Recently I appeared on an episode of Our America with Lisa Ling on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). The majority of what aired was from a past interview, but I was grateful that OWN released an unused portion of the interview online. In my opinion it was one of the best parts of my time with Lisa as it clearly portrayed my deep and unequaled love for my wife, Leslie.
Not everyone liked the interview, however. In it Lisa asks, “So are you heterosexual?” To that question I answer transparently, sharing that while I do experience same-sex attraction I am Leslie-sex attracted. I state that I am not gay, which I see as an identity based around same-sex attraction that absolutely fails to describe me or speak to the majority of my feelings, desires or sexuality. I stop short of calling myself heterosexual, though, too. That seemed to irritate some and confuse others.
I think Christians have confused heterosexuality with holy sexuality. As I have said for more than a decade now, the opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality (or vice-versa) it’s holiness. I didn’t take the role I am in at Exodus to make people straight or to promote heterosexuality. I also didn’t take on the role to tell people with same-sex attraction how inferior that struggle is in comparison to others. I chose to serve at Exodus International to proclaim that God created us to live out biblical, sexual, holiness even amidst great trial and sacrifice. That is my story and it is my encouragement to fellow believers and others who might be seeking.
We in the Church, at least a portion of it, love neat and tidy. We love putting God and people in a box. When someone tries to communicate their own outside-of-the-box story or describe God in a way that doesn’t fit into our neat and tidy understanding we immediately begin to judge them by a set of man-made religious standards and rules that aren’t of God.
For example, I willingly surrendered my same-sex attraction to the Lordship of Jesus Christ 21 years ago. In those early days it was a struggle that I lost fairly often, but a struggle nonetheless. At times I was surrendering moment by moment. As the years and decades have passed, my struggles have changed. Non-existent are the days that I am tempted to have sex with men. Non-existent are the days that I am drawn to a man emotionally in the way that I have been drawn to my wife for the last 15 years. I have zero desire to be unfaithful to my wife because I have zero desire to be unfaithful to Christ. And, yet, I am aware of my capacity as a human to be tempted–even in ways that I haven’t been tempted in years.
Trying to make a point here. People want my story to fit into a box they can deliver as proof to themselves or others that change is simple and formulaic; absolute in every way. For change to be authentic must it be absolute? Some have recently chided me for saying same-sex attraction, in and of itself, is not sin. I don’t equate SSA to lust. For me SSA is attraction without the lust because I’ve worked really hard over the course of two decades to get to that point. Being honest and public about my SSA helps me live an authentic and transparent life that aids me in staying free. It isn’t a white flag of surrender to my struggle.
But, does victory over lust and pure Garden-of-Eden-like attraction to my wife mean I should wear the badge of heterosexual? I am in a heterosexual relationship and will be for the remainder of my life. But, if I am not mistaken heterosexuality, like homosexuality, comes with its own set of struggles and lusts that I am thankful not to possess or complicate my life with. Again, I didn’t choose to surrender my SSA (L-for lust) to be heterosexual. I did so because I am the righteousness of God in Christ and bear His likeness. I want to be an example of His life in me. I was an example of that as a celibate and single man. I am and example of that as a faithful married man. The only label I want to wear when it comes to sexuality is Holy. The sex or lust based labels of gay or straight, homosexual or heterosexual, feel like cheap trophies to me that I don’t want to put on my shelf for display. Long ago I abandoned the quest for heterosexuality. I am content with Holy-sexuality.
In a day and age when who you are attracted to means everything and declaring your sexual identity, especially on Facebook, is essential, my hope is that Christians choose, increasingly, to reject the rigid and relatively recent push to be known primarily by their human sexual orientation. My orientation is towards Christ because I am a new creation. My orientation toward sin is gone, though the temptation isn’t, and the new has come. I choose Christ. I choose Leslie. I encourage you to label yourself according to what is most important and in ways that God would choose to label you. I am a million other things before I am what I may or may not be tempted by. First and foremost, I am a Son of the Most High, the righteousness of God in Christ, a husband, a father, a son, a friend, a brother, someone who is a lawn/garden and home enthusiast and the list goes on and on.