I’ll be honest, this is one of those articles I haven’t wanted to write because I know how polarizing (and likely emotional) the responses will be. It’s not that I mind making a statement or taking a stand, so much as I know that doing so in an article is vastly different from doing it in person. In person, I can see your face; you can see mine. You can see my heart in ways you might miss it in an article. I can see the emotion, the pain, the judgment…whatever it might be… that crosses your face, as well as hear what you have to say in response, and I can respond in turn. All of that will be lost through this medium which I love and work in…on an issue that is so sensitive that it deserves better. Not to mention that this article, for better or for worse, will far outreach and outlive me. It will take on a life all of its own; one that I cannot control. That is a little bit terrifying. Nevertheless, I have been asked to write it, and so, hesitantly, prayerfully, I embark.
I have a precious, wonderful friend that I love dearly, who is a lesbian.
I should stop right there. I actually hate to say that because it’s definitive. “Is” is a statement of equality, of definition. Saying that makes it sound as if I believe this is who she is. It’s not. I do think it may be who she thinks she is, but it’s not who I think she is. I don’t think her struggles with lesbianism have to be definitive. I don’t think any of our “sin struggles” have to be definitive. THAT is the beauty of the cross. We may always struggle (this side of Heaven) with a particular sin or we may find deliverance from it, but because of Christ, in either case it need no longer define or rule us.
That being said, she has embraced a lesbian lifestyle.
She’s a fellow believer, someone I have worked alongside in ministry and someone who has given me the gift of her trust and openness with some of her struggles. I want to share some of our dialogue. Partly because I was asked to, and partly because I am simply not hearing this side of the discussion…the side of a single girl who is trying to honor God with her sex life (or lack thereof).
Please note, as she is not here to defend herself, as I share pieces of a conversation we had years ago, please, if you choose to comment, limit your remarks to my side of the conversation. Her reasoning, her struggle, her responses – those really aren’t up for discussion. She may have changed her thinking, and I may remember things wrong or incomplete. She gets grace and the benefit of the doubt, as well as all the love and compassion that Jesus would give to someone who is struggling with the grip of sin on their life (as no doubt we all are in some area or another).
First off, I want to share some of her perspective. When she first shared with me, she was grieving, anguishing in pain and suffering over this. Homosexuality, whether you choose to deny it or embrace it, is never easy. She wanted me to know she didn’t “choose” this. Another gay friend she knew advised her, “If there is any way you can choose to be straight, be straight.” She tried. She couldn’t. She said she couldn’t change her “orientation,” that it was as impossible for her to like men as it was for her not to like women. So she grieved for the hard road she was facing—and it was going to be hard, no matter how she responded, socially, spiritually, emotionally, physically… To compound matters, she was also grieving the fact that she would never give her parents grandkids, and that their family line would be cut off with her.
The struggles went on, but another particularly difficult aspect was how she was wrestling with her faith and the Christian community. I suspect there had been a struggle there before, but for a long time she had made some attempts to fight against this thing, or at least not to indulge it. That was a battle she had ceased to fight. She had embraced her desire for women. When I asked her how she was handling her faith with her lesbian lifestyle, she simply replied, “I believe there is grace for me.”
As I listened to her my heart broke—my heart broke because her heart was broken, because she was in desperate pain—but even as my heart broke, a sense of indignation also arose. You see, she and I were in much the same situation. I don’t like women, granted, but I’m also single. And this is where I get frustrated, because even though I’m sorry for her struggles, I don’t think she gets a “get-out-of-jail-free” card just because her “orientation” is different than mine.
That sounds really harsh. Before you get offended or defensive, please let me explain.
I know a lot of amazing, Godly, beautiful women who never marry. They want to. I want to. But the fact remains that we are not married and may never be. I, too, have parents who want grandchildren. At the time of this particular conversation, none of us were married (my brothers nor I) and there were no grandchildren, and as the oldest, I felt that pressure. Now, both my brothers have children. That may have taken some of the “pressure” off, but it’s also shown me more poignantly what I’m missing—both personally, and in my relationship with my parents. I have to face the very real possibility that, as a single who is nearly forty, it’s increasingly likely that (even if I did manage to marry) I may not have kids and give my parents grandkids.
Like my friend, I have to wrestle with my faith and my singleness. I too have to wonder how it is that I (and countless other singles I know) have been created with a desire for love and marriage, with no promise of fulfillment. Granted, I hear false promises for that all the time. You know the lines: “God has someone for everyone;” “You’re still young, you’ll find someone;” “Just wait, he’s out there,” etc. Maybe he is; maybe he isn’t. The point is, I don’t see those promises anywhere in the Bible. It may sound comforting to the one who offers it, but it rings really hollow to those of us who are staring singleness in the face—because it’s simply not true, and we know too many fantastic singles who never married to believe it. So there we are, singles, trying to understand how it is we long for something, feel that we were created for something, and yet are staring the possibility in the face that we may never have a relief for our longing(at least this side of Heaven).
More than anything, my friend was lonely. I get that. Singleness is lonely. I love how Elisabeth Elliot describes it so perfectly in The Path of Loneliness: “In some ways all single people are misfits in society, just as someone who has lost a leg is handicapped. God meant for everybody to have two legs apiece. We don’t notice them when they are both there, but if one is missing, it’s noticeable.”
Here’s the rub: loneliness is not an excuse for sin, in either of us. She likes women, I like men—but both of us, if we want to follow God, have to take our loneliness to Him and wait. “Do not arouse or awaken love until it pleases” we are commanded, not just once but three times in the little book of Song of Solomon (2:7, 3:5, 8:4). It doesn’t say that straight people shouldn’t arouse or awaken love, but if you have other desires, then it’s OK…because that’s just too much pressure to withstand. It doesn’t matter who you are attracted to, God still tells us we have to wait to indulge our love and affection until it is a thing which is pleasing and honoring—pleasing and honoring according to HIM.
That’s a hard charge, but it’s not just hard for the homosexuals. It’s hard for us straight people, too. That means we have to stay away from the ungodly, the married, the “bad guys” and even the “good guys” when they simply aren’t the ones God has for us. Sometimes it even means saying no to a Godly guy, (or girl as the case may be), just because God has different callings on your lives, callings that don’t mesh—because that “good” guy is simply not God’s “best” guy, and you know it.
Do not arouse or awaken love means that I have to be prepared to live my life single, forever, nun-like, because it’s possible that a love that “pleases” may never present itself in my life. And let’s face it, the older I get, the more plausible that reality. Not that I’m being fatalistic, God is more than able, but I am being realistic. I’m counting the costs, just as Jesus said we should. Is following Jesus worth everything, even worth living single, forever, nun-like? Yes.
The question is no different for me than it is for my lesbian friend. We both have to be willing to face the same reality—singleness forever—because GOD IS BETTER. And, as we do so, we have the same hope—God is able to and may choose to provide someone for whom it pleases. For her that involves an extra step, granted, but aren’t all things possible with God? And if not, why are we calling Him God and following Him at all? He is GOD. He can just as easily change her attractions so that she desires men, as He can provide a man that suits her, as He can provide a man that suits me.
If we really believe that God is able, then we wait. I dare say she gave up and gave in to her desires when she decided that her attractions and desires were bigger than her God. Isaiah 40:31 says that “those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.” When we quit waiting on the Lord, our strength to resist temptation fails and we give in.
Here’s the thing with sin—all sin is a “gateway” sin. You’ve heard of “gateway drugs”? Sin is always a gateway. The moment we give in to a sin, no matter what it is, we give Satan a toe-hold. He gets a foot in the door, and once that door is open, he’s never content with what he has—he wants more, more of our holiness, our resolve, our purity, our hearts and lives. Satan wants it all. Once my friend allowed love that didn’t please to be aroused and awakened, it started a landslide. She started to spiral into darker things. The love that didn’t please also failed to satisfy, so she kept on searching for what would…fruitlessly.
This is why repentance is SO important. When I screw up and give in to sin and desires in my life in any context, (because I do and I will, as will you), I know I need to keep a short-leash. I need to run to the throne and repent, before I slide any further down that slippery slope I’ve gotten on. Repentance is the only thing which gets Satan’s “foot-in-the-door” back out of the door so we can slam it shut!
My heart broke for my friend. It broke for her pain. It broke for the countless bad decisions she was making. It broke because she chose to give in to her desires, rather than trust in the one who conquered sin and death, the one who is able. It broke because I love her. But, if I’m honest, my heart also gets a bit indignant because I feel that whenever we speak of homosexuality, there is this sympathy card that gets played. I feel that there is an expectation that I should feel sorry for my fellow human who is homosexual—and I do, believe me, I do. But I also feel that there’s an expectation that that sympathy should lead to an understanding and acceptance of their choices. I remember my elementary principal, Rod Morris saying, “You can explain it but you can’t excuse it.” That’s just it—we may be able to explain and understand sinful behavior, but that still doesn’t excuse it. Except for, in our culture, we seem to think that an understanding or an explanation actually does equal an excuse.
Here’s the thing, if we took the homosexual aspect out of it, and just looked at it as a matter of whether or not their sexual behavior honored God, it wouldn’t be so complicated. I would grieve for my friend if she was in love with a married man, because that would be hard, but I still wouldn’t excuse her from having a relationship with him. I would expect her to “put to death her earthly desires” (Col. 3:5), just as I have to do myself when an unholy desire arises.
When the movie Brokeback Mountain came out, people were so compassionate towards these two men in the movie who were in love with each other. I understand that it was a time when the gay lifestyle was less accepted, and I understand that it was a hard situation. However, the movie was ultimately about two married men who had an affair. I wonder if they had been straight men having affairs if we would have felt so sympathetic and been so quick to excuse. It just seems that we have a hard time saying something is wrong because we see that it is hard.
IT IS HARD. Being single and honoring God in your singleness IS hard. It IS hard to choose “not to arouse or awaken love until it pleases.” But, as I told my precious friend, I am not asking her to do anything I’m not asking myself to do. I’m not telling her she has to change who she likes. (God can do that. He is able, if He chooses.) I’m not telling myself I have to change who I like, if I should like someone that isn’t honoring and pleasing to God. But I am telling BOTH of us that we cannot act on our desires if our desires aren’t pleasing to God. I ache for my homosexual friend, but frankly I ache for ALL of my single friends because I know (intimately) just how hard it can be. The point isn’t how hard it is, but that God is able (both to change bad desires, and to fulfill right ones) and He is worth it (whether he chooses to change bad desires and fulfill good ones, or not).
Singleness is hard, but our choices can make it easier or harder. When we choose to act outside of God’s law, we make it harder on ourselves. Matt Chandler says that following Christ is about getting the maximum pleasure out of life. God’s law isn’t to rob us of our joy but to help us get the most joy possible because He created us and knows what will give us the ultimate joy. His law is for our good, not for our harm, even though it may seem that way in our limited perspective. I love what Elisabeth Elliot writes about loneliness (again in The Path of Loneliness—one of my favorite books, if you must know).
Our loneliness cannot always be fixed, but it can always be accepted as the very will of God for now, and that turns it into something beautiful. Perhaps it is like the field wherein there lies the valuable treasure. We must buy the field. It is no sun-drenched meadow embroidered with flowers. It is a bleak and empty place, but once we know it contains a jewel the whole picture changes. The empty scrap of forgotten land suddenly teems with possibilities. Here is something we cannot only accept, but something worth selling everything to buy.
That’s the real question, isn’t it? Can we accept loneliness as God’s will for our lives, at least for now, no matter our sexual orientation, and choose to live according to God’s law? Can we put aside our sexual desires and romantic dreams until it pleases, knowing very well that it may never please, and trust God with that???
Whether you are straight or homosexual, longing for romance, or in love with the wrong guy or girl (because of their gender, or character, or marital status or…), unless you have found the one “for whom it pleases,” you and I are in the same boat. I’ll grieve with you for the struggles we share. I’ll weep with you for the pain that it often is. And I will pray with you and seek repentance right alongside you for the times when we falter. But I’m sorry, I just can’t see that any of us gets a get-out-of-jail-free card. We are all called to wait to arouse or awaken love until it pleases—and that standard is the same for ALL of us whom God created (which is all of us). So rather than make it easy on you to go your own way, know that I want to help you go God’ s way, because I want to help you get the maximum joy out of this life. I want you to live with a clean conscience and in right standing with your Maker, just as I want you to help me do the same. Let us help each other to this end, you and I, because singleness IS hard, no matter your orientation.
19 Therefore, brothers,[c] since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:19-25, emphasis added)
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3: 5-11)
 Some of you will want to argue this point, citing that if she was truly a believer, she would therefore be obedient and not embrace the lesbian lifestyle. That is beyond the bounds of this discussion. I will presume that, as she has claimed, she has put her faith in Jesus, and that she struggles with her sin, just as I do.
 Elliot, Elisabeth. The Path of Loneliness. Grand Rapids: Revell, 1998. Page 50.
 (Elliot 1998), page 109.