Someone recently asked me about the outcomes of the various options in front of same-gender attracted people who are seeking to integrate their experience of faith with their sexual identity.
Essentially, I see these potential options in front of people. (If you can think of additional options – by all means I’d be intrigued to hear your thoughts)
• Live as though you didn’t experience same-gender attraction (ie. denial).
• Explore and potentially experience fluidity in your sexual attractions.
• Commit to live a single and celibate life in full recognition of the reality of the persistence of your same-gender attraction.
• Live in intentional community as a single person with honesty and authenticity about your sexual identity.
• Be a partner in a mixed-orientation marriage where there is genuine love and attraction, full disclosure, honest ongoing dialogue, commitment to serving and being faithful to one another and to your shared values and goals.
• Be a companion in a committed friendship (also known as covenantal friendships) that has boundaries and commitments to be non-sexual.
• Be open to building a relationship with a same-sex partner but maintain sexual chastity during your time of singleness.
• Be a partner in a covenanted same-sex relationship and/or marriage.
The diverse spectrum of readers of this blog may have very different beliefs and feelings about the appropriateness of any one of these options – I’m simply describing what I have encountered. What I can say, is that I have encountered people in all of these categories – and I have encountered followers of Jesus in all of these categories.
So, in this conversation, I was asked which of these options did I consistently see the most happy and healthy people. And my answer: I don’t know. For the most part (with the exception perhaps of the first one), I have seen people happy and healthy living out a variety of these outcomes.
I can’t say that happiness and healthiness are automatic guarantees that someone is living in the centre of God’s will for them. But on the other hand, I don’t think that God desires one of his children to be unhappy or unhealthy. The role of suffering in the life of a follower of Jesus is an important conversation to have when exploring these realities.
But if you are asking about what makes someone happy and healthy in living out one of the above options, I think it comes down to this (based on my observations and friendships):
1. If the person is secure in the unconditional love of God for them – they are much more likely to be in a happier and healthier place.
2. If the person is honest and accepting of him/herself and has a safe place to be able to share that – they are much more likely to be in a happier and healthier place. (Note: This doesn’t mean “I accept myself so I never have to grow or change anything” …. But it does mean that the person isn’t stuck in a paralyzing place of self-loathing.)
If a same-gender attracted person chooses one of these options – but lives in fear and dread of God’s punishment – they will experience a restlessness that keeps them from fully experiencing the peace of God. And if a same-gender attracted person is unable to be honest and share of themselves truly in the option they choose – they will likely begin to feel dead and empty inside with a subsequent sense of disconnection from God and others.
I don’t think you need to have sexual intercourse to be fully human and alive. Just look at the life of Jesus. But I do think we need to know in our deepest gut that we are loved by God unconditionally. And I do think we need a place where we can fully accept the realities about ourselves and be known and accepted by others.
In the often challenging journey of discovering how one might integrate their experience of same-gender attraction with their faith, values and convictions, there are different options to explore. The journey needs to be marked with prayer, Scriptural engagement, discernment – both individually and with the Body of Christ to whom you are connected, and a willingness to follow and obey God as he leads you. It often isn’t a linear trajectory – there are often twists and turns along the way. But if you keep your eyes fixed on Christ, if you ground yourself in the true knowledge of God’s love for you, if you situate yourself in friendship and relationship with those with whom you can be honest and authentic – then you will be well positioned to move forward towards a healthy outcome in which you may well experience deep and lasting happiness.