“Do not promise too much or hope for too little”. (John Piper)
One of the questions that mostly arises from people struggling with their sexuality; whether they experience exclusive same sex attractions or are attracted to both genders, or those that feel as if they are stuck in a body that is not generally theirs is, ‘What’s my hope? How does the future look like for me? Will I really be free from all this?
If someone approaches you with those type of questions, how are you likely to respond? Mmm, if you are an evangelical like me who believes that ‘nothing is impossible with God, you may first quote Luke 1:37 and follow it up with other verses of how God is able to do all things. You may go ahead to believe with the person that what they are experiencing is contrary to God’s original intention of mankind and that Jesus came for such cases. You may conclude the talk by offering the person these words of hope. “I think…….”
This is where I stop speculating and hit the nail on the head. When I first started wrestling with my unwanted same sex feelings, the question of how it would be like 10 years from then, roamed my mind. From everywhere and nowhere in specific, the answer was always one;- “you should have stopped experiencing those evil feelings and by then the Lord will have showered you with endless craving for the opposite gender, and the result would be, one wife, and two kids living in a three bedroomed house in one of Nairobi Leafy-suburbs. A near perfect picture, where we’d ride to Church on a four wheel drive car; coupled with regular retreats on five-star hotels with hopes to cut down my overwhelming six digit salary (Sorry that’s an exaggeration but laugh at the fun in it without missing the truth therein). And yes, a hope was given to me, a hope of change, from what I could say bluntly, an homosexual or bisexual orientation to Heterosexual orientation or what others could call straight. That was the hope I was given, and I woke up every day thinking that was the day of its fulfilment. But….
Almost 5 years down the line, these are the honest ‘hopes‘ that I wish someone shared with me back then and which I believe everyone who has questions on their sexuality would want to hear :-
1. That a change from a homosexual lifestyle to a heterosexual lifestyle is all possible– I wish someone shared with me Rosaria Butterfield’s story then. Rosaria is an English professor who has authored a Book called ‘Secrets thoughts of an Unlikely convert’. Her story is one of a kind. Before encountering the saving message of the cross, she was active in the Lesbian world and was infact living with her partner. At the point of her conversion, which was a process of following Jesus and trusting him, she left her former lifestyle, met her (now) husband and is happily married. Her husband is a Pastor and together they have been blessed with two Children. What a beautiful story! A working that can only be possible in God! But someone could ask, has this been the universal experience?? Next point…
2. That becoming a Christian did not necessarily mean an end to my same sex/ homosexual cravings- Wesley Hill serves as an Assistant professor of Biblical studies at Trinity school of Ministry, he has written a Book called Washed and Waiting- Christian faithfulness and homosexuality. His story is different from Rosaria’s. Wesley was born into and brought up in a Christian family, trusted Jesus as his saviour and Lord even before his teenage life. When he hit puberty,he already had come to realize that he had a steady, strong, unremitting, exclusive sexual attraction to persons of the same sex. But like I mentioned, his story differs from the one I just gave above, because unlike Rosaria, he has not experienced a dramatical healing of his homosexual desires despite moments of tearful and fervent prayer to God to take them away. He therefore, has embraced the path of immersing himself into the journey of discipleship just like other believers, and while at it, chosen not to nurture his homosexual desires through any private fantasies or any physical homoerotic engagements. His story resonates with other stories featured in Websites like True Freedom Trust or Living out or Spiritual Friendship. These are testimonies of Christian women and men who bear witness of what Christ has done for them despite their on-going same sex desires. I wish I had been told this. That there was hope even if the feelings did not suddenly fade away. But was anyone willing to tell me this or was it thought to be a low exercise of faith? How about the one-size-fits-all narrative of the origin of same sex desires?
3. That whether there was a specific or multiple cause of what had led to all this, there was no quick fix to it. There exists a tendency of people trying to look for a gap in a person experiencing questions in regard to their sexuality. This is because many of us believe that when a loophole is found then he/she can easily be fixed. But I have this to say…And with all due respect to this ( because I have benefited immensely from forums that have affirmed my gender and the roles and responsibilities therein), when this is presented as the absolute cure for same sex feelings, it can be quite harmful to the individual. An example is the commonly held understanding that the idea of a distant father or a domineering mother is the very cause of this. One may think that when they explain this out then they have already found a solution for someone battling with the question of Sexuality. They may then offer a hope that when this is mended then change is inevitable. On psychological levels when such a hope is offered, failure to produce the heterosexual change promised is likely to lead the individual to depression, shame, self-loathing and even worse, suicidal tendencies. What if, instead of us channelling all our efforts in speculating what the causes of same sex desires are chose to be content with ignorance. And taking a cue from Jesus in the Book of John 3:9 not be at pressure to explain why this man was born blind but rather pointed them to what God could do to and through this blind man.
4. That though I may not necessarily get over it, by God’s grace I can control my expression of it. On this, how I wish someone had told me that I was not a captive to my feelings and that though I may not necessarily have a choice of who I got attracted to, I had a choice then, and have a choice now, on whether or not to act on my desires. A false idea which has been popularised over time is ‘I feel therefore I am’. Those who propagate this then go ahead to point that any suppression of the same is all self denial is likely to be damaging over time. No Christian should ever believe this, our ideology is one, ‘We feel therefore we need ‘, the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and that not every appetite is worth satisfying.
5. That continuing to experience same sex feelings did not mean that I was a lesser Christian or that I had less faith. That I could be included in the narrative of all believers where we live in this present age that is evil (Gal 1:4) and marred by sin and death but in the death of Jesus Christ the new creation has dawned (2nd Corinthians 5:17) and now exists as an invasion of the future into the present. But as Romans 8:23 says, we still eagerly wait for the consummation that has been inaugurated. I hope that those who continue to struggle with their sexuality will be looked at in light of this gospel narrative. That their experience is not in anyway less to that of another believer struggling to remain chaste in his/her heterosexual experiences. This would give more hope for one to press on even when their life is not marked by all time successes.
6. That I could still enjoy chaste friendships with members of my same sex– I wish someone had told me that not all my feelings towards people of my sex were entirely sinful. That the Bible offered examples of same sex friendships that gave God much glory; the Story of David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi and that of Jesus and his beloved disciple John. That I did not need to shy away from affectionate feelings towards another man. In this I mean that I could submit them to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and steward them in ways that honoured him.
In summary I wish to end with a quote from a Baptist pastor, John Piper, who commented on the findings made by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse’s research. The findings shows that as far as change is concerned, “ there are likely to be significant shifts on orientation, but most likely this may occur on a continuum rather than a one time decisive reorientation change. This was his comment:
“This is a wise and cautious balance. It is wise not only because with God all things are possible, but also because “either-or” thinking is especially unsuitable when dealing with sexual orientation.
There are not simply three groups: Heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual. There are hundreds of variations of impulses that make up our peculiar sexual identities. This means that “change” is not a movement from one of three groups to another of three groups. Rather, it is a totally unpredictable reconfiguration of dozens of impulses and desires. And these desires and impulses are interwoven with dozens of personal and relational and spiritual realities, all of which are moving and shifting as God and his word and his people come to bear on the totality of a person’s life.
Is change possible? From this perspective change is inevitable. We are all changing — in a hundred ways including how sexuality fits into our lives. And for the Christian, the Spirit of God and the word of God are gloriously in the mix. It is a lifelong quest. Jones and Yarhouse sound a warning not to promise too much or to hope for too little.”
Is there hope? Yes, a lot of it, Romans 5:5-6
And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.