The Mark of the Resilient Struggler

Instead of wading into the thick of the current debate over Mike Glatze (the former editor of a youth gay magazine) leaving homosexuality, it’s been fascinating to read the absolute vitriol (I don’t think I’m overstating this) poured upon him by “ex-ex-gays” on Ex-Gay Watch and Warren’s Blog. It is truly amazing the scorn and hatred being poured upon Glatze because he didn’t make the same life-choices as some of the commentators.

Update : It’s worth pointing out that on the thread on this on Warren’s blog there is debate over whether Glatze has become a Christian or LDS or even joined a different non-Trinitarian group. It’ll be interesting to find out more on this story.

At the same time, my home-group and I at church are working through the DVD that goes along with John Ortberg’s book “If you want to walk on water you’ve got to get out of the boat“. In particular today we were exploring how we manage when, having metaphorically got out of the boat to trust God (the book is based on Jesus calling Peter over the waves to walk to him), the wind gets stonger and stronger. In this section, Ortberg makes three comments about those who are resilient in the face of the struggle. I thought that these points were so applicable to the struggle of anybody who deals with sexual dysfuntion or brokeness, or whatever form (not least homosexuality) that I wanted to list them here below:

  • First – Resilient people exercise control rather than passively resign – I think about my own journey and that one of the main turning points was when I decided that I was responsible for moving on in my life. Ortberg looks at Joseoph in Genesis and notes how, though he has been sold into slavery, he didn’t just let his life extinguish but rather he refuses to think of himself as powerless. He uses his gifts and talents to the best of his ability, eventually rising to the Chief Steward of Potiphar’s estate. Ortberg’s point is this – “Faith believes that with God we are never helpless victims”. He continues:

    Growth happens when you seek or exert control where you are able to rather than just give up in difficult circumstances. It happens when you decide to be wholly faithful in a situation that you do not like and cannot understand.It happens when you keep walking even though you see the wind. Then you discover that, somehow, you are not alone. As he was with Joseph, the Lord is also with you”.

  • Secondly – Resilient people remain committed to their values when tempted to compromise – I’ve met a number of people who, struggling with homosexuality, gave into their desires and compromised what they believe to be true. At the same time I’ve met men and women who, on coming out of homosexuality without any christian background before, clung on tightly to Christ and the Scriptural truths about sex and how holy sex speaks of God and unholy sex doesn’t. Ortberg points out that Joseph’s rise to power in Potiphar’s household brings him into the attention of Potiphar’s wife. Despite her advances he remains true to his God and his moral framework, regardless of where it takes him (in this case prison). Resilient people realise that to compromise on their values is to lose any basis upon which to keep struggling. And yes, the temptations that the world throws against us are many and powerful, but they aren’t as powerful as God. Ortberg, writing about Joseph fleeing Potiphar’s wife says:

    We are told that he ran outside, but I wonder if when he got outside he found himself running to God. I wonder if he did not pour out his heart – his disappointment and aloneness that made temptation so painful. I don’t think it is ever enough just to run away from sin. Sin is a pretty dogged pursuer. Sooner or later, you have to turn and face the pain that makes the temptation so attractive. Sooner or later, you have to run to God.

    And this is where so many people fall down. Read this comment on the Stand Firm thread on Glatze’s choices:

    You just dont get it do you?

    A husband already has a wife…a grace filled way to express intimacy in a sexual way. They have an mutually exclusive commitment before God. Heterosexual singles have the potential to find a mate and the same be true. Homosexuals according to your view….they can NEVER express themselves sexually without it being a sin. It seems God made NO provision for them not to “be alone”.
    Or is it the prejudice of people who refuse to see?… I wonder It is not an equal playing field if what you believe is true.
    You compare apples to oranges and that is why it makes no sense to me.

    This is the moral compromise that some people make, because life without it seems so unfair. I’ve seen it time and time again and those who don’t take their values seriously almost always fall. And let’s not think that some people get a gift of celibacy and that therefore it’s easy. The gap in time between avowing myself to either celibacy or marriage to a woman was a decade. A decade of pain and joy, a decade of ease and stress. A decade of waiting. You know what, I would have waited until my death because I decided ten years ago that the pain and purgation was worth it in order to glorify God with my life.

  • Finally – Resilient People find Meaning and Purpose in the Storm – Oh, how true this is!!! Suffering tends to bring on one of two responses. Either we reject any meaning in the storm, including God’s sovereignty and purpose, or we use the storm to discover what God is saying through it. Jospeh used his time in prison to seek God and as he did God revealed his purposes to him. Years later he could turn to his brothers and say “What you intended for harm, God used for good”. But how can we get to the point of saying that if we never hold on for the answer, regardless of how long it takes to come? Most of my personal pastoral insight and concern comes from having weathered the storm and waited for God’s explanation. I remember describing my experience to someone a few days ago, that engaging with my pain was like ripping apart my chest to reveal a wounded heart. But then , as the months went by and my exposed wounded heart was pushed and blown by my life and my memories I suddenly noticed a strange thing. As I chose to live with my emotional wound, I became more aware of other people’s wounds. I began to not just empathise but to actually see the wounds. I would see the wound and the weapon that caused it. People would walk up to prayer ministry and as they approached the front God would reveal their pain to me before they even spoke. I had chosen to seek meaning from God rather than reject him in the storm,and he gave meaning to the storm in a most unexpected way. Ortberg writes:

    It may have been no accident that Joseph spent years as a slave and then as a prisoner in jail before he was ready to be exalted to a prominent position and be used by God. Sotrms have a way of teachnig what nothing else can.

    Paul writes that “we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” You can’t have hope and character with out seeking God in suffering. There is no other path know to the Christain disciple except to cling to God and to wait for him tobring meaning and purpose, in his own time.

I have a feeling that I’ve rambled, but hopefully I’ve made some sense. I know some of you will reject what I’ve written, but I can honestly say that doing what Ortberg advised (way before I ever read him) has developed me and many others in ways I or they would never have expected. You can call us liars, self-repressed bigots or whatever, but the work of God in our lives still stands. And please don’t read this as a condemnation of those who didn’t make the same choices that I did. Rather, please read it as an invitation to join us on the narrow path of true discipleship, of purgation, of the surrender of one’s sinful, fallen self to God. Through all the pain and misery and doubt and stress (and there is that on the path, don’t kid yourself) it is SO worth it. Let me leave the last words to Glatze:

I have seen it. I know the truth. God gave us truth for a reason. It exists so we could be ourselves. It exists so we could share that perfect self with the world, to make the perfect world. These are not fanciful schemes or strange ideals – these are the Truth. Healing from the sins of the world will not happen in an instant; but, it will happen – if we don’t pridefully block it. God wins in the end, in case you didn’t know.

35 Comments on “The Mark of the Resilient Struggler

  1. Julie,

    I don’t think the gay community is saying, please accomodate my needs – I think it is saying, please grant us the same rights you have to love, express our love, and marry the adult of our choosing! Not really the same as, please give me everything I want!

    You don’t have to accept and embrace Buddhists and Buddhism to allow them to love and get married, right? So why can’t we do this with the gay community?


    Just an Ex-Gay who believes in equal rights for gay people

  2. Peter,

    As for the Greek texts – I’m not completely alright with discussing MY reasons for becoming Ex-Gay – feel free to email me privately if you’d like to know more. I will say that I never said I didn’t agree with Gagnon – you assumed that. The only thing I was trying to say is that he isn’t the only or final word on the matter – and I’m open to the possibility that I’m wrong. :)

  3. Jayhuck,
    But the relationships are not the same, no matter what science may have to offer. Socially, marriage was the building block for securing heirs and building family. Religiously, it is in following God’s command to be fruitful and, later, in being the microcosm of the church and showing the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. Gay unions cannot naturally produce children, and that is one of the primary functions of marriage.

    So, how can y’all claim a right whose function you can’t fulfill without going to extraordinary means, particularly when there are legal means available to achieve the protections sought? It seems that this is more about forcing society’s approval than anything else.

    There are other groups that can’t marry — bigamists, polygamists, cousins, etc. Marriage isn’t about conferring individuals’ “rights.”

  4. Julie –

    That is your interpretation and your own worldview – which is fine to have, but its not fine for you to impose your views and your beliefs on others through legislation. You have no right, anymore than I do, to prevent another group from having the same rights as everyone else. THAT is my point.

    And let’s not get into going to extra-ordinary means to have children – there are plenty of heterosexual couples who cannot have kids either. That argument is just an excuse to rationalize bigotry and discrimination. I’ve been through this all before.

    To be honest, I don’t know two heterosexual relationships that are the same either. NO relationships are the same – and gay people will continue to get married and will continue to have kids – there are many churches that will bless same-sex unions, so marriage isn’t the real problem here – the problem is with the secular state recognizing those relationships, which it should do.

    You can disagree with homosexuals, but you have no right to prevent them from having the same rights as you do.

  5. Julie –

    AND – bigamists and polygamists CAN get married, they just can’t get married to more than one person.

    When it comes right down to it, preventing the secular state from recognizing these relationships just ends up hurting gay families – yes, GAY FAMILIES. We all need to come to terms with the fact that thousands of gay couples have children and are just as much families as anyone else –

    Research has shown that the children of gay kids grow up no better, and no worse, than children of heterosexual parents. The acceptance of gay marriage is inevitable, its just a matter of time.

  6. Julie –

    The problem with “legal means” is that it sets up a notion of separate but equal. Do you know how many rights are confered upon someone by simply getting married – over 1,000. Do you have any idea what it costs to get a marriage license – about $30.00 – giver or take a few bucks.

    NOW, do you have any idea what it costs to see a lawyer, just once, to talk about legally setting up only a fraction of those rights? Hundreds if not thousands of dollars. I know many, many, many gay couples who cannot afford this.

    Its unfair, its unjust, and its discrimination, plain and simple. I’m wondering how much longer we can justify this, or rationalize and rationalize that its ok.

  7. Blimey – my longest comments thread ever!!!

    JH – I think your argument isn’t as good as you think it is. You argue that bigamists and polygamists are allowed to marry – just one person at a time. What if I were to argue that gay people are already legally allowed to marry – it just has to be someone of the same sex. The creation of same-sex marriage would be to create a new social institution at the demand of a minority – are you going to therefore argue for polygamous marriage at the same time? If not, why not?

    Of course your argument might lie in the basis that the government shouldn’t legislate against consensual activity. But we already do that in a number of areas – drug taking, paedophilic (or to be correct ebophilic) relationships. It’s illegal for people to take heroin even though it’s a choice of the user. Should that be legal because some people want to do it? What about consensual sexual relationships with minors? Not all “paedophilia” is non-consensual (though of course I believe that it is always wrong). Should we legalise consensual sexual relationships with minors?

    You attack the Christian perspective on my society should only endorse heterosexual marriage by attacking some heterosexual relationships, but you miss the point of the argument. While some marriages can fail the ideal (child-bearing, signification of Christ and church in male and female) the fundamental aspect of a gay union is that it can NEVER do these things without intervention from beyond the couple. I grant you that part f the argument lies in the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1 and Ephesians 5, but if you’re going to reject this theology as restricting the validity of gay unions you’ll need to demonstrate explicitly from Scripture that gay unions can also signify these things OR are designed to signify other things.

    Your points in comment 31 are also meaningless. At the moment I can’t set up up those rights either with anybody I’m not married to. Are you arguing that anybody should be able to set up marriage rights with anybody? Brothers? Polygamist partners? Consensual paedophilic partners? I use these extreme cases to highlight where your libertarian argument takes you.

  8. Peter –

    Quite frankly, there is no reason, I can think of that bigamists and polygamists shouldn’t be able to marry – but all this is just a distraction from the topic at hand, which is gay marriage.

    YOUR argument falls apart, because, again, you are interpreting the world through your understanding of the Bible. You are trying to force your religious perspective on others, through legislation, who don’t agree with you – please tell me how that is ok, without getting into comparisons of other groups???? And please don’t compare gay people to alcoholics and drug addicts – those people suffer from a disease, and gay people do not – at least according to science – and let’s not go down this road where you begin to use science only when it is convenient for your own worldview.

    First of all, gay marriage already happens. As I said before, there are plenty of Churches that allow same sex blessings. We have committed, monogamous gay couples with children. The problem is that the secular State, the SECULAR state, is not recognizign these marriages, and is committing discrimination – its plain and simple.

    As for gay people marrying those of the opposite sex – In fact, I know a few gay men who have married gay women just so that they can receive the benefits of marriage. They lead their own separate romantic lives with other people – is that what you want to see more of? Are you really advocating this.

    You can’t get around the fact, that when it comes right down to it, you are trying to force your own personal religious beliefs on those who don’t agree with you – everything else you say is just a distraction from this, or a way of rationalizing your discriminatory words and actions.

    Gay couples being recognized by the State is something that is happening quite a bit in Europe and its finally starting to happen here.

    What I am saying, Peter, is that two consenting adults, who aren’t brothers, sisters or cousins (just as in heterosexual marriages) should be able to get married. Its not that hard, you are the one making this out to be some sort of complicated issue. Two consenting adults that aren’t closely related. That has nothing to do with Paedophilia – but I admire your ability to distract from the topic.

  9. I’m a Christian and a lady.  Thanks for your blog Peter, I am thoroughly enjoying reading it as I am doing my own gradual research into homosexual desire, cause & effect, the Christian outlook on all this and how God sees the homosexual man or woman.
    God bless you in your work and it’s amazing to see how basically….people will do and serve that which they wish to serve.  The desires of the heart are the god for so many, whether Christian or secular/other faith.
    Take care,

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