“Why should we be concerned to divide up things into “classes” and “families”? We get away from all this tangle of guess-work, when once the Eternal Word speaks to us. From Him alone all creation has but one voice for us; He, who is its origin, is also its interpreter. Without Him, nobody can understand it, or form a true judgment about it. Until all things become One for you, traced to One source and seen in One act of vision, you cannot find anchorage for the heart, or rest calmly in God.” - Thomas Kempis – The Imitation of Christ
The above passage landed on my soul today softly, but heavily. Kind of like a thick layer of blankets that lay densely on you, but make you feel secure and warm. Over the last few days the concept of identity has come up in multiple conversations. It is a touchy topic for a lot of people, particularly when the issue of sexual attraction gets entered into the mix. But while sitting at the mechanics waiting for my battery in my Jeep to be replaced, drinking crappy coffee, smelling tires, and reading The Imitation of Christ (I know, perfect environment for deep spiritual meditation) this passage reminded me of angry, anxious conversations with Christ concerning my own identity. Let me share the story with you.
It was December of 1996. I was sitting in my bedroom, feeling defiled and hopeless. I was feeling the conviction that I needed to end the secret relationship that I was involved in with another guy from my church. Neither of us were admitting that we were gay, or that we were boyfriends, but we were spending most of our free time together, spending nights together, engaging in sexual acts, and even looking at apartments to share… We were in one sense in complete denial, and in another sense beginning to build a life together. Whatever it was, it was deeply conflicting and confusing. And in that bedroom, somewhere in the middle of the night, probably after once again looking at porn or fantasizing and masturbating (sorry for the grittiness of all of this, but hey, it’s the truth) the voice of the Lord once again butted its way into my heart and asked me to surrender. I distinctly remember telling God somewhere in that conversation that I was gay… It was significant because it was the first time I had dared to say it. His voice persisted in calling me to surrender. Somewhere in the tug-o-war that night, my soul slipped slightly over the line towards His pulling, and I gave in.
In “Mere Christianity” C.S. Lewis writes these words, as if spoken by The Lord:
“Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self---in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart shall become your heart.”
This was the sentiment of that Tug o War. God wanted all of me, including my own understanding of my identity. I do not have the proper perspective to identify myself. My perception is too polluted. It is defiled by the hateful, hurtful words people have spoken over me…and that I have spoken over myself. It is tainted by my insecure, striving heart, begging to feel valued, seen, and esteemed. It is too influenced by the illicit pleasures of sexual sin and defiled imagination. It is too limited to what I can achieve or conjure. It only has my limited understanding and fickle sentiment. None of us can trust ourselves to accurately say who we are. That is why Kempis’s words felt so soothing to me this morning, and reminded me of that sweet, terrifying moment of surrender. I needed The One who made my soul, who holds my eternity secure, who is the only accurate interpreter and the only source of hope that I have to be the only One with the authority to tell me who I am. Only in that place of humility and surrender can I “find anchorage for the heart, or rest calmly in God.”
And what did He say to me in that moment when my lips seemed to confirm an identity that my affections, my relationship, and sexuality seemed to reveal? Well…If I were to write it all down, I would certainly burst into tears…and I don’t think the other patrons of the auto shop I am currently writing this in would know what to do with that hot mess. What I will dare to say is that The Lord spoke so tenderly and softly to my heart of my value as His son, of His plans and intentions for me as a man, for the fact that my very name was not a cruel joke, and that when He looked at me, gay was nowhere to be found. He told me to agree with Him. To stop resisting him. He told me to trust Him. (Ok, well now I am crying… crap)
Here is my bottom line. I do not share this experience to criticize anyone who claims a gay identity. Especially if Christ is not your Lord and Savior. If you are not connected to The One who made you and formed you, than I cannot, and will not criticize the way you understand your identity. I will only invite you to investigate the claim that Christ is the source of all life, that He is Savior and Lord. That He loves you indescribably and is ready and waiting to have a similar conversation with you. For my brothers and sisters in Christ who claim a gay identity in addition to their Christianity, I do not share my experience to criticize your understanding of who you are. I fully understand how you would come to that conclusion. What I would simply like to share with you is the rest my soul experienced when I surrendered my right to define myself in those terms.
For all other readers; we all have our baggage and list of experiences and struggles that the enemy of our souls uses, probably on a daily basis, to rob us of the only true identity that matters, as sons and daughters of God. May we all take a moment today to quiet our minds, and let The One who made us whisper tenderly and quietly to our aching hearts, who we really are.