A conversation on change

(Inspired by a conversation yesterday)

So I read an article about the change potential for a gay guy and it seems to be about zilch.
Really, like they’re going to be a horny teenager forever?

No, more that they are unlikely to ever become a straight guy with zero attraction to men and overwhelming attraction to women.

Well, that still leaves a lot of room for change.

I guess; is that what you’ve found?

For sure. I’ve been on this journey seriously for about 6 years and in that time I have experienced massive changes in my attractions. I used to get intense, year-long crushes on guys and now they’ve reduced to minor skirmishes every so often where I want friendship a little too much. I used to have strong desires to look at porn or stare at guys and they’ve greatly diminished as well and really only grow when I feed them through looking too long or lusting. I see myself as a masculine man and have healthy relationships with other guys. Sure, I’m still same sex attracted in a sense, but how that works out is totally different now.

So you don’t want a boyfriend to have sex with?

No, the thought weirds me out. My fellow males are my brothers; God made us men and we all have male bodies and ways of thinking. Though honestly my lustful thoughts can sometimes take me near that idea I wouldn’t be able to actually do it in real life right now.

So you love women?

Usually no more or less than I love men, which is to say there’s not much sexual desire there at all. Though I have known guys with SSA who experience a genuine attraction to a specific woman, so that is still a very real possibility for me. At the same time I have come to a huge appreciation of how God designed man and woman to complement each other physically and mentally and spiritually and emotionally. They were designed to be together. I think I could definitely get married and have children and be happy even if there was no attraction as God’s design is so strong.

Isn’t the point to be horny?

Our Western media and culture would suggest so, but in other countries they have arranged marriages where there’s no attraction to start with and they have to make it work by building a deep friendship.

If you believe that then why are you still single?

I had a girlfriend for six months once and realised that my problem was not really my lack of attraction, but that I was too selfish to give my all in the relationship. I wonder whether I am mature enough to overcome my pride and selfishness without the help of attraction spurring me on, but that’s probably just a poor excuse.

You don’t mind being single?

I’ve gotten used to it and I have great friends and family and there are plenty of things that interest me, which keep me busy without a relationship. I will have enough money for a down payment on a house if I want or travel overseas, so I’m not missing out there and I know not every SSA guy is so blessed. I’ve always been pretty independent and like a fair bit of time to myself thinking and exercising and reading. Sometimes I worry people will think I’m strange if I’m still single at 40, but I’m sure over time I would become alright with that as well.

Could what has happened to you happen to every gay guy?
I don’t know. Homosexuality is pretty complex, which I guess is why there is no replicable scientific research for what causes it and a few surveys unable to prove strong causation. This means we have to assume that there are hundreds of biological and environmental factors combining to cause it making it hard to generalise.

Some may never change and some may change a lot?
Possibly and I’ve read of people who would say they fit on both sides of the equation.

What if someone has tried for years and years to change and nothing happened?
Just before I answer this question I’ll remind you that when I say change I don’t just mean liking women and not liking men. I mean liking men a lot less and being emotionally healthy and seeing yourself as masculine and so on and so on. To be honest I’ve never met this person you’re talking about. Many people try for a couple of years and give up. For me it took about four years from that point to where I could actually go ‘oh look I’ve changed’. For some it will be shorter or longer. Just to note I usually start counting from the first time they have confessed their SSA and it has been uncomfortable for them. That’s a good sign they’re seriously trying to do something about it.

There might be some guy who has tried for 10 years and nothing has happened.
Well if they happen to be eavesdropping on this conversation they will have enough knowledge so that by that time they may have had a serious amount of counselling if they have money and long conversations with other SSA guys and spent lots of time seeking to build healthy male relationships and they’ve probably not looked at porn for a couple of years and they would have a pretty good trust in God through wrestling with Him as they suffer. Maybe they still like men a lot and don’t like women. But there’s been plenty of change.

They’ll never look at gay porn again then?
It’s possible. I think I could go 60 years without looking at gay porn even if I will have the ability to jack off to it for the rest of my life…What’s also possible is that they will be unemployed for six months and then their closest friend dies and then they have to move away from their friends and church because they are poor and then they get depression and then they spend every day for a month looking at gay porn and then they declare they never changed and it was all a lie. I don’t think that really proves anything.

SSA guys aren’t notable for making war on their sin and unhelpful thinking.
You could say that. I certainly wasn’t for a long time and still struggle to do so every few weeks.

So could you end up being that guy?
For sure. Never say never. There but for the grace of God go I. But every day I work and trust to make sure it’s not going to be me.

You seem to be pretty easy going about all this change stuff. You don’t seem overly fussed about whether you change heaps or a little.
To a degree. It can be terribly painful to deal with this stuff on a fallen world where there are few who understand. It is terribly sad that such a thing as homosexuality exists as it was never meant to be this way. But ultimately my hope is in my God and not whether I ever get hard over a woman or lose the ability to do so over a man. I trust that He is good and Jesus shows me that He knows what it’s like to be human and that He loves me.


Unshakeable trust part 2

Today I will share some of things that helped me on my journey to increased trust in God. I don’t mean for this post to be a guide to follow, but rather a testimony to encourage. We all come with our own ideas and inclinations and pain, and so our journey to a deeper trust in God will have its own stages.

I should begin by stating that ‘unshakeable’ is the aim, but perhaps it will not be a consistently sustained height of trust on this fallen earth.

Coming to a place where I saw God’s sovereignty over the earth as a positive rather than a disheartening fact.
Dealing with SSA is hard and it’s not my fault that I have this battle, so a question that reduced my predisposition to trusting God was: “if you are all powerful why have you allowed me to have this SSA struggle, which is so tough and lonesome and countercultural? Can you be good and let me struggle with this?” I could not mentally trust God with my decisions while I doubted that He was actually about my best. (Alternatively I could have chosen to pretend that this wasn’t an issue and embraced a fake and superficial trust.)
Several years ago I read a book called Tell the Truth by Will Metzger. He reasoned biblically for the idea that God is all-powerful with total control over everything including salvation. This led me believe in God’s total sovereignty as opposed to a theory like open theism where you can have your God and your control too. Part of Metzger’s book is dedicated to exposing our utter sinfulness and therefore God’s amazing graciousness and love in choosing to save us through Jesus’ work on the cross. This helped me realise that even with the difficulty of having SSA God had demonstrated great love for me. It helped me see God as good and loving. Once I trusted who God was. I could trust that all things really will work together for the good of those who love Him including my SSA. In 2008 this led to a moment of praise, which I expressed with these words: “Do I trust God? Do I trust Him? I’m a minority (Australians), of a minority (Christians) of a minority (dealing with same sex attraction). But wow; an exclamation of astonishment, and maybe praise, but definitely not delight. Wow. That this (SSA) is the way God would choose for me to know that He is enough. That Christ crucified took my sins. That such were some of you. That this (my sinful nature and my sin) is why the wrath of God was upon me. I’m not one to suggest that God takes risks or is ever surprised. If he is Sovereign and in control then somewhere along the way he allowed everything. Somewhere along the way God allowed SSA to come my way. “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Gen 50:20) Joseph says to his brothers in Egypt years after they sold him as a slave and pretended he was dead. If it wasn’t for SSA I’d probably be a Pharisee. But this battle comes up and knocks out my pride and self-sufficiency. If it wasn’t for SSA would I ‘really’ be a Christian. Maybe I’d just be a cultural Christian. It wasn’t for SSA would I know the depth of my sinfulness and brokenness. Sometimes it surprises me with how very bent my sinful self is. Do I trust God? Do I trust Him? Sometimes my mantra is a line out of Nine Day’s song, Bitter: “If I could change anything; I would change everything.” But these were the thoughts I had this morning.”

Actually knowing truth about God’s character as opposed to knowing bits and pieces about the church or being nice or whatever. This is kind of related to my previous point, but Metzger’s book wasn’t the only place I was learning about God, so I want to expand a bit on this point. 
Growing up in the church meant that I had heard hundreds of sermons, but I had never been given a step-by-step explanation of the creation/fall/redemption/restoration narrative. Reading about this helped me understand my place in God’s story. It also helped me understand who God was by knowing what He had done and will do.
I also started listening to sermons by people like John Piper, Mark Driscoll and Matt Chandler. If you are unfamiliar with Chandler this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhS2-K1EUBI&feature=related highlights his outlook and the kind of thinking that was so helpful to me. I had grown up in a church with loose theology (the last minister before we left thought gay was okay and the one before that became a Catholic) and a menu of random sermons from here or there which didn’t instil a strong faith in God. So when I started listening to men who were passionate, confident about the gospel and who God is, and actually teaching the Bible, it awoke in me a greater trust in God.
Another thing was reading the Old Testament prophets. This may sound kind of kooky, but there is pretty much nowhere else in the Bible where God’s heart for His people is laid out page after page after page. They scream that God is involved, God cares and God will restore. I think they are particularly relevant for guys with SSA. We grew up as exiles in Babylon (and other places) from the surrounding Christian culture hiding our shameful attractions and feeling abandoned by God. We want to return to a metaphoric Judah where we are normal and blessed like the other 15-year-olds with hot girlfriends and peer approval. Also Romans 1 talks of God allowing men to go after other men as His judgement on creation (I would not say a judgement on us personally) and therefore our lives can be seen as representations of God’s judgement and His restoration (partly on earth; definitely in heaven), which is very fitting in line of the OT prophets.

The Holy Spirit’s work in my life.
While I was reading and listening and growing I wasn’t the only one at work. I believe the Holy Spirit worked to give me understanding and to melt my heart and to build a greater trust in God. He had prepared my path so that when I read books and listened to sermons I had an open mind and heart that was ready to receive the truth in them. Possibly going to church when I was 18 I had heard some good things about who God was, but at that time I was not ready to receive the truth and use it to trust God.

You have to want it.
Trusting God is counter cultural. Inertia in our thoughts and actions will slowly lead us away from God. This means there had to be a willingness on my part (which was really a willingness born of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life) to actually want to learn more about God and trust Him. If I dedicated my thinking time to pondering the unfairness of my situation I would have got bitter and sinned. I had to make the choice to let go of things my pride was holding onto and head the opposite way. I had to let go of my ‘right’ to whine and complain about my SSA or my personality or whatever and look to God and who He was and what He said. (I don’t think it’s wrong to bring these concerns about unfairness or issues we are thinking about in relation to SSA to light. If there are guys reading this who have those issues please write about them rather than keeping them to yourself, but we have to do it as broken people who are aware of our sin and aiming to do it so others can encourage us to a greater understanding of God in our lives rather than to indulge our unhelpful attitudes.)

Walking in it.
My trust in God needs to be fed. I need to keep praying and talking and reading and learning otherwise it could easily disappear. I need to keep reminding myself of where I am in God’s story, of who He is and how my life will work in relation to that. Temptation continues to come and sometimes I give in, but when I remind myself of who God is and what He is done it is easier not to.
I think the other key to walking in it as SSA guys is having close relationships with brothers dealing with the same thing. SSA is about as weird a struggle as you can get in Western civilisation in 2012. We need to know that we are not alone in choosing to trust God and that we are not alone in having dark nights and misfiring passions that sometimes create emotions despite all our attempts to rein them in. It’s amazing how much easier it is to trust God when I know brothers all around me making hard decisions and making life work with this burden. I am not alone. We are a band of exiles trusting God to redeem all the years the locusts are eating. (Exiled from cultural chrisitanity (the lowercase c is intentional) and exiled from gay guys who embrace their attractions.) We need to have people a few steps ahead of us beckoning us on to greater trust and obedience.  

Unshakeable trust

THE secret to winning at SSA, and life, is simply to trust God.

This is to know deep in our hearts and minds that God is good, awesome, all-knowing and all-powerful. This is to truly believe that God is for us and knows what is best for us and is working in our lives for our good.

If we can, through seeking God and reading about Him, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, come to deeply trust God everything will go better for us.

I do not pretend to trust God to the degree that He is worthy of trust, but I definitely do to the degree it has reduced the amount of porn I consume and how I think about SSA.

For example when I am tempted to look at porn, which doesn’t happen very often now though it did occur a few days ago, I fight it with a strong conviction that this is not what is going to fulfil me or improve my life. Our good God calls porn a sin and therefore I trust that He knows what is best for me rather than believing that earthbound me somehow does. In part because of this strong conviction in what God says about porn (that is born out of a strong belief in who God is) I haven’t had a porn binge for 240 days.

Another example, I have never really been tempted to wonder whether it was okay to be a Christian and live monogamously with a male partner. I don’t think it is and so I don’t invest any time wondering whether I’m actually wrong. There was one time when I was about 18 singing ‘if I was a butterfly’ and the line ‘thank you Lord for making me me’ had me questioning if that included my attraction to men. But apart from that I’ve believed strongly my whole life that it would be wrong. Part of this is because I believe that the Bible is pretty clear about same-sex action and so God said it; I trust Him; end of story. There’s no rule that says I have to act like our surrounding Western culture and never be sure about anything except for the things we’re meant to be sure about it. (Of course, I can have respectful and enjoyable conversations with guys who think differently, but I don’t have to pretend to be uncertain about what I’m not.)

Let’s take it to the next step. If we trust God; we trust His story and therefore we can place whatever we happen to be thinking or experiencing in the thread of creation. Perhaps there is that gnawing desire for a boyfriend.

Let’s go back to the beginning and deal with it. In the beginning God (our awesome, good, loving God) created the heavens and the earth. The world was good and everything was perfect though Adam was alone (but not lonely) and this wasn’t good. This highlights the goodness of desire for relationship and the fact we are created for relationship.

Then sin entered the world and everything went pear shaped. Now it was possible for sin to cause damage to people and thus arrived same-sex attraction on the scene. It is bad and a consequence of the fall. It was not meant to be part of this world. Out of this fallen desire comes a guy desiring to be with another guy, which was never God’s intention. At this point someone could accept the fall and act on their fallen fallings or they can choose to trust God through the pain of living in a fallen world.

Thankfully it doesn’t end there. As sinners we are separated from God and unable to work our way back to relationship to Him and the perfect beginning. So God sent His son Jesus who lived on this earth for 33 years (by the way no whining about wanting a boyfriend until you’re 34; if Jesus our brother and example can do it; you can too). Jesus experienced what it was like to live on a fallen world and He deeply understands what it is like to be us with all our temptations and weaknesses (such as hunger and tiredness and lots of work). He knows what it is like to have strong desires that cannot be acted upon as a single man. Therefore He acts as our example. But more than that He showed us that God does not see the misery and pain of a fallen world and leave it as it is. He healed and fed hungry people and taught about the best way to live on a screwed up world. He pointed to how things were meant to be at the beginning and led people to work for restoration rather than capitulation. Ultimately He dealt with our separation from God by taking our sin upon himself and dying in our place. We could now be in relationship with God in a way that had not been possible since Adam and Eve realised they were naked. God’s calling on our lives is now to work for restoration and be in relationship with Him. To live in the freedom of our forgiveness and sin no more. Therefore instead of wanting a boyfriend we acknowledge this desire is part of living in a fallen world and that we work towards the restoration of our desires. We don’t give into them; we take the harder road of dealing with them for the rest of our lives. I believe this will mean as we trust God more, as we mature, as we build strong relationships with other males, as we receive counselling etc etc that our desires for men will become less intense and less sexual and be a more pure expression of our deep desire for relationship. (Remembering that Adam was not meant to be alone and yet was not meant to deal with this reality through sin.) For sure, we may have periods of sexual temptation and relationship temptation for the rest of our lives, but we know how to live on a fallen world with fallen desires: trust God and go to sleep.

The thing is the story doesn’t even end there. We will only live 80 or 90 years at the most and to fight our sinful nature for that long is not such a big ask when we consider that we will spend forever with God celebrating who He is and living as He designed us to. Then our former life will seem as quick as a blink of the eye and our 80 year slog on earth will seem like nothing. This hope gives us further power to say no to desires for a boyfriend. It’s not ultimately about us now and what feels right here. It’s about God and how we were created to live and that our good, great God is restoring here and will bring full restoration soon.

Trust in Him; trust in that. And watch your life change.

This is kind of long, so maybe next time I will talk about my journey of trust.

(Please note I’m not saying that everything should be fine and dandy when we trust God. Or that we will always feel great and never have temptation. It’s a fallen world and we’re still here. The question is to Whom do we go to, again and again and again, to deal with our brokenness and put into context of who He is, who we are and where we are in the story.)