Much of my writing on finding meaning in homosexuality is focused on seeing it through the lens of suffering. I have long had the conviction that the only way of making sense of why God allows homosexuality to exist in the world is through seeing it as the “daily Cross” we are called to carry.
I do not mean to suggest that the experience of living with same sex attractions is perpetually onerous–rather, at times, it can be a source of great pain. In my youth, it was particularly painful to realize that my primary attractions were directed towards men, and that the fulfillment of those desires was opposed to God’s plan for humanity. It didn’t seem to me that an all loving, all powerful God would be so cruel as that.
But with the passage of time, I have come to accept those moments of pain associated with living with same sex attraction as moments united with the Cross of Christ.
A recent comment in the com-boxes of the blog Spiritual Friendship made me think of this again.
A fellow by the name of Matt writes this:
I think to reach the heart we have to be sure keep the cross central.
The fact is that celibacy is not fun. Nor, as a gay man, can I make myself want to lust after females. I find female breasts quite repulsive, for instance, and can not imagine ever wanting to touch one.
So, no matter what we do, we will never make celibacy or “heterosexuality” appealng to gay people.
But as a gay Christian, I do trust Christ and am powerfully moved by His willingness to die. If He loved me enough to do that then I can’t help but trust Him to want the best for me and from me even when that best is unpleasant. If his Word says no sex outside of male/female marriage then I accept that.
So the cross must always be central if we are to reach the heart.
I’m convinced that Christ invites us into transformation through “the renewing of the mind” towards a place of viewing the cross that Matt talks about as the most precious of gifts God has given us. “Take up your cross and follow me” is not so much an invitation to a pain that stems from blind obedience to the whims of a moralistic dictator, but rather an invitation to enter into the fullness of what St. Paul means when he says, “to live is Christ.”
In my Protestant past, the cross of Christ wasn’t discussed much. We focused more on the risen Christ. I think that gave me a misshapen view of God and of Christianity, and what life was supposed to look like for a Christian. The crosses in Protestant churches don’t feature a corpus–they feature the empty cross.
St. Paul wrote that he preached “Christ, crucified.” This is why my Catholic faith has become so important to me. This life, though filled with great consolations and joys, is one in which we are constantly being transformed more into the image and likeness of Christ, and that takes suffering.
That takes the Cross.
We all need the cross to become the man or woman God wants us to become. The cross I needed was the cross God allowed in my life: living with same sex attractions, and being asked by God to forgo those desires out of love and obedience to Him.
At this point in my life, I wouldn’t have my life any other way.
In a letter of spiritual direction to Dom Placid Bailly, St. Francis de Sales wrote,
Carry with sweetness and love this your cross, which as I understand is great enough to load you with blessings if you love it.
I find that to be the most beautiful–and sanest way–to view why homosexuality has been allowed by God in my life.
And when “taking up my daily Cross” becomes difficult, or overwhelming, or when I sometimes just grow weary of closing the door to a intimate relationship with a man, these words of Blessed Columba Marmion give me courage and inspiration:
Be convinced, my child, that Jesus will never impost a sacrifice upon those who yield themselves up to Him, without giving them a generous measure of the necessary grace and help to carry the cross, and without carrying more than the greater part of it Himself. To doubt this would be to doubt the love and fidelity of Jesus Christ, it would wound Him to the depth of His Heart.
Jesus will “carry more than the greater part of it Himself.”
On the path to Golgotha, Christ stumbled and fell. He had Simon of Cyrene to help carry the burden of his Christ.
When it seems that all is overwhelming, and I can’t go another step further on this day, or the next, Christ comes to my aid, like Simon, to carry the cross himself, and be nailed to it once again.
All He asks of me is to allow Him to help carry it, and to live today.
St. Francis de Sales once again puts this into focus for me:
Let us then serve God will today; as to the morrow, God will provide for it. Each day should bear its own burdn. Have no solicitude for tomorrow, for God who reigns today will reign tomorrow.
(I would add one caveat to Matt’s comments: I don’t often talk about “celibacy” as my state in life. I don’t think it’s our job to make “celibacy” appear appealing. Rather, the focus of the Church should be on promoting the virtue of chastity–celibacy will be the result of chastity for a man like Matt who feels no attraction for women, but it isn’t the goal. Celibacy isn’t a virtue that can be acquired. It has no inherent benefits, in and of itself. Only when it is associated with the virtue of chastity can celibacy be seen as a blessing. I’m of the mindset that to pursue chastity is the path of peace for everyone, and my goal, in light of the last quote from St. Francis de Sales, is to live chastely today. At the end of my life I may realize, “you know, I guess I lived a celibate life.”)