T he nine words that serve as the title to this article are framed and hang on my bedroom wall, just across from my bed; I see them first thing every morning when I wake up, and as I exit the door to my room preparing to leave my house each time I go out into the world; on the other side of the door are two silver crosses hanging below cards on which are written the word "Faith". Of course, I am referring to faith in God, but faith alone is what, for many of us, and especially those of us who may have at times in our lives felt distanced from God by the way others may have represented God to us, ultimately leads us into (or back into) a relationship with our Creator. Faith is sort of like riding a roller coaster in the dark at times in that it is a knowing that everything will be okay and we will survive but sometimes we cannot always see exactly where it is taking us; and real faith is knowing the miracle (or positive resolution) has already been arranged. To quote someone who I do not agree with on many issues (Robert Schuller) but have found this one instance where I do, "God will have the last word, and it will be good." Faith is one of the big three right along with hope and love. They're like a sort of trinity. They all exist together, interdependent on one another. So I love talking about faith.
I was not always a faithful person. I denied God for many years. I tried to be an atheist once and it was a little similar to my trying to deny my bisexuality and be straight and "normal." It may have worked theoretically but it was not a natural feeling. When you know something in your heart, it's really difficult to pretend that you don't really believe it. You cannot hide from the truth about yourself for very long; just like you cannot go for very long without God reaching through those seemingly impenetrable doubt and worry we allow that old devil fear to build around ourselves and reaching out loving arms to embrace us and let us know there is nothing we have to worry about even when it seems like there is, and that is what faith is all about.
A friend said recently that "Faith is what you turn to when you're tired of relying on common sense." Faith to me is like knowing that what seems to be impossible really is not only possible but a reality. Sometimes I have been called "delusional" in my faith, with people saying I am crazy to believe in what I feel is the inner and innate goodness in all people, and believing things will turn out okay even under the direst of odds! This is not to say that ALL we are required to do in order to have miracles occur is have faith alone; we do have to do our part too. For us to have faith in something without doing the work we need to do and being open to utilizing the blessings and tools God graces us with is not nearly as powerful as faith in action. To me, the most profound faith we can display or feel is what we have when we have done everything we possibly can, (though it takes faith to do that much alone), when we have exhausted all possibilities for action ourselves, when we just have no idea where else to turn or what else to do and we raise our hearts in loving trust to God and say, "I know You're there-and I have no control over this; this is my goal, my need, my dream-please grant me the strength I need to make it and be with me." And you know, when I have prayed like that in tough times God's answer has not ever been silence or a "no" but rather a call for ME to be silent, and to "be still and know" that everything will be okay and that my prayers will be answered in accordance with God's Will, which is always for our greatest and highest joy. Only God knows how to get us there. But we must be watchful, and do our part too.
I sometimes have felt disappointed in myself for not being more open to God's blessings; at times in my life when I was not honest with myself, or with others, I turned down quite a few; Praise God for giving me more and better chances again!!! I should relate a story about what can happen when we have faith with a closed mind or without action:
Once, there was a farmer who lived in a valley lowland alongside a river which was frequently flooding. He had been there for years and did not wish to move. One day, there was a terrible storm; and the weather forecasters told of a huge flood that was to come and wipe out the entire valley. As the storm became a torrential rain, the farmer fell to his knees in the field and began to pray; just then his neighbors drove by in a warm truck, headed for the highlands, and said, "Come with us. We are going to safety, where there is abundant food, warm shelter, and refuge from the storm!" But the farmer, a man set in the ways of his faith, simply became very self righteous and looked at them saying, "Nope. You go without me for the Lord will save me." They drove on, and soon the farmer found himself waist deep in water; he simply climbed up to the roof of his home and kept praying as the water rose. Soon, more of his friends rowed by in a rowboat. "Come with us, we are the last ones to leave besides you, and we will take you to a safe place, " they urged him. Still on his knees praying, he said to them, "No, I told the ones before, the Lord will save me." Before long, the farmer had to stand on his tiptoes to pray because the water was approaching his neck. Suddenly there was a huge gust of wind and a tremendous noise above as a deafening voice spoke from a loudspeaker above; it was a helicopter from the town in the highlands, and they lowered a rope ladder down to him. "Your friends sent us for you, " the voice said, "we are here to rescue you and get you to dry land!" But the farmer shook his fist and refused the ladder, saying, "No! I told them and I tell you THE LORD WILL SAVE ME!" Shortly thereafter the water rose above his head and though he held his breath for as long as he could, he drowned. When he got to Heaven, he stood before God and said, "Lord...I don't understand. I have done all You ever asked and had faith in You. Why didn't You save me from drowning?" To which God replied lovingly, "My child, I love you so, and I DID try to save you...I sent you friends concerned for you to take you to safety in a truck, a boat and a plane. You just weren't paying attention."
The metaphor in that story aside, isn't that how it always seems to work? Sometimes we are so busy trying to have faith and looking so desperately for God that we look right past God. When we try to imagine God far away instead of within our hearts? When we are so focused on trying to find God that we walk right past the bountiful table of abundant Grace God has lovingly set for each and every one of us, including lgbt people? I cannot count the times in the past God tried to bless me, yet I had placed God in a box of human limitations. I will never forget how it was a person I was dating years ago who happened to be a liberal-minded Christian who planted the seed that maybe God was not a stern judge who expected me to be a "normal" heterosexual like everyone else, maybe God was a lot more accepting than I had imagined; this woman tried to turn me away from a life of alcohol and self-hatred and denial and to God; she actually was aware of my bisexuality and was accepting of it, as were several other people I met around that time. This woman I was dating kept telling me that being a Christian and accepting Christ's Spirit into my heart was not about "changing" but instead trusting God and being a loving person like Jesus was-she even tried to get me to come with her to a home where she would sing and laugh and visit with mentally retarded adults and bring them joy on many occasions-telling me to share my voice and gift of song with others-but at the time I would hear nothing of anything Christian. Our relationship eventually ended, and I returned to my lonely hell of alcohol abuse, but the seed was there-and it was the loving Christian attitude she displayed that found it's way into my heart when I finally did turn to God years later. I recall the Christmas Eve when I came home from a bar and began to drink more and more alone, hating myself and feeling rejected and feeling as if I wanted to die, that I would never find anyone who would understand or accept me, writing a one-page letter to God and having that, however tiny, "mustard seed" of faith Jesus spoke of, that "maybe, just maybe God doesn't disapprove of my being bisexual and maybe God really IS love and compassion and not a tyrant". (Of course, that was before I had ever really STUDIED the Bible or gone to church or anything-it was before I knew that I was lovingly Created as I am by God and that Love is God's very Nature). That was the very beginnings of a real relationship with God; I was "born-again" as Christian and confirmed into the United Church Of Christ about a year and a half afterwards. But faith has been the most valuable tool God has given me, faith driven by hope and love and abundanbtlky seasoned by God's Amazing Grace.
One of my favorite hymns is "Be Still And Know", just like "Blessed Assurance" and "Seek Ye First (The Kingdom Of God)" are favorites. They remind me in my human infallibility and weakness to fear that I have a Friend and Loving Creator that knows all the answers I seek when I am too exhausted to find them myself. Whenever I have focused on seeking God first, such as by helping others, praying prayers of gratitude, and finding ways to help others feel God's Love, I have found myself surrounded by blessings. Just as when I have felt frightened or scared and I have turned to God, the answers are always to be found to reassure me whenever I put my trust in God and turn within; God has given constant reassurances. Three visions of faith I have experienced really stand out to me; one, a vision of myself walking on the water during a storm as Peter did, across the raging water is a loving Jesus beckoning me to safety, below me the waves and rocks; beyond where Jesus is standing is a vision of the goals and dreams and peace that may seem impossible to me at that time; I imagine focusing on Jesus and the water slowly calming below me, as I walk upon its surface to Him, as He encourages me, smiling with love. Soon the storm is gone and I am walking with Him ABOVE the water, then the clouds, knowing that my embracing His truth that with God all things are possible, praying in His name by praying with a loving heart and dealing with others as He would have, and by putting love and kindness to others first, thereby putting God first, then all of my heart's desires are God's good gifts...two, when I make decisions faith is like standing on a huge cliff high up in the fog, where a clear path is not visible, and leaping off with courage. Then, when I do I see the fog lift and below a beautiful valley of abundance awaits, and a host of angels catches me and I soar with them as they lead me to new and wonderful joys and peace...and three, sometimes faith is not so much a particular imagery but just KNOWING that somehow, everything will be better than I ever could have envisioned it to be. Time and time again, God's genius and imagination has far surpassed mine, for the better. Faith is one thing I have never been able to make it without, even at times when I temporarily imagined I had lost everything else. God has always been there for me to reassure me when my faith was at its lowest points, and I guarantee you God will do the same for you if only you believe. Sometimes that's all we can do, but it works. I am sure Job would tell you the same thing as I am.
But for those reading here, faith is so much more than just a warm fuzzy feeling that goes beyond hope. Faith is what I have to rely on when I hear some people in both the straight and gay communities tell me that the identity I know is me is just a myth, that bisexuality does not exist, that I will never be able to have a relationship where I am happy or find a partner or wife (let alone one who would have a child with me) who will love and accept me for who I am; faith is what I have to rely on when certain parts of the Christian community tell me that my very sexuality is a sin in and of itself, or when certain factions of the psychological community call my natural orientation "confusion" when I am not confused in the least. I am very clear that I feel equal and dual attraction to members of both genders, and very clear in who I am, and my desire to always be loving, honest, and caring in any relationship I enter into.
Faith is what I have to rely on when I am offering support and encouragement to other bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgendered people and other and more conservative parts of the Christian church accuse me of "condoning and teaching sin". Faith is what I had to rely on when I decided to take that leap and speak out as a bisexual male who has embraced and is joyful about and grateful to God for his natural sexuality, who is a Christian and a follower of the beautiful teachings of Jesus to love one another and forgive even when it hurts, having faith that God will always take care of us, who wants to share his faith with others seeking a relationship with God where they can be themselves without guilt. Faith is what drives me to be courageous enough to share my story with others and let others know that I am bisexual, even if I appear to be partnered in a heterosexual relationship, and that there is positively nothing sick, wrong, deviant, sinful, or against God's Will about it, knowing that maybe I can save a life if a struggling youth (or adult) hears what I have to say. Faith is what I rely on when a legalistic Christian tells me that God is going to "punish" me for having same-sex attractions or relationships or for being open to both genders. Faith is what kept me alive through he dark nights of the soul I went through when I was so sure God didn't love me. Faith is what I had when I asked God to help me find love, and fulfillment and to accept myself instead of trying to "become straight", and what drove me as I did my research on spirituality and sexuality and found out that I was not alone. Faith is how I know God will provide for my every need by Grace alone as God always does, and help me to feel more affirmed and loved and joyful that I may extend that joy to the rest of God's children. And to all of my gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and heterosexual brothers and sisters in Christ-FAITH WORKS-if you trust God with an open loving heart, and do your part. If you feel like you don't have any faith, at least pretend you do and ask God to do the rest. Visualize love, and just watch what happens!!! God can turn the tiniest ray of faith into an entire sunrise, if you are only open to it. All things really are possible for one who believes and has faith.
No discussion about faith would be complete for me without my saying that I feel that faith is the central theme of the Bible. As a more liberal Christian, I may not take the Bible literally but I do take it seriously, just as I take Jesus' life and message and God seriously. Job had faith in God's Love even when everyone told him God was "punishing" him for his "sin" -- and Job was blessed abundantly -- he kept his faith alive through the storm. Isaac was under the impression that God was telling him to give up his only son, something he loved dearly, but knowing in faith that the God he loved could never do such a thing he went in faith to the altar and found a ram to sacrifice, knowing that God would never ask such a thing of him. But the greatest example of faith was Jesus. He was so One with God His faith hardly ever faltered. He exemplified the ultimate in faith, a faith that conquered death with life and an eternal Spirit of Love that lives in all our hearts and flows through us each day still, and forever. He trusted God, All-Loving and Omnipotent Creator with faith even as He died and felt forsaken, distant from God for a moment, only to find that God's Promise was true -- life is forever, and God will never leave us to suffer. But even as we are suffering, God has an abundance of blessings and peace that will last forever in store for us. God will even boost our faith if it needs help.
I urge you, if you are worried about anything -- don't be. God is there for you and I especially urge those glbt individuals to know that God is reaching out to you, and wants to love you and affirm you as you are-not change you. God is waiting for you to ask for help in finding your calling, or defining your purpose in life and grant you greater meaning. You came here for a reason. God wants you to have peace, here and everywhere there are abundant resources for those who seek to know the truth about glbt issues and seek to reconcile their spirituality and sexuality-God will guide you to where you need to be to be happy and at peace...if you have faith. I only give you my word that God has created and blessed me, a bisexual, and countless other gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. We have work to do to continue Christ's ministry of love in the world, and God needs your help too!!! Who knows what we as a collective community could do if we all exercised the potential we have. "Faith that can move mountains." Could we have another Martin Luther King, or Ghandhi among us, that will speak in Jesus' name for the glbt community and bring a triumphant end to the last "prejudice" of the legalistic Christian church as we enter a new millennium? Could that person be reading this right now?
Faith does not demand miracles, but often accomplishes them.
by John J. McNeill
by Marilyn Bennett Alexander, James Preston
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