Allan’s Story Part 2 – The Source of My Shame
This is the second of a multi-part blog that chronicles Allan Edward’s journey from discovering his same-sex attraction to how he responded, and what his faith in Christ meant for him all along the way.
“So, how do you identify yourself?” That’s the question I’ve tried to answer to friends, in-laws, and even a reporter from National Public Radio. (To listen to an interview with Allan and his wife, click here: http://www.npr.org/2015/01/04/374857829/a-pastor-moves-past-his-attraction-to-men-and-so-does-his-wife)
As a Christian kid, having erotic fantasies about other guys on an almost daily basis shocked and surprised me. I went from not completely understanding what was going on in my heart and mind, to understanding that what I was doing was wrong. And when the guilt and shame set in, the identity crisis began.
Let me be clear about the source of my guilt and shame. Although I was raised in an evangelical home, there weren’t thundering sermons in my church attacking the “gay agenda.” There weren’t a lot of jokes at our family gatherings about effeminate men. Honestly, there was very little talk about sexuality at all.
A lot of people who experience same-sex attraction and grow up in a Christian context do experience shame when their community is full of harsh language about homosexuals. Homosexual behavior is certainly sin, and same-sex attraction is not God’s design for human sexuality, but the fact that same-sex attraction and behavior has been lifted up as the ultimate sin by many in the Christian community has not helped Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction find grace and repentance. Making one sin the sin hasn’t represented the gospel well to the watching world.
Pointing to one sin pattern as the cause of all societal ills isn’t in line with the gospel of God’s grace. As Paul reminded the legalistic Christians in Rome, God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4). Such kindness has been missing in the words and actions of the church, however. Instead, hateful words and ignorant speech have enveloped many people who experience same-sex attraction in shame and have even contributed to destructive decisions.
My own experience with shame wasn’t birthed from such an environment. I was the son of two loving parents and an older brother to two awesome younger brothers. I grew up in a church that preached God’s grace as the only hope for all people, not just one kind of sinner or another. My home, my family, and my church didn’t teach me to hate or fear same-sex attraction. I believe I felt guilt and shame because I was keeping a secret. I was a performance-oriented kid who loved to please my teachers and parents. But now, I was harboring a secret, and I was convinced that if I told anyone, I would have to stop.
Honestly, I liked how it felt to fantasize and please myself. It wasn’t long before I knew that what I was doing was morally wrong. But more important to me than doing what was right was feeling good.
You see, I’d always been a sneaky kid. I’d sneak cookies and candy. I’d sneak downstairs to watch television. And now, I was sneakily making myself feel good by objectifying my classmates.
The thing about a sneak is this: If he’s good at it, he’ll still look good to everyone around him. I was a sneaky kid, and I felt guilt and shame because I knew I was living a lie. On the outside I was a good kid, but on the inside I was nurturing a habit that turned people into objects for my pleasure.
Lies tend to be found out—and mine was no exception. Soon my fantasy life turned to a secret obsession with pornography, and that obsession would be discovered by my parents, forcing me to have a frank conversation with them. You’d think they’d naturally become a new source of shame for me. While they were certainly confused, my parents showed love, not hate; care, not condemnation. Sin brings shame, but a loving parent can turn shame into hopeful resolve.