Learning to look to Jesus
About a year and a half after becoming a Christian, I remember crying in my church’s toilets while the Word of God was being proclaimed from the church hall. I can’t remember what was being said or even if it was something that dramatic. I only remember sitting there asking God why I had to have this pain. I was nearly screaming to Him asking Him where He was. It felt like someone had got a knife and made a slit all the way down my soul. I thought I was letting God down and He was letting me down.
I was crying because I have been sexually attracted to others of the same sex for as long as I can remember. I remember being in school and pretending to be attracted to the male celebrities that were plastered over all of our walls. I would have preferred to have my favourite female soap actresses or singers on mine. I remember seeing storylines of gay relationships and coming out storylines in programmes like Hollyoaks and Glee and thinking, “That’s like me! That’s how I feel.” I never told anyone about these feelings and I refused to entertain them as best as I could, fearing that I would open up a box that I'd have to bear the rest of my life. I still wanted the “hetero-normal” life
For the first year of my Christian walk, the experience of Same-Sex Attraction (SSA) honestly never crossed my mind. A friend of mine who also experiences SSA said she’d had the same experience, describing it like this: “It was like moving to wet land from dry. I never grieved the old ground because I was so grateful for the new living conditions. But as time passed in this new place and it became normal, I started to forget the drought in the other land, and from then the enemy kept making me forget the refreshment of the true water of life and thirst for the old one instead.” So, after about a year and a half of living with God, the struggle began again and it still continues to be a struggle for me today, when I forget where I came from. For instance, when I think about someone sexually, even when I’ve prayed and engaged in God’s Word, I can end up watching a TV programme or listening to a song and then thinking or feeling in a way that isn’t consistent with who I am in Christ. When this happens, I become numb to God and a voice in my head says, “The only way out of this numbness is to be with that person who doesn’t make me numb.” This kind of thing sounds romantic until I remember the reality of what that would actually mean - I know believers who are still living the consequences of believing such a lie.
The woman who seemed so attractive
There was one girl in particular who stirred up so much in me I would actually get dizzy around her. I struggle to describe her or even the hold she had over me. There was one song I would play over and over that would remind me of her and there was one lyric from that song that used to make a slit in my stomach: “For you I would fall from grace just to touch your face.” It broke my heart and made me ask the question, “If I had the opportunity, would I walk away from God for her?” Emotionally, being around her could feel like the sun on my skin, until I went further down the rabbit hole that began to get darker and darker until eventually I forgot what light was at all. When I thought about her romantically, I imagined myself being with her. But in my thoughts, I was a better version of myself - a thinner, more beautiful and less tense version of me, who laughed and played freely. I’d convinced myself that she was the means by which all of these great things I want for my life would come into my hands. I struggle from chronic fatigue and it’s almost as if she became the magic wand that made my headaches stop and prevented my fatigue from depressing me. However, what attracted me to her was that life with her didn’t have to be that serious: I could just feel what I want and it wasn’t a big deal. I never knew how a conversation was going to end up with her, but I knew it would be exciting. When the world started to look too ugly, I would look at her because she could make it look attractive again. So I would end up asking questions like “Why would a God who loves me deny me this?” or “Why does he choose for me to not be satisfied in another human?”
It’s ironic that most of the ways that I imagined I would feel while with this woman are actually things that Christ promises me Himself. He has told me not to be anxious (Matthew 6:25-34). He has told me I am no longer guilty (Romans 3:22-24). He has told me I am free (John 8:36). Christ has never asked for me not to be satisfied - He wants me to experience satisfaction and joy (John 10:10). I have to ask myself, “At what point do I stop genuinely believing that Christ can give me these things?” Do I really believe that the world (the place where I tried everything and was never satisfied) will give me these things? Our all-knowing God is the only One capable of filling that hole inside.
Being open at church
There’s more than just sexual temptation that I struggle with in this. I have anxiety towards how people inside and outside of the church see me because of my sexual orientation. It’s an anxiety that keeps me staring at my wardrobe for longer, searching for clothing that I would define as extremely feminine. It’s an anxiety that panics me every time I have a pint. The truth is, I am girly. But I stop enjoying my style and stop glorifying God in it when I am doing it out of a fear of man.
A verse that really convicted and encouraged me through this was Romans 2:28-29: “For no-one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God”. I can’t tell you how freeing this was to me, even though it is a verse about circumcision. It relates to how God cares for our heart transformation and its appearance from His Spirit, not how I appear to be from the outside. It encourages me that godly womanhood isn’t about my outer beauty, but rather it comes from the inner beauty of my heart that gives itself completely to my Saviour. I wake up in the morning and should think about what my Father thinks of me, not consuming my time on what man thinks.
After the incident crying in the toilet at church, the overwhelming reality came to my mind that my feelings were becoming so intense to the point that I couldn’t ignore them anymore. So I decided to confide in a woman at church I trusted. She was great: she didn’t overwhelm me with questions; she never assumed anything about me; she never treated me in a way that made anything else but Christ my identity. She listened and prayed with me. She guided me with helpful resources at the right moments. It wasn’t that she was perfect in it, but she was humble enough to know she wasn’t an expert and she kept pointing me to Jesus. This built up my confidence to tell my pastor, who was very supportive. The only way I can tell things to people is to ambush them and run - I was so nervous I rambled and said the wrong things, and I actually threw-up at home after telling him.
I am learning to find contentment as I am. As Philippians 4:12-13 says, “I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Someone asked me once, “How can you just turn your back on love?” But I’ve realised that this was what I had been doing all of my life when I was turning my back on Love Himself, in the person of Jesus on the cross. I do know there will be a day where He will show His worth to all of the world, and when that happens, I know everything that seems like our whole world right now will vanish from our hearts, because we won’t be able to see past His all-consuming face.
This article was published in the Spring 2019 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend.