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My name's Lynn - I'm a Christian, a University Lecturer and a Musician. I am someone who has struggled for many years to come to terms with the impact of my sexual identity and brokenness.
I'd like to write about some of the factors I think are relevant to my sexual identity as it developed. I am not blaming at anybody but I see it is an important step in understanding where some of the nurture elements came from and how they have influenced my whole experience of gender and sexuality. I then want to talk about my experience of learning what it means to have a Christian spiritual identity, yet struggle with same-sex attractions. Lastly, I want to go through a couple of short lists covering some attitudes from Christians and the Church that I have found particularly unhelpful and some that I have found very helpful and encouraging.
I was brought up in a Christian home with genuinely loving parents who modeled integrity and other Godly values to my brothers and I. Growing up, I wanted to be just like my Dad; Calm, strong, rational and witty. He could do anything he put his mind to and he assured me that I could do the same – even though I was a girl. I spent quite a few hours building the deck, painting the house, making candle-powered boats and electrical circuits with him. I was Daddy's little helper.
In hindsight, we both saw my mother as someone who needed protecting and reassuring. She was conceived by a mother who was chronically ill and then died early. Her mother's sickness meant that my mother was born blind and became motherless by the age of 6. I love my mother, she is very capable and does amazingly with what she has, but as her daughter growing up, I saw her disability and lack of self-esteem as something to reject for myself – In some ways I was her Mother as much as she was mine. So I looked to my Father as my main role model.
Things appeared to be wonderful, I had plenty of love and attention but what my parents and the people around me didn't know, was that I was being repeatedly sexually abused and later raped by someone I trusted, someone close to the family. This continued from what could have been as early as age 7 to age 17 but because I was good at pretending everything was fine, and had a cracker sense of humour, nobody suspected anything was wrong.
To add to my growing distrust and resentment of men, a complete stranger also molested me at age 12 while I was out delivering newspapers. This led to the belief I held for many years to come - that most men wanted to use women as objects without any real regard for them as people.
Shortly after that, I began to attend a high school where feminism and lesbianism were promoted (not officially, but essentially). Young women were strong and seen to succeed in all different fields on their own merit without having to use cutesy charm or sexuality to get what they wanted. I saw the benefits of this - I also saw examples of both Teachers and Students rejecting Heterosexuality in favour of Lesbian relationships - and in Music and arts circles, homosexuality was considered even fashionable.
It was during High-school that I threw myself with fervency into my music practice as a coping mechanism for what was going on with my broken sexuality from abuse. I saw perfectionism and the pursuit of success as my only way to salvage my self-respect. This had small pay-offs but it never got near the real problems.
I began to become interested in other philosophies that promoted ideas like Evolution and Secularism and began to doubt the existence of God altogether. These floods of doubt brought a fear of Death in their wake. This fear of Death began to haunt me as a fourteen year old. I would arrive at school at 7am to practice alone before the teachers and students arrived, and on countless occasions my mind would be so spinning with doubt and confusion that I would fall to the floor shaking with fear that God didn't exist, and that when I died, I myself would cease to exist.
Then one morning when this happened I prayed that if God existed, that he would talk to me. He put that song into my head from Psalm 46 verse 10 – Be still and know that I am God. This little scripture was such a comfort and a huge turning point in my faith. When these fears threatened, then the song appeared before they could even get a foothold. I was reassured of God's closeness and after investigating the gospel I decided I wanted to be called a Christian. So I gave most of myself over to God but I wasn't ready to let him deal with my deepest brokenness.
On top of the pain of abuse, I noticed I was developing attraction to women and I watched the lives of my openly lesbian schoolmates with intrigue. I never had any intention of investigating the lifestyle for myself. I thought I would lose God, my family and my Church friends if I did that - and they seemed to be my only happiness outside of Music.
When I was 21, My life changed a lot - I moved to Germany where I was first able to deal with the magnitude of what had been done to me as a child and young woman. It was as if the floodgates had opened and I cried almost non-stop for 2 days until I had sores where the tears were wiped away. Those tears had been building up for a long time. It was Uni break and my only close friend around at the time was a German girl my age who was my sports buddy. One day after hours of rollerblading alongside the river, I shakily shared my story with her. She reciprocated with her own story of verbal and physical abuse by her father.
We understood and supported each other. Before we realised, we were in a sexual relationship with one another - the first one for each of us. I knew I genuinely loved her and was surprised to imagine that something so beautiful and mutually encouraging could be considered wrong. But I was very confused about my identity and how it fit with my faith. Was I more genuinely a Christian first or a Lesbian?
Many of my friends, including Christian, non-Christian and even Christian Lesbians had been telling me that I could be both Christian and Lesbian and that I had been brainwashed to think I couldn't – all I had to do was to believe that it was ok. Oh, how I wanted to believe this. I tried to convince myself of this time after time. It just never worked - after a few months I became really tired of the duplicity and decided that I would tell my German youth pastor.
I figured he would tell me how sinful I was and then I would have a good excuse to break ties with an unloving church and not feel compromised. He surprised me with a response that was full of Grace and said how he praised God that after my abuse, I was even able to experience any intimacy with another human being. I responded that I didn't feel at peace with the relationship in my deepest conscience and I wanted to discover who I would have been if I hadn't been abused. I knew I'd been broken by it but I didn't want to continue to live as a victim of my past.
He found an excellent Christian psychologist for me and thus began my year and a half journey of discovery - wading through the kind of technical psychobabble German I never expected to be able to understand. In time I began to realise that although I was genuinely a Christian from age 14, I had refused to let God into some pretty dark and horrible rooms of my soul and it was time to open them up now at age 22.
At that point I wish I could say that I could clearly see who I was and how God had intended me to be and that this made it easy to break off my relationship and turn around. This really wasn't the case. I hurt my girlfriend badly by breaking off with her when she loved me and knew that I still loved her - and then being so selfishly lonely that I asked her back a grand total of 5 times before the relationship was finally over.
It was then that I moved home to New Zealand and lo and behold, an Exodus group was meeting at my home church. It felt as if it was there just for me - what timing and provision. The group gave me helpful testimonies and reading material as well as challenging bible studies and a support group. The mentors invested time and emotional energy in me and helped me to be able to bring anything to God no matter how dirty, doubting or honest.
I gradually noticed a slow shift in my sexual attraction from women towards men over about 3 or 4 years and to some extent, continuing to shift even today. Emotional attraction took a lot longer to develop healthy boundaries and even then, when a particular woman pushed on my emotional boundaries or when a particular man pushed on my sexual boundaries I let them crumble.
My understanding of Grace was not full enough; I still thought I had to do so much on my own. It is only thanks to the Holy Spirit showing me how Grace applies to all areas of life and leading to my understanding that pleasing God rather than others or myself, is what gives me peace. Grace has brought me to a place of stable identity in God and healthier boundaries.
I still keep a watchful eye on my relationships because I know the warning signs of unhealthy emotional boundaries and on the odd occasion that I need to, I have a few friends with whom I can share even the slightest concerns and they pray about them with me. It's amazing how temptations of unhelpful thoughts evaporate if you just share them with a trusted friend.
God created me as sexual being – not to be abused, repressed or full of self-loathing, but to be able to express my sexuality within the boundaries he has designed. No matter the extent of what I have experienced in the past, there is no excuse for impurity on my part and when I struggle with sexual temptation leading to impure thoughts or actions with men, I am no better than when I struggled in the same way with women.
What insanity made me think that it was a positive thing for me to read erotic heterosexual literature or view pornographic images of men as if that was where victory was to be found? But God is still right there providing a way out and a clear path back to him. He has taught me that obedience in his strength is the sweetest worship because it leads to peace.
I realize that I have brothers and sisters out there who may genuinely desire change in their own sexual desires and may be seeking to be obedient with all their strength but it just seems like there has been no perceptible change and it's still a real hard slog. I had long periods of time like that. Hang in there. Sin is sin and let's face it - I still have that with other things I know in my life as sin. I am regularly in anguish over the selfishness in my heart – I have prayed numerous times that I be cured of my selfishness but it always rears its ugly head time and again.
God is the refiner and He wants to see us refined even more than we want to be. I have learnt that often the greatest refining takes place in the struggle. We may see a lot of sanctification, even miraculous this side of heaven, and yes, we have confidence that "Behold, He is making all things new” and that the battle against sin is already won but we will only see the fullness of it when he returns again.
If you feel you are willing but waiting for change, I can wholeheartedly recommend a new book by Wesley Hill called Washed and Waiting – Reflections on Faithfulness and Homosexuality, that is written to encourage you. As we transition from being Christians struggling primarily with same-sex attraction to being a Christians struggling primarily with selfishness or some other such sin, I hope that you like me will realize that as a Christian first and foremost, we are set apart for good and purity, we are fearfully and wonderfully made and we are deeply loved by God.
The second aspect is that we are part of a body and are to care and be cared for, support and be supported by the other members. We are to be Jesus to each other. Fellow Christians have been a huge part of the change process in my spiritual identity and as a result my sexual identity. But sadly, the Church can really let same-sex strugglers down.
Things from Christians that hindered me in my struggles were:
* Over-reactions to and judgment of people struggling with sin that led me to my own conclusions about how my confessions of same-sex struggles would be received. I was not able to be transparent in a safe environment. Somehow we think that by making severe punishments and consequences for a sin, people will avoid it. But I think that having a safe place to share our struggles would stop people from going underground to a place where they are cut off from the rest of the body and the help that is meant to come from that Christian community.
* People's specific and general reactions to homosexuality made me never want to claim a struggle. It is a sin listed many times alongside other sins. We tend to just gloss over the rest and fixate on this one.
* In Church circles I noticed an obvious valuing of women, who were gentle, meek and nice in the Church when I saw that in contrast, I was strong, analytical and passionate about my vocation. Jesus had all of these qualities yet there is often a very two-dimensional view of what kind of women God loves.
* Any general gossip that made me fear the wildfire spread of any admission of sin. Gossip is toxic to a transparent Christian Community.
Things from Christians that helped me in my struggles:
* When Christians surprised me with love instead of judgment, allowing me to feel my own or the Holy Spirit's judgment in my heart and conscience instead.
* Christian women (in particular) and men who had well developed boundaries and embraced me without shying away from me physically or emotionally because of my sexual history.
* Those that in turn shared their sins and struggles and showed me that we all struggle against our nature regardless of the form our rebellion takes.
* Those who told me how much God loves me and how he sees me because of the Gospel and prayed and cried with me.
I thank God for any changes he has made in me, for the way he so wonderfully used his Church in my life and I challenge us all to be that kind of Community to others.