As I’m working on my book, I’m spending a lot of time digging through journals and old emails, piecing together the journey that has led me to where I am now. This one struck me in particular. It was an email I wrote to the pastor of the Christian Reformed Church I was attending at the time. He and I had begun talking together about my desires for men and how best to respond to them. He didn’t force onto me the idea that I needed to try to find women attractive, which I think a lot of people suffered from during the late nineties and early 2000’s. He was rather more concerned with caring for my soul, and its deepest longings. He also believed, as I did, that the path to peace for a man like me rested in Christian teaching on human sexuality.
I have wondered when the seeds of my current thinking were sown, essentially that God allows whatever suffering that happens in our lives for our good and for our sanctification. I suppose those seeds have been strewn along the path most of my life. The message of Good Friday and Easter tells this story as clearly as anything, but to grasp its personal meaning in our life is another thing completely. But I think 2000 was the year I began to at least begin to be able to wrap my head around the concept, though this was still before I had ever been with a man. It wasn’t until really becoming the Prodigal Son that I could see the beauty in the paradoxical notion of suffering as being a gift from God.
I read this now I and I see it as a foreshadow to my arrival back in the arms of the Catholic Church. You’ll notice a reference to St. John Paul II’s encyclical Salvicifi Doloris, which I called “a little pamphlet” on suffering. I also mention the value I received in reading C. S. Lewis’s book The Problem of Pain, plus Peter Kreeft’s reworking of Lewis’s ideas in his book, Making Sense Out of Suffering. I also mention Viktor Frankl’s remarkable book on suffering, Man’s Search For Meaning. All four I think are necessary reading for anyone who lives in situations that are difficult to understand the reasoning behind.
Dear Pastor Dave,
I just thought I’d drop you a quick line on the heels of Sunday’s sermon. Your sermon echoed things I’ve been thinking about lately. I have finally gotten down to reading the books I’ve told you about, and I’ve found them to be quite insightful. Lately I’ve been reading Lewis’ Problem of Pain, a book by Peter Kreeft on suffering, a book called Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl (which has had a profound impact on me) and some other books as well, including a little pamphlet called the Christian Meaning of Suffering by John Paul II which is fantastic. The notion that God is watching over us even in the midst off suffering is quite liberating and assuring for me as you taught on Sunday.
I’m finally seeing the hope that exists in suffering, that good can come out of it. In my situation, I guess the struggle for me has been how to make sense out of the suffering that those who deal with same gender attraction go through. In a lot of the books I’ve been reading, they have spoken of suffering as a way in which we can identify with the sufferings of Christ, and even that, in some mystical, spiritual way, our sufferings can emulate the sufferings of Christ by somehow playing a role in the redemptive aspects of Christ’s suffering. In the book by Frankl, he talks about the fact that suffering needs to have a purpose, and when meaning is found in suffering, suffering can actually be embraced as a gift. I’m beginning to see suffering as something that can be offered up to God on behalf of others, as a part of “taking up our cross daily.” As I read these books, and thought about some of these ideas, my mind turned to Christ’s words which spoke about his burden being easy and his yoke being light. I’ve always struggled with making sense of those words of Christ, because it has always seemed that life is very hard. In light of what I’ve been reading, I wonder if the idea of carrying a burden or yoke on behalf of another is what makes the burden easy and light. This seems to follow Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross–certainly the burden was overwhelming, but he persevered out of his love for us knowing that the sacrifice would free us. For me, I guess I would like to believe that times that are difficult for me as I struggle with my same gender attraction issues, are times that can be offered up as a sacrifice I willingly take on behalf of others I know who battle as well. I’m curious to know your thoughts on these musings of mine, and it seemed that on the heels of your sermon on Sunday, now would be the perfect time for me to write you about these thoughts.
I also covet your prayers. I find myself at times having burgeoning desires to “find someone.” It seems to me as I desire to be free of these issues, it just becomes more and more clear to me how strong these issues are within me. I do believe that God has the power to change my desires, i.e. a possible future of marriage and a family, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. It has been somewhat sobering to me of late that I have felt something akin to romantic flutters a couple of times when talking to different guys. This is something new to me–historically my feelings were non-existent towards guys in person, and any thoughts/feelings were relegated simply to fantasy, guys on the net, or plain old lust. This is something new to deal with and contend with. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me–there certainly is a huge part of me which would like to “have a relationship,” though in my most sober moments, that scares me to death. Yet the desire is there, and I flirt with it in my mind, so I shouldn’t be surprised that I’ve felt this way. Anyway, I would appreciate your prayers. In the part of my mind which tries to analyze such things through rational thought, I view these desires of mine as ways in which I have daily opportunities to deny myself in obedience to Christ, that “taking up my cross” in some sense means not fulfilling those desires. In that light, I view those who struggle with homosexuality having a unique opportunity within human experience to obey Christ’s call to sacrifice the desires of the flesh out of obedience to him, which of course fits in with the notion of sacrificial and redemptive suffering on behalf of others. It’s all well and good to sit and ponder such noble possibilities, but living them out is another thing altogether, and I guess that’s why I’d appreciate your prayers.
Thanks so much for your time, and giving me the O.K. to email you. I appreciate it immensely. God bless you–I thank God for you and for bringing me to your church–I know it’s where God wants me right now.