He thinks he might be gay!
Jamie: Okay, Matt, we’ve known each other for 12 years. When did I first tell you I was same-sex attracted? I can’t actually remember, but it might have been in our second year at university.
Matt: Yeah, I remember it clearly. We were at the Student Union café on campus. I remember you saying you had something to tell me, and clear as day before you said your next sentence, the word ‘gay’ appeared in my head. Then you said, “I think I might be gay.” It was just that split second after the word appeared in my head. I’m sure it was the Holy Spirit preparing me to hear what you were going to say so that I would react graciously and with love, and not with shock!
We’d known each other for 18 months by this point and quickly became good friends. I can’t remember much after that except talking about how it must have been that summer after speaking to your parents and the minister from your old church. The phrase you used, “I think I might be gay,” is an interesting one. I was talking to another gay friend of mine later that week, and I said, “I’ve got a friend who says he thinks he might be gay”, and this friend said to me, “When he uses that phrase, it means he is gay! He’s just trying to sound you out about what you might feel about it.”
I then returned to you and told you what this friend had said to me. You were a bit more forthright and said, “Yeah, I am gay. It’s not something I’m doubting.”
Jamie: Did anything particularly change following that conversation? I don’t feel like anything changed between us.
Matt: It was good to be aware of what was going on with you, and it was nice to talk to you about that and get to know you in a deeper way. I was committed to this not changing what I thought about you, or how I treated you. In the back of my head I was thinking, “Oh, okay, Jamie’s gay.” But I recognised that we’ve all got stuff going on within us. For me, as someone who isn’t same-sex attracted, the challenge that came was this question, “What does it mean to give up something big for Jesus?” This is one area where our friendship has been great, because I’ve watched you being committed to God’s standards about sex, relationships and marriage, and with you saying, “I’m going to live for Jesus, and that means denying myself.” I’ve then thought, “Wow, that is a level of commitment and a level of discipleship that I should aspire to.” So, you have been inspiring to me.
Jamie: I’ve failed on so many occasions, but I’m really glad that it has helped.
Matt: That you set your heart and mind to wanting to live for Christ and not for yourself is a challenge to me, as it should challenge everyone. Every Christian who makes a significant sacrifice to follow Jesus is a great role model to someone like me.
Jamie: It was tricky at different points in our friendship because of being same-sex attracted. At the very beginning of our friendship, I had an attraction to you because you were such a good friend to me. So, I would ask myself, “How can I be friends with you when I have that attraction?” But, as we became better friends, started to pray with each other, and be in the same Bible study group, and as we got to know each other, we developed a sort of brotherhood. That sounds really insidious; we’re part of a brotherhood!
Matt: I want to burst into song!
Jamie: Maybe not! But over time, I came to see you not as someone who is to be sexualised, but someone who is made in the image of God and is my brother with whom I have shared so much of my life. It was my joy in time to be your best man, which meant a lot to me, and then be a godfather to one of your amazing kids. There were things in my life that I had to put in place just to keep myself in check. Including at uni when I would stay over at your house. I remember one night when we were out late, and it was not good to walk back home at midnight or later because we’d been playing computer games for far too long. I needed to stay over, and you offered to top and tail in your bed, and I was like, “No, that would be so awkward!”
Matt: I think this goes back to me wanting to treat you like any other mate. But I probably could have been a bit more sensitive. I don’t remember the exact situation, but I can imagine that happening.
Jamie: I remember you sleeping on the bed and I slept on the sofa. Then there was another time after you got married...
Matt: Yes, we had to share a bed. My wife and I were planning to go to another wedding. There was a last-minute change of plan because it was my mother-in-law’s 50th birthday. We decided that, because I was a groomsman at this wedding, I’d have to go to that, and she would go down to her mum’s birthday. That left you with the chance to come up to come to the wedding and share my room.
When we tried to change it into single beds, we found there was no option but to top and tail on a double bed together.
Jamie: I don’t think that I would have felt comfortable with that when we were at uni together, but, by that point, I felt like that was absolutely fine.
Matt: It’s interesting what you say about the thought process you went through, because that’s something I’ve certainly struggled with, in my own way. As you explained to me and shared your own story of feeling same-sex attracted, it staggered me just how closely that story resembled my own lusts and treating women in a sexualised way. I’ve wanted to look at things I shouldn’t have been looking at, or allowing my eyes to roll for two or three seconds longer than they should have done. Most of the parallels are really similar. That you could share all this with me meant I could share with you some of what I was struggling with. Our friendship was really important to me, as we were able to support one another, keep one another accountable, and pray with one another.
Jamie: I remember another time when a church friend told me a same-sex relationship would fulfil me. I think she said to me, “I want you to be happy.” I remember her words being really discouraging, because I was trying to live my life in line with the Scriptures. Now I understand her sentiment, but I know in this life there are going to be struggles when happiness comes and goes. I need to remind myself that my joy is in the Lord.
My other friend thought that for me to be happy, I needed to be sexually active. Whereas to be a Christian is to follow Christ and to put Him at the centre. I may miss out on sexual satisfaction, but I’m looking ahead to the greatest marriage in the future of Christ marrying His church. So, I’m not missing out on that. The most authentic life is to follow Christ and for Him to change us.
Matt: If you really want me to be happy, point me towards Christ and I will find deep happiness by denying myself, picking up my cross, and following Him. In a parable, a man who found a pearl of great value went and sold everything else he had to buy the pearl. We have a hard time believing this truth, whether we’re gay or straight. And yet, that is the gospel. Jesus knows, when He’s on his way to Jerusalem, that He has to go through this horrible, terrifying thing. But He knows that on the other side of it is His joy. He will be lifted to the Father, glorified. It’s a genuine sense of something better coming, and that Jesus is the only one who delivers that. Will we trust Him or not?
Jamie: Thanks so much, Matt. It’s been great to chat.
Matt: Yeah, thank you. It’s been nice to have time today to put all this on the table and talk about God's grace in our friendship. I look forward to many more decades of friendship.
Jamie: Many more.
This article was originally published in the summer 2022 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.
Download the summer 2022 edition of Ascend
A conversation with the author...
Articles in Ascend often need to be ruthlessly edited down to fit within the required word count. To give space to discuss certain articles in greater depth, the TFT staff team will be recording occasional podcasts under the banner “Ascend Higher”, covering the issues raised in a more conversational style. To hear it for yourself, you can use the audio player below.