Sunday, 11 May 2014

before i was gay… to life as a lesbian

Just kidding with the title. I was never straight but, interestingly enough, I never actually realised this until I was 19. My life changed one evening when I kissed my best friend. Over time we realised the reason we suddenly had kissing on our list of favourite pastimes (alongside the more usual choices of baking, bike riding and clubbing) was because we had actually fallen in love. Were we pansexual, bisexual, experimental? I'm still not sure what label we should take but the one which seemed to explain the situation best was… lesbian. We were certainly fitting the bill in the present time, and as we eventually chose to be together, we fitted the bill for the future. And looking back on the past… well, it explained a lot- the lack of attraction to the opposite sex, the obsessions and crushes on other females, the failed heterosexual relationships, the questioning that had been done- to therapists, in journals- that question of, 'am I gay?'.

Anyway, the point is that I grew up believing I was straight. I had a dream of marrying a man in a white wedding, I imagined having a 'perfect' little Christian family. I thought with some practice and a lot of hard work I could meet the requirements of being a wife in a heterosexual marriage, with the man as the head of the household and me as chief child bearer and housewife. Any small nagging doubts at the back of my mind that I could be gay were immediately squashed- or 'held captive' as I was led to believe was right. I didn't even entertain the thought and even less did I entertain the thought that it would be ok for anyone else to be gay and Christian.

I've been in this Christianity business a long time. From the age of 5 I knew that God was real, I understood the implications of his death and resurrection in a more profound way than you could expect from a five year old. Apologetics and debating for Christ came naturally to me, as did my understanding of the bible- I absorbed the teaching in sunday school, all the way to youth group. I was that perfectly, self assured, self righteous, pious, religious Christian that we all recognise. As a teenager, I was declining offers of cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. I professed to anyone who would listen how sinful it was to have sex outside of marriage, how important a pure life is. I used any opportunity to preach to my non Christian friends and to hold my Christian friends to account. I was exactly the sort of Christian I have grown to resent.

Because realising I was gay smashed every perception I had about God, the church, Christianity and life out of the window. Before, I was that teenage Christian everyone has high hopes for- the one that they expect will be ordained, the one they asked to lead in church, the one who was seen as a good example to the younger Christians. And now? Now I'm out the proverbial closet? Now I will not be able to get ordained (once I am married, next year), I am not allowed to lead in church, I am seen as a shame to Christians, far from a good example to anyone. But, the thing is, I am real now. I am really me, no hiding, pretending, striving, acting. And I think God is all for the real people.

So, some things that changed…

1) Before, I saw the world in black and white. Now I see not only the grey but all the colours. I thought everything was either right or wrong. Which led me to have ZERO grace for other people. That depressed person who commits suicide, that desperate single mother to be who had an abortion, that couple living together unmarried- I had no understanding of how life sometimes doesn't work out the way our heart thought it should. I realised life isn't all about the actions we take but about our heart and our relationship with God. I wasted so much time and energy judging other people without being in their shoes. I thought what the bible said was applicable in any and every situation. But now I see that Jesus certainly didn't stick to the letter of the law when He was on earth and He had grace for people- saw through their choices and actions and saw to what really mattered, the state of their heart.

2) Before, I thought my reasoning was the correct reasoning. My knowledge of apologetics allowed me to pull out the fancy stops- if someone disagreed with my theology I could, rather smoothly, explain where their lack of understanding was coming from and how their biblical approach to reading the bible was incorrect. Now, I know that there are a lot of different ways to read the bible, approaches to take and ways to understand it. The information I was soaking up in my years of apologetic research was from questionable sources- those which claimed context and time have no bearing on the bible as it is infallible. Most importantly, I quote what I read on twitter recently- the trinity is God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Not God, Jesus and the Bible. When we start putting scripture first, above God then we are in deep water.

3) Before, I never even imagined how it would feel to be an outsider of the church. I believed those who had been excommunicated must have deserved it. I thought that belonging to church was about being a good Christian, a good example, a 'true' follower of Jesus. I was very happy being a poster girl in my church and being part of it that I never stopped to think how it would feel to be exempt from that sacred club. Now I know that the church is made up of all sorts of broken people. At the end of the day, we are all outsiders. We are all sinners who want into God's kingdom. Of course, the way in is to have redemption through Jesus and to believe and trust in him. It's not about fitting in a box. Being straight, well behaved or anything else.

4) I was blind to the big picture and dangerously committed to the details. I was so careful to live my life right, to not act on any gay feelings, to be a 'good' Christian, that I sort of lost the whole picture. For every specific situation- for example being gay, I had a list of bible verses up my sleeve to explain my understanding of it. Now I know that God is so much bigger and so much more than we will ever know. We will never be able to describe or understand God through a few human words. The bible gives us that little window into God's world- that small, human understanding of what God means in our world. By reading the accounts of Jesus' life we start to grasp the point of our existence, start to see God's plan unfold. We see the bigger picture of what our existence is about. Yet we still do not fully grasp it. We still do not know all of God's purposes and ways. When I read my bible, that is my focus and my interest- I am looking to the big picture of who God is, what 'life' is about, who I am and why I am here. I don't read my bible to find out what to have for breakfast, what I should do with my time, who I should be in a romantic relationship with. I personally (although admittedly without any theological clout whatsoever) don't look to the bible for the finer details. You know in the bible when they're all arguing over what they are allowed to eat (Romans 14) and Paul is just like 'yo it isn't about the little things- it's about the big stuff' or more specifically "the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (v17). It's not about getting your knickers in a twist over disputable topics and getting weighed into pointless debates… it's about living in the righteousness we have entered into through Christ's resurrection and living in peace and joy about that.

For me, the bible is about the whole picture and, as Philippians 2v12 says- about working out my own salvation. We become so complacent and narrow minded that we start reading the bible with the view of understanding every little verse. We think being a Christian is about knowing why there should/shouldn't be women in leadership, about what the bible says about being gay, previously about slavery and disabled people etc etc. We think it is our job to understand, to be sure. But you know what, we will never be sure because our small glimpse of God is not enough, we are only starting to get an understanding of who he is- and then we limit Him to a few words. We limit who we think are allowed to know God through a few words. We limit who we are and our potential to live for Him by a few words. We read the bible looking at how we can be disciplined, what exactly we are or are not supposed to do, we get so into figuring out whether the creation story is literal or not… that we miss the point- the point of the free and limitless grace available to us, the freedom, the purpose, the vast love and power of God. And we forget we are supposed to be living in the peace and joy of our salvation.

I could write a whole book on how my perspective of God and the bible has changed since having my preconceptions destroyed by realising I'm gay. I suppose my parting note is that, from a straight perspective, it is very easy to see ourselves as the ones on the right side of the law (so the speak), very easy to believe our understanding of God is superior to our gay friends, because they have obviously strayed from what the bible is saying. But I leave you with the thought that maybe it's right for preconceptions to be turned upside down- and certainly right to really examine our hearts, our attitudes, our agendas and our purposes when 'understanding' what being a Christian is really about.

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