I rarely see gay couples.
Almost every local environment I’ve lived in has been conservative and homogeneous. Wheaton, although it is becoming increasingly diverse from its immigrant population, hosts mainly heterosexual, middle-class, white families, and even though it is probably one of those urban-legends based on unfounded statistics, people also boast that Wheaton has the most churches per capita in the United States. Not really the best place for a gay couple to freely express themselves.
Recently I was very near Boystown, Chicago’s gay-friendly neighborhood. I saw rainbow flags denoting welcoming places for LGBT individuals, advertisements for the upcoming gay-pride parade, and, not surprisingly, two guys who clearly loved each other romantically holding hands.
This threw my heart and emotions into a mess.
I wanted that. I longed for a relationship with another man, like these two guys had. This wasn’t really a sexually charged longing — it was an intimate desire to be known, to be in love, to wrap my arms around someone and have him mean the world to me. It felt so right.
The rest of the night was rough. I felt so conflicted inside and argued with myself about why a gay relationship might be okay.
“How could something that feels so beautiful and natural not be okay?!”
“Maybe God does want this for me. I mean, only good could come out of it, right?”
These thoughts and feelings aren’t new to me. I’ve had them many times before. And I’ve seen gay couples before (I hope to become friends with some). There was just something about seeing a gay couple this time that made my heart bleed the rest of the night.
All of us want to be intimately known. We were created that way — not just to be in relationship with God but also to be in relationship with other humans. The only thing that God said “wasn’t good” about His creation was us being alone.
So we need human relationships.
But does the answer to aloneness have to be a sexual relationship? Since I don’t think God wants me to be married to another man, am I destined to suffer in aloneness my entire life?
Ask anyone to define the term sexuality, and most people will give you an answer that centers around sex. I define sexuality as our embodiment as human beings that allows us to interact with one another in meaningful ways. Genital-to-genital contact is only a small subset of this sexuality. Think of it this way:
I believe a sexual relationship is only one way God designed us to be intimately known by someone. And when we hyper-focus on relational fulfillment being about romance and sex, we miss out on the much broader vision God has for our sexuality. We take the “sex” circle and force it to fill our entire sexuality circle. We give sex way too much power over the significance of our lives.
It’s easy to have sex with someone. It’s easy to move quickly in a romantically charged relationship.
It’s much harder to build a long-lasting friendship and trusting bond with someone — what I call friendship love. What’s a common reason people get divorced? Because the relationship was built only on romantic love, and as soon as that died down, there was no friendship love to maintain the marriage.
I think our society has a problem with knowing how to build friendship love. And I think this is partly because we have hyper-sexualized everything. When two people start showing affection to each other, we start attaching sexual connotations to the affection. We have a relational script in our society that says if you become really close with someone, it means you should probably become sexually involved.
This script has both damaged many relationships and hindered others from becoming closer. I think it may particularly stunt male-male friendships. Two men, regardless of orientation, might fear being affectionate or emotionally close because this means people may start questioning their sexual orientation. Or perhaps a male-female friendship, that was mostly void of sexual feelings, is terminated because people start questioning their intentions. Society quickly conflates any emotional or physical affection with sexual feelings.
Our worldview has been shaped so that we think the only way to experience intimacy is through a sexual relationship. The problem with this worldview for Christians that uphold the traditional sexual ethic is that we can easily think that our lives are lonely and relationally unfulfilling just because we aren’t romantically involved. “If I could only find someone and get married, then I would no longer hunger for intimacy.”
However, being in a sexual relationship is no guarantee for relational fulfillment. Some of the loneliest people are in marriages. And even those who do find relational fulfillment in a marriage likely still struggle with loneliness and yearn to be better known. I’m not trying to downplay the beautiful unity of marriage, but sometimes I think we forget that no one except for Christ can ultimately satisfy our desires to be intimately known.
But still, no matter how close we are to Christ, we need people. I just think our need for people doesn’t have to be sexual. It’s just hard to build intimately close relationships that aren’t sexual in a society that equates intimacy with being sexual. But it’s possible, and I believe I’ve already experienced degrees of intimately close relationships with several of my friends. I am blessed to be able to say that I have had many nights of epic conversations and fellowship with friends where I have gone to bed feeling overwhelmingly loved without a hint of loneliness. It is those nights where I’ve seen my sexuality be expressed in satisfying, meaningful ways that didn’t center on sex.
Jordan and I emailed back and forth that night as my heart bled after seeing the gay couple.
Here is part of what was said:
Jordan: Seeing those guys is just, you know, life. It’s like every time I saw Sam. I couldn’t help that I saw him, and I couldn’t really help the surge of emotions and longing within me. It’s seems unfair that it would be wrong to indulge, but that’s how it is. The Truth is life, you’re so right. It’s crazy that those particular moments where entering into a relationship with a man seems so right can overshadow the immense catalog of God’s faithfulness in my life, where truth won out and filled me with joy. I have a short memory, I guess.
Sorry for your suffering. I’m kind of down too. Sigh… let’s pray for each other.
Me: You’re right. God has been so faithful in our lives. We both know that. And we’ve both encountered his overwhelming love for us. The other reality is that everyone has let down in their lives regarding intimacy. Very few people actually have sustaining, intimate relationships — gay or straight. Plus, fulfilling relationships don’t have to be sexual or romantic. There are so many relationships out there to make us feel intimately known; they just aren’t meant to be romantic relationships. Glad that you know and get what I’m going through. And that right there is evidence enough that God will provide us with relationships without them having to be sexual/romantic. Anyway, I have to go to bed now, but I will pray for you!
I still went to bed that night feeling melancholy, but the email exchange also gave me a sense of hope. Hope in the assurance that God loves me, hope that I will continue to experience His perfect love, and hope that God will continue to put people in my life to show me His love.