When I first saw the Living Out website, I struggled to find words or reason to explain why it made me feel so sick to my stomach, so wounded and so devastated.
After initially wanting to pick apart every unfounded thing they say I realised that it struck a deeper chord with me than a battle of intellectual wills.
The views on the website are widely focused around sex and sexual attraction (there is very few mentions of 'love'). One of the arguments put forward is that same-sex attracted couples should sacrifice a sexual relationship because, in light of Jesus' sacrifice, it is a small price to pay.
And this got me thinking about what 'sacrifice' means. For the men who wrote this website, they obviously believe they are called to sacrifice sex and same sex relationships. I say, if that is the first thing in their life that has to go- the 'big' sacrifice that they need to sing and shout about- then lucky them. Oh how, when looking back on my life, I wish the only sacrifice I ever had to make was a relationship with another human.
I believe we are all called to sacrifice different things in our lives- the things that hold us back from a full relationship with God. I do believe though that these are things which are detrimental to our souls, not things which bring us peace and joy.
I feel that my own experience of sacrifice in my life demonstrates this. Without going into too much detail, I suffered from a life changing, recurrent mental health problem throughout my late teens and early 20s, which had been a second sting after living with other mental health problems since childhood. My entire existence was defined by my illness. I used it to control everything in my life, yet in reality it controlled me. It caused me more pain and darkness than I have ever thought possible for a soul to bear, especially one which was already as battered and bruised as mine. My illness became far more important to me than God- it was my only focus, my only interest, it was the thing I found every aspect of my identity and self in.
At some point, I was going to have to relinquish control. To sacrifice something that I wasn't sure I could survive without. I was going to have to take a massive leap of faith, and allow God to bring healing and restoration. I couldn't just 'give up' my illness- because I was ill and being ill or well is not a choice, but I could reduce some of the behaviours my illness made me want to find comfort in. I could allow my heart to trust that God would fill the gap which losing my illness would leave. I could let go of the identity I had and find a new one in God.
This was sacrifice to me. I did it because I know God is Sovereign and would never leave me out of my depth for longer than I could survive.
My partner has been a massive support in my recovery. She came into my life at just the time I needed a arm to hold me. Her rational responses to adversaries in life was exactly what I needed to help me become anchored to reality after years of disillusionment and false expectations and beliefs.
At the time I met my partner, many people tried to convince me it was wrong and I should sacrifice the relationship in order to lead a godly life. But I had spent all my remaining energy and strength on sacrificing the thing which was literally killing me, and I could not believe that while still trying to overcome my biggest nemesis, that God would expect me to sacrifice even more- but this time something that legitimately brought me hope, and helped me to draw closer to God. I know it would have killed me, and to be honest, I don't think God actually wanted me dead.
Although the Living Out writers might advocate 'sacrificing' same sex relationships, for me personally, this wasn't an option I could just take. I had already given up my entire identity to let God rebuild it, and I was in no place to have my identity stripped all over again. I believe that God is merciful, and I believe he knew what he was doing with me and my life all along. And I certainly don't believe he ever placed any expectation or demands on me to sacrifice my relationship. And I am very glad I didn't because as much as I wanted to be dead back then, I know that wasn't in God's plans for me.
I don't believe sacrifice is ever about giving up everything God has blessed you with. Perhaps in some cases it is, but how dangerous is it to think that our God would ever want us to throw away the things he has given us under the pretence that it somehow demonstrates our commitment to him. How much more does God want us to give up the evil and unhealthy things in our lives? Or the seemingly good things which veil wrong motivations and ungodly hearts?
I believe that one day I will live in a world where I never have to experience the despair I was chained to ever again. That is the injustice and hurt in this world which I believe requests a response of sacrifice. I believe in a heaven where only good exists and in our world, where we ask for God's kingdom to come, I think we should be weeding out the bad in anticipation of this kingdom, not sacrificing the good and love-filled things which will one day be reflected in the everlasting goodness of our God.