Sex and the Sacred: Gay Identity and Spiritual Growth
by: Daniel A. Helminiak, Ph.D.
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John H. Campbell
the many trials and tribulations that life can sometimes throw at us, there
are few which are as nerve wracking, tedious and stressful as the one I
currently find myself nearing the end of: moving to a new home. As I sit
writing this, the new house is in a small state of chaos and disarray, and
everywhere there are still boxes waiting to be unpacked, things that need
to be done, and the knowledge that there are still a few more trips left
over to the old place to pick up the last few items that remain there and
go through the process of completing the final clean up and turning in the
keys. I feel a combined sense of relief, exhaustion and joy as things wind
down, as well as a deep gratitude that the move was only cross town rather
than cross country.
The place before was nice enough, but there were a lot of limitations there; not enough space, inconveniences with the layout which were conveniently ignored, and an area which had decreased in upkeep and quality since the time of moving there. As a result, some shopping for a new home had begun a few months prior, and a better place - one that was perfect as far as what was needed - was found and considered for future reference. Immediately after a vacation where there was time to think about things away from the day to day which often does not allow for such things, it was considered more carefully. On the very day when notice had to be given to either terminate residence at the old place or continue for another year, almost miraculously, the place which was considered during the search a few months before became available and affordable, and a decision was made. It just felt right in my heart, and I always listen to my heart as that has always been where God speaks to me the loudest and clearest.
We had been at the same place for five years, and it will never cease to amaze me how much "stuff" one can accumulate within that time frame, as well as the amount of dust and dirt that can arise and how disorganized things can become and the way you suddenly find things that you didn't even remember you had and had given up for lost. Add to that that when we make huge decisions such as this one, normal day to day life does not cease and time does not freeze in order to enable us to complete such an onerous task in a more efficient and stress free manner. During this particular move, I had to deal with nearly impossible deadlines mandated by my employers and having to travel for work, a car that blew two tires and decided to stop providing air conditioning just as some of the worst heat of the summer was getting started, appliances breaking and having to be replaced, and having to have emergency oral surgery to extract two infected abscessed molars/wisdom teeth that I had put off and neglected to have taken care of a few days before the movers were scheduled to show up (I spent most of the time packing biting down on gauze and in a stupor from pain medication but I still managed to help out some!).
Then of course, during the move, there were issues such as staying in the self-storage unit complex too long and getting locked in, the rental truck breaking down and leaving us stranded, movers who did not show up for work and charged more than initially anticipated when they did, wrangling the cats and making sure they made it to the new home safely, and a multitude of unexpected expenses that arose out of nowhere. Add to that normal responsibilities, commitments and relationship and family issues which are a part of daily life, and the concept of "when it rains, it pours" became quite the understatement around here recently. It has to have been one of the most stressful experiences I have ever had with moving, and I am still thanking God for friends and family who helped in the process, as well as for keeping me strong through it all.
But I have absolutely not one regret about it. After the storm cleared, and the chaos and dust settled, and now very little remains to do aside from unpacking the new place and getting back into a somewhat normal routine, this incredibly stressful time of being in transit was definitely worth it. Favorite old things are finding new homes in the new place and joining new things; all the clutter and junk was gone through and treasured sentimental keepsakes either put on display or carefully tucked away; favorite pictures are going up in new places, and furniture is being rearranged over and over until it gets to the right place. Yes, there are some minor things going on, but overall the pulse of life has come down to calm once again, and day to day existence is slowly and gradually returning to normal in the new home.
Sometimes in order to get to a better place, there is a lot of serious work
that needs to be done, and at times that process can be painful, very
stressful and make one wish why on earth they ever voluntarily undertook
such a task, but the end result makes us wonder why we ever even thought
of giving up halfway through, and very glad we didn't.
And this entire experience has reminded me of how I feel about the often painful and equally as challenging process of personal and especially spiritual growth, and moving forward to new places of spiritual understanding both on an individual level as we find our beliefs sometimes challenged or expanding to include new things, and on a collective level as the face of Christianity (for those of us who are progressive thinking Christians) continues to grow and evolve. Many are vehemently resistant towards any type of evolution of faith; and just as many are resistant towards sharing new ideas about faith as they are more often than not met with the same level of resistance.
Any type of personal growth has the tendency to carry with it some challenges, and spiritual growth often carries the most. Rethinking the way we see God or feel about God in order to evolve in our faith and understanding or due to an experience which might have caused us to want to reevaluate long held beliefs which we are questioning is a terrifying prospect to many. It can be a painful, tearful and at times frightening process; but when it is over, we ultimately more often than not find ourselves in a better place and a much healthier spiritual mindset. No matter how much our faith is shaken or seems to be crumbling at its foundations, we find ourselves stronger than ever before and closer to God than we were at the end of the process.
When we ignore opportunities for spiritual growth, sometimes the cause and motivation behind that need for growth does not allow itself to be pushed away, but only grows stronger in resistance. Something came to my mind as I was recovering recently from the extraction of the two infected teeth which were creating tremendous pain for me for a long time. I had feared the procedure of having it done and what it was going to take to have it done and get through it until the pain had spread to my jaw, my neck and the sides of my head. Getting them out, and especially with all that I had going on at the time was a task I feared but I eventually knew it had to be done lest the infection go deeper and the decay grow and lead to even bigger problems. And when it was over, and I recovered from the surgery, the first thought I had, even with the pain from the extraction was, "This hurts, but already I feel better than I did beforehand."
And such can be the case with areas of decay in our spirituality and belief. Just as what begins as an annoyance can spread and grow into a harmful or potentially life-threatening infection that must be dealt with, old and negative ideas about God and spirituality can often be the same way, only they are detrimental to the soul rather than the body. Once we finally take on these "infections" and endure the sometimes challenging and scary work that it takes to get past them, healing can begin, and lead to one being even stronger in faith upon recovery.
That experience, as well as the seemingly impossible move that was recently undertaken reminded me a little of my own spiritual journey and personal growth as I was coming out as a bisexual, understanding that for me being bisexual that meant that I needed open and honest intimate relationships with both a female and a male partner, and the process of reconciling my spirituality and sexuality and knowing that I could still be, was, and still am a Christian who knows that God Loves me just as I am. It meant looking around and taking an honest look at my faith and seeing that the narrow confines of old and negative ways of thinking about God no longer provided me with ample space to truly live and to be who God made me to be. It meant seeing opportunities for growth and letting go of the idea of a God who had limitations.
It meant cleaning house and out the clutter such as irrational fears about a God of conditional love, judgment and anger, and discarding old and potentially detrimental ideas about sexuality that some would infer if they took the Bible literally while simultaneously holding on to all of the good things that I wanted to keep; the messages of Love and Hope and the power of Faith that Jesus taught; the beautiful metaphors and parables in the Bible and the messages of hope, the stories of faith and love triumphing in the face of adversity, the symbolism of the Miracles written within whether they were real or not.
It meant no longer denying who I knew, and had known all along that I was, but had chosen to repress and ignore or try to scare myself out of rather than to truly accept and love who God Created me to be, and having faith to do the work to come to a place of peace and self-acceptance about that, and to come closer to God as a natural part of the process. It meant having the courage and the boldness to be myself even in the face of ridicule, persecution and adversity and letting my faith get me through the difficult times. It meant learning that God has a purpose and a place for each and every one of us, and that we each have a light that we cannot or should not hide, for God may need to shine it into the life of someone else who needs to find their way as we have.
It was not easy. It took a lot of work and I thank God for getting me through the rough times. But like the other life experiences that happened to me recently that were not easy, it was definitely worth it, a thousand times more so and it is my prayer that God somehow reaches out to them through others as I was reached out to.
Christianity as we know it seems to be undergoing a process of growth in many places. Although one might doubt that assertion due to the fact that progressive Christian thought seems to get little to no and sometimes negative press these days, there are some major areas of growth happening, and at the forefront of much of that growth is the LGBT Christian community. It is met with a strong opposition who feel as if they are entitled to define the only "true" Christianity, yet it still shines through triumphantly every time there is justice served, whether that is in a major way such as the recent defeat of the proposed "Federal Marriage Amendment" (which was more about political grandstanding and mobilizing a small minority who is so obsessed with same gender marriage that they will do anything to stop it than anything else) or something as small as an LGBT person desiring to revisit the idea that maybe, just maybe, God really does love them as they are suddenly stumbling across an online Ministry such as this and opening the door to a greater sense of peace, self-acceptance, and spiritual healing that they might pass on to another who will pass it on to another in need.
Christianity is such a loaded word; as a bisexual and as a Christian, I have found that both words are equally as "loaded" and mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Establishing one set, "black and white" definition for either can be very challenging as they as with most things in life have a wide variety whose spectrum spans a multitude of colors. For some people, "Christian" has developed an immediate association with a set of "talking points" (no same-gender marriages or relationships, women should have no right to choose, the Bible is inerrant and infallible, and so forth), with certain political parties, and certain pre-defined schools of thought including various dogmas of certain things which must or must not be done. For others, myself included, "Christian" merely means a good and honest person who loves God and strives to follow the teachings of Christ the best that they can, with the predominant guiding factor (or "moral compass," if you will) in any decision or interaction with others being "Is this a kind or loving thing to do?" or "Is this in any way harmful or hurtful to another person?" and in all things referring back to Christ's teaching to Love our Neighbor as ourselves as a foundation and a guideline for the path we choose to walk .
It's a similar situation when it comes to defining bisexuality; for some, that means the potential for emotional and/or physical intimacy in a monogamous relationship with either gender; and for others, such as myself and my partners, it means the need for emotional and physical intimacy with a partner of both genders. Some people might consider bisexuals to be confused, when the reality is we are just as clear about who we are and who God Created us to be as one who is gay, lesbian, transgendered, or heterosexual. While our relationships, lives and feelings that some of us have might be difficult to really understand for some people, I have found that a great many of us do not necessarily seek to be fully understood, but merely loved and accepted for who we are and included in the group of those who love God and strive to follow the ethical and spiritual teachings of Christ, regardless of how different our lives might be from most.
One thing I have remained forever grateful to God and to the Ministry of Whosoever for in the inclusiveness, love and acceptance that is shown to the "B" - and the diversity which exists in the bisexual community in the "LGBT" here. I know that I am not alone in these feelings; there are a great many others such as myself who I have met online and in real life who are grateful for this online Ministry. I may have some very non-traditional ways of thinking about sexuality, relationships and sexual orientation, but I do feel as if I am welcome here and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to share my faith here and have a voice here and be a part of it. I see Whosoever as being a definite medication for conditions of spiritual decay, or a vehicle for spiritual growth which will assist not only in taking those of us in the LGBT Community who hunger and thirst for a better place there, but also in creating a greater sense of awareness and acceptance of and the promotion of justice for the multitude of diverse people who comprise the LGBT and Christian Community.
Those of us who are LGBT and Christian who are working to foster spiritual growth in others and seek to use the Light and Love that God has blessed us with to better illuminate the various paths of others and help them on their way should remember that anytime there is spiritual growth that there will also be resistance. It will not always be a easy road, and we will have detractors just as Christ and His Disciples did. There will be those who will scoff, attempt to impede progress and do everything within their reach to stop those of us who are LGBT and Christian from being heard. As we offer others opportunities for growing spiritually and having a more open heart and mind towards the LGBT Community is that our relationships and ways of thinking about God and the Bible may make others feel a shade uncomfortable, and may make them resistant to any type of growth, but that should not deter us in working towards at least opening dialogue and attempting to find common ground and foster understanding and acceptance. After all, Christ made some others of His time on Earth uncomfortable and afraid with His teachings of new ideas and ways of thinking about God. I think it is crucial to remain calm and centered in these situations and not fight fire with fire.
And even among our own Community, there will be differences of opinion, beliefs, and life experiences, but I feel it very important that we always strive to never allow ourselves to have "outsiders" but rather maintain open hearts and accept our differences and celebrate our similarities as we work towards building the Kingdom of Heaven Jesus envisioned here on Earth one open heart and one open mind at a time.
It is a huge undertaking, and working for this type of growth will come with
its own set of trials and growing pains; but with God, Faith in God and
Love nothing is impossible - and I have faith that the effort will definitely
be worth it.
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