Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Olivia, uncensored

Disclaimer: this post is going to shock a lot of people. Maybe even offend some. It’s not meant to be dramatic; it’s just my real life and my attempt to live honestly and be humbly transparent about my walk with Jesus.

I have given my testimony twice. In both cases it was a real struggle to tell the story of how God has worked in my life, because I felt like I couldn’t see God’s hand through most of it. So it seems like a godless story with no good ending.

But my dear friend Carolyn spoke some true encouragement to me. She said the amazing part of my story is that I’m still here. I still stubbornly, obstinately believe, despite a life filled with doubts and questions about my most basic nature. Somehow, through periods of wanting to give up on Jesus, wanting to cast off all the teachings of Christianity and just let my conscience be my guide, Jesus hasn’t given up on me.

The most powerful verses in all of scripture for me are Romans 8:38-39. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In fact the whole of Romans 8 is especially encouraging to those who feel lost and defeated in the Christian fight. It’s quickly becoming my favorite passage in scripture.

On Sunday at church Pastor Rob spoke about singleness and how to view it as a gift and not a curse. Amazingly enough, this is actually not one of my top struggles right now, even though I have been single all my life and often longed for some kind of intimate relationship. I enjoy being single, because I think through not having a commitment to one person above all the other people, I’m able to better serve more people.
I am pretty content with being single to the point that I sometimes think about whether I’m supposed to be single my whole life. It doesn’t scare me as much as I would think. But I also am learning not to try to predict the future in my life. I’m obviously supposed to be single right now, since the right person is clearly not in my life, and I’m happy with that, so that’s all that I need to worry about now, rather than borrowing trouble from my future. That’s just fear, and I’m learning to not live in fear.

But despite all that, this week has been a real struggle. I question what my purpose is in being in Dayton, and in life in general. I don’t feel like I’m making enough of a difference. And as I’ve been owning up to one particular struggle with some of my friends, the devil has been seizing opportunities to steer me off the path of following Christ.

I am primarily attracted to women. This is news to a lot of people, and is a secret I’ve been carrying around for a couple years, letting it eat away at me. Some people have discouraged me from talking about it, or ‘coming out,’ because they think this is a temporary phase that I will get over if I don’t think about it or talk about it too much. Well I’ve tried that approach, and let me tell you, all that leads to is self-loathing. It cultivates this destructive feeling that there’s a part of you that’s too shameful and scary to admit, or to even think about. And it has caused me to ask God, over and over, “Why would you create me to be something that you loathe, if that’s really the case?”

What makes this struggle even more complicated for me is that I’m not exclusively attracted to women. I’ve had some foolish make-out sessions with some guys and hated every second of them, but I do appreciate male beauty and find that part of me craves a stable male-female family dynamic in that hazy future possibility where I’m married and raising children. I don’t know how I would ever get to that future from where I am now, because getting close to men is really hard for me. I have trouble trusting them, partly because I tend to assume they’re really only paying attention to me because of my double D-cup breasts. However, there are some wonderful men in my life who are showing me that this is not the case and is in fact me sinning by pinning a pretty heinous prejudice on them that’s completely undeserved. To those men, I’m really thankful for you, and I’m really sorry for judging you in that way.  But getting back to the point, I do recognize in myself some kind of desire to be with a man, and while it’s weaker and completely contradictory to my desire to be with a woman, it’s valid, and denying it is just as damaging to my soul as denying the female attraction has been.

I spent the week wondering, “What if none of it matters?” which is a scary thought for anyone, and is often discouraged by Christians. But I value every question that my mind wants to ask. If I stuff down questions, especially the weightiest ones, my faith will become superficial. But I’ve been struggling more this week than any I can remember with a desire for sex. Yes I still want to be single, but I’ve been distracted by a desire for intimacy with a girl. I know I couldn’t justify a random hookup with a girl, or a casual encounter with one of my current girlfriends, but my body has been craving it so strongly. I actually want to have a moment of weakness so that I can fulfill these desires, and then deal with the aftermath of my violated conscience later. Because part of me wants to explore that life and see if I can prove everyone wrong, that God doesn’t care if I follow that path. Because maybe none of it matters anyway, right? This is temptation, and the scariest part is the way it has entered my dreams.

Last week I had an intensely vivid dream about kissing a girl that was so real that I can still feel everything I felt in the dream. And the complete implausibility of the situation doesn’t do anything to shake its hold on me. When Satan invades your dreams, he’s out for blood. The scene ran through my head, and really my whole body, nonstop for the next three days, throwing my soul into intense confusion about where my allegiance lies.

Do I follow God or do I follow these deep, controlling, unmet desires? That doesn’t sound like too much of a dilemma when you step back from it. Duh, follow God. But what if the teachings about God’s view of same-sex relationships have been all skewed by sin and prejudice and hatred of anything different, so you’re not even sure what following God looks like in this situation? This next statement will make some people mad, but the thing is, much of the church’s position and attitude toward gay relationships have been so polluted by hate that it’s hard to see any God in them. I’ve struggled with taking a stand on this issue for years now, and I truly do not know what God wants for gay people, but I know it’s not a life of self-loathing, which is a cancer created almost entirely by the doctrine of hatred and exaggeration and misinformation that has been preached from church pulpits and church-backed organizations for decades.

So last week was hard. There have been a lot of conflicting thoughts, desires, fears and beliefs waging war inside my soul. Also my uterus staged a coup and overthrew all my internal organs on Wednesday, so that didn’t help.

But I suppose the good news is, I came out on the other side of a week of constant temptation, and while I let a lot of fantasies play out for too long, I did not act out in any way of which I can be ashamed. And on Sunday I made a decision.

I like to think I can make difficult decisions once and then live them out without any trouble forever after that. I think the conversion moment is sometimes falsely presented as that. “Ask Jesus into your heart and the rest is easy.” But the decision to follow Christ is a daily, hourly, moment-by-moment battle.

“Then (Jesus) said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” Luke 9:23.

There’s two ways to look at that. One says, “Well dang, my act of obedience this moment isn’t worth much since I’m going to face the same temptation again in five minutes.” The other recognizes the second half of that statement, but also rejoices that every time you deny temptation, that is evidence of God working mightily in you. For someone who has struggled to see any trace of God working in her life for the past 21 years, those are powerful words. If I was tempted 48 times today and each time turned away, God was with me 48 times today giving Satan and his lies an ass whooping never to be forgotten. I’m really thankful for that.

But where does that leave me? I can’t in good conscience accept everything that is preached about gay relationships from the traditional biblical perspective right now, even when they are finally stripped of the hate that has clouded the intended message. It’s not a satisfying answer for me when I try to apply universally to my other gay friends this idea that all gay people are called to involuntary celibacy all their lives. However the defenses of gay relationships leave me with a lot of questions as well, because while I agree with the logic point-by-point, I wonder what other kinds of things could be justified by that same logic.

I have felt paralyzed by this fence-straddling position for so long. In fact it is really the tear that almost completely unraveled my faith over the last year. I’ve spent hours crying out to God to please give me an answer on either side so I could move on from this state of limbo, and heard nothing from Him. I questioned every spiritual experience I had ever had, wondering if it was all a meaningless emotional high. I wanted to know what faith was, because I couldn’t define it in any real terms linked to my own experience. I knew it wasn’t just constantly being on an emotional spiritual high, and I knew it wasn’t just a matter of having enough facts to back up claims. It was something stable that tied those two together, but didn’t depend on moods to make it feel real.

I’ve chronicled my journey of discovering what faith is for the past eight months on this blog. The part I haven’t included, mostly out of self-preservation instincts, was the reason for the struggle. I can’t really explain why I decided to lay it all out today, but I am hoping that something in here will speak to some others that may be experiencing a similar struggle, even if for a different reason.

The decision I made came as we sang “Give Me Faith” at church. I got stuck on this line, as I often do: “All I am I surrender.”

Really, God? All I am? That’s an awful lot. I don’t even like most of what I am, so why would I give it to you? That’s my typical response.

But Sunday was different. I mentally added this to the lyrics: All I am, including my sexuality and all the confusion and pain that comes with it, I surrender. Because God accepts all I am. His acceptance isn’t conditional on me ignoring my sexuality. It’s the opposite. He wants me to see myself as a broken person made whole through Him, not someone who has to fake a certain identity to be whole.
“And he has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

And I was finally able to move on to the next line in the song. “I may be weak (read: I AM freakin’ weak), but your Spirit’s strong in me. My flesh may fail (WILL fail), but my God you never will!”

I don’t have the answer I’ve been looking for this past year. I don’t have a permanent, one-size-fits-all answer (I don’t know that there is one), but what I have is enough. I have Jesus, leading me daily. Following Jesus will not take me into sin. Right now, God is calling me to be single, and to be pure. For my weak flesh this will be a struggle, but I’m holding fast to the promise that God is with me in every temptation.

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13.

I’m clinging to the promise that the life of obedience to God that He has planned for me is more full, more wonderful and more satisfying than the one of obedience to my desires that I would have chosen for myself.
 It’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18.

It’s been a little while since I blogged last. Blogging has become a cathartic way for me to sort out my tumultuous musings. And I know I may sound strong and faithful in these posts because I end them on a somewhat positive note with encouraging scripture references, but talking the talk and walking the walk are such completely different things. I liken my faith and my life to my Ultimate skills (more accurately my lack thereof).

On the sidelines, I can practice planting my left foot, pivoting around it and throwing a strong forehand or backhand throw around a defender, and making intelligent, reasonable decisions. It looks like the eight months’ worth of coaching I’ve received from 15 different Frisbee enthusiasts is starting to take.

But on the field during a game, it’s a totally different story. Once that disc is in my hands, my feet falter, I’m off balance, and my mind is panicking. I’m just as likely to throw a wobbly flick to a handler behind me as to completely fumble and throw away the disc, forgetting everything I’ve been shown. It’s a constant frustration to me, because as I walk dejectedly back to the line after my team lost a point on account of my error, inevitably someone will come to tell me what I did wrong.

But I already know. Unfortunately, knowing it in my head is not the same thing as actually knowing it in my hands when game-time emotions are running high.

So please pray for me. Because writing all this stuff about my determination to follow Christ doesn’t necessarily translate to living that out daily and hourly, and I really need support.  


  1. I also think the church has misrepresented God in dealing with homosexuality. For different reasons then you, I have been struggling with some similar faith issues and hoping to understand exactly how God views us and interacts with us. I choose to hold onto "God is love" and not "God is love, but only if you are x, y, and z."

    Laying this out must have been a little nerve-wracking, but I hope you know you are always safe with me (and my family). You are Olivia no matter what, and I love you.

  2. Dear Olivia,
    You have courage that I don't understand even at my age. While our struggles may be different, your willingness to voice them publicly shows strength and courage. You are loved and prayed for. May you find peace for your journey!!