I don’t identify in any way as homosexual, trans-sexual, gender-fluid or any other thing than heterosexual. I’m happily married. And I can be honest enough to admit I don’t understand much, either of the identity or of the issues that go along with the trans-sexual- or homosexual-identifying members of our world.
I speak of “gender identity and redemption” in this article as a total outsider to the mindset, the struggle, the feelings, the hurts and the understandings of people that feel this way. I am a total outsider to being able to speak to how the people who identify in any of these ways understand themselves, or the way they feel so badly misunderstood by so very, very many in the heterosexual community.
Everybody Has An Opinion
Since so many others are weighing in on this issue these days, due to the supreme court ruling, it seemed best (perhaps by way of an analogy to which a good number in the heterosexual world can relate) to speak a word of understanding to others like me. It’s the best one I’m capable of offering with feeling and compassion, and without judgement; at least, without judgement as far as I can tell. And my heart, as I speak, is directed to others, like me, who have never struggled with these issues. Those of you who have, please be patient with me for what I am trying to say.
When I was younger, the issue of divorce and remarriage was a settled one for me. It was “plain” (isn’t our own position on so many of these issues so “plain” to us, and aren’t we baffled when others just can’t see what is so “plain?”) that divorce and remarriage were allowed for two reasons only – “adultery, and desertion by an unbeliever.”
Life seemed so SIMPLE back then. And now, from where I sit, I was SO WRONG. The curious thing for me now, as I look back over the years, is how easy it was to not only see how “plain” this position was from the scriptures, but to dole out very clean, “biblically accurate” advice to anyone facing divorce. I didn’t see myself as judgemental at all. (I’m still not sure that I would, even now, look back on what I said and see it as “judgemental.” I never saw myself as ‘better’ than anyone going through this, or any such thing. I just saw so much less than I do now.)
It just seemed to me at the time, that if the bible says it, you have to do what the word says. (Stay married, not remarry, etc…) And people who didn’t want to do that were going to have to take it up with God. He made the rules. It was His issue, not mine.
OHHHHHH, how things changed by the time I had been through a divorce, and into another marriage.
Not Everyone Knows How It Feels
You see, one of the things that occurred to me as I lived through a divorce and remarriage was that I previously had NO IDEA of what the questions even were on this “other side” of the issue. When you’re going through an issue rather than merely dissecting it for doctrinal discussion, you think of ALL KINDS of ideas in those familiar doctrines and ALL KINDS of questions about them that just seem to make those “clear doctrines” fall down.
Just as an example, the typical evangelical position says “divorce only for adultery or desertion of an unbelieving spouse.” But then, throw abuse into the mix. The response from the “two reasons only” camp is quick to be, “oh, no…. we don’t advocate staying in a marriage where a guy is busting his wife’s jaw. She certainly should get out of that situation. Now mind you, she doesn’t have a right to remarry. But we wouldn’t advocate her staying in that marriage.”
But when pressed further (living with facing the reality of a life like that, you can’t help but think of these things….) you then ask the question: “Why is it that, if a woman has a husband who goes out and has a one-night stand, she is entitled to declare that this “marriage” is now over, and she is free in God’s eyes to marry another; but if her husband busts her arm or her jaw, or beats her children, is she NOT ALLOWED THE PRIVILEGE, IN GOD’S EYES, OF BEING ABLE TO ENTER INTO A MEANINGFUL MARRIAGE COVENANT WITH SOMEONE ELSE?”
The response, typically, is “because Jesus said, ‘anyone who divorces – except for immorality – and marries another is committing adultery.”
But when you ask WHY Jesus is therefore saying the wife of the adulterer is free to marry someone else, but the woman whose husband is beating her or her children is NOT allowed to marry someone else, they can’t answer the WHY of that question. “Because Jesus said so” is their answer. “Jesus said it’s adultery.” But that answer says nothing that the hurting person can understand in a way that it connects to their world, or how they hurt, and how they are still banished to being alone. And quite frankly, even the ones offering these answers are a little uncomfortable that the answer isn’t really “all that.”
I’ve written about this issue elsewhere. It’s maybe not until you live with the reality of being in a difficult marriage, that you start to grapple with what Jesus really meant when He said that. Perhaps you should have always been asking those questions. But life just never pushed you before to the point where you did.
But now, in the situation, you wonder if there was cultural understanding that might stand the traditional evangelical understanding of those verses on their head. (And, later, you discover this was exactly the case. Only now, the ones telling you “no” don’t understand. And THEY think YOU are justifying what you want to believe.) In this case, you know it’s not the case. And you know they don’t understand you. It leaves you isolated and alone. And misunderstood. And feeling very judged, and feeling like you are looked at very much as “less than.”
You Just Don’t Get Some Things Until You Live With Them
My story (about my experience living through encounters with well-meaning believers over my divorce and remarriage) is one I’m telling here because of something the Lord showed me in my devotional time with him this morning. And again, keep in mind, my thoughts here are directed to others who, like me, believe the bible is pretty clear about “gay marriage.”
As background, let me quickly tell you another story first. In a cosmetic store at a local shopping mall not too long ago, there was a young man employed as a makeup consultant. He was very effeminate, and wearing a fair bit of makeup. It was not the kind of thing you typically see. He was slender of build, a little shy and withdrawn, but very pleasant and polite to talk to.
For me (not being able to identify with what seems to be his world) it was not something I was easily able to relate to. It was actually more than a little uncomfortable. (And I’m just being honest.) But the encounter with that young fellow stuck with me – I would think of him occasionally, and I would pray for him as often as I would think of him.
But it wasn’t until this morning that the Lord showed me what praying for him is supposed to look like.
Early this morning, I was enjoying some time with the Lord, listening to a song by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir – a song called “I surrender.” (You can hear the song here.)
And I have no idea who is singing it; I have no idea what his story is; I have no idea what his gender identity is; I DON’T CARE – it’s NOT the point of posting this. I do want you to hear the song, though, if you’ve never heard it, perhaps thereby allowing you to enter into what it was that God was showing me this morning, in that moment. The lyrics are:
I know Lord Your plan for me is right
I need You to fulfill
Your purpose in my life
I submit to You my King
Be my everything
I’m coming to You again
Lord here I amHumble and broken I come to You
I’m trusting and waiting
To see what You will doLord You know what’s best
And at Your feet I find my rest
I’m coming to You again
Lord here I amI surrender I surrender
Lord I surrender my life
Give it all to You
I surrender I surrender
Lord I surrender my life
Give it all to You
Now, please hear me. I recognize that there is a good chance that many who read this post also agree with the supreme court ruling, and disagree with my position on it. If you do – if you feel, as many do (even many who call themselves Christ-followers) that a homosexual orientation is a God-given thing and there is nothing wrong with acting on that orientation, then what I am about to say may well be offensive to you. PLEASE hear my heart. It is NOT my intention to offend anyone. I am only wanting people who agree with me to hear what God showed me in MY heart this morning, in my devotions about those on “the other side of the fence.”
I have long believed God loves us all; I also believe that He is displeased with homosexual expression. But He understands the struggle of a homosexual orientation; this morning, though, it hit me so profoundly how I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE STRUGGLE. So again, hearing me through this filter that I cannot avoid, let me describe what I believe God showed me this morning, “limited,” if you will, by my theological understanding.
As I was listening to this song, the young man I saw at the mall came to mind. I pictured him, humble before the Lord, as I try to be, though I often fall short; I see him LIVING – LIVING with a gender identification CLEARLY different than mine; whether he is comfortable with it, bothered by it, I don’t know; but IT is who HE IS right now. And there he is, standing there, his heart wanting to connect with God; his gender identity is a “thing” for me; but is merely a small part of the whole picture for God. And I picture him, humbling himself before God – a God who LOVES HIM INTENSLY AS HE IS (and God is ALWAYS wanting more for ALL OF US). And this young man’s heart is crying out to God (whatever his feelings about his gender identity in the moment being a small thing) saying, “Humble and broken I come to You. I’m trusting and waiting to see what You will do. Lord, You know what’s best; and at Your feet I find my rest. I’m coming to you again. Lord, here I am.” And I saw him, in that moment, crying out to a God who loves him in the midst of the feelings of judgement, misunderstanding and perhaps self-questioning because of that, realizing that if God is real, He has a plan for THIS young man too; that if God is real, He doesn’t make junk; He loves all who reach out to him in sincerity, humility and truth.
What came SCREAMING at me in that moment was a LOVE and a COMPASSION to see this young man FALL IN LOVE WITH JESUS – WITHOUT him having to jump through MY HOOP of what becoming more Christlike looks like, and in what order, in what sequence, with what outward manifestations proving to ME that his heart is right before GOD. The cry of my heart for this young man is that he falls in love with JESUS, as JESUS knows it needs to happen, however that must happen, without MY making judgements about how he is doing in the process. It came screaming out at me that my heart-cry should be that Jesus would worry about what that will eventually look like for this young fellow; and that it is not MY job to decide all of that.
I still see the same position biblically. But God made me aware of how PROFOUNDLY I was guilty of what Francis Frangipane calls “the stronghold of COLD LOVE.”
So, for those of us on this side of this particular theological fence, I offer this prayer; and not as though I’m any better than anyone else who has not yet “gotten” what I “got” this morning; but more, as J. I. Packer would say, “as one beggar showing another beggar where he found bread…”
Father, help me to remember that my “clear understanding” on any particular issue in life is not a license to carelessly think less of anyone. Knowing I’m correct on a biblical issue is not permission to love anything less than perfectly. Father, give me the ability to truly hear other people’s hearts; to feel other people’s pain; to always have more compassion for their need than analysis of their faults; to embrace other people, where they are at, without loving them merely on the condition that they follow my schedule and sequences for growing in truth and understanding of right and wrong; to not judge people who’ve had to ask a LOT of tough questions that I didn’t even know were needing to be asked.
Jesus, when I grow up, I want to be just like you. Make me to love everyone as much and as compassionately, as gently, as patiently and with as much zeal as you do.