In the course of updating my tagline last week, it occurred to me that the statement "This blog is the chronicle of my efforts to reconcile my faith with my sexual orientation, without losing my faith in the process" would likely be interpreted by some who disagree with my conclusions to mean that I was picking and choosing those beliefs that would enable me to "justify my lifestyle" (whatever that really means).
That's not at all the way that events unfolded, but I know that there are those who will nonetheless hold unwaveringly to their preconceived conclusions about my motives (or, barring that, will insist that I have been "deceived by the devil" with equal dismissiveness). To them, there's nothing more to say; perhaps one day they will come to understand that their judgments reduce others to two-dimensional caricatures, and that this is as grave a sin as any committed by those they condemn, but until that day there's little dialogue that can take place when one side is unwilling to listen.
And it's easy for me to fall back into the pattern of giving those individuals the power to define my life for me. In fact, it's downright hard sometimes not to slip into those old, familiar cadences of shame, fear and condemnation. It's so easy, in moments of doubt and insecurity, to forget how much more anxiety I lived with back in the days when my focus was on winning the approval of the evangelical community I'd always called home.
Of course, there's now a part of me that wants to react to their stern disapproval by fighting back, by throwing condemnation back in the faces of those who would try to manipulate me into conforming to their expectations, by denouncing them and the tiny box they've constructed to contain the God they purport to serve. But to focus on them to that extent, even negatively, is to allow them to continue to wield power over me, and as such no less idolatrous than it was to worry about winning their approval in the first place.
After all the effort God has undertaken to get it through my thick skull just how much he really loves and treasures me, I should know better. Whatever sins I may have committed along this leg of my journey, the greatest was allowing the voices of other human beings (no matter how wise and authoritative I once thought them) to drive a wedge between me and the One who created me.
That said, I can't think of anything I've written on this blog that I would retract. The process of being forced to reexamine my beliefs in depth has led me toward a purer understanding of the faith I've adhered to since childhood, and helped me to begin stripping away the layers of cultural baggage, political entanglements and majoritarian biases that have all but smothered the essentials that still lie waiting to be rediscovered at the core of the Christian faith.
And it hasn't been as much of a solo effort as it might seem. God has brought friends into my life at precisely the time I needed what they had to contribute to my explorations (and vice versa), in addition to the support and feedback I've received from those already in my life. I've also benefited from the writings of others who have undertaken similar journeys, whose works have so often come to my attention just when I was ready to hear what they had to say.
Not that I would claim to have any special revelation from God; none of the conclusions I have reached so far lie beyond that which many other Christians have rediscovered. I am no more or less fallible than anyone else, but I cannot turn away from the path that God has set me on just to appease those who claim to speak for him, even if the majority still follow their lead. I do not want to be an anarchist, but neither can I avoid responsibility for what God has entrusted to me by abandoning it at the behest of some human authority.
I can no more go back to letting others define my faith for me than I can go back to subsisting on milk fed to me through a baby bottle. Life would be so much simpler if all of its issues and conflicts could be resolved by referring to simple lists of dos and don'ts, but it's too late to turn back to that state of blissful immaturity. There's nothing left to be done for it but to press forward, trusting God to guide even when the path is less clearly defined.