Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Into the Shadows of Shame

There are some things that I know, without a doubt, are absolutely wrong. There are things that are most definitely sin - without debate. These are things that can only cause harm and draw all involved into the shadows of shame. These are things that I am capable of.

It has nothing to do with me being gay. It certainly has nothing to do with me being Christian. It doesn't even necessarily have anything to do with me being a man. Yet, I know that there is an absolute distinction between a loving relationship and a lustful encounter. No excuse can be made for such things - neither being gay nor even simply struggling with same sex attractions, nor being forgiven and under grace, nor having gone without sex for a lengthy period of time. There is no rationalization that can be made when certain actions clearly fall within the category of "sexual immorality".

We can engage in a dialogue about whether or not same sex loving monogamous relationships are acceptable to the Lord. Some may say that these relationships are acceptable because of its loving context. I would think that it's difficult for other people to conceive of such a thing - being more focussed on the same gender aspect of the relationship rather than acknowledging the loving aspect of the relationship. I have seen these kinds of relationships and what I find difficult is saying that what they say is love - actually isn't. How can an outside observer really measure what is in a couple's heart? If you spend enough time in relationship with these people, you will find it difficult to deny their genuine love for one another because you will see good fruit.

However, what I feel must be made clear is that there is a distinction between loving gay relationships and unloving sexual interaction. We really have to be honest with ourselves - are we connecting in love or are we colliding in lust? Now, the application of God's grace through Jesus Christ is definitely relevant because we are allowed to approach the Throne. But as we approach the Throne, we must do so honestly.

I am a sinner. There are things that I've done in my life that I am ashamed of. Things that I know do not fall under the category of love. These are things done either in my mind or in the physical world. I know what it's like to burn with passion. I know what it's like to desire something that is not of God. I know what it's like to experience the temptation of my flesh and to purposely ignore the cries of the Spirit so that I may indulge in only moments of pleasure. I know what it's like to flee and run and hide in the shadows afterwards, knowing that my sin shames me to the point of not being able to look at my Lord in the eye - much less at myself in the mirror. I know what it's like to wonder, "how in the world could God ever redeem me and how could God possibly use me for His will when I have such dirty hands and an impure heart?"

You see, there's this dynamic of realizing the ramifications of my sin. I know that I am forgiven and that I have grace available to me, but there are still consequences that I have to live through. I call this the "fall out" of my sin and it makes me cry out, "Lord, what have I done!?" I realize that i was completely selfish. In lust, it's more about what I can experience than what the other person feels and it's about if I can somehow get more. It's about me degrading the person - whether consensual or not - objectifying the person's body without any regard to whether or not the person is experiencing shame or not. I also realize that there are effects left behind after the sin. We are both left with shame - this is clearly evident when one of us quickly makes an exit. But what if the other person doesn't know how to handle that kind of shame? What if the other person can only cope by medicating the pain? More sex. Drugs. Violence. Suicide. I know, that even in my shame, the Lord is working in me - convicting me, restoring me, teaching me. But I don't know what's going on in the other person's heart or mind. What if I caused the domino reaction of instability in another person's life that caused or contributed to serious harm - or worse, made the person's heart that much harder towards God?

I can only leave such things in the Lord's hands. Yet, this is a burden that comes with the "fall out" of my actions. I know that this journey of mine takes me down a road consisting of thoughts I used to consider taboo. However, it's easy to mix these things up with things that are still taboo. If the Lord would lead me to it, I would want a life-long loving relationship with another person. But I must make that distinction between love and lust because I know that the Lord would never lead me down a road of such selfishness. It's not just my life at stake.

2 comments:

JJ said...

This is actually kind of hilarious, because I wrote a post last night that talked about lust too... I didn't post it because the post was inspired by a conversation with a friend and I wanted to ask her if it was okay first (I just got an email giving me persmission to post it so it will be up shortly). I just think it's funny that we're sort of thinking about the same thing.

I will be praying for you as you sort through this.

*Christopher said...

Eric,

One of the things that I greatly appreciate about St. Augustine and Martin Luther is their understanding that no matter how "right" we get it, we get it "wrong". We're both saints and sinners. Indeed, the greatest saint knows she's the greatest sinner and gives all the more thanks to G-d.

Even in loving relationships, gay or straight, we are sinners. Lovemaking with my partner can be profoundly connective and holy and iconic and yet there is still probably some bit of selfishness even in the connecting. And sometimes married or partnered folk sin in their lovemaking more openly in lust as well for getting their needs met rather than sharing with their beloved. Some brands of Christianity too quickly divide light and dark and the result is a self-righteousness that can justify none of us.

Also, I do wonder why we get extremely hung up on sexual immorality, mind you, I'm not dismissing it, but not on economic immorality in our households (gluttonous spending and consumption) or in our nation as a whole (the level of poverty in this country is astounding. One in five children go hungry every day in the U.S.A.). It seems we're so focused on sex, we've forgotten to love our neighbors as ourselves in the most basic ways.