Why-Im-Not-Pursuing-Gay-Relationships(2)

Why I’m Not Pursuing Gay Relationships Anymore

It was past midnight. I was with the guy I had liked for more than a year. We had just left a gay bar and, for some reason, started to talk about Christianity and homosexuality.

We were both Christians, but he and I held different views on this matter. He believed that it was not compatible with Christianity to act on gay desires, while I was convinced that God would bless same-sex relationships between Christians.

This wasn’t the first time we had talked about this. Every time we broached this topic, we’d disagree sharply with each other. I’d argue that since being gay wasn’t a choice, God surely would not forbid us from acting on what was natural to us. He’d contend that the Bible was very clear that homosexual behavior was sinful and not part of God’s will.

In the thick of our disagreement that night, God planted this thought in my head: “Your belief that Christianity is compatible with homosexuality is based on the borrowed arguments of others who hold such convictions. Why don’t you look into this matter for yourself and come to your own conclusions? Besides, if this is true, what do you have to lose?”

Until that moment, I’d been unreservedly gay-affirming. I was 13 when I realized I experienced gay desires. When I was 17, I went onto the Internet to find out what Christianity had to say about homosexuality. I came across and accepted many arguments that interpreted Scripture in a way that condoned the pursuit of gay desires in a loving relationship. So when I started to look for romantic love, I did just that—I sought a loving, committed, and monogamous gay relationship.

But when God prompted me to pursue the truth on homosexuality, I decided that I would conduct an intellectually honest inquiry. So, from 2008 onwards, I began to look at arguments on why homosexuality wasn’t aligned with God’s will, even though I didn’t agree with them at that point. I also figured that I ought not to get into a gay relationship as well, since that would compromise the integrity of my quest.

Over the next seven years, even as I examined arguments in favor of the traditional reading of Scripture on homosexuality, I remained largely gay-affirming and was actively looking for a gay relationship. In spite of that, God led me on a journey in which He showed me His heart on the matter and the beauty of His design for my sexuality.

 

Discovering Loopholes

As I re-examined the arguments that said Scripture permitted loving gay relationships, I found that they weren’t as convincing as I had initially thought when I first came across them. I discovered many loopholes in those claims. Besides being built on presuppositions that remained to be tested, there were leaps of logic that begged further questions, and the isolation of biblical verses from their proper context.

The more I read, the more I realized these arguments were not watertight and the more I started to ask questions such as: If homosexuality is so good, why did God forbid homosexual behavior so consistently all throughout the Bible, in the Old and New Testaments? Why did He not clearly hold up committed gay relationships as something to be aspired toward, just as He did with committed heterosexual marriages? If gay relationships are part of God’s will, why couldn’t He have made gay people with sexual parts that complemented each other? What am I to do if it’s indeed wrong to act on my gay desires, even if it’s out of love? How else would I find love?

At the heart of my grappling, I had to address core questions of surrender and trust: Am I just holding on tightly to my own views out of fear or pride? Am I really open to seeking out and believing what God has to say about homosexuality? If His will is indeed different from mine, am I willing to trust Him to provide for me in His ways?

 

The Beauty of God’s Design for Marriage

As I began to move away from gay-affirming theology, God used numerous occasions to solidify the conviction in my heart that homosexuality was not aligned to His will. One of these decisive moments was when He opened my eyes to the beautiful design of heterosexual marriage.

By this point, God had already led me to understand how the key differences between men and women led to a harmonious complementarity between the two sexes. So when He showed me that human marriage between a man and a woman was a powerful, compelling picture of the divine, complementary marriage between Jesus and the Church, it made sense to me.

I learned that marriage is meant to be a beautiful, lasting, and holy covenant in which the husband lays down his life for his wife—just as Christ sacrificially laid Himself down for the Church, His Bride—and the wife submits to her husband’s loving headship—just as the Church is called to pour herself out in willing submission to Christ, her Bridegroom and Head (Ephesians 5:22-33).

I saw that the Word of God consistently referred to Jesus as the Bridegroom (male) (Mark 2:19-20, John 3:29) and the Church as His Bride (female) (Matthew 25:1-13, Revelation 21:2; 9-10), and that the consummation of history was described as the Wedding Feast of the Lamb of God (Revelation 19:9). This sealed the conviction in my heart that God has created us male and female for very good reasons (Genesis 5:2). One of them is that He intends for marriage to be a union between a man and a woman so that the marital covenant can be lived out as a profound sacrament that embodies and expresses to the world the way Jesus loves the Church and the way the Church loves Jesus.

I remember having tears in my eyes when I learned this truth that day. Firstly, I was very moved by the beauty of God’s design for marriage and how it displayed the glory of Jesus’ covenantal love with His Church. Secondly, I knew that this truth meant that acting on my gay desires did not glorify God and it demanded a reorientation of my life.  

 

Understanding the Underlying Issues

That was how God convinced me on the theological and intellectual fronts. What He did next was to address my emotional concerns.

Throughout my gay-affirming years, I had firmly believed that being gay was a natural part of who I was and that I was born gay. Then God helped me to become aware of the issues that likely led to me having same-sex attraction.

The Lord showed me that all my life, I’d longed for my father to give me more attention, affirmation, and affection. Though my father did the best he could and I’m thankful for him, he could only give me the kind of love he had received from his own father. There were also other reasons why I didn’t perceive and receive his love very well when I was growing up.

In primary school, I constantly wished that someone would show me the ropes and how to be a guy. And throughout my secondary school years, I struggled with not fitting in with the rest of the boys in my class. I neither felt secure in my identity as a boy nor did I feel like I belonged with the guys.

I’m now aware that it was not a coincidence that it was also in secondary school that I started to have crushes on my male classmates. My longing for the attention and affection of my father, coupled with my desire to have for myself the masculine traits of other guys, turned into a romantic longing to have the attention and affection of desirable guys. It became what I began to experience as same-sex attraction.

When God surfaced these underlying issues, He led me to understand that my same-sex desires was not a natural, innate part of who I was. Rather, it was a symptom of deeper issues I needed to address.

I realized then that the way forward was not to keep looking for a gay relationship to try to meet these needs, but rather, to meet these needs in healthy ways—in the ways that they should be met. I also needed to seek healing for these wounds, so that God could build up in me what had been lacking for years.

As I came across the life stories of others with same-sex desires, the issues they faced were similar to the ones I dealt with. And I knew that if I were to act on my gay desires with someone else, I would not only be deepening my own wounds, but I’d also have a hand in deepening the wounds of my romantic or sexual partner. It’s like two people feeding each other sand in an attempt to sate their hunger, when their real need is for food that truly nourishes and satisfies. Not only does the sand not fill their hunger, it’d further bring ill health to their bodies, and misdirect and ruin their actual appetites for food.

 

A Life-changing Journey

Needless to say, those seven years of searching and researching were life-changing. Although I started out being gay-affirming and had no interest whatsoever in changing my stand on homosexuality, the Holy Spirit planted and deepened the conviction in my heart over the years about God’s wonderful design for my sexuality.

Though my heart was often unwilling to accept what I had read, I found myself gradually giving intellectual assent to what was written and, eventually, realizing that these words were true because there was a deep witness in my spirit. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of truth [who] leads [us] into all truth” (John 16:13).

That night, when God challenged me to look into this matter, He asked me, “If this is true, what do you have to lose?” Well, I lost my right to hold on to what I would prefer to be true and a way of living for myself that would have felt so much easier. But I gained a deeper trust in God, knowing that because He is who He says He is, His loving and righteous ways are much better than mine. And I gained a way of dying to myself that led to God’s truth, healing, and abundant life—to true, lasting happiness (John 12:24-26).

So today, even though I still experience same-sex attraction, I’m no longer pursuing gay relationships because I want to pursue a loving relationship with God, who first pursued and loved me.

Will-You-Ship-Others(2)

Will You Ship Others?

Photo taken by Blake Wisz

The week before Valentine’s Day, my students taught me a new word, “ship”. According to them, to “ship” means to support or be in favor of two people getting together. For example, “I ship Mr. A and Ms. B together” would mean, “I hope Mr. A and Ms. B would be in a relationship”.

Curious, I probed further and asked them what “shippers” did. They proceeded to show me through Instagram how shippers would create “ship names”, usually a combination of the names of both parties, as well as edit “ship photos”, capturing the couples in matching outfits, gestures, etc.

They also showed me a photo of Korean popstar Rain and his wife Kim Tae Hee, a popular Korean actress, leaving for their honeymoon. Some of the students went on to say that married couples didn’t need to be “shipped”, while others argued that one could ship whoever he or she liked, regardless of marital status.

In my own journey with my husband—first as friends, then as a couple, and eventually as spouses—I cannot help but disagree with the former view.

When we were teenagers, we led a cell group together. At first, our friends teased us and cajoled us to get together. As we grew older, we realized how similar we were—from the way we counselled our cell members to the way we led Bible study. Needless to say, we ended up getting together.

Throughout our relationship, our friends were constantly there; they witnessed our quarrels and cheered us on. On our wedding day, they lovingly decorated the church, filling the place with a joy and simplicity so aligned to both our personalities. Today, we’ve also become their “shippers” as they involve us in their own journey towards marriage or their struggles as singles; we rejoice with those getting married, mourn alongside those who are walking out of broken relationships, and lend a listening ear as well as reach out to those who are single.

The “shippers” we’ve come to value the most are those who journeyed with us and gave us counsel. Whether single or married themselves, they spent hours with us during pre-marital counselling, were vulnerable, and shared their lives honesty and openly. Hearing how they resolved their differences, or even how they could serve God together in spite of challenges, encouraged and inspired us to do the same when we had our own doubts and challenges.

They brought us out to coffee and prayed for us—as individuals then, and as one entity now. They were always a phone call away when we got into intense arguments; they cried with us, listened to us, and most importantly, shared godly counsel with us. These precious ones constantly pointed us back to the creator of marriage, the God of love. And they reminded us that the sole purpose of marriage—in fact of any Christian—was to reflect His glory.

More than any other point in the relationship timeline, marriage would require “shippers” the most. I say this not in pride, but in utter humility and out of sheer need. Because I know how hard it is to be married and more so, to stay married. Sure, there are many wonderful things about being married, but the reality doesn’t reflect this truth so well. We are confronted with broken relationships on all sides. A friend just filed for divorce last month and another has been living separately from her husband and son for two years now. I myself come from a broken family and will always remember the confusion, hurt and betrayal my brother and I felt as children when our parents got divorced.

The wedding lasts but a day, but marriage is for a lifetime. I think a large part of the latter can only be possible if married couples have support from their community—from like-minded Christian individuals, couples, parents, and others who will be a part of their lives and come into their homes. At every stage of our relationship, we have been blessed and encouraged by the “shippers” that came alongside and today, continue to journey with us.

Will you “ship” others?

Ways-to-Die-for-Your-Spouse

Ways to Die for Your Spouse

Last year was a crazy year—I got married.

As a “new husband” trying to score brownie points with my wife (and also because I wanted to get our first Valentine’s Day together right), I had been thinking of ways to “die” for my wife (Ephesians 5:25). It doesn’t necessarily mean an actual physical death, but it sure will feel like it on some occasions!

These were some of the ideas that came to my mind:

Do Little Acts of Love

My wife is a teacher. Every day, she wakes up three hours before me in order to reach school before 7 a.m. My sleeping habits on the other hand, are terrible. I don’t usually sleep before 1 a.m.—a habit that started in my student days.

So one of the things I try to do—with much difficulty—is to wake up earlier occasionally to have breakfast with her near her school, especially if I know she has a long day ahead. On other days, I pack little containers of food for her to bring along to work. I figured since I usually stay up late, I might as well spend the time doing something nice for my wife.

Little acts of service like these show our willingness to go the extra mile to spend time with our loved ones. So go ahead, surprise your spouse with little acts of love, and I am certain he or she will notice and be touched.

Be Gentle

One of the challenges of marriage is that it throws two people with likely contrasting lifestyles together.

So they clash.

We are often warned of this “clash of cultures” in marriage preparation courses. With things like differing sleeping habits and whether we squeeze the toothpaste from the middle or bottom of the tube, marriage requires us to make new discoveries about each other—and not all may be things we like!

Through my many interactions with my wife, God reminded me that I have much to work on. Gentleness has never been a strong suit for me—I am the sort who usually speaks my mind, and usually not too tactfully. Be it communicating something or receiving feedback, I have a terrible tendency to be quite blunt.

But Paul and Peter gave great advice to husbands:

“Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.” (Col 3:19)

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Pet 3:7)

So to my fellow husbands out there, play nice. Be understanding and gentle, even if that is not the usual you. If not, you may have to be doing much of the following . . .

Say Sorry

Apologizing would be the death of most men (most humans, for that matter). A recent sitcom I watched reinforced this in a humorous way. The wife in the sitcom wanted to invite a couple over for dinner, certain that her husband would love to meet them. However, her husband was not particularly thrilled; he believed he did not need more friends. When they finally met, both husbands realized they shared many common interests and hit it off right away. But because the husband did not want to admit to his wife that she was right, he would not tell his wife whom he was meeting whenever he met the other husband.

I’m pretty similar. I would rather get into an argument than admit I’m in the wrong, which often sees me bickering with my wife even in scenarios where I am clearly in the wrong (think leaving unwashed bowls on the computer desk for hours after eating).

Recently, in a thought-provoking interview with online ministry Desiring God, Ajith Fernando, the teaching director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka, said: “Until I apologize, I am a bad example to my family . . . For a Christian, apologizing should not be a big deal, because we get our identity from God—and that identity is a gift that has been given through grace.”

Many times, I don’t want to admit an error or something is my fault because of pride, image, or reputation. Ajith’s quote prompted me to correct my thinking: “If our identity was in our performance, then apologizing would be a big deal. But our identity comes from grace. When we do wrong, grace is hindered, and we can’t live without grace.”

Dying to our pride and humbly apologizing to our wives, whether in little or big squabbles, tells our wives we are committed to working things out and that we recognize God has been gracious to us.

The Mystery of Marriage

One of the first few things I learned during our marriage preparation course is that marriage is a one-of-a-kind journey of sanctification like no other. It is a journey where two sinful human beings come together in the Lord and sharpen one another.

One key thing I’ve learned about being a husband is that headship as described in the Bible is not about the right to command or control. It is the responsibility to love like Christ: to lay down my life in servant leadership. Holiness as a husband means spending yourself for your wife. It is costly. For me, it is a lot about giving up the comforts and bad habits of singlehood, and realizing that I now share a life with another who is equally wondrously made.

Marriage is a journey of the constant death of two individuals, that they may become one in Christ. So to my brothers out there, would you die for your wife?

Marriage-Does-Not-Bring-a-Happy-Ending

Marriage Does Not Bring a Happy Ending

I had a difficult conversation with a friend about her upcoming wedding not too long ago. Defending her love for her fiancée, she asserted, “He deserves a second chance. He deserves to be happy and have a happy ending.”

A happy ending. Those words drummed a familiar beat in my heart.

Marriage As My Happy Ending

For years, I was convinced that if I found someone who would vow to love me forever, I could finally be happy. The fact that my parents were not married amplified this belief. To me, marriage signified the end of all my struggles in the search for true love—a happy ending. Thus, I felt the pressure to get married, to find “the one” who would hand me my happy ending.

With this pressure came an incessant and belligerent voice that kept pounding lies into my head: “Singleness is failure. Singleness means a lifetime of loneliness and misery. Singleness means you are incomplete.”

This deep-seated erroneous belief festered through the years and led me into many unhealthy relationships. Our culture today nurtures this warped idea of love and marriage. We have come to expect another person to make us whole and to provide us with our desperate need for eternal love and security. We expect marriage to complete us. We marry because we want to be happy. When we find ourselves unhappy in a marriage, we begin to look for a replacement either in a new person or new experiences, only to discover that neither can truly fulfill what our souls are truly hungry for. Why? Because of this simple, absolute truth: we are a broken people.

Somehow, we have learned to live outside of that truth. We have forgotten that we are bound to make mistakes and to fail each other. Whether or not we mean to hurt each other, it’s inevitable. We can never be enough for anyone, nor is anyone ever going to be enough for us. Our brokenness guarantees that.

Dr. Val Gonzales, a pastor, licensed counselor and friend, once proposed an idea about marriage that had me mulling over for a few nights. He said, “Marriage is not a vehicle to happiness. It is wrong to think this way: I will marry, so I will be happy. It should be: I am happy, so now I will marry.”

Don’t get me wrong: we can find happiness in our marriages. But it is not a guarantee. And more often than not, happiness comes as a by-product of our relationship with God. If our hope and our joy is misplaced, our unrealistic expectations of each other will likely lead to a marriage’s eventual end as is the case in so many of our marriages today.

 

Should I Marry Or Not?

I used to ask, “How do I know who my future husband is?” In between failed relationships, I came to see how foolish I was in pursuing true joy in another broken person. I subsequently learned to relinquish to God any claims I had for the right to be happy or to be married. When I finally learned to release this idol, that’s when I realized the better question was, “How do I know if I should get marry and not remain single?” I wanted God to take charge. And He did.

God shattered to pieces nearly all the foundations I stood on about who I was, who my family was, who my friends were, and who He was. Then He rebuilt them into quite possibly the most beautiful ground I could root my life on—the bedrock of Jesus’ love. He ushered my steps to a calling that spread like wildfire in my whole being: go and serve Him in the mission field.

Decision after decision I made from that point onwards—and yes, including my marriage—fell along the lines of this radical call. When my husband proposed to me and I said yes, there was not only immense peace but also clarity about what that meant. God made it clear to me that marriage would be good for me because I had found who I really am: whole, happy, and secure in Him. I was ready to commit to a covenant relationship intended to last a lifetime.

 

My Happiness In Your Hands

Many would probably applaud my friend’s declaration of love. But I would hesitate to do so, for it suggests that her future husband’s happiness hinges on her. No matter how good we are at making people happy, we all have our limits, because we are a flawed, limited people. It is dangerous to assume responsibility for another person’s happiness.

At times, we get tired and weary of life. Sure, we should work towards meeting the needs of our spouses, but we cannot expect ourselves to fulfill this perfectly all the time, nor should we demand of them the duty of meeting ours.

No one can fill that oh-so-familiar void in our hearts but Jesus. Because that deep hole we try to fill with fleeting moments of warmth and happiness is God-shaped. He is the solitary piece that can complete the puzzle of our lives and our identity.

We can try to root our happiness in another person’s heart, and it may give us, for a time, what we need. But as life happens, we’d probably realize that he is not big enough to handle his own longings and yours.

Only Jesus can do it. Let His love consume you and make you whole. I promise: you will be filled to the full.