At the Courage conference last week in Chicago, Annette and I had the privilege to testify on the glorious challenge of forging a marriage in light of my same-sex attraction and her sexual abuse—two gifts that keep on giving! Actually, we are gifts to each other who through the grace of Jesus’ cross have delighted in our co-humanity for nearly 40 years now.
We spoke candidly on our intimate life. We wanted to break the false yet common assumption that chastity always involves abstinence. Not so. Chastity is integrating one’s sexuality in such a way that frees one to be faithful to God in singleness or marriage. If married, that means being faithful to the one you actively engage with sexually. For us, chastity invites us into a robust sexual life that celebrates this bond of two–body, soul, and spirit.
The context mattered as Courage has not majored on marriage and the person with same-sex attraction. One might get the impression (however erroneous) that Courage is comfortable supporting singles en route to chastity but uncertain about whether God calls persons with same-sex attraction to marriage. Untrue. Many Courage members are married. And in truth, Annette and I are treated with such dignity in the Courage world. For Annette in particular, the Courage family has been the most warm and consistent and hospitable to her than she has experienced in any other comparable network.
Nevertheless, you could say that marrieds are underrepresented at Courage. Several members have questioned my call to marriage as if my diminishing same-sex attraction invalidates that call. Or disables it. Not true. I am convinced that persons with a background of same-sex attraction who become espoused to Jesus and who ‘work the program’ of acquiring self-control and activating their gender gift for the other become the best spouses. We rely on Jesus and are intentional in our love for this other. We make great lovers. Period.
And we realize that chaste lovemaking—earthy and sensational as it is–must take place in the context of a greater regard for the whole person. We prepare for nakedness by disclosing—fully clothed–our dirty secrets, our ragged complaints, and our gratitude for this person before us who seeks to give all to us. Surrounding our sharing is the grace of Jesus. He gave all, He gives all still, and that makes all the difference.
I close with this brief note I recently found from Annette, fall ’82. It represents for me the foundation for chaste sex. ‘When you remarked on my complexity, I began to reflect on how profoundly the Lord has transformed me. He has wrought changes in me that have created a new heart: a soft, feminine one, not the hard protective shell of a heart I had when we met three years ago. Thank you for standing by me. You represent security to me—the Lord has used you to give me a kind of permanence I’ve always needed. I love you very much.’ Annette
I usually hate to travel during this desert season but I could not resist the temptation to invite myself to the first assembly of 100 Living Waters members and leaders from four robust groups around Poland.
Under the strong leadership of Father Joseph and a national team of clergyman and lay persons, the Poles have taken up this work with an unprecedented focus and strategy. Joseph and tribe translated Living Waters, secured the theological blessing of the Polish bishops for the guidebook, mobilized male and female lay leaders to coordinate the groups, and enlisted Catholic priests—all admitted wounded healers— to work with them from the start. That means these healing groups will have the advocacy of the Church and Her sacramental worship.
Polish St. Faustina and St. John Paul ll must have smiled as I engaged with sinners of many kinds whom Jesus is transforming to take their places as part of His healing army. These sinner/saints embrace strugglers who often have given up on the Church until Jesus encounters them and urges them homeward.
My friend Jacek left the Church to pursue homosexuality and at the nadir of his sensational misery met Jesus in a ‘gay’ bar where Christ audibly asked him: ‘Do you want to belong to Me or not?’ He did, and began his re-engagement with Christ through the Living Waters community. After a history of sexual abuse, many male lovers, and a psychotic break, Karin could not overcome her depression until a friend invited her to the Living Waters pilot group in her city. She found the Man of her dreams who is freeing her from the darkness.
Part of my goal was to instruct all 100 to effectively share how Jesus through His community is satisfying their desires with good things. God confirmed our efforts at our Sunday Mass which featured St. John’s account of the Samaritan woman (JN 4). Jesus encountered one far from God and brought her near to Him through the water that cleanses and the blood that gives new life (‘living water’).
He did so by kindly revealing her false lovers. Jesus loved her thoroughly: exposing her poisoned well in order to satisfy her fully with Himself. Her response was to declare to all who would listen that this Man highlighted her shame in order to surpass it with His glorious love. So we departed Warsaw that weekend, refreshed in the mercy that empowers us to well up like a fountain for all who thirst.
‘We remove the organ and deny the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise.’ C.S. Lewis
‘And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children.’ LK 1:17
John took a deep breath when he read Tim’s (his teen son) virtual correspondence with a ‘boyfriend’ on the west coast. Any concern about his son’s sexuality was starkly realized in that moment. Rather than shrink back, John knew he had to act. But how? Never close with his dad, Tim at 15 seemed further away than ever.
Yet the two shared more common ground than was apparent. Father and son loved Jesus, father and son shared some relational brokenness: John from sexual abuse, Tim from a neglectful father. In truth, both wanted more from each other and did not know how to bridge the gap.
As father, John knew he had to act first. Provoked by Tim’s ‘gay’ explorations, John knew that he had to draw near to his son while he still had a window of opportunity. He began by expressing loving concern for his son. Tim at 15 was not a ‘gay man’; he was a boy experiencing same-sex desire and acting upon it in a popular, destructive way. Unless he confirmed Tim as a man, John knew that his son could be lost to the confirmation of the ‘gay self’ and ‘culture.’
And the Holy Spirit was at work in Tim. When he looked over all the pictures he had taken of himself and his new ‘gay’ comrades in California, Tim observed that he was becoming a different person. His ‘look’ was imbued with an alien attitude. He did not like it; somehow he knew that the ‘gay’ sensibility was at odds with his faith and who he in truth wanted to become.
John began to envision his son with new options he might explore to become that man. In the same breath that John asked Tim to break off relationship with his new ‘friend,’ the father invited his son discover these options. Together. That included getting help for their wounded relationship, church activities, even a mission trip in which they faced beauty and hardship as father and son.
A boy becoming a man also needs space and grace to work out his decisions apart from his parents. Tim drew strength and confidence from some good pastoral help designed for him and his needs.
I had the privilege of seeing Tim and John the other day; I witnessed a strong alliance between father and son. John is actively raising the boy he sired, and Tim is exhibiting a new solidity as the young man he is becoming.
God is turning fathers toward their sons, and sons back to their fathers. He is giving men back their ‘chests’: dignity and confidence in the strength the Father entrusts to His sons.
As I looked out at the Latinos who had come forward to ‘clean house’, I was struck by their radiance. Though time-worn, their faces looked new; defilement underfoot, they beamed like virgins. Pure gratitude shone from hearts washed afresh by the blood, water and Spirit. I marveled at this corporate witness of our faith’s most basic truth: Jesus makes all things new…
Such cleansing required good hard work from all who attended our Living Waters Training in the flowering hills just south of Mexico City. Natural beauty hid a slew of demons—lay leaders and clergy from around Latin America had resumes of sexual abuse, sexual addiction, adultery, and religious abuse, with generational sins empowering shame and lust. Young ones among us bore the mark of ‘gay’-affirming mandates from nations like Argentina, and Mexico which approved ‘gay marriage’ just days before the US Supreme Court did.
Our international leadership team entered into the battle being waged for souls, and had to contend with irrational forces seeking to weary and divide us. God sustained us through His Spirit; we responded through constant prayer. We offered ourselves at Jesus’ altar on behalf of all who had been sacrificed on the altar of lust—an altar constructed by a culture of honor that neatly hides the violence of sexual sin committed against the most vulnerable.
I thought of Mary Magdalene from whom Jesus expelled seven demons. In His delivering Spirit, I called all who already had confessed their sins to renounce the demons that had empowered those sins. Like Jesus, we were taking authority over our own temples and casting out robbers who had desecrated our ‘homes.’ The Spirit, the blood, the water— gifts that confirm what Jesus has already done on our behalf —converged to renew us in the almighty tenderness of our God.
When He draws close, the demons tremble and we must act decisively. He is holy. Intimacy with the holy God requires that we refuse the idols around which demons congregate. We did just that. God came in power and cleansed us powerfully so He could dwell with us. We are His; virginal sons and daughters.
Like Mary Magdalene, we embody His witness. Jesus makes all things new!
‘What counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule.’
(Gal. 6: 15b, 16a)