“It’s like we’re always peering in through the window of Church, we want to belong, but we are outsiders looking in.”
As he spoke, I recognised the hurt in me, his words rang true, could I ever truly belong in church or would I always feel like someone peering in through the window, wanting to fully belong, but feeling like I never would?
These words were spoken by a member of the Transformed International peer support group, a group for those who experience SSA but hold to a Biblical sexual ethic. We all seek to live celibate, God honouring lives, so why would any of us feel like we don’t belong? But the truth is, for many of us there are barriers to feeling secure and safe within our own church environments.
I recently left a church where I was loved and nurtured, yet I never truly felt that I fully belonged. In essence I suppose I was that person who had come through the entrance doors into the lobby carrying my suitcases of shame and regret and was now gazing through the window at those who so clearly belonged, not sure where the left luggage room was, and not wanting to carry it in with me.
OK so let’s unpack that a bit further, I speak about shame and regret, but I’m a Christian, surely they’ve been dealt with at the cross?
Yes for sure, they have been dealt with, but in church I’m not dealing with God, I’m dealing with the human race. I’m looking someone in the eye when they ask a run of the mill question, “Are you married?” “Do you have children?” worrying about how my singleness will be received. Do I have to explain my past, what will that sound like, what will they think? I have never been any good at awkward silences! Then as I get more settled, I’m asked to share my testimony. Now I’m the one looking around the room before sharing wondering who’s going to judge me, who’s going to undermine me by telling me I’ve misunderstood God and got this same sex attraction thing wrong, or who’s going to stop talking to me out of embarrassment, fear or some other misplaced emotion.
And in the spirit of truth, I’m the flawed human who looks at the women in my prayer group and all I see is married women, mums and grandmas and sometimes I feel resentment at their perfect, happy lives. As I say, we are all flawed!
As another member of the group and I chatted further about this today, I thought would it not be easier simply to choose a new church and not share our testimonies, after all does every Christian attending church open up about their past, how they shop lifted as a child, how they used to get drunk and get into fights, or how they have cheated on their husband or wife? I can’t say I’ve met many of those in my time, "hello I’m an ex shoplifting Christian!"
But would that really make it easier, just bury the past and embrace my new church family, being fully in the heart of the community, no longer on the outside.
As soon as the thought entered my head, it left. After all I recognise the desperate need for our testimonies to be heard. If people who have left their gay relationships to follow Jesus don’t speak up it will be tragic, our voices are so important in today’s society and must be heard. Not only that, it’s not just sinful behaviours that we have left behind, but our identity. Can we simply shrug off years of who we thought we were, without support, love and understanding from our church communities? As with all Christians we need accountability, we need transparency and we need to bring our darkness and struggles into the light.
I don’t have all the answers but do believe that churches can put themselves in a better position to fully open the doors by training key staff in pastoral care for those with SSA.*
I am pleased to say that I do now have hope. Having joined a new church plant which is fully committed to being Biblically rooted, I feel joy that I will no longer fear reaction from others when I truthfully answer their questions, because the church leadership fully affirm my position.
Yes, I’m single, I left my partner after I gave my life to the Lord when I recognised that my lesbian relationship was not honouring to God. Yes, I’d love to share my testimony, let’s ensure everyone knows that change is possible. Yes, I’m single and I recognise that God’s using my singleness to glorify him. No I’m not a Mum or Grandma, but God’s made me a Spiritual Mother to many and that’s good enough for me!
And when I share my testimony I am fully confident that if someone in the congregation doesn’t celebrate my story as someone who has overcome sexual sin, they’re in the wrong church, not me.
* please contact us for more details on our training courses Training Courses | Mysite 1 (transformedbygodslove.com)