Throughout my pursuit of celibacy, I had gotten into ministry with a friend of mine. Through a ridiculous set of circumstances, we would become the pastors of a church and I would begin my pursuit of a Masters of Divinity degree at a well-known seminary. Things were about to get very interesting as my life was about to collide into itself in so many directions.
Throughout the process of my seminary studies, I began to deeply examine my embedded theology. I began to examine how I viewed the community of God. I came to understand that God's sole focus was to drive his creation into full communion with itself. This understanding of God radically shifted how I viewed my life and my ministry. It was beautiful really: my mind was being turned upside-down, and I was blessed with the opportunity to preach and put this faith into tangible action in the lives of those in our ministry. I miss those days.
The ministry we were leading was the very thing that challenged everything I viewed about God. Our church was full of individuals who didn't necessarily grow up in church. Many of our congregants had pasts more colorful than mine—some littered with substance abuse, homelessness, and significant loss. Here, my newfound theology had to become practical or it meant nothing to those under my leadership. Every single class I took was an immense challenge because I felt compelled to answer questions like, "How does this esoteric idea change the course of a drug addict's life?" Or, "How does this idea help get this family off welfare?" Thankfully, these questions helped me remain grounded, reminding me that most people don't grasp the finer points of theology, so I wasn't a failure if I didn't as well. This was humbling to say the least.
Throughout my pursuit, I found myself constantly struggling to understand how God viewed my pursuit of celibacy in His name. I was convinced that God was okay with my attractions to men, so long as I didn't act upon them. At the same time, I was constantly being challenged with trying to reconcile this celibacy as a divine request from God. Does God demand celibacy of His people as an act of obedience? Do my attractions to men, attractions that are a result of original sin—attractions that I never once chose, necessitate that I never experience romantic love to keep honoring God? So, I started digging a bit deeper into my faith.
About the time that I began my digging, I became scared to death. This pursuit wasn't what I was taught for the last 23 years of my life! What would this mean for my life if I discovered that maybe celibacy wasn't something I would have to suffer? To save an exhausting explanation of that year of deliberation, reading, and wrestling various theologies, I'll simply say that I ended up concluding that it wasn't necessarily the will of God that I stave off a God-honoring relationship from my life.
I was officially a gay Christian.
After I came to this realization, I stood in fear. Suddenly the shame that I had wrapped myself in wasn't necessary anymore. Thankfully, God was beginning to show me a better story, even if it meant using convoluted circumstances to do so. One of my less than noble pursuits led to my first date with a guy. Before I even went on my dates with him, I knew it likely wasn't going to work out between us. He was staunchly non-Christian, something that was a bit of a non-negotiable with me. Nevertheless, we went on dates for about a month before he moved to the other side of the world (another reason it wasn't going to last). I had a great time with this guy. It was with him that I realized what a gay relationship could look like in my life—It was actually possible and it was way more purposeful than the mindless hookups of my past. The next step was to figure out how my faith would find any ground in a gay community that has been so rejected by Christians.
Since this wasn't something I could readily figure out, I resorted to what felt like a default gay act: I hooked up from time-to-time. Seeing a theme here? This was absolutely at odds with everything I believed and expected of myself. However, this phase of my explorations seemed more peppered with the prospects of dating as well. Something was definitely different this time, but I still didn't think I could find a Christian guy on a "dating" app.
As it would turn out, I was wrong. About 9 months later, I would meet my husband...on a dating app. As I type this, I cringe because it's about to sound extremely dorky! I saw a cute a faced guy who listed a grouping of his interests that ended with the tiny word: Church. I immediately messaged him, "Church?!" After exchanging what would be a couple of days worth of texts, we decided to meet up for coffee. After a classically long awkward, small-talk filled afternoon, we hugged and parted ways. I walked back to my car, nearly shaking at what had just happened. This might actually be possible. I shot off another text, just to say "bye" (dating code for, "I'm still interested in you, even though you were looking past my head at the weird family during the whole date.")
Ironically, I was leaving coffee that night to take a friend of mine to church for the first time. I sat in church the entire time, struggling with the juxtaposition of my two communities scheduled back-to-back in one day. Also, I had those exciting first-date butterflies, but I suppose that was assumed. After getting out of church, I went home and made a resolution to myself, "Just see where this goes."
The next year-and-a-half seemed to be a beautiful battle that we fought together. We struggled together with parents who began to realize that our relationship was more than just a fling, something that none of our parents ever really imagined. We struggled to let go of our long-held singleness together. We struggled not to make our relationship anything like our pasts—which even meant that we would assume celibacy with each other until marriage, which felt odd for both of us given our past relationships. As odd as it felt, it was good and we both began to feel like we were finally living according to our Christ-based values.
One weekend we drove out to Los Angeles to spend time with some friends of ours. We took a day for ourselves and ended up sitting on the beach in Santa Monica watching the ocean and people at the amusement park on the pier. My [now] husband looked at me and said, "Are you sure you're ready to do this? Are you ready to settle down from your past?" Confused, I looked at him and replied with a tentative, "Yes." He clarified, "I mean are you done sowing your oats?" He is the king of cliche phrasings sometimes. I thought about his question then answered, "None of the crap we did in our pasts was our actual purpose. God didn't put us here to indulge ourselves in recklessness. So yes, I am ready to finally feel like I'm living in congruence with who God says I am." A wave of clarity hit me that day on the beach. I finally felt like things were going to be okay. I was going to be okay.
This was an amazing phase to go through, personally. However, it would prove to be much more challenging when we tried to re-enter the Church as a gay couple who loved Christ. Which was the catalyst that brought on this whole blogging project: I needed to find a way to live between two seemingly opposed communities.
My relationship with my husband took a drastically different turn than my previous expressions of my sexuality had taken. I found myself confused at times that I wasn't caught up in the shame that my sexual exploits had taken. In fact, I was confused that we had both decided not to have sex with each other until we were married. Could God actually rewrite this story I had been living? I guess He could and would.
As I examined my theological understanding of same-sex relationships and God, I can still say that I am not 100% sure if my position is the "right" one. A peer in the gay Christian sphere explained this dilemma well: "While it is true that I don't absolutely KNOW that Christ condones LGBT[Q] relationships, I do know that Christ [and] I have a relationship with has led me to be openly LGBT[Q] and that the overwhelming ethical trajectory of scripture is towards inclusion. I also KNOW that not one reference to "homosexuality" in scripture is a legitimate reference to anything comparable to LGBT[Q] relationships. Scripture, context, reason, and experience lead me to affirm LGBT[Q] relationships."
I made a resolution with my husband at the outset of our relationship. It was a resolution that I think we all need to make in every single area of life: to constantly evaluate the fruit things in our lives. In this case, we would constantly evaluate the fruit of our relationship together. While the theology of either side may not be 100% conclusive, the fruit of our relationship with Jesus and of our relationship with each other would help us understand where we were headed. I can see that God has truly blessed us.
Our families have come to love us deeply and have come to see LGBTQ individuals with so much more depth, worth and clarity. They've come to advocate for us and our relationship to those that speak judgement into it. I have found that my ability to love my husband deeply shows me the deep indescribable love that God has for me—something I have never experienced before. Together, we're starting to find a home in a small group of people who accept us regardless of our differences in theology of sexuality.
Perhaps we really can live between communities.