“We have to let go of the passing names by which we have tried to name ourselves and become the “naked self before the naked God.” That will always feel like dying, because we are so attached to our passing names and identities. Your bare, undecorated self is already and forever the beloved child of God. When you can rest there, you will begin to share in the universal Christ consciousness, the very “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).”
― Richard Rohr
When we love, it is easy—too easy in fact—to assert our voices from the middle, from the city center of our tribe. We assume that one camp, “my camp,” has a corner on the truth. And each camp so desperately wants to protect the truth they’ve collectively decided upon that they craft manifestos such as the Nashville Statement.
The news today made me think of my coming out process.
I had finally admitted to myself that I was attracted to men. I was a freshman in High School and could not, for the life of me, get my attractions to diminish, subside, or disappear. God knows I tried.
I fasted two meals a day (Isaiah 58) for an entire school year and even asked God to kill me. God, of all beings, would want me dead and pure, rather than alive and sinning, or so the Church told me. Many churches assert their beliefs on behalf of God.
But we are only one family trying to figure out how to love the Father with the utmost sincerity, honesty, and loyalty. Our motivations, no matter from which camp we speak, are intentionally fixed on loving God pure-heartedly.
Today many will feel strong by asserting their voices: the non-affirming for protecting their faith, as well as the LGBTQIA-affirming attempting to defend their God-given, creative design. It is easy to use our voices as swords, splicing ourselves from one another.
But what do we need in this moment? Let me answer with a simple anecdote.
The admission that I was attracted to the same gender was an internal battle I never want to repeat. It was a desperately dark and fearfully painful war to wage. I ran from person to person seeking the best advice I could find. I couldn’t trust my body, especially my spiritual one. Someone else knew my truth better than I did.
From a non-affirming psychologist to an affirming pastor, from an inclusive psychotherapist to my conservative seminary, I ran desperately seeking the safest and most-appropriate answers to my questions of sexuality. Each of them gave me differing opinions and advice. “Look at straight porn,” my non-affirming psychologist mentor told me. An affirming friend sent me to a bisexual man who encouraged sexual behaviors that left me feeling not only confused but nauseated.
When I grew tired of asking others what God thought of me, I began asking God myself.
I asked questions like, “If I am your beloved son, how do you feel about my attractions for men” and “If I am created by you, and if I am going to interact with my same-sex attractions appropriately, how should I respond to and engage them?”
Initially, I thought this type of nakedness before God would clean me from the inside out. I would certainly be made clean because my intent was pure (Matthew 9:20-22).
But what I learned instead was entirely life-changing.
I learned that it was not my own intellectual conclusions (Proverbs 3:5) that saved me, no matter how well they soothed my desperation. No one’s intellect, not even those who diagnosed me well or understood me the most, could teach me how to be ‘loved by God.’ Essentially, what I learned was that no one could tell me how I reflected God’s image except for God.
I had to stand ‘naked and unashamed’ in front of the God who created me (Genesis 2:25). Only this version of living in truth set me free.
My only job, then, was to trust God with the fullness of my humanity.
Trusting God was not a simple task of owning a cognitive thought process, rehearsing a powerfully emotional mantra, or perfecting a theological argument as a seminarian. Trusting God meant showing God my inmost being—not that this surprised God by any means (Psalms 139:13). I realized that it was not about proving to God that human diversity can be trusted—human diversity can be trusted because of God..
Statements such as the fourteen set forth by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood can either be life-saving or derogatory. No matter the platform, stance, or city center from which you exalt your opinion, trust God with your naked self. When we all rely on God’s determination of our humanity will we understand belonging and unity. I would recommend starting with the eighth chapter of Romans, focusing precisely on verses 38 and 39. Today is a good day not for assaulting one another with rhetorical bombs, but for standing firm in the confidence afforded by God’s unceasing love for all.
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
– Romans 8:38-39