I encounter a lot of people who wonder why I serve with the ministry of New Direction. It is true, that historically many of the leaders in such ministries have been individuals that experience same-gender attraction. People ask, “What exactly is the connection for Wendy?”
Recently, someone assumed I held a ‘side a’ gay affirming perspective because of my openness to affirm the true Christian faith of gay-affirming Christians. This individual also took the few sentences I shared of my personal journey and assumed I was a lesbian. One of my facebook friends who is gay felt I should take that as a compliment …. though in this particular conversation it was certainly NOT intended as a compliment.
So….. am I gay? Am I same-gender attracted? Am I bi-sexual? Am I fluid in my sexuality?
There are times that I make intentional, but subtle, remarks that could lead to inference or confusion ….. for example when I say, “I’m mainly heterosexual.” Now, in part, I’m just being a bit of a wise-ass when I say that – but on the intentional side, I’m seeking to challenge the black and white notions of sexuality that many conservative Christians hold. I think it is important for those who feel they are in the ‘sexual majority box’ to reconsider that there isn’t just a “right” and “wrong” box of sexuality to put people into. I view sexuality on a continuum. And yes, there are individuals who hit the extremes on either end – but there are a whole lot of folks that land somewhere between those two poles. This continuum affects so much more than just our type of desire for genital sexual intimacy. It encompasses our spirituality, our emotions, our desire for companionship and soul-nourishing relationship. In this understanding of the fluidity of sexuality, I would be the first to say that my own sexuality is fluid. Given that I think our sexuality is, to some degree, impacted by our experiences, and given my story, that shouldn’t be a big surprise.
When I was 13, I met a new teacher at school. She was smart and seemed so confident and sure of herself. And to my utter surprise – she took an interest in me! I began to babysit for her – and we would talk and talk and talk. It seemed like for the first time in my life someone was really listening to me – really valuing my thoughts and ideas. She chose me to be in her canoe for a week long school trip. She chose me. I couldn’t believe it. And by the end of the week – it was a done deal. We were soul mates, kindred spirits, no one else understood me like she did, no one cared for me like she did ….. and though I didn’t know it at the time – I was smitten. I had allowed my heart to open up – and all the need and all the fear and all the insecurity of my whole life rushed in with the reckless hope that finally I would be loved.
This relationship lasted for nearly 10 years. By the end, I had turned my back on my family, my heritage and my church. What I didn’t know then – and could not see for many years – was that this was my initiation into what would become a life-strangling co-dependent relationship.
Wikopedia loosely defines a co-dependent person as someone who exhibits too much and often inappropriate caring for persons who depend on them.
Though the relationship was never a sexual one – as I look back it is very clear to me that had she ever introduced a sexual element, I would have been a sitting duck. I was so vulnerable during those years.
The relationship ended badly. She went through a difficult period in her life, and finally facing the extent of the unhealth of our relationship told me, “You’ve ruined my life – I don’t ever want to speak with you again.” I was devastated to the point of being suicidal. After so many years of my life being so enmeshed with hers – I didn’t know who I was, didn’t know what I believed, didn’t know where I was going ….. I was a sorry mess.
Unlike all the self-help, self-improvement stuff available – I found that I didn’t have the resources within myself to recover from this loss. This was a whole lot deeper and more entrenched than just learning to think positive thoughts. I couldn’t heal myself. I couldn’t even fully heal through loving, healthy relationships with other people – as important as experiencing community is. I needed someone bigger and more powerful, more trustworthy, more perfectly loving – someone who I could know that I know that I know loves me, won’t leave me, and sees me in a way I can’t even see myself – sees me as whole and confident – sees me as someone who can love, and contribute, and make a difference – someone who’s life matters.
I’ll never forget the first time I heard the song, “I will change your name”.
I will change your name You shall no longer be called Wounded, outcast Lonely or afraid
I will change your name Your new name shall be Confidence, joyfulness Overcoming one Faithfulness, friend of God One who seeks my face.
This idea – that my past was not my destiny – that who I was did not determine who I would be …. This sense of empowering healing gave me an unshakable gift of hope.
For years, I wondered why so much of my life had been swallowed up in so many years of identity confusion and unhealthy relationships – what purpose could that possibly have served? Today, I see the fingerprints of God all over my life. And I’m grateful for the way God has shaped me to embody and advocate for generous spaciousness.
But for those of you who are gay reading this, you will recognize that what I describe is quite different than the individual who persistently and pervasively experiences a gay orientation.
So, no….. I’m not gay. If I was, I would be unashamed to say so. But that is not my experience. This means I will always be limited in fully and completely understanding what it is like to stand in the shoes of a brother or sister who is gay and wrestling mightily with God to know his will for their life. This means that I try to lead with listening and to engage with humility and to love with an unconditional robustness that breaks down any sense of “us and them”.
And if people assume I’m gay because I love gay people – so be it.