“Once you have been careful who you submit to, have learned from the beginning what God has commanded of us in the gospels…and we have done all that Christ has asked of us. We have forgiven, we have asked for forgiveness, we have prayed, we have laid it down at the feet of Christ, we have fought off the root of bitterness, we have done all that Christ has asked of us.” He says, “Call your friends, go to dinner, eat, drink, laugh and trust God and go to bed. Because what else can you do?” So, how do you live in a fallen world?…Submit to the truths of God and the gospel of Christ, be obedient to His commands and when you’ve done all that He’s asked, eat, drink and laugh, because the rest is in His hands.“
This is from a sermon given by Matt Chandler at the Village Church called “Ecclesiastes, Part 13; Occupied Territory”. He is talking about Ecclesiastes 8 verse 15 onwards.
THE other week I said no to attending a weekly SSA group over summer. It’s the first time I’ve said no to something like that in a long time. Indeed over the past couple of years I’ve attended several conferences, retreats and support group nights all specialising in the sexuality genre. And they’ve been largely helpful for the journey. But right at this moment I don’t think I need more information or tools to fight or self understanding.
To be honest I feel like there’s more knowledge in my brain than I have consistently used to fight sin, understand myself or man up. Take masturbation. Last year I went 100 days without that moment of comfort demonstrating I have what it takes to win. But this year, even with extra maturity, that feat hasn’t been repeated and it should have, because the way to make it through the day without it is clear. Take understanding myself. I did the questions about my childhood and teenage years from the book I reviewed earlier in the week and there was only one thing I realised. (My parents gave me a toy telephone for my first birthday, which is hardly a gift fit for a boy who is meant to become a man). But other than that I’m clued into how my dad/mum affected me growing up and what I felt I lacked from same sex peers as a teenager.
So what’s gripping me at the moment is: take what I know and move forward. As Neil Cole said “we in the Western church are educated beyond our obedience and more education is not the solution, we need more obedience”. Or as Matt Chandler (he is fired up as he says this on the podcast) said on evangelism: “Ladies, how many Beth Moore Bible studies are we going to do? I’m just saying. Can we maybe run some of the plays instead of just studying them? Men, how many men’s Bible studies are we going to do?…How much are you going to study before you start to play? I mean, that’s what makes this thing so stupid. Everybody can talk it, nobody wants to engage anybody with it. Or at least very few of us do. Why? “Well because I have a lust issue.” Okay, submit to Christ, get into Recovery and live on mission. It will reveal all that stuff;. It will be horrible. God will just rip it out and replace it with His grace and mercy. It will be awesome in the end.”
Sometimes it’s easier for me to look for the next exciting teaching than to put what I know into practice. Putting knowledge into practice means getting up when I wake up so I don’t masturbate, making sure my mind doesn’t wander when praying as I drive to work, initiating conversations at work with quiet people instead of going on web sites for a break, planning conversations about God with colleagues sometimes, engaging with my parents at dinner time, seeking God and being self aware when tempted to idolise a guy and emailing friends I haven’t talked to in a while before I go to bed. It’s all pretty routine stuff. But I think that’s where growth and freedom happen rather than in gaining a fistful of knowledge that will be lost in three months time when I haven’t done anything with it.
In Wesley Hill’s book Washed and Waiting he quotes a novel called Jayber Crow, which my local library happened to have a copy of so I borrowed and read it. This work of fiction is about a man named Jayber Crow and his life story. How he grew up in the country, tried the big city for a while, came back home and worked as a barber in his hometown for 30 years and then moved a couple of kilometres to a river shack for the next 15 years. It was about the people he met and his thoughts and his life as a bachelor. To be honest it was kind of boring. But it was an honest book about the tedium and repetitiveness and occasional joys of life. Ie “And so for a while there I took part in a little passage of family life, and with the family I would most have chosen if I had the choice. It was something I might have prayed for, if I had thought of it, but it was not among the possibilities I had forseen. It was just a good thing that came.” Jayber’s success is settling down and becoming part of a community and living one day at a time.
I think my success will come the same way.
I have just finished reading The Battle for Normality: A Guide for (Self-)Therapy for Homosexuality ( http://www.amazon.com/Battle-Normality-Guide-Therapy-Homosexuality/dp/0898706149). It’s quite an interesting book and before I get into it I should say a few recent thoughts and experiences predisposed me to be sympathetic to the author’s take on SSA. For example despite having some great male close friends, friends and acquaintances these days I was puzzled that they didn’t seem to be alleviating my SSA as much as I thought they were meant to. Also I’ve been battling a mild infatuation recently, which became a bit stronger in the week after I had been male bonding the whole time on the weekend. And at the same time I was having one of my, thankfully now less frequent, whiny and resentful weeks at work. After discussing some of these things with a couple of people they loaned me this book. They were a bit apologetic in giving it to me, which I now understand, haha.
Dr Van den Aardweg’s argument is that SSA is caused mainly by same-sex peer relationships at puberty with parental relations a contributing factor sometimes. When the estrangement from same-sex peers happens the person with SSA feels inferior as a man and as he tries to correct this it can become sexualized. This leads to even more feelings of inferiority as a man and the teenager starts to unconsciously self-pity himself, which leads to immaturity like that of a child or teenager as an adult.
His support for this belief is unfortunately not very rigorous. He throws in a few anecdotes such as the adolescent who had three close friends as a boy who then became distant from him at puberty and wallah he was gay. As well as some old studies that showed younger siblings are more likely to be gay and that 30 per cent of feminine acting boys don’t become gay.
Then he has a quote I really liked: “There is a popular idea that people who did not receive (enough) love in childhood and who were psychologically affected by it will be cured if they now receive the lacking quantity of affection…The search for same-sex love of the homosexual is a yearning that will not stop so long as the “poor me” attitude from which it flows remains alive.” (page 50). It gave me something to think about as to why my good male relationships haven’t ended my recurring infatuation problem.
His argument about homosexuals being immature is something I definitely see it in myself. “The ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving typical of an adolescent who feels inferior are observable in the adult homosexual” (65). Dr Van den Aardweg says this shows up in that homosexuals are “easily insulted” and “often chronic complainers” as “self pity and protest are not far apart.” His closing argument in this part of the book is that “The less depressed, the more stable emotionally, the less egocentric the homosexual person becomes, the less homosexually inclined he will feel” (75).
The rest of the 148-page book deals with strategies for self-therapy. Most of this was pretty standard SSA fighting stuff with an emphasis on battling immaturity and avoiding self-pity. For example if the infantile ego feels wronged or hurt this should be mocked or “hyperdramatized” or “satirized”. Positively “learning to love begins with cultivating an interest in the other person: How does he live, what does he feel, what will objectively be good for him?” (134) Dr Van den Aardweg lists questions for examining relationships with parents, peers and self, analysing infatuations and thinking about immature habits. Otherwise his advice is the usual put away your feelings of male inferiority by acting manly even if that means taping yourself speaking and removing unmanly inflections. And overall “what is required is much common sense and quiet, daily perseverance.” (93)
Overall I was glad to read this book and it has definitely fed into the thoughts I’ve been having lately. Particularly it has got me thinking my immaturity may be strongly linked to my SSA and dealing with this will help mend the other to some degree.