A quick update from Lindsey and Sarah

Hello, AQC readers. We’ve received a lot of contact lately from people who are wondering why we aren’t posting as much right now as we have been in the past and why some of our posts are releasing later in the day than others. We’ve also gotten a couple of questions about why our Saturday Symposium posts have disappeared, and a few more about why we’ve been so slow at answering our email.

During this season of life, we are adjusting to a new normal about once a month with Sarah’s balance. Sarah is currently receiving another series of ear injections, and the side effects from those are impacting our daily schedules in a number of ways: everything from figuring out logistics with household chores to determining how many hours of sleep we can get to keeping a prayer rule to finding occasions when we can actually do something fun and enjoyable. As we continue learning how to manage this together, we are learning a lot about God and our vocation as a celibate couple…but we also find ourselves exhausted much more often than we used to.

We absolutely love blogging. Interacting with you folks through comments and emails is a huge blessing to us. We try to post something at least three times a week, but sometimes we can’t do more than two posts. Occasionally, we may take a week or two off blogging if we sense that God is asking us to rest for a bit. Now that all Christians East and West have plunged into the season of Lent, it is the ideal time to take an occasional break and use that extra time to focus on preparing ourselves for Pascha (or Easter, if you prefer). All this is to say that we will continue to post something (usually more than one thing) every week. We’ll get back to the Saturday Symposium questions when we know that we’ll have enough energy to engage with readers who respond. And we’ll continue working our way slowly through our inbox.

Much love and many hugs,

Lindsey and Sarah

The Beginning of Gender

A reflection by Lindsey

I’ve been trying to sort through my own questions about faith, sexuality, and gender for nearly two decades. It hasn’t been a smooth or glamorous journey. Along the way, I’ve been amazed by the number of Christians I’ve met who respond to my questions with various short answers to shut down conversation. I’ve lost track of people who have told me things like “There’s no such thing as a gay Christian” or “The opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality; it’s holiness.” Like any other culturally contentious conversation, the talking points have shifted over time. Tracking the conversations over the past several months, I’ve observed a Back-to-Genesis approach where conservative Christians say things like, “The scriptural view of human sexuality is that God formed man and woman in His image (Gen 1:27-28) and these two were to become one flesh (Gen 2:23-24).” The quote can fit into a single tweet if one takes out Scriptural citations. I’ve started to see a greater reliance on this particular argument as conservative Christians have started to grapple with questions about transgender people. My goal in writing this post is to provide food for thought that moves respectful conversation forward.

One benefit to looking towards Genesis 1 and 2 is that these chapters describe our relationship with God before sin entered the world. They contain the beginning of our collective story as being God’s beloved creation. We share our status as creation with plants, animals, the stars and moon in the sky, oceans, and the earth itself. It’s important to remember that Genesis 1 and 2 discuss only the beginning; if we want to discuss the ending of our collective story, we’re left to puzzle through many of the obscure pointers found in Revelation or the various teasers scattered throughout the New Testament. The Gospel of John opens by echoing Genesis 1 to establish Christ’s presence and work at creation. We gain new insights into creation when we consider Genesis 1 and 2 as the beginning of our redemption where Christ is the author and perfector of the rest of the story.

Genesis 1 and 2 tell us about the beginning of gender. In Genesis 1, we read humans are created in the image of God as male and female. Genesis 2 provides more context by describing the creation of Adam and Eve. The Genesis account of creation centers on two people, Adam and Eve, to whom God had said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” As much as I do not wish to quibble with the text, it seems abundantly clear to me that two people could never fulfill this call by themselves. These commands are given to all of humanity where we all do our best to conform ourselves to God’s likeness as we do the difficult work set before us. Our God is a triune God and is therefore fundamentally relational and communal. If we are created in God’s image and likeness, then we are fundamentally relational and communal as well. One reason why the world was so good at creation is that no relationships were broken. Adam and Eve had a one-flesh relationship because Eve’s flesh was formed directly from Adam’s. Vulnerability existed without shame; Genesis 2 ends with “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

Our lived experience of what God intended for us changed radically in Genesis 3. As wrongdoing entered into the world, so too did fear, shame, blame, and bloodshed. Relationships between creation, Eve, Adam, and God changed drastically. The relationship between man and woman was not the same: “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

These observations matter when we consider what Christ said when quoting these parts of Genesis. In Matthew 19, Jesus says to the Pharisees,

“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

When his disciples ask more questions to try to understand, Jesus says,

“Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

It’s worth noting that Jesus is responding to a question about divorce. Jesus quotes Genesis when asked about people who are already married. Christ, who knows God’s creative intent, pulls from Genesis when discussing male and female while going beyond the creation narrative to discuss eunuchs. I believe any person commenting on sex and gender would do well to consider how eunuchs make valuable contributions to the human experience, even as we should acknowledge how eunuchs are not generally discussed in the Scripture. It’s worth mentioning that eunuchs are important figures in the books of Daniel and Acts.

When I think about the beginning of gender, I find it helpful to think about other facets of creation. Creation began as God said, “Let there be light.”  On the first day, God divided the light from darkness to create Day and Night. However, night does not lack light. On the fourth day, God created the sun and the moon. Day, night, light, and dark blend together. There is a seamlessness as all of time comes together. On the second day, God divided the waters to create dry land. But the land does not lack water. Not only does rain fall to nourish the plants that grow on the land, but also water collects to forms lakes and rivers. We also know water gathers under the land, making it possible for many people to access freshwater. Without the small proportion of water that is freshwater, life as we know it couldn’t exist. The water cycle gives people a way to conceptualize what is happening as water moves throughout the earth. Every photon and every water molecule serves as a marker for God’s amazing activity during creation.

When we are talking about the mystery of humanity, every person shows us something of the image of God. We can speak of Adam and Eve as prototypes of a sort for male and female, but these two people do not have a monopoly on the category. It would also be difficult to figure out the fullness of God’s intention for us as people simply by looking at the beginning of our collective story. We must consider the mystery of humanity through the words of Christ. Could it be that Christ knew that there would be people who blended male and female such that some would be eunuchs? Do we have space in our theological imagination to see seamlessness as human beings created in the image and likeness of God?

Comment Policy: Please remember that we, and all others commenting on this blog, are people. Practice kindness. Practice generosity. Practice asking questions. Practice showing love. Practice being human. If your comment is rude, it will be deleted. If you are constantly negative, argumentative, or bullish, you will not be able to comment anymore. We are the sole moderators of the combox.

On Taking the Bible “Seriously”

When Christians disagree with each other on important theological questions, it can be easy to declare that the other person is ignorant, intellectually dishonest, or clearly missing the meaning of critical texts and simultaneously assert that you have come to the proper conclusion–end of story. Listening to the conversation about LGBT people in the church, it’s common for to hear some variations of “People who think you can be gay and Christian are twisting the Bible to say what they want it to say” or “Those who advocate for same-sex marriage are trying to throw 2000 years of Christian teaching out the window.” Rarely do these quick judgments prove true. In today’s post, we’d like to discuss why the claim “Any person who wants a same-sex marriage cannot possibly take the Bible seriously” is problematic.

Amid the polarized debate, the conclusion that “God can and does bless same-sex marriage” is sometimes referred to as a “Side A” or “LGBT affirming” position. Here at A Queer Calling, we purposefully abstain from debating the permissibility of same-sex marriage or whether gay sex is a sin. If you want to participate in those debates, there are plenty of other places on the internet to do so. This post is not an apologetic for a “Side A” position, but is rather an attempt to shift the conversation away from polemics. Agree or disagree with progressive Christians who support gay marriage, it is generally a good idea to avoid writing a person off as a rebel, a heretic, or a revisionist before actually attempting to see where that person’s argument is coming from.

Taking the Bible seriously means carefully considering its claims relative to one’s Christian tradition. Christians throughout the centuries have wrestled with the Scriptures, and certain passages are better known than others for leading to conflicting interpretations. Consider:

  • So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.’ John 6:53-56
  • Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 1 Corinthians 6:27-29
  • Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:5-6
  • And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 16:18-19
  • But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
  • Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.  1 Timothy 2:11-12
  • Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. Romans 14:13-14

Theologians within every Christian tradition can examine Scriptures, shake their heads, and wonder how seemingly intelligent people from other Christian traditions can miss theological truths that are blatantly obvious. Each Christian tradition offers guidance on how to interpret the Scriptures, and interpretation sometimes varies widely. Roman Catholics can read Matthew 16 and wonder how it’s possible for any Christian not to accept the Pope as Peter’s successor. Many Protestant traditions read John 6 as symbolic and allegorical. The United Church of Christ has a different interpretation of Scriptures than the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. If the PCUSA held to identically the same Scriptural interpretation as the Roman Catholic Church, then these two bodies would likely be much closer to each other in doctrine. Oftentimes, Christians from different interpretative traditions can agree on which Scriptural texts apply to certain theological debates.

We know a lot of people who believe that God blesses same-sex marriages. The vast majority of these friends are LGBT Christians who came to their conclusions only after devoting themselves to rigorous study and prayer about what the Bible teaches about sexuality, relationships, marriage, and the human condition. Whether one agrees or disagrees with their conclusions, it’s neither helpful nor fair to assert that these people have not considered what the Bible says. Many have turned to Scriptural interpretation tools within their Christian tradition in order to wrestle meaningfully with relevant texts.

As we have traveled on our own journeys with faith and sexuality, we’ve been blessed to meet so many friends searching the Scriptures using the light of their Christian traditions. Is Genesis 19, Leviticus 18 and 20, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and 1 Timothy 1 the right textual corpus to use when discerning one’s sexual ethic? What did Jesus say about marriage? How do the Scriptures bear witness to marriage? Where can we look in the Bible to discern what God wants for married people? What does the Bible say about gender and gender roles? What do we learn if we search the text for all instances of the words “sexual immorality”? Are there places where Christ surprised people by how he responded to those in sexual sin? How have the Scriptures been used to defend human sinfulness, particularly as it relates to slavery and misogyny? What is the historical context around particular verses? Are there parallel accounts in the Scriptures that can provide additional information? How has my Christian tradition understood celibacy? Which Biblical commentaries are accepted within my Christian tradition? How does reading alternate translations challenge my understanding of the texts? How does Christ love the Church? How do the commitments people make to one another mirror Christ’s love to the Church? It would be difficult to catalogue all of the thoughtful questions raised by friends who have concluded that the Bible is silent on the topic of loving, committed, monogamous, lifelong same-sex relationships.

We also know a lot of people who believe that the church should not bless same-sex relationships as marriages. Many of these friends belong to Christian traditions that clearly proclaim marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. For people holding this viewpoint, what benefit is there in talking with a Christian who believes that God can bless same-sex marriages? Why is this point of view worthy of any respect? People ask us this almost weekly. First, the Bible is most living and active when one searches the Scriptures to guide one’s own life. Trying to live out one’s convictions means going beyond hypothetical scenarios. The Bible can speak to us when we approach readings by asking questions and seeking illumination from the Holy Spirit. Discerning one’s sexual ethic or vocation necessitates asking a lot of questions. Second, listening to a person from a different Christian tradition can give you insights into your own tradition. Call us nuts, but some of the best questions we engage in involve people in different Christian traditions. Theological thinking works differently across various traditions. Seeing another’s theological approach can challenge us to explore our own tradition more fully. Third, developing relationships with other Christians can provide mutual aid and support. Even if you think that a person is seriously theologically mistaken on one issue, do you want to go so far as to say that person doesn’t have a relationship with Christ at all? Asserting that any person who advocates for gay marriage does not take the Bible seriously comes close to saying that person does not value growing in Christ. Even across our most vigorous disagreements, as Christians we should hope that the Holy Spirit is at work in everyone’s lives. It’s possible to believe that a person is wrong while still respecting the intellectual processes that person has used to reach his or her current conclusions. We all are works in progress, relying on Christ as the good shepherd to lead us.

Comment Policy: Please remember that we, and all others commenting on this blog, are people. Practice kindness. Practice generosity. Practice asking questions. Practice showing love. Practice being human. If your comment is rude, it will be deleted. If you are constantly negative, argumentative, or bullish, you will not be able to comment anymore. We are the sole moderators of the combox.

50 Shades of Grey and the Dangers of Soundbite Sexual Ethics

A reflection by Sarah

This is a difficult post for me to write. It’s hard enough to talk about sexual violence and abusive relationships as a gay Christian, and sometimes I think it’s even harder as a celibate person. There’s no way out of controversy when there are people on one side telling you that you’re celibate because of your abuse history and people on the other side telling you that your abuse is what caused your sexual orientation. I’ve sat on this post for almost a week, but I’ve decided to write it because I believe we need to have more meaningful conversations about sexual ethics. The new 50 Shades of Grey movie has ignited conversation in diverse internet communities. Christians, feminists, survivors of sexual abuse, liberals, conservatives, and people at the intersections of different communities have used the movie’s release as a springboard for conversations about abusive relationships. While I’m grateful for everyone who is writing to raise awareness of any kind of abuse, I’m saddened that the resulting conversation in Christian circles does not include more critical discussions of pitfalls in both progressive and traditional sexual ethics.

I think this issue hits me in the heart because I was once in a relationship with a woman whose personality bore considerable resemblance to that of Christian Grey. This relationship was one of the many non-celibate relationships I was involved in before meeting Lindsey. I have neither been in an intentional BDSM relationship nor participated in the broader BDSM culture, but after reading 50 Shades of Grey I began to see frightening similarities between the titular character and this woman from my past. She was obsessively controlling, used manipulative tactics to fashion my “consent” around her own desires, focused entirely on meeting her needs in the relationship with very little mutuality, and viewed my role in the relationship as satisfying her sexual cravings. She was so charming with all of her friends, colleagues, and associates that no one would have suspected the depths of what was happening between us. This person knew how to manipulate my emotions such that my heart would play easily into her hand. At times I felt so drawn in that it was nearly impossible for me to see I was not being loved. She had a way of whittling down my emotional defenses to the point where she could convince me that I actually did consent to sexual activities that would terrify me. At times we would lie in bed talking, and the next thing I realized was that I was being blindfolded and having my wrists tied together with rope. Of course she told me that she would respect my limits. Of course she told me that we could stop at any time. Sometimes my fear would overtake me and I would begin to cry. She would respond with, “What the hell is wrong with you? Let go of your childish nonsense!” before asking me if I wanted to continue. Everything about how the question was asked told me that there was only one acceptable answer: yes, I want to continue. Yes, I give you my consent. If I tried to test alternative answers, the berating would continue until I gave in. She made it abundantly clear to me that the purpose of our sexual interactions was to meet her needs and I was not in the driver’s seat. That was the price I had to pay if I wanted to continue to be with her.

Time and again, she asserted that no one would ever want to be with someone like me and incorporated litanies of my real and perceived failings as a person. I was a total loser if I was unable to meet the goals that she had set for me. At every turn, she found ways to criticize me. I recall a time when I picked her up from the airport and she spent the entire drive yelling at me for being 15 minutes late and not finishing enough work during the days she had been away. There was constant critical commentary about my body size, my clothes, and what I did or did not eat. I distinctly remember her denouncing one of my favorite summer dress as being too childish and babydoll-like, especially on a body that had recently put on weight. One evening we were planning to go out to ice cream after eating dinner, and she declared that I didn’t deserve any ice cream until I could figure out how to make myself look like a “real adult with a real job” rather than a “fat child in a sundress.” If she discovered that I had a friendship or a meaningful relationship with any other person that she didn’t know every last detail about, she would accuse me of engaging in an emotional affair and shame me for desiring emotional intimacy with any person other than her. She was effective at isolating me from my friends despite her regular complaints about my never introducing her to them. On rare occasions when friends would express concern about my relationship with her and she found out about those conversations, she would bark, “You have no business saying a damn thing about our relationship to anyone!” Often at these times, she would offer me a monologue that I had practically memorized by the time our relationship ended: she was the one who had worked through all of the issues in her past, I was clearly full of red flags, she should have known better than to get involved with me, and I was lucky that she even wanted to look at me.

Rarely, I experienced moments of clarity about the abusiveness of this relationship. There was a time (actually, there were several) when I tried to reach out to clergy and other spiritual directors for some help with regard to this situation, and it always made matters far worse. On one occasion I sought the advice of a spiritual director I had been seeing temporarily after my previous spiritual director had moved away. This person’s counsel boiled down to, “Everything that has happened to you is evidence of the depravity of gayness and of same-sex relationships.” From his point of view, the situation I was in was my own fault because I had chosen to be a lesbian and I had chosen a way of life that “everybody knows” is totally hedonistic and abusive. There was no focus on connecting me with resources or help. The focus was on importance of seeing my sexual identity as “that of a woman” because in his mind I was confused about God’s plan for womanhood and was too hard-hearted to admit it. He refused to help me any further unless I would assure him that I would make every effort to stop being a lesbian. Knowing it would be impossible to change my sexual orientation and highly unlikely to find theologically sound advice on this problem from other potential spiritual directors I had access to at the time, I gave up on the notion that leaving the relationship was even possible. I left spiritual direction that day with a heavy heart, feeling like a wretched human being unworthy of love from God or another human being.

I chose to tell this story because ever since I first summoned the courage to read the book, it has been painfully obvious to me that in many ways, this past relationship of mine was only marginally different from the relationship dynamic between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. Yet, no one — not even the most traditional and theologically conservative of spiritual directors – would use this book to denounce the total depravity of heterosexual relationships as a broad category. One can find counter-examples aplenty of wholesome heterosexual relationships yet remain blissfully and willfully unaware of similar counter-examples in the LGBTQ community. For so many people on the Christian Right, any problem, any emotional unhealthiness, any instance of abuse in an LGBTQ relationship can be traced to the presence of homosexuality within that relationship. This is low-hanging fruit and ignores a host of relevant sexual ethics (and general Christian ethics) issues. I have yet to see a person who identifies strongly with the Christian Right address this hypocrisy. If my former temporary spiritual director’s attitude is any indication, I’m guessing that most would not find it important to engage in critical discussion about consent, psychologically healthy relationship dynamics, etc. in LGBTQ relationships. I hope I’m wrong about that. Please, take this as an invitation to prove me wrong about that.

Looking beyond LGBTQ-related topics that would be good for discussion in light of the 50 Shades of Grey movie release, several additional issues in sexual ethics also remain insufficiently explored in the Christian blogosphere. Some Christians discussing 50 Shades of Grey zoom in on the observation that the sex occurring in the book and movie happens outside of marriage, leaving the distressing question of “Would the sexual relationship between Christian and Anastasia be morally acceptable if they were married?” wide open. I wonder if those claiming that any kind of sexual activity is acceptable within the confines of marriage actually believe what they are saying. If “anything goes in marriage” is your sexual ethic, are you willing to give your stamp of approval to a relationship in which one spouse disrespects the other’s limits or fails to stop when asked? I also wonder about the acceptability of BDSM activities from the vantage point of “rightly ordered sexual activity is open to procreation.” If your sexual ethic can be summarized as “sex must be intercourse that is open to children and between a husband and wife only,” is that inclusive of married heterosexual couples who are part of the BDSM community? If a BDSM experience between a particular husband and wife always ends in intercourse that is open to life, is that couple practicing a traditional sexual ethic? Then there are all sorts of questions about  wisdom that has made its way into broader discussions about consent partly because BDSM exists. Concepts like limits and safe words are used in “vanilla” relationships as well as BDSM relationships. If your sexual ethic does not include space for BDSM practices, can it rightly include elements that have been heavily influenced by the BDSM subculture?

It’s critically important to discuss matters of sexual ethics beyond when sex is permissible. Sex can be a great gift. However, giving blanket moral approval to “sex within marriage” or “sex that is open to life” hides ways sex can be misused. People living in diverse situations are puzzling through questions of sexual ethics. When discussions of sexual ethics among Christians are entirely restricted to the importance of being married before having sex or the importance of sexual behaviors being open to the creation of new life, people are guaranteed to have unresolved questions. There’s also a huge risk for dismissing (or in some cases, justifying) abusive behavior inadvertently, especially in relationships that are easy for some people to write off as sinful and unworthy of discussion related to abuse. I’m left wondering: how can Christians create spaces for people to discuss sexual ethics holistically, receive support for dealing with abuse in relationships of all kinds, appreciate how sexuality manifests in diverse vocations, and acknowledge how major contributions to our collective thinking about sexual ethics have come from unexpected places?

Comment Policy: Please remember that we, and all others commenting on this blog, are people. Practice kindness. Practice generosity. Practice asking questions. Practice showing love. Practice being human. If your comment is rude, it will be deleted. If you are constantly negative, argumentative, or bullish, you will not be able to comment anymore. We are the sole moderators of the combox.

Limitations of Language and the Challenge of Being Human

Figuring out how to be a human is surprisingly difficult at times. Our lives are marked by seasons of discovery and inventiveness as we journey through our lifespans. There is no telling how our lives will change, especially if somewhere along the way we commit ourselves to following Christ. As St. Irenaeus once said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” As Christians, we find ourselves in places where we strive to unite ourselves fully to Christ, discover who God created us to be, and do the things God would have us to do during our earthly pilgrimages. God, in infinite majesty and greatness, has crafted every single human being as a unique person.

Only God can know the full depths of what it means for a specific person to become fully alive. God alone is the Creator. God, in mercy, has created humans to be relational entities where we do our best to walk alongside one another while we follow Christ. To say that being a human is necessarily mysterious concedes that God alone has full knowledge of what this means exactly.

The mystery of the human person has been present since creation. Genesis 1 establishes that all people have been created in the image of God where gender, sexuality, our relationships with other humans, and our relationships with all of creation are part of the mystery of being human:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

Entire libraries could be filled with writings by humans puzzling through the nature of this narrative in Genesis. Becoming the person God has created one to be is the lifelong task of every Christian where each person must figure out how to be faithful within his or her uniquely individual set of circumstances.

There is potential for transformation every time a person enters his or her prayer corner to encounter God. Solitude has an important place in our spiritual journey. In solitude, God can meet us in our most vulnerable places and open to us new vistas of possibility. God meets us in solitude to convict us, to console us, to encourage us, to comfort us, and to guide us. God often enters into our lives when we least expect it because God, in wisdom, deems it to be the proper time.

Sharing with other people what God reveals to us in solitude can be a challenging process, especially amid cultural expectations that place particular ways of being as higher than others. Cultural tropes abound. Everyone should be married and have children. Doctors and lawyers have the most respectable professions. If you have the capability to earn a lot of money, then you’re selling yourself short if you work at a lower paying job. We seek God’s voice amid the cultural clamor that cries loudly, “Walk this way!”

There are many writers on the internet who decry the cultural clamor around gender and sexuality. We have argued that it’s critically important for every person to have space to discern his or her specific vocation. Others believe that the cultural clamor exists because the world has been remade by people who describe themselves using LGBTQ language. Recently, one has written in reference to us and our blog:

They consciously have chosen not to refer to themselves as a “chaste lesbian couple” because only one of them views herself as a lesbian. The other member of the couple hasn’t decided yet what her sexual identity is. She seems to believe that “Choosing A Letter Is Complicated.”

The author of this piece takes Lindsey’s unwillingness to associate with a specific letter of the LGBT alphabet as a signal that Lindsey hasn’t made a decision about sexual identity and is confused. The author operates under the assumption that LGBT people are seeking to adorn themselves which whatever en vogue description feels right. However, we need to consider the purpose of language. People use language in an effort to communicate something about our own experiences. Language about being human is necessarily limited because we are all scratching at the surface of profound mystery. In solitude, God has shown Lindsey how different facets of who Lindsey is work together in Lindsey’s celibate vocation. Some facets Lindsey chooses to discuss publicly while other facets Lindsey chooses to discuss privately with close friends and Lindsey’s spiritual director. Discerning how to best communicate one’s experience of sexuality and gender, and finding that a complicated task, is not the same as shopping at a boutique. Sexuality and gender are a part of the mystery of being human; we’re not going to have perfect language to communicate what God is showing us about ourselves at all times.

God also has a way of challenging Christians to swim against various cultural currents. We both work as teachers and have encountered plenty of people who believe that “Those who can’t do, teach.” If one is part of a cultural context where a teaching career is viewed as a consolation prize for completing university while being incapable of becoming a doctor, lawyer, or engineer, teachers are bound to find ourselves on the receiving end of negative and ignorant comments from others based upon what broader society assumes about the profession. It doesn’t matter how much one excels at teaching or senses a deep and abiding sense of peace when pursuing a teaching vocation: there will always be people who are absolutely convinced that teaching is a second-rate career and will continue to make erroneous statements about teachers as a whole. Similarly, in conservative Christian traditions, there will always be people who prefer to avoid acknowledging the mysteriousness of human sexuality and insist that nothing good can possibly come from using language other than “man” and “woman” to discuss the complex issue of sexual orientation. Just as it is easier to dismiss teachers as humans of lesser intelligence than it is to have a real conversation about the vocation of teaching, it’s easier to write off celibate Christians who use LGBT language than to consider the possibility that none of us know as much about God’s design as we would like to think we do. It’s also easier to take cheap shots at a person who stumbles over the limitations of language than to make an honest attempt at journeying alongside that person.

Every Christian is a work in progress. All of us are doing our best to discern who and what God is calling us to be, and each of us has different needs as we walk with Christ each day and work out our salvation. Considering that nobody walking this earth today is God, said journey ought to be undertaken with patience, humility, and charity toward others, which necessarily includes willingness to extend grace in conversation. The two of us are not perfect that this. We pray about it, and we work on it day by day. Our hope is that in time, the tenor of conversation about LGBT language will change for the better. But that can only happen if every person involved becomes willing to admit that being human is complicated, and that none of us will have God or ourselves figured out in this lifetime.

Comment Policy: Please remember that we, and all others commenting on this blog, are people. Practice kindness. Practice generosity. Practice asking questions. Practice showing love. Practice being human. If your comment is rude, it will be deleted. If you are constantly negative, argumentative, or bullish, you will not be able to comment anymore. We are the sole moderators of the combox.