Why I Don’t Identify as a Gay Christian – And Why Perhaps You Shouldn’t Either

In the spring of 2000, I was about to graduate from college at New England Conservatory. After becoming a Christian just a year earlier, I became involved with a Christian group on our campus. I was seriously considering applying to do an internship with the larger national organization.

Until I looked at the application.

As part of the application, the applicant was asked to identify his or her sexual orientation. I remember there being at least 2 choices, if not more:

– Heterosexual

– Homosexual

I remember sitting there, just staring at the application. If I applied, which one would I choose? I was only 2 months out of what would be my last lesbian relationship. I certainly didn’t feel heterosexual. I knew I didn’t want to be homosexual, but that’s how most of the world would describe me.

I put down the paper and walked away.*

I entered into my 1st lesbian relationship at age 15 in 1990. For reference, that’s 7 years before Ellen DeGeneres came out. The small NH town in which I explored my sexuality was not a friendly or safe one. I was horribly bullied, routinely threatened and called derogatory names.

I fought hard to become comfortable with my sexuality, which I believed was as fixed and innate as my heterosexual peers.

Today, 18 1/2 years into my walk with Jesus, my perspective has changed a bit. The only thing that I know for sure is innate in me is my propensity to sin and to wander from God’s best for me. One of the only fixed things about me is that longing in my heart to know God and be known by Him, as well as the need to connect deeply with other humans.

People ask me how I identify myself, in terms of my sexuality. I do not identify as gay (or as straight, for that matter). I still experience same-sex attraction. I sometimes experience opposite-sex attraction.

I mostly just identify as Brenna 🙂

The reason I believe the “gay Christian” label, while permissible, is not beneficial (2 Corinthians 10:23) is because words matter. The labels we use and the words we choose to describe ourselves can be a container for power – in one direction or another.

More than ever before in my life and my ministry work, I have recently seen how careless words or even well-thought-out labels can become strongholds. “Speculations” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) that make sense to our line of reasoning can actually end up enslaving us to faulty logic. While I can understand the reasons some believers have in using the gay Christian label, I don’t believe it to be wise or necessary.

Here’s what Hope for Wholeness has to say about the “Gay Christian” label (and I agree):

At Hope for Wholeness, we each identify as Christian, an adopted child of God. No other term can describe or compare to one’s identity in Christ Jesus other than what is stated in the Word of God. Christ is my all in all, the one and only. No other description can identify me.

We live in a society that loves labels. Why? Because we all want somewhere to belong. As believers in and followers of Jesus Christ, we belong to the body of Christ. We are adopted children of the Most High God. The Creator of the Universe called us by name and said, “You are Mine.” This is where our identity must rest.

What are your thoughts on the gay Christian label? 

Another helpful post on this topic

*I am not at all faulting the campus ministry for asking the question about sexuality. It’s an important question. I’m using this example to refer to my state of mind and my own struggles with identity.

Freedom Friday: What One Reader Thinks of “Learning to Walk in Freedom”

If you’ve ever wondered how God can use challenging situations to His glory, here is one example.

You may remember the woman with bulimia who I met in Whole Foods 2 months ago. After I wrote that blog post, I just “happened” to get an email from Constance Rhodes, the author of Life Inside the Thin Cage: A Personal Look into the Hidden World of the Chronic Dieter. It was a mass email as I am on the list for the organization she leads, FINDINGbalance. She and I have chatted a couple of times before over the last – oh, probably 8+ years since I saw her speak at SoulFest, but I really don’t think she’d remember me. I had written the blog post by that point, and I sent that to her in an email along with a handful of questions.

She replied to my surprise and asked if I’d be interested in guest posting at the FINDINGbalance blog. My answer was a resounding yes! That post is here.

Through this opportunity, I met the blog moderator, Abby Kelly. We are becoming quick friends 🙂 In fact, I will appear on her blog sometime in the near future (when I get my act together – ahem!).

LTWIF.front.cover

She sent me her review of Learning to Walk in Freedom this week. Wow, she is generous with her words. If you’re wondering if this book can help someone without same-sex attraction, here is your answer.

I first read Brenna Kate Simonds in a brief blog post that she shared with FINDINGBalance. As the editor of that ministry’s blog I approach most submissions with a critical eye. I usually find a sentence or two to prune and sometimes the story just doesn’t address our audience. However, when I read Brenna’s story, I knew it was not only well written and would appeal to any audience, but that it would speak to, and change, anyone who was blessed to read it.

Immediately, I headed over to Brenna’s website, Living Unveiled. I had to read more from this bold and beautiful woman, a woman who unashamedly writes from her pain, and bravely pours life into the secret wounds of strangers. It was there I discovered her book.

Learning to Walk in Freedom: A Journey in Five Steps, is the culmination, for now, of Brenna’s ministry to any who feel bound by sin, failure, defeat, loneliness and fear. I say culmination, because to produce a book this deep is a monstrous effort of faith and energy, but Brenna is only on the cusp of what God intends to do for and through her.

I picked up, Learning to Walk in Freedom, as one now walking in freedom after 15 years of bondage to anorexia. I felt camaraderie with Brenna from the very start as she tells her story of battling an eating disorder. But almost anyone will find common ground with the author, who also shares of struggling with same sex attraction, emotional dependency, self-injury and chronic low self-esteem.

With empathy, Brenna lays open her own wounds and tells of the healing Jesus Christ gave her—how through Him she learned to walk in freedom. Then, employing an almost simplistic strategy she walks her reader through five steps leading them straight to the throne of grace.

Now lest you fear that this is a preachy book, written only with the holier-than-thou, assured-of-their-salvation, from the preface, Brenna invites everyone to join her on this journey. She writes:

‘You may not be sure you really know God, or you may be quite confident that you don’t. You may not be sure that you want to know Him anymore. Perhaps you have experienced a measure of freedom, have long since moved past that “gasping for air” feeling, but still dream and hope, as I did, for more than this. This book is for you all.’

Brenna doesn’t abandon her readers after a careful explanation of the five steps to walking in freedom. Instead, she grips their hand a little tighter, tugs again and says, “Let’s make this personal.”

For each of the five steps, Brenna compiles all of the Scripture references used in the book. Then, she asks pointed, inductive questions to help the reader, “feel the ground beneath their feet”, as they take each step.

Lastly, Brenna shares her testimony in full detail. I love that she saved the gritty intricacies of her story until the end. Such humility. She gives her readers enough to identify with her and feel safe as they follow her through the steps toward freedom. But she doesn’t offer up her story of courageous recovery until the very end. Throughout the book, the focus remains on the reader and on the work that God can do, will do and is doing in their own lives.

You will be hearing more from Abby here as well when I interview for the release of her book. Thanks, Abby, for reading Learning to Walk in Freedom and for your generous review!

Freedom Friday: The War for Your Identity

I’ve been thinking a lot about spiritual warfare.

Part of the reason for this is I’ve had several opportunities to share Freedom Step 4 from my book  Learning to Walk in Freedom lately with groups of people. Freedom Step 4 is Think Like a Free Person. Freedom Step 4 states that most spiritual warfare takes place in our minds.

As humans, we walk through different types of spiritual wars. There is a war for our souls. There is the first battlefront. Jesus said “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36). Satan tries to convince us that there is no God, and even if there is, we don’t need Him. We can be successful in life through accomplishments, strong relationships and power or wealth.

Once we come to believe in Jesus, there is a second battlefront. This battle concerns the obstacles we face, and our struggle with sin patterns in our lives. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full,” said Jesus, as recorded in John 10:10. Jesus didn’t want us to know Him simply so we can go to heaven when we die. He desires that we live life to the full, throwing off the “sin that so easily entangles” as mentioned in Hebrews 12:1-3.

And yet there is another battle, one that is far more insidious than the others.

It is the battle for our identity.

Even after I laid down my sexuality at the cross and chose to walk in obedience in that area, even after I stopped starving myself and began to be more at peace with food (a much longer and more painful process), even when the urge to self-injure had mostly subsided, I was still left with – well – me.

I still experienced quite a bit of self-loathing, insecurity, worthlessness, depression and deep core beliefs that maybe God really wasn’t who He says He is. I was still left with all the ways my thoughts and perceptions and speculations affected me.

God led me through a process of learning to recognize the lies I believed and how they impacted me. He taught me how to go to war against my false beliefs and make them obedient to Christ.

Yet the battle continues.

I no longer struggle with self-loathing and worthlessness to the degree I did in the past. Now, I struggle with self-limiting thoughts.

Those self-limiting thoughts that say things like, What have I gotten myself into? I thought this dream was from God, but nothing is turning out the way I planned. I should be safe and keep my hopes reined in. 

But here’s the thing. You’re not really limiting yourself; you’re limiting God.

Years ago, I set part of Isaiah 49 to music with an intro I added. I sang this today as I went to war in worship and praise for some friends who need Jesus to show up in a mighty way. This is sung from God’s perspective.

I gave it all up for you 
So I wouldn’t have to live without you 
(repeat) 

Zion says, “The Lord has forgotten me.” 
Oh, they say, “The Lord has forsaken me.” 
(repeat) 

Can a mother forget the child 
who is nursing at her breast? 
Will she have no compassion 
on the baby that she has given birth to? 
(repeat) 

Though they may forget you, 
I will never forget you! 
(repeat) 

Look; you are written on the palm of my hand! 

Father God and His Son Jesus gave up everything for you. And yet we tell ourselves we will never be able to walk out the dreams God has put on our hearts. We tell ourselves we are too weak, too insubstantial.

Those are lies from the pit of hell.

Where do we find our identity? Where do we find our worth? We find it as declared in the cross and nowhere else.  Jesus fought the battle for us so that we could walk in the fullness of all He created us to be.

Where do we find our potential? In the God who is able to raise from the dead.

Peter, when addressing the crowds on the day of Pentecost, stated, “But God raised him [Jesus] from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24).

That is what God is capable of doing. In your life.

“We deem ourselves too inconsiderable to be used even by a God capable of miracles with no more than mud and spit. And thus our false humility shackles an otherwise omnipotent God.” William J. O’Malley, SJ

We need to stop limiting God by believing the lies the enemy has told us. We need to go to war for our identity.

Monday Morning Meditation: Is God Writing Your Story?

Steve Saint is the son of Nate Saint, a man who was killed in Ecuador alongside Jim Elliot and 3 other missionaries by the Waodani Indians in 1956. I learned of Steve and his father Nate through the film, End of the Spear.

In many ways, Steve has continued the work of his father through his organization I-TEC. The organization’s focus is “opening doors to the gospel by meeting needs with innovative tools.” In the testing of one of these tools in June of 2012, Steve was seriously injured by a falling piece of equipment. He was partially paralyzed from the neck down. He has made some progress since then, though he is still quite limited in many ways. I-TEC recently posted this challenging video with a one year update. Grab a tissue – it’s worth watching all 7 minutes.

Here are a few excerpts of what impacted me.

“None of us knows what our life is gonna be like. I wouldn’t mind dying, but I’m gonna stay here longer. I want it to count. And I want my grandchildren to see that life isn’t good when everything is fitting together right. Life is good because we know that we have a hope when this life is done.”

“My theme has been ‘Let God write your story.’ He doesn’t promise all easy chapters, but He does promise that if we let Him write our story, that in the last chapter if not before, He will make sense of all the other chapters and then He will take us to live with Him in paradise.”

“I want God to still write my story.”

Are you allowing God to write your story? As a song line I love states so clearly*, are you opening your eyes to let Him rewrite even tragedy?

As your week progresses, as you find yourself confused or frustrated about how God is allowing things to play out, shift your perspective. Surrender to God, the all-knowing author and perfecter of your faith. Believe He has what is best for you.

Let God write your story.

*Sara Groves “Rewrite this Tragedy”

Monday Morning Meditation: Dealing with Shame (Psalm 25 Series)

Several long weeks ago, I began a series on Psalm 25, my psalm for the year. We looked at just the first verse and a half (1-2a):

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;
in you I trust, O my God.

Today we’ll look at the next verse and a half (2b-3):

Do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one whose hope is in you
will ever be put to shame,
but they will be put to shame
who are treacherous without excuse.

To assist me with my seminary graduate work, I recently purchased a Bible software package. Having just completed my first Old Testament exegesis project (do you have any questions about Nehemiah? I may just have answers!), my favorite part was having the software read the Hebrew to me.*

But I digress 🙂 Let’s put ourselves in the psalmist’s shoes for a minute (in this case, King David).

Have you ever felt ashamed?

Shame is a common human emotion. It began with Adam and Eve, after their eyes were opened to good and evil. Prior to that, they felt no shame (Genesis 2:25).

Can you even imagine what that felt like?

Shame is partially taught and partially inborn. There is such a thing as “healthy shame.” If we sin, and we think, “That was not a good choice,” or “I did something wrong,” that is healthy shame. If we sin, and think, “I am bad to my core,” or “I am a mistake,” that is not healthy shame.

Distinguishing between the two is a challenge. In fact, when I typed “dealing with shame” into Amazon.com, 467 resources came up.

How did David deal with his shame and fear of it?

He chose to take it to God and put his hope there.

Hope is a choice. It can be a difficult and even counter-cultural choice in a world that relies so much on what we see and feel and touch. Hope is “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” according to Hebrews 6:19. But the Tyndale Commentary on this section of Hebrews rightly states that it requires tenacity, a tight hold on God and His Word, to retain that hope; it will not simply come to us or happen by chance.

What is our solution to shame today? Either healthy or unhealthy shame?  Hope in the Lord. Find your worth there. Allow your identity to be defined by the cross and not by the reactions of others.

Choose to put your hope in God first.

*I don’t know a single thing about Hebrew, but even I can learn and discover interesting aspects of the text through simply hearing a robotic voice read it to me. In fact, during this exercise, I spent way too much time playing with that feature.

I’ll just give you an example of the structure of verse 3. The word that is translated “put to shame” is in the middle of the Hebrew and is repeated. So the structure of the sentence looks something like this:
These people = no shame; shame = these people.

Repetition is a commonly used literary device in the original languages, but some of that can be lost in translation. The English here actually does a fairly good job of capturing that.