exercise vaporized for […]