And now, the exciting, action-packed conclusion...
What I found, instead, was even more questions. God was still there and just as present as ever, but rather than provide me with any resolution he simply prodded me to keep pressing further. In the process he began bringing people into my life to walk alongside me and help me work through that seemingly endless list of questions. I met several of those friends through the ministry I was involved with throughout this time, and they've continued to support me as I've begun to reach conclusions that I once would have considered unthinkable.
Even the ministry's leaders, though they disagree with some of my conclusions, are willing to remain my friends despite our differences of opinion. They would even agree with many of my criticisms of Exodus and its political allies. As I've said before, they're not your typical Exodus-affiliated group.
At first I stayed close to home, as it were, reading through a stack of ex-gay books and articles. This time around, however, I was unable to shut my eyes to the stereotypes, the bad psychology and the shallow theology that the authors invariably built their cases around. Once I did begin to explore outside the bubble I'd spent so many years inside, I was surprised to find people of sincere faith who disagreed with the things I'd assumed to be true (and was now questioning), individuals who couldn't be easily dismissed by painting them with the "liberal" label.
From there I turned to theologians that conservatives hailed as the best and the brightest on the issue. Instead of better answers, however, I discovered that their entire case rested on questionable assumptions, circular reasoning and faulty sociological data, and I ultimately came away from their books with an even longer list of questions, as well as the suspicion that I could make their world a happier place by putting a bullet in my head. I was still skeptical of some of the claims made by the pro-gay theologians I read, but they did have some very good points that nobody on the other side seemed interested in honestly addressing.
Even so, a part of me continued to insist that the conclusions I was gradually coming to couldn't possibly be valid. Every step of the way I would stop, dig in my heels and ask God to rein me back in. He never did, but instead continued to confirm in a thousand different ways that I was still on track. And so, inch by inch, never pushing or prodding, God gently led me away from the church's traditional stance on the issue of homosexuality. The results of that process have been chronicled here on my blog over the last several months.
I still struggle with that little voice, which continues to inform me that God is just letting me run wild so that I'll fall flat on my face and he can drag me back into ex-gaydom once and for all. And I haven't completely ruled out that possibility. Having doubts is part of being human, and I can choose to trust in God despite them. Rather than simply bury my fears (can I really be certain where they're coming from?), I use them as opportunities to turn to God one more time to make sure that I'm still on track. As much as I've gained through this process of self-acceptance and truth seeking, I don't want to become so rigid in my beliefs that I become unable to hear his voice.
I have little doubt that an Exodus booster could come up with a reply detailing what I did wrong and a list of ways in which I've "turned against God." And if there really were "hundreds of thousands" (or even a tenth of that number) of once-gay individuals who had achieved the change that Exodus advertises, I'd be inclined to consider the possibility. But there aren't very many people at all who have become heterosexual (or even bisexual) through ex-gay programs or reparative therapy, and at the same time there are more than a few gay Christians whose lives point to the work of the Holy Spirit inside of them, despite their "lifestyle choice."
So while I do still have a few reservations in the back of my mind, the time has come for me to put the conclusions I've been reaching to the test. Not through promiscuity (as most Christians would automatically assume) or anything of the sort, but simply through engaging in community with people that I once would have considered 'untouchables,' and through allowing myself to experience these emotions that I'm finally beginning to access for the first time. Emotions do need to be reined in and kept in proper perspective, to be sure, but they are at the same time a major component of what makes us human, and I'm done with trying to pretend that mine don't exist or that I can wish them out of existence.
As for the specifics of the questions I've asked over that time, they're scattered throughout my blog here (both in past posts and in ones still rattling around in the back of my head). Feel free to disagree with any conclusions that I reach; I am, after all, as finite and fallible as the next person. For my part, it's enough to know that I'm finally engaged in the journey that God had planned for me all along.