Forsaking the Gay Identity
Leaving homosexuality is much more than quitting a certain sexual behavior. It involves deeper issues, one of which is the person’s identity. For many men and women in the gay life, their " sexual orientation " is the center of everything they conceive themselves to be. When coming to Christ, this false image must be dealt with. In the following teaching, Love In Action director Frank Worthen discusses this vital topic.
"Who am I?" is one of the most basic questions we can ask. The answer to that question determines our sense of self, the way we look at who we are. The answer is basically the label we have accepted on our life. There are good labels or there are defeating labels, yet we all adopt the one that seems closest to the truth.
We hear people labeling themselves; "I am an alcoholic" or "I am a smoker." But are these are labels the truth? Often the labels loom so large that people cannot see beyond their own self-appointed, self-inflicting labels.
Surely the smoker does other things than hold a cigarette, and the alcoholic has other facets of his life which are separate from his drinking. Yet we all accept labels because they are the easiest and quickest way of identifying ourselves. However, labels have a hidden danger. They block change in our own life; there is a finality to a label which hinders faith and growth.
"People can recover from the symptoms of mental illness, but they don’t recover from a label," said Karl Menninger. Most labels rob us and are far from the truth. They play up only one facet of our lives while denying that there are others.
When asked at the judgment seat of Christ what we did with our life, who would want to reply, "I was a smoker?" Who would want their obituary to be titled, "Chain smoker dies in San Rafael?"
In thinking about the gay "label," there are many questions that can be asked. Just how did we acquire the label in the first place? Why are we so reluctant to let go of it? We’re so insecure that we opted for a label, any label? Did others place that label on us and we accepted and believed it? Is it now so ingrained that we feel it would be dishonest to given up?
Perhaps the truth is that an identity is needed so that all the other floating pieces and parts of our life will have some kind of an anchor. It is interesting that secure people seldom think about their identity, while the insecure are constantly protecting their chosen label.
Breaking The Label
What will it take to break the label "homosexual" on our lives? It will take nothing less than the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Scripture tells us that we are new creatures. We read this and may even say, "Amen!" But we know that the old dies hard and that the new is always challenged.
"Nothing is changing," we complain when tempted, sinking into the throes of depression. "God’s way doesn’t work." Those at the opposite extreme say, "I am completely changed; nothing about me is the same." Unfortunately, this bold claim is usually a denial of ongoing struggles.
The truth lies somewhere in the middle: change is a long-term process. All who seek the Lord will find themselves on that road of change. There are a few short cuts. God allows us to pass through trials and defeats. Each struggle is designed to help us grow in some area of our life.
The day that we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, we will not be finished with our old lifestyle. Its effect will still be seen in our life; old patterns do not die overnight. But as each day and year progresses, a new lifestyle will emerge. The old will truly pass away and the new will replace it.
How far can you go? Perhaps a better question is, "How far will you go?" You can progress as far along the road of change as you allow God to take you. To enjoy new life requires a new way of relating to God. We cannot receive from a distant God, but only from a Father and a Friend.
As we come to rely on God, giving up our expectations and allowing Him to change our lives in His timing and according to His purposes, new life will come. As the distance from where we began increases, we can truthfully give up the label "homosexual" on our lives. We will not be in denial, avoiding the facts. The change will be real and we will have a whole new life experience. How long this will take can vary from person to person, but it will usually be a period of years.
The time could be shorter, but most of us "drag our heels" along the way. We get sidetracked by Satan who tells us to ignore what God has done and to concentrate on some immediate problem. As our belief fades away, so does our victory. It is always easier to look back, to revert to old ways than to look forward into the unknown.
The enemy has an advantage over us. It is human nature to see the negative things and to ignore the positive. This is why God told the Israelites to write all He had done for them on their doorposts and even on their clothes. Although Israel witnessed mighty miracles, they longed to go back to Egypt. This is our battle, to correctly evaluate our situation and give God the glory for what he has already done.
Do we have a part to play or does God supernaturally change us? Are there some magic words that begin the change process and keep it moving along? The answer to these two questions is this: God does the changing. A look at 1 Peter 5:10 clearly shows us that God does the work.
"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace—Who imparts all blessing and favor—Who has called you to His (own) eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen (and settle) you." (Amplified)
Notice the phrase, "After you have suffered a little while." Satan has plans to devour you. To withstand him, you must be firmly rooted in faith, standing strong, immovable and determined.
So we also have a part to play. We can never change ourselves, but we must stand on God’s promises, never giving in to the attacks of the enemy.
Much of the suffering we bring upon ourselves. Satan brings a word of discouragement and we accept it at face value. Satan says, "Nothing is happening, you are not changed." We echo the very same words to ourselves and to others, "Nothing is happening in my life. God is not working, I am not changing." We should take to heart the last verse of Hebrews 3:
"So we see that they were not able to enter (into His rest) because of their unwillingness to adhere to and trust and rely on God—unbelief had shut them out." (Amplified).
Faith requires us to have an excitement and enthusiasm about what God is doing in our lives. Faith will lead us to new life. Faith does not operate in a state of denial. It is never untruthful, distorting the facts or ignoring urgent problems. Faith is excepting God at His word.
At times, we must question our feelings and emotions. We cannot allow them to have full control of our lives. There comes a time when we do what is right even though our feelings are telling us something quite different. The truth is always on God’s side. When feelings and emotions come in conflict with the truth, then God must prevail.
We bear the responsibility of separating ourselves from our past identity. We cannot continue to function in the gay lifestyle in any way and think that change is going to happen automatically, regardless of what we are doing. Paul makes all this very clear in 2 Timothy 2: 22 and 23:
"So whoever cleanses himself from what is ignoble and unclean—who separates himself from contact with contaminating and corrupting influences—will then himself be a vessel set apart and useful for honorable and noble purposes ... Shun youthful lusts and flee from them, and aim at and pursue righteousness ... and aim at and pursue faith ..." (Amplified)
Elsewhere, Paul says: "Come out from among them." (2 Corinthians 6:17) He also warns us not to be deceived by companionships which "corrupt and deprave" good morals and character. (1 Corinthians 5:33, Amplified)
There can be firm in new identity until the old identity and all that is associated with it is cut off. This is the way we cooperate with God in the change process. God will freely give us the wisdom to build a new lifestyle and a new identity.
As identity begins to change, often we come into a no man’s land where we are in strange and unfamiliar territory. We no longer belong in the gay world, yet we are not comfortable in the heterosexual world. At this point, our identity seems to be lost. There is no word to describe who we are or where we are.
I once coined the term "stray" (neither straight nor gay) to describe this disturbing transitional period. I am often asked if this is a normal state in the change process. I think it happens to most people making radical changes whether it involves homosexuality or not. The unknown is always uncomfortable. It is precisely this period that we must rely on our faith to get us through.
Most ex-gays go through a period where they feel like celibate homosexuals. They may lose hope of going further and attempt to become comfortable in this place. But God does not want to end in their growth in the middle of His transformation process. He has a new life that is far removed from anything homosexual.
If our identity is no longer linked to homosexuality, what then is our new identity? Our identity is in Christ. If we need a label, then it must be " Christian." God does not label us by our sin and neither should we. At first thought, "Christian" may not seem like sufficient identity. But, in reality, it is more than sufficient.
Living the Christian life is no easy thing and there will be a multitude of challenges, but living in right relationship with God will provide us with all we need in every area of life. The Lord made us and He knows our needs far better than we ourselves. May God shall supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 19)
Reprinted with permission from New Hope Ministries, PO Box 10246, San Rafael, CA 94912-0246. (415) 453-6475 Website: http://www.newhope123.org/