It's a bit of a cynical title, but it's one that communicates some of how I've felt this past year. I took the plunge of getting married about a year and a half ago. For about three years we've been on the search of finding a church to dig our feet into and I think we found it. Well, we found the community, maybe not exactly the church, but that's a long story for another day.
I was hesitant to write this post, for fear that it would satisfy the cynicism of those who think that me living out in my sexuality is wrong. Maybe by stating that, I can disarm that viewpoint, because it just won't be helpful in this context.
When I first started dating my (now) husband, I remember constantly being astonished with the fact that I was dating a guy. In fact, sometimes I still look at him and say, "Isn't it weird that we're two guys who are married to each other?" He just rolls his eyes at me, but I know he understands. Early on, I remember walking around a lake holding his hand (when he'd let me) and I kept looking down shocked that my hand was attached to his. It was a truly freeing feeling when I realized that this was something that was acceptable and no longer shameful.
I don't think anyone tells you how hard marriage is. For us, the first year wasn't so much a honeymoon, as much as it was like learning to scuba dive without an oxygen tank. Giving my attention to learning to live with someone in a marital context was (and still is) hard work. We both had to "mourn our singleness" which, according to all that marriage articles I read, is a bumpy process in and of itself. We both learned that, unsurprisingly, we don't communicate perfectly, so we'd have to really work to make sure we understand each other. I was often frustrated at myself for reacting like a tool to my husband, rather than just shutting up and learning to let things go—which is still hard for me, frankly.
We struggled with how we each manage a house differently, how we process situations differently, how we make decisions differently, how we eat differently, how we see Christ differently, how we watch TV differently, how we do quiet time differently... you get the picture here. Marriage has been work. It's been incredibly rewarding work, but work nevertheless.
I love him. I love him a ton, which makes all of this worth it. I love that we get to hang out together, that we're doubled over laughing at least once a day. I love carpooling to work and all the weird conversations we have as a result. Getting close to him in this way has been life changing in the best of ways. Marriage has been a blast. Yet, I've suffered significantly.
Marriage Isn't The Hard Part, My Shame Is
I've not suffered because marriage is tough, but I've suffered because doubt has plagued my heart in the challenging moments. Nearly every time something has gone wrong or been challenging in our new, infantile marriage I think, "What if being gay is wrong and this is just God showing me the truth?" What if the reason we struggle to communicate is because we are living against the will of God? What if we get annoyed at each other about chores because God condemns monogamous same-sex relationships?
Shame was weakening me much more than the relatively easy task of mourning of my singleness was!
Instead of finding marriage challenging for the trivial reasons, I'm haunted by disapproving voices of the people in my life who've told me that "Gay isn't okay" or voices that have expressed disappointment/disapproval in the way that I've chosen to approach my sexuality.
You know what the worst part of this is? I think that these shameful feelings are killing my faith in God.
In the chaos of a new marriage, where it's already a challenge to maintain healthy spiritual disciplines without getting lost in each other's eyes, the challenges are exacerbated with this existential "what if." I was scared to admit this, as if questioning my theology was sinful or something.
We're getting much closer to a genuine church community and things are becoming more clear to me. A couple of weeks ago, in our small group we took a sort of spiritual inventory that was a couple of pages long. I kind of hate these types of questionnaires, so I had a bit of a eye-rolling bias going into it. But despite my cynicism, I filled out the inventory and quickly saw, on paper, just how much I've been disconnected from my relationship with God—it was ridiculously discouraging, to put it bluntly. Next, we took some time to discuss our answers as a group.
At that point, I sort of spaced out and took a hard, internal look at my answers. I've lost track of much of my active pursuit of Christ, not because of the fact that my sexuality is "wrong," but because I'm scared that the voices of shame might be true and that I am wrong. It's embarrassing; I'm not fearing for God's approval of me, I'm fearing the approval of the critics in my life and those are bad pre-occupations.
How can I hear God when I'm hardly Listening?
With the questionnaire in hand, I was able to take a deeper look at where I am spiritually. In the chaos of a new marriage and pursuit of finding a church community, I have lost track of some things; none of which have anything to do with my sexuality.
Instead of pursuing my relationship with Jesus, I've kept myself away from Him. Practically speaking, I've not made it a priority to practice the spiritual disciplines that had previously shaped my entire life. I've been terrible about opening my Bible. I forget to pray for anyone other than myself. Each day I walk into work at a non-profit organization that serves people and I sometimes forget that the work I do even matters to God.
I choose to hold onto the shame, letting it taint my heart in hopelessness and fear. Instead of really bringing myself (and my issues) to God, I've run from Him out of fear. As I analyze this here in writing I wonder how I could be hearing the honest voice of God when I feel like I haven't even been trying to listen for Him? Some non-affirming Christians may think that I am hearing God in this. However, in my understanding of how God operates, I know He doesn't use self-hating shame to coerce His people... that's a much different force at play.
Finally aware of what's going on, I'm making some course corrections. I've been opening my Bible more with an actual desire to read it. I've started just talking to God a bit more. More specifically, I've started talking to God about this shame and already, this discontented pain is losing it's ground on my heart. Ever so slightly, I can feel something freeing up inside of me.