Ascending Mount Carmel – One Step at at Time – Part One
Ash over at Odd Psalms is back blogging.
As for how my Christian lifestyle and gay attractions have mixed, it’s kind of an interesting question. As a Christian, I love God, and I want to love Him more and more with everything that I am. So Christ is who I live my life for, or at least, try my best to. But I’m also gay (i.e. and by "gay", I mean in attraction, not lifestyle), and it’s hard to separate your sexuality from who you are. Ask any straight person; it’s a part of them. So here I am, a young man with two seemingly antithetical sides to my life, both distinct but very much a part of me– I’m a Christian with same sex attractions. Even though I struggle with my attractions to other guys, I try as much as possible not to let it hinder me from serving God. Should it matter that I’m gay? If I hate it when people judge me and hold me back from praising and serving Him because I’m gay, shouldn’t I at least begin by making sure I don’t hold myself back? Why should sexuality determine how I worship Him? Why should being gay stop me from serving Him with all that I am? It shouldn’t. No guilt, no evil thought, no temptation, no sin, should ever stop us from worshipping Him, from giving our all for Him. Does that mean I don’t sin? No. Does that mean that my attractions and temptations don’t sometimes get the better of me? Of course not. Does that mean I don’t have dry periods and times when I feel lost and alone? No. This blog is evidence of that. I still sin and I still fall. But what Christ has done is given me the resolve to stand up and keep running. He has broken the chains of sin in my life so I can stand and boldly declare His claim on my life, and say that even though I fail, I will not give up. Though I fall, I will not stay down. Though I sin, I will not stay in sin. The devil will never have me.
This is exactly what I was writing about a few days back and what some in the revisionist camp find so hard to accept, that many, many people who struggle with same-sex attraction recognise that to act on those desires would be sinful. In response they don’t create a new theology that justifies acting on their fallen desires. Instead they embrace an old, much attested theology – that of purgation. Back in Oxford I wrote an extended essay on the ex-gay movement and spiritual direction in the light of Kenneth Leech’s "Soul Friend". Here’s a sample:
Redemptive Suffering and Purgation – The essence of Classic Spirituality It may be one of the shortest chapters in Leech’s book, but his conclusion, "Towards a prophetic understanding of spiritual direction", captures the heart of the challenge facing pastors today. Leech writes:
"Theology is at the heart of the question of the social relevance of direction. Is this ministry merely concerned with deepening a personal relationship of intimacy with Christ as Saviour? Or is it concerned to deepen perception of the working of God in the structures of society? Is it concerned to enable individuals to live lives of devotion and piety within the accepted framework of the social order, or does it question the spiritual and moral values of that order? Adjustment to society, or the Kingdom of God – which is the perspective? Whether spiritual direction has any social dimension at all is deeply connected with the theological assumptions on which it is based."
Here then is the crux of the future for spiritual direction – will it simply permit conformity to the ways of the society in which the one directed finds itself, or will it stand firm in promoting a Christian perspective on issues of spiritual discipline, morality and, in the question at hand here, sexuality?
What I discovered as I examined a sample of literature from pro-gay writers and ex-gay was that the pro-gay writers almost never engaged with classic spirituality in their attempt to theologise on their experience. In comparison, the ex-gay writers seemed to almost revel in their connection with the spiritual giants of St John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila, Ignatius Loyola and the like. (As an aside, I introduced my solidly evangelical church to St John of the Cross two weekends ago. Wow!!! "Duck to water" is all I can say.) What I’m going to do over the next few days is publish on this blog the second half of that extended essay to demonstrate that point. It’s the same reason, I think, why so many people have taken offence to the Latimer and Ridley video I produced, because their theology simply cannot accept concepts of purgation and the dying to self that is witness (martus) to the transforming power of Christ. I’m going to leave the last word now to two earlier posts from Ash. More to follow later.
It’s beginning again. That old familiar tugging. Everytime I see him. Inside, my heart is stirring once more. I know that, slowly but surely, I am falling for him. I know that as I see him more and more and hang around him more and more, I will soon start to love him. And love makes me do stupid things. Love makes one yearn. And yearning can really suck sometimes. I’m tired. Tired of struggling with it. Tired of always trying to fight it. Tired of the temptation. Tired of the guilt of loving someone I’m not supposed to love. At least, not like that. I’m tired of this cycle. Meeting someone, falling for him, loving him, having to push the love deep inside and stifle it, having it eventually plateau and calm as the years pass, and then meeting someone else and having the whole thing start again. There is this itch inside that I cannot scratch. An insistent burning within that I cannot quench by myself. I want to LOVE. But there is nowhere for this love to go. How does one love when love is not allowed? How does one express a love that, without expression, eats away at you because you constantly hold it inside without letting it breathe? God, if it be Your will, take this love from me. I don’t wanna do it anymore. It hurts too much. … I want companionship. I want someone to talk with who I can love and lust over. I want someone who engages me, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I want to fall over and over in love with this person and have God bless us because we put Him first. I want to get married. I want a wife who I can pray with about our days, about our fears, our kids, the direction we have chosen for ourselves under God. I want to have kids of my own and settle down. I want kids named Micah and Naomi and Stephen (and whatever names my wife comes up with). I want to watch them get born and hold them in my arms for the first time as I watch them sleep. I want to see them take their first steps as I hold out my open arms to them. I want to hear their first words, and cry the first time they say "Dad". I want to comfort them and teach them and guide them, and worry about their every move. I want to watch them grow up and move out and find companions of their own. I want to grow old with my wife, and somewhere down the line re-propose and renew our vows. I want so much for my life. I want so many things I don’t know if I’ll ever get. But God… what do You want?
Welcome everybody, to purgation, where the soul dies to sin and rises to Christ. The final, final words are from my mate Martyn.