The recent post I wrote, titled "Let Your Feet and Dollars Speak," got me thinking about the role God plays in my life, and how I reconcile my homosexuality with my relationship with Him.
Before I go further, you should know the nature of my relationship with God has evolved over the past fifty-three years (although I've always felt close to Him), and my acceptance of my sexual orientation necessarily played a role in shaping it. What works for me may not work for you, and, by sharing this, I do not mean to suggest my way is the only way for gay people to have God in their lives. If you find something here that helps define the relationship you have with Him, great. If not, consider this information only.
I was raised a Catholic. My father was raised in the United church, my mom in the Catholic. It was more important to her that her children be raised Catholic (something about her fear for our souls, I think), than it was to my father to raise us United.
At the appointed times, I was baptized (which, of course, I have no memory of); attended catechism for a number of years (religious classes, once a week, which I hated); attended my first confession (I'm not sure what, as a boy, I had to confess); and was confirmed around Grade 7 (admitted as a full member into the Catholic church).
Throughout my childhood, my mom, sister, and I attended church almost every Sunday, often with her parents (my father joined us at Easter and Christmas only). When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I started to go to church on Saturday evening, usually by myself, when I learned my weekly obligation to attend Mass could be fulfilled then. (Saturday evening, rather than Sunday morning, was a more convenient time for me, as it was for many parishioners. Plus, our neighborhood church was small, and, in order for everyone to attend, Saturday evening Masses had to be made available.)
Catholics don't study the Bible like Christians of other denominations do; in fact, I don't remember ever seeing a Bible in our house as I was growing up. Still, I was aware at an early age–perhaps more from hearsay and programs on TV than from the church itself–what the Bible supposedly says about homosexuality.
To reconcile attending church every week with the growing realization I was gay, I lived in denial. I tucked away deep inside me the truth of what I was and tried to forget it there–for years, in fact. I knew I was different, but, even in my early twenties, I prayed–hard–that the way I was different would pass. As a Catholic, I wanted to be right with the church: I wanted more than anything to be straight, interested in girls.
Well, that didn't happen. And, by my mid-twenties, as I began to tell select people (outside my family and close friends) about what I was–to test the ground and see if I'd still be accepted–I felt a distance necessarily grow between me and the church. In my mind, I always imagined what fellow parishioners would think of me if they knew I was gay, or what they would say behind my back. I couldn't tolerate the idea of them judging me, especially when I began to see many of them for what they appeared to be: more concerned with showing off their nice clothes and their perfect families–thinking themselves better than everyone else–than being humble before God.
I've never been able to tolerate anyone who's two-faced. If you say one thing to me (what you think I want to hear), and I find out you've said the exact opposite behind my back, well, that's probably it for us. You've shown me that I can't trust you, and, when trust is gone, not much is left.
I tell you this because I began to see myself as two-faced: I attended church every week, letting everyone assume I was straight (because I wanted to be accepted), yet knowing I was gay. If being a member of the church meant I had to be something I wasn't–had to be straight for the sake of pleasing those who sat around me, who I knew wouldn't accept the truth about me–then I no longer had any business being among them.
And what about my relationship with God? I knew that God had made me the way I am; that is, I knew God had made me gay. That being the case, surely, He hadn't made me gay so I'd be forever miserable in a predominately straight world. Whatever I'd learned about God, I knew He loved me, and He wouldn't do that to me. He wouldn't make me different from the majority of people so I'd have to fight what I was my whole life, so I'd have to deny myself the love of someone who happened to be the same gender, so I'd eventually end up burning in hell because I'd dared to live my life as a fully-realized gay man.
I knew God would accept that I'd stopped going to church. In my heart, I knew I was no closer to Him there, than I was anywhere in the world (in fact, I might even have been further away from Him, since I was sure He saw through the hypocrisy of many sitting in the pews and preferred not to be there Himself).
I knew God was everywhere. I knew He was in every living thing, including me. I knew God was with me at all times. I knew I didn't have to be in a church to talk to Him or to be close to Him. That I could talk to Him any time I wanted to, wherever I was. Over the years, I've taken advantage of that many times.
So my relationship with God continued, even though I was an out gay man and no longer attended church. In fact, I believed my relationship with Him was better, cleaner, and purer, because it wasn't lived through the filter of the Catholic church, or any church, for that matter. Because it no longer had anything to do with living up to the expectations of other human beings, in place to make my relationship with God conditional upon what they believed God's word meant. I had a direct connection to God; He knew me, and I knew Him.
Today, I'd say my relationship with God is stronger than ever. I never believed for a moment that He'd abandon me because I'm gay or because I no longer attend church. And He hasn't.
I pray every night. But my prayers do not usually involve asking for something; rather, they are about expressing gratitutde. Every day, I say to God, "Please accept my thank-you for all of the many blessings and miracles I received today, because every single thing I have is a blessing, a miracle, or both." And I often go into detail about what I'm grateful for in general (I call them the big six: my life, my health, my relationship with Chris, food, clothing, and shelter), and what I'm grateful for that day. (Sometimes, I sneak in a special request, but my view is that God has enough on His plate without concerning Himself with my small problems. When it comes down to it, I believe God gave us everything we need to look after ourselves, and He expects us to use it.)
On the subject of homosexuality, a friend once said, "You know what the Bible has to say about that," as though I should know better than to believe God accepts me as I am and overlooks my homosexual behavior.
I've thought a lot about that since, and my response would be different today from the stunned silence it was then. Today, I'd respond, "No, I don't know what the Bible has to say about homosexuality, and I don't believe any Christian can be sure about what it has to say, either. Over the centuries, the Bible has been rewritten and reinterpreted so many times, by so many people, producing so many versions, that none of us can be one-hundred-percent certain the prejudices of the men who wrote it didn't find their way into its pages.
"How can any one of us be sure everything in the Bible really is the word of God? I didn't sit beside God when He wrote it Himself; I didn't see Him write that homosexuality is an abomination. Nobody alive today did. Besides, is that really what those passages have to say, or have they been misused by those who personally find homosexuality unacceptable, to support their bias, to prove God agrees with them?"
(Recently, I've come to the realization God intentionally put people with differences–whatever they might be–on earth to challenge those who think they have a sound understanding of God's word, who say they live by that word, and who claim they love everyone unconditionally. When it's clear, from listening to them and from watching their actions, they don't. It's easy to accept and love others when they're like you, when they fall in line with how you think they should, based on your reading of the Bible. But I believe God's watching them, and He's shaking His head, disappointed in how they treat their fellow human beings.)
In the end, my relationship with God couldn't be simpler: there's me, there's God. That's it. That's all I need. I'm accountable to Him and to Him only, not to a single human being who thinks he or she knows what God wants and doesn't want. They know no better than I do. They may come across as though they do, but they don't. I don't listen to them; I ignore what they have to say. My advice to them is, thanks for your concern, but I'll look after my soul.
I listen to the voice of God within me. It has always been there, and it will always be there, leading me in the direction I know I must go.