About two weeks ago, my boyfriend and I decided to go hang by the pool in my neighborhood just as a large dust storm was rolling into the area. While we were out there, we somehow got on the topic of appearance. As we began the discussion, it became clear that both of us had been raised in, found shelter in, and furthered communities that tend to over-value appearance.
For my boyfriend, this over-valuation came in the gay community. Often, this manifested itself in the need to appear physically attractive at the risk of being deemed undesirable—having the appearance of a perfectly flawless face, being skinny enough, being fit enough, being tan enough, being well-dressed enough, being hairy enough, being smooth enough, etc.
For me, this often came at the hands of the Christian community. For many in the Christian world, it’s often desirable to appear as if our lives are completely put together—that we don’t actually have real problems going on, that we’re always happy, that we’re the perfect Christians, etc. This, as I’m sure you can see, creates a bit of a complex in our minds. It sets an unrealistic standard with which we feel like we must maintain to remain a part of our communities.
Some would argue that it isn’t wrong to want to look good. Of course, I can sympathize with this idea. However, I’ve found that it’s negative when I stress, even slightly, over it. When we find that we’re even slightly worked up by the fact that we don’t look a certain way (physically or circumstantially), we’ve placed our personal value and worth into our appearance—this just doesn’t seem to be what God intends for the beings He created.
Dismally, throughout many years of engaging this desire to maintain a certain appearance, we find that we’ve done so at the expense of truly accepting who we actually are. We value something that’s fake over the actual existence/purpose that God has instilled in us.
While this isn’t something I’m happy about in the least, this isn’t what gives me the worst feelings. What makes me ashamed the most is that, in our efforts to maintain our appearance, we’ve encouraged those around us to continue to do the same. My vain pursuits have been acted out in front of others and simply furthered an already negative attitude in my community. I’m not totally sure that this is what God hopes for me to model to the people that He made.
Over the course of our relationship, my boyfriend and I have had this large question come up: “What is (and what isn’t) our purpose as gay Christians?” We’ve both tried to examine our lives to determine what was and what wasn’t our purpose as gay men and as Christ-followers. Beyond this, we’ve looked at our relationship and have tried to determine how we can engage our purpose with one another—how we can do things differently that better fulfill this purpose that God has given us. Sitting by the pool, this ongoing discussion brought me back to the idea of our purpose with regard to the communities in which we live—the gay and Christian communities.
So What Is Our Purpose?
A few posts ago, I took some time to not only examine the idea of appearance but many of the negative and positives aspects of both the Christian and gay communities. In these, I concluded with this idea that our existence in Christ is what should define who we are in these communities—a relatively simple idea. This week, I want to push this idea a little deeper to examine what exactly happens when our existence/purpose is truly lived out within our communities.
So, what is our purpose? Our purpose, as someone who follows God, is found in the message of Christ. It’s as if God is saying four simple things to us:
I love you even though you don't deserve my love.
I want you to love me back.
When you love me, your life starts to looks different—you begin to value the things I value.
When your life looks different because of me, the communities in which you live also start to look different—they begin to value the things you value.
It becomes clear that our purpose instructs us to do two things in every community we claim identification with:
We Celebrate With Our Communities In the Stories of The Good
In our communities, there are so many elements of positivity that can be celebrated and encouraged. If you’re a Christian (or even if you’re not, frankly), it’s imperative that we celebrate the good that we see in the world around us. When the communities that we claim identification with produce genuine good, we have the responsibility to celebrate it, both for ourselves and for the betterment of the community. When the gay community successfully mitigates the bullying and harassment of young gay kids, this is something that we can celebrate! When Christians move into a local community and positively change the dynamics of the peoples’ lives in the area, this is something we can celebrate!
Whether you are from the LGBTQ, Christian or other communities, we have a duty to celebrate and encourage the good in the communities we identify with. When we celebrate the good, we encourage the good. We foster environments in our communities that seek to produce more positive impact in our world.
We Live Different Stories In Our Communities in the Bad
Obviously, with much positivity existing in our communities, we have a purpose with the negative as well. When we see things in our communities that either 1) fail to build up people within it, or 2) see things that directly tear people down, we have a purpose that demands us to live differently. That is, when we feel pressured by our communities to appear superficial in a certain way, we find it within ourselves to reject this weak value.
At times, when we do this, we find that we’re frustrating the communities we inhabit. However, this is done to encourage those around us that there is a different way of existing in our community—a way that truly builds us up and is more meaningful. When we live a different story than the negative that we’re seeing, we can remind our communities that these things don’t need to define us. When we gays or Christians see the underlying expectation that we look a certain way, we have the chance to value something better. We have the chance to show people that our genuine love for one another outweighs how we look on any level.
I realize that this idea is so very simple. It’s amazing to me that such simple ideas represent themselves so profoundly at times. When we seek to love God, what we care about changes, and what our communities care about changes as well.