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 â€œbe aloneâ€.
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 â€“ these are the Truth. Healing from the sins of the world will not happen in an instant; but, it will happen â€“ if we donâ€™t pridefully block it. God wins in the end, in case you didnâ€™t know.