Tag Archives: SSA

Why Choose To Be Single?

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In the past month or so, several people have asked why I made the decision to remain single in response to my same-sex attraction and given the fact that marriage to someone of the opposite sex is still a real and God-honoring possibility for those who experience ongoing SSA.

The Calvinist in me would say I didn’t choose singleness; singleness chose me. And that’s partly true. As I’ve mentioned before, I think God designed me in such a way that I can thrive as a single man. My personality, my hobbies, and my schedule all lend themselves to singleness, which is incredibly providential. At the same time, I’m intentional about singleness and doing it well. I’ve become more and more proactive about building relationships, serving people, and striving for sexual purity. So yeah, in some ways, singleness chose me — in other ways, I chose singleness. I continue to choose it every day.

Singleness in my teens

Being single in high school was easy. I was too busy with music and writing and church to think about dating. (Notice I didn’t mention studying!) Shortly after graduation, friends were getting hitched left and right. (This is Utah, where people marry young.) The marryin’ age was no longer in the future; it was now. I had to consider whether marriage was realistic for me, someone who continued to experience same-sex attraction.

On the night I “came out” to my parents, I told them I still wanted a wife and kids, despite being attracted to men. They told me it was a good and godly desire, which I was free to pursue. (Such a beautiful response, by the way.) Looking back, I think my desire for marriage was actually a desire for things I believed would accompany marriage: 1) the “healing” or diminishing of my same-sex attractions, and 2) achieving the American dream, which included starting a family. I didn’t desire marriage for what it was designed to be — a living expression of God’s faithfulness to his people — I only wanted the perks (real or imagined). By God’s grace, my priority at that time was to get a degree, which put thoughts of marriage on the back burner. Phew!

Singleness in my twenties

College and the start of my career bought me enough time to realize I was pretty good at being single (while being “out” to my parents and a small group of friends eased the pressure to date or get married). I’d racked up years of experience learning how to love God, serve people, and foster community without the help of a spouse. Or, to put it another way, I’d settled nicely into singleness.

Not that I “settled” for singleness. I don’t believe it’s something we settle for. Jesus told his disciples the single life is a high calling (Matthew 19:12), and Paul said it’s BETTER to remain single, especially when it comes to ministry (1 Corinthians 7:8). So I started seeing singleness the way God does. I started to notice all the ways singleness was a blessing, as it offered more time, opportunities, and even relationships than many of my married friends. Of course, there’s a learning curve in using these gifts to bless others and serve God rather than self, but my twenties gave me lots of time — and God gave me lots of grace — to figure it out.

Singleness in my thirties

By my thirtieth birthday, lifelong singleness had become a viable, even attractive, option. I was “out” to family, friends, my church, and the blogosphere, and pretty vocal about my intent to remain single for the sake of Christ. That’s when it started to feel deliberate or “vocational,” as some call it. That’s when it felt most like a decision. I’d also started to notice other Christians, such as those at Living Out, who chose to remain celibate in response to their same-sex attraction, which made the possibility far more appealing than the bleak picture of singleness painted by secular culture.

Being more open about SSA and singleness in my thirties has also meant facing more challenges and temptations. Saying “no” to a sexual relationship with a man was no longer a hypothetical situation; it was a reality. That is, I’ve experienced the pain of obedience, of practicing what I preach. I’ve also faced more “fiery darts” in my spiritual life than ever before, perhaps because I’m so public with my story. But openness has also meant more accountability, more community, more hope. I’ve connected with people all over the world. Being in fellowship with other single Christians has proven in real life what I’ve always known in my head: singleness really is “the happy alternative” to marriage.

Singleness in the future

Having never been married, I can’t say for sure, but I think I’m better suited to pursue holiness through singleness. But my “decision” (if we’re still calling it that) to remain single has always come with a caveat: God is full of surprises. I’m open to the idea of marrying a godly woman, but since I’m not actually pursuing marriage, it certainly would come as a surprise!

There’s something I love about the phrase “single on purpose.” Better yet, single with purpose. I’ve spent the past few years striving to be single in the best possible way — with Christ-centered intentionality, commitment, even passion. I think singleness is something we have to keep seeing afresh, making adjustments as we go. After all, being a single teen is a lot different than being a single forty-something (or octogenarian). Like marriage, it’s not going to be easy, but I truly believe it can be happy. Especially if we use the gift to honor God and point people to Jesus. When I’m doing that, I know I’m making the right — here comes that word again — decision.

Interview: SSA, Singleness And The Church

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Last week, I had the pleasure of joining two great guys at The Rugged Marriage for a conversation about same-sex attraction, singleness, and the Church. We talked about other stuff, too — music and tea and something called “Florida Man.” Let me tell you, I’d much rather type my thoughts from the safety of my laptop than speak out loud, on the spot. But Alex and Chris made me feel right at home. Check out the interview here. And show the boys some love by subscribing to their podcast and following them on Twitter

Why Can’t You Just Be Gay?

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If anyone has a reason to search Scripture for an “out,” a way to be in a gay relationship and yet remain within the bounds of God’s will for sexuality, it’s me — the Christian who experiences ongoing same-sex attraction. Trust me, I’ve heard arguments from Matthew Vines, Justin Lee, and others who try to make a case for gay marriage in the Church. I’ve read books, watched debates, and had long talks with friends who urge me to pursue a sexual relationship with a man. I’ve listened to and reasoned through every attempt to justify gay marriage, but nothing has convinced me — the guy who, in theory, should be the easiest person to convince.

Why?

The simple answer is “Because God said so.” It’s true, only six verses in the Bible explicitly mention homosexual practice. All of them, of course, forbid it. The most quoted are Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1, which, admittedly, come with a fair share of controversy regarding civil and ceremonial laws, cultural context, and so forth. (Although it’s not as if theologians throughout time haven’t already explained why the ban on homosexual practice is different from the ban on shellfish or mixed fabrics.) These verses, complicated though they seem to some, are enough to prove to me that pursuing a gay romance would dishonor God. But let’s say I didn’t have those six verses. I still couldn’t “just be gay,” because there’s still the big picture of marriage in Scripture to consider. Which is good, because I’m a big picture kind of guy.

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, marriage is a symbol for God and his people. God is always the bridegroom; his people are the bride. Jeremiah compares Israel to a bride devoted to her husband, the Lord (Jeremiah 2:2). Ezekiel portrays Israel as an unfaithful wife, while God remains the faithful husband (Ezekiel 16). Hosea’s marriage to his adulterous wife parallels the relationship between God and Israel throughout the Book of Hosea. In the New Testament, John the Baptist calls Jesus the bridegroom, whose bride, his followers, delights to hear his voice (John 3:29). Jesus calls himself the bridegroom, while the disciples represent his bride (Matthew 9:15). Clearest of all is Paul, who says the act of man and woman becoming one flesh “refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32). God designed marriage between husband and wife, sexual complements, for a very specific purpose: to be a living picture of the gospel. This metaphor matters to God. And it matters to me, too.

If there’d been a huge paradigm shift on marriage and sex, it would’ve happened in early Church history, not the early 21st century. With something as important as sexual purity, Jesus and the New Testament writers would’ve made it 100 percent clear that the ban on homosexual practice had been repealed, the way God did for Peter regarding dietary restrictions, with a vision of formerly unclean animals and a voice from heaven saying “eat” (Acts 10:9-16). We don’t have that with marriage; we only have reconfirmation from Christ that marriage remains as he established it in the garden: a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman (Matthew 19:4-6). A beautiful picture of the truth of the gospel.

People might ask, “Why can’t two men or two women reflect that same truth?” Well, gender and biological sex are realities created by God, and he uses them in creation and within marriage for his purposes — both for the flourishing of mankind and to tell a story. If you’re looking for a why beyond the why, I can’t help you. To me, that’s like a child asking “Why?” after the parent has already explained— as if additional answers will ever satisfy. (If you’ve spent time with a toddler, you know what I mean.) But there is a WHO beyond the why, and I can tell you he’s good, wise, loving, and he withholds no good thing from those who walk in his ways (Psalm 84:11). This is the God I love, trust, and seek to obey. And I’m OK with the reason he’s given. That’s enough.

At the heart of this question is a plea for me to be happy, which I appreciate. It’s nice to know I have family and friends who desire my happiness. But what I need people to understand is that following Jesus REALLY DOES make me happy! It’s not the kind of happiness a sex-obsessed world expects; it’s the happiness that comes with being given a new heart and new desires. That includes obeying God’s commands for marriage and sexuality — those boundaries set for my joy and sanctification. Violating God’s Word (and my own conscience) actually works AGAINST my ultimate happiness. I have no doubt that a sexual relationship with a man would bring some temporary pleasures, but that’s not the kind of pleasure I’m looking for. I want the kind that lasts forever, which only comes through a relationship with my God (Psalm 16:11).

Yes, I’m still attracted to the same sex, and I imagine I always will be. But I choose to remain celibate and pursue a life of joyful singleness because I believe God and his purpose for marriage. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). I really do love that man, and I want to keep his commandments without people telling me I’d be happier if I didn’t.

On Orlando And The Gospel

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I don’t normally comment on current events or controversies. I think it’s better to stay quiet and keep things in my heart until the storm blows over, at which time the moment has passed and I end up having not shared my thoughts at all. For today’s shooting in Orlando, I wanted to speak what’s in my heart out loud… or at least on a computer screen.

As a Christian who experiences same-sex attraction, I don’t consider gay folks to be my “community” (the Church fills that role in the most beautiful ways). But the gay community represents everything I most certainly would be had the Holy Spirit not invaded my heart and changed my desires (and I don’t mean my sexual orientation). In very real ways, my gay neighbors and I are alike — not only because of our orientation and some of the struggles we’ve faced as a result, but also because we’re made in God’s image, made to need Him. All of us. 

Maybe that’s why this tragedy hit me harder than others have. There’s that extra piece of myself that I see in them, and in this story. I think (I hope) loving our enemies is that easy. Finding ways we’re the same — including our greatest problem, which is sin, and our only hope, which is Jesus.

Conversations in the coming days and weeks are going to touch on parts of this tragedy — gay rights, terrorism, gun control, hate crimes, and (worst of all) politics — but we can’t lose sight of the most central and hopeful part. Jesus came to earth, he “stepped down into darkness,” as we sang at church this morning, to put things right. We’re not there yet, but it’s coming. He’s already started with his resurrection and the outpouring of his Spirit. He’s making all things new (Revelation 21:5). Amid the Facebook posts, Buzzfeed articles, and TV talking heads, I can’t lose sight of the one thing they’re all likely to forget: the gospel.

That’s why I “came out” four years ago; that’s why I launched a blog; that’s why I talk so much about sexuality and singleness and happiness. To share the truth and beauty and goodness of the gospel. To try and bridge the divide, in some small way, between the Church and the people we often see as “other,” the LGBT community. I don’t want to waste another tragedy not talking about the things that really matter.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:3-7)

7 (More) Happy Books

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Once again, this list doesn’t include much fiction, but I did throw in a collection of poetry and some devotionals to make up for it! If you’re looking for something outside the realm of nonfiction, I made a few recommendations on the previous installment. For now, bask in these seven happy books!

1.  Stuff Christians Like by Jon Acuff — OK, maybe the novelty has worn off, but this book is still pretty fun. Plus, it has pictures! Get a flavor of its content at my deserted YouTube channel, Man vs. Book. (You can make fun of the way I look without my mustache!)

2.  The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis — DELIGHTFUL! Maybe you think a book about demons couldn’t possibly be happy? Wronggggg! Not only is it clever, it’s also incredibly relevant — a great way to prepare yourself for spiritual warfare before it happens.

3.  Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung — The book with a never-ending subtitle. (Google it.) The premise is so FREEING. It’s based on a famous quote by Saint Augustine: “Love God and do what you want.” Motivation for anyone at a spiritual standstill.

4.  Pleasures Evermore by Sam Storms — This guy is John Piper’s theological doppelgänger when it comes to defending “Christian hedonism.” Worshipping God means ENJOYING him, and Storms shows us how to do that. You might also want to check out his uplifting book, One Thing (endorsed by Piper, of course).

5.  The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer — I read this after studying a similar book, The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink. (Who knew there were so many A.W.’s in the world? Not to mention the root beer!) Short, accessible chapters that explore various traits of God — his love, holiness, wisdom, sovereignty, immutability, etc. This book inspires worship!

6.  Same-Sex Attraction and the Church by Ed Shaw — I can’t help but include this book, which I recently reviewed here. My heart was bursting with joy and hope just thinking about how single people (and the whole Church) will benefit from it. Shaw reminds me that celibacy is, indeed, the HAPPY ALTERNATIVE to marriage!

7.  The Ordering of Love by Madeleine L’Engle — Thanks to Madeleine, I’m always thinking in iambic pentameter. This collection of poems — sonnets included — was partly responsible for my decision to major in creative writing. I can’t say I’m in love with L’Engle’s wonky theology (God rest her soul), but I’ll always love her writing. Maybe someday I’ll get around to reading A Wrinkle in Time

BONUS BOOKS! When it comes to daily devotionals, you’ve gotta check out these gems:

•   Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon
•   New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp
•   The Songs of Jesus by Tim Keller

Review: Same-Sex Attraction And The Church

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Book Reviews

One clue that I was gonna love Ed Shaw’s Same-Sex Attraction and the Church Both Wesley Hill and Rosaria Butterfield, two leading (but very different) voices on the topic, endorsed the book. Their praise is printed alongside blurbs from Russell Moore, Justin Taylor, and Michael Horton — familiar names among evangelicals. I’m also told this was given to 10,000 people who attended this year’s Together for the Gospel conference. So I wanted to see what the buzz was about.

Dude, Ed did not disappoint. [Insert a million heart emojis here.]

Shaw has written something beautifully honest, yet surprisingly optimistic. As someone who experiences same-sex attraction, Shaw balances the STRUGGLES of his sexuality with the OPPORTUNITIES it’s given him to serve the Church and become more like Jesus. But the book is more than a personal narrative; it’s a call for the Church to change how we view celibacy, to make it easier for same-sex attracted Christians who want to remain faithful to God’s design for marriage and sexuality.

To do this, Shaw takes us through nine “missteps” the Church has taken that make it HARDER for people to remain open to celibacy. I think it’s helpful to list all of them here:

•   Your identity is your sexuality
•   A family is Mom, Dad, and 2.4 children
•   If you’re born gay, it can’t be wrong to be gay
•   If it makes you happy, it must be right
•   Sex is where true intimacy is found
•   Men and women are equal and interchangeable
•   Godliness is heterosexuality
•   Celibacy is bad for you
•   Suffering is to be avoided

Shaw tackles each topic with biblical aplomb, showing us where we’ve adopted a worldly perspective and how to realign our beliefs with God’s Word. I found myself cheering for him as he urges the Church to redefine family the way Jesus does — not by blood but by adoption into God’s family. I smiled at the passages that see friendship (not just sex) as a means to true intimacy and fulfillment. I applauded his courage in challenging us to change how we measure holiness — to recognize that same-sex attracted Christians need not become heterosexual to experience real sanctification, and to understand that when God causes ALL THINGS to work together for good, that includes same-sex attraction. With every misconception Shaw obliterated, I became evermore joyful in my singleness. It’s crazy that a book can do that.

I felt especially convicted by the first and last chapters. With regard to the first misstep (see above), I realize how sexuality has become a bigger part of my identity than I’d like to think. That’s due in part to the culture’s influence on my worldview, but it also has something to do with writing so much about sexuality; I talk and think about it more than ever before. But ultimately I want to be known as a Christian, not a gay or celibate or [choose your adjective] Christian. With regard to the last misstep, Shaw reminded me that suffering plays an important role in becoming more like Christ (1 Peter 4:12-19) — something I can easily gloss over in my attempt to look at the bright side of life. Honestly, the struggle of same-sex attraction has lessened the more I’ve come to see singleness as the HAPPY ALTERNATIVE to marriage, but that doesn’t mean there’s no suffering in the Christian walk. I hope to never give that impression, because the Bible certainly doesn’t.

OK, personal stuff aside. Same-Sex Attraction and the Church is for all of us — to remind us WHY we believe marriage is reserved for a man and woman, and HOW we can serve those in our churches who, because of their sexuality, have chosen to remain celibate. Or, as Shaw says, “to rebuild the plausibility structure so that we can live in light of the Bible’s clear teaching.” He reminds us that the gospel is, indeed, GOOD NEWS! This book deserves more than a sales pitch, but seriously, BUY IT NOW! I walked away totally encouraged and convinced that, yes, the Church can make celibacy a good thing. I even read the appendices!

For more on Ed Shaw, check out his story at Living Out.

Why Repress Your Sexuality?

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I’m not sure I could be any more open about my sexuality (notice I’m saying this on the internet). But when you’re a celibate Christian who deals with same-sex attraction, this question comes with the territory. Mostly from skeptics or progressives who think submitting to God’s will is akin to sexual repression. I guess they think I’m pacing back and forth, biting my lip, wringing my hands, at constant risk of spontaneous combustion due to unmet sexual desires.

Nope.

I don’t think God expects people created male and female to cease and desist all expressions of their sexuality, even if they remain single. In fact, what helps me most in dealing with same-sex attraction is not repressing but rather EXPRESSING my sexuality — particularly my BELIEFS about sexuality — through openness, friendship, and celibacy.

OPENNESS

There’s a certain freedom in coming out as a Christian who experiences same-sex attraction. I’ve been talking to family and friends about my sexuality for nearly 14 years (the entirety of my adult life) and blogging about it for the past four. Being open has created an environment at home, work, and church where sexuality isn’t taboo. The topic comes up in normal conversations — sometimes when I’m sharing my perspective on faith, and other times when I can’t help slipping in a hilarious gay joke. I’m also not afraid to talk about the beauty of a man. For example, Liam Hemsworth. (Liam > Chris) I’m 100 percent open about my sexuality. It’s pretty much become part of everyday life.

FRIENDSHIP

I don’t let same-sex attraction keep me from pursuing meaningful relationships with men. But rather than pursue sexual relationships, I pursue same-sex friendships. The sexually repressed person might shy away from people he or she is attracted to, nervous to get too close. But one of the perks of SSA (yeah, perks) is the godly men I’ve come to know precisely BECAUSE I’m open about my sexuality. That includes guys who don’t freak out when I hug them, kiss their face, or hold their hand beyond the span of a handshake. I’ve also become close with other gay Christians whose love for Christ and shared experience of SSA have helped form friendships on par with David and Jonathan. I simply wouldn’t have these relationships if I’d repressed or ignored my sexuality.

CELIBACY

Skeptics see celibacy itself as a form of repression, especially for same-sex attracted Christians who choose to remain single due to their convictions. But celibacy is an especially poignant expression of our sexuality. By remaining celibate, we’re living the truth that marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman, a symbol of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32). There are people out there who think I’m doing this whole celibacy thing not because it’s something I actually WANT to do, but because I’m trying to please my parents, my pastor, or some mean old man in the sky. They dream up every possible reason I’d refrain from having sex except the ONE reason I’ve always been honest about: I want to live in joyful submission to God’s good design for sex and marriage. Because I believe in it. Because I believe in HIM.

Repression, for me, would be to ignore my convictions and turn away from the truth God has revealed to me through his word. But I’ve found freedom in expressing myself within the bounds of his will.

Review: Forbidden Friendships

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Book Reviews

One of my dear friends is a divorced mom of two. When I was planning a trip to California last year, she invited me to stay with her family to save on hotel costs. I was super excited to spend time with them — catching up on life, staying up late, not being jolted awake by the evil knock of a housekeeper the next morning. Unfortunately, her pastor had other plans, because he worried what other people might think about a man staying with a woman. Despite having no doubts about our integrity, despite my being attracted to men, and despite the fact that I’d actually be staying with a FAMILY (not a woman), he asked me to stay at his house instead. Not because it really made sense, but because it met the rules and expectations Christians have invented to “protect” male-female friendships from sexual immorality, or in this case, the mere appearance of it.

In his book, Forbidden Friendships, Joshua D. Jones explores these issues, confronting the Church’s fear of opposite-sex friendships and showing us what the Bible actually says about them.

In the past century or so, Christians have been conditioned to avoid meaningful relationships with the opposite sex out of fear they could lead to lust, fornication, or adultery. Jones notes Freud’s influence in causing us to believe all male-female relationships are somehow sexual in nature. As a result, we’ve “tried to pursue sexual purity via gender segregation” and set outrageous extra-biblical boundaries between men and women. He notes one Christian college that prohibits physical contact between the sexes, and where men and women are required to use separate staircases! Jones says these boundaries have harmed rather than helped the Church in achieving sexual purity and obeying our call to love one another as the family of God.

What’s more, these rules are new to Church history. Jones says modern-day Christians are far more leery of opposite-sex friendships than our spiritual ancestors were. From missionaries to revolutionaries, history proves that mixed friendships flourished when rooted in mutual love for God. When it comes to the Bible, the Apostle Paul seems to have had many close female friends, mentioning Nympha by name in his letter to the Colossians. John’s second epistle, or letter, is written to a woman whom he loved dearly. Jesus himself kept company with women, often breaking social taboos regarding male-female relationships (ex. his encounter with the woman at the well). The Bible gives us freedom to pursue mixed friendships and be a witness to the world of how men and women can relate to each other as new creations in Christ.

Of course, we can’t be naive to the very real temptations and sins that can arise in relationships with both men and women. We are, after all, still sinners. Jones admits we need to guard our hearts, especially in a hyper-sexualized culture. But like everything else in this world, mixed friendships need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Rather than react in fear, we ought to obey in love — learning what it means to see friends as brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers in Christ.

It’s easy to tell when I’ve enjoyed a book because the margins are filled with hearts and smiley faces, and Forbidden Friendships has my graffiti all over it. This is a message churches need to hear — although, I must admit, the flow of his arguments felt a bit sloppy to me. But you know what I love about Jones? He has a bright view of singleness and celibacy. This, of course, endears him to me. He understands it’s possible to be happy without sex, but that we can’t thrive without intimate relationships with both men and women. He believes the disappearance of mixed friendships is a result of a bigger problem: the devaluation of friendship in general. And he knows this has ramifications for single and same-sex attracted Christians, where friendship within the family of God is essential to living and loving fully.

So, should I have been able to stay with my lady friend and her family? Honestly, I’m thankful for the pastor who welcomed me into his home; he and his wife were kind and hospitable and I enjoyed getting to know them. But I don’t think it accomplished what he was aiming for. One day I ended up alone with the pastor’s wife for the entire morning. (And, of course, that was OK!) I think Jones would encourage us to let love and wisdom dictate these decisions, and that one’s personal boundaries don’t necessarily apply to everyone else in every situation. The bottom line is this: if we’re serious about being the family of God, then we’re free to pursue male-female friendships that center on Christ. As Jones says, the cross bridges the divide between the sexes.

For more, check out the author’s interview with my friends at The Rugged Marriage.