Telling My Story

I know I haven’t blogged in over three years. That is for several reasons. One was because I started working in social work field and two years of my time was doing foster care. Another reason is that most of what was on my mind was related to faith and sexuality and I wasn’t ready to process my thoughts publicly. However, this summer I began making preparations for talking about this openly.

This morning, at my home church in Muskegon, I shared a great deal about the journey I’ve been on the last several years. A copy of what I read this morning is below.

November 17, 2013

To my Calvary Family:

It’s good to be here this morning with friends and family. As we have been wading through what God has to say about our human sexuality, we’ve reached a topic of conversation that we as a community do not engage with very often: Homosexuality.

I have not often talked about this topic outside of close friendships, but when I heard that Calvary was spending time trying to better understand those who experience life as a “sexual minority” I felt that I needed to contribute.

I am one of you. I worship with you, serve with you, rejoice with you, celebrate with you, and weep with you. However, I am also gay.

I did not choose my sexual orientation. I did not choose to only be attracted to people of my same gender. However, this is the experience I found myself in as I entered into puberty and started growing into an adult.

As I fought through adolescence trying to ignore my growing attractions, I assumed this was something that would fall away as I grew into maturity. However, I was alone with my thoughts, feeling afraid that I could never be honest with anyone about this. The first time I came out to anyone was to my good friend Jeremy. When I finally said the words, that I was attracted to men and not to women, he showed me love and acceptance. He told me that he would always be there for me and that our friendship would not change because of this.

He helped me find the courage to talk about this with more friends and pastors. Despite great fear, I opened myself up to more believers that I trusted, and I found many loving people who accepted me and supported me. They gave me a great environment to keep processing my experience, and they stuck with me faithfully when I experienced the highs and lows of trying to figure out what it all meant.

As I stared into an unclear future I knew two things:
1) I was exclusively attracted to other men.
2) I desired to live a “normal” life with a wife and children.

Four years ago, I entered into professional counseling to talk about my conflicting desires, and hoping that maybe I could find the cause of them so I could deal with it and experience the “normal” life I wanted. A definitive “cause” never surfaced, and I don’t believe it ever will. I learned to let that part go. And, after much counseling, prayer, and reflection, I realized that my attractions were not changing. I also realized that I did not wish to bring a woman into what would surely be a complicated and difficult marriage.

I was faced with a choice of how I would live. I had grown up my entire life in the church. My convictions were strong. My faith was not simply a matter of the intellect, but was deeply rooted in my heart. Faith was not something I could simply “take off” or set aside. I continued to study Scripture and God affirmed the conviction I held that same-sex sexual relationships are not what God desires of us. In light of this, I found that the only decision I could make that would be consistent with my experiences and my faith would be one of celibacy.

Celibacy isn’t a word we use a whole lot these days. It is a ‘churchy’  word that means a person will not engage in any sexual intimacy for either a period of time or for one’s entire life. But I’ve also come to see that it’s a positive calling towards serving the Kingdom without the responsibility of a spouse. While a life of celibacy is what God has for all of us who are unmarried, it is not assumed that many believers will take on this burden for a lifetime. The assumption is that all will eventually get married and pursue a spiritually, emotionally, and physically intimate relationship with their spouse. But for me, I had to work on figuring out what it would look like to never pursue a sexual relationship with another. I had to face a future that would set me apart from my friends and peers:

I would never have that one person whom I cherished above all others.
I would not have that partner who walked with me through all of life’s good times and bad.

I was choosing a life where I would have few people to look to as my role model. I was choosing to spend many evenings alone. I was choosing to open myself up to a deep pain and loneliness that would be hard to combat no matter how strong my faith was. I still have times where it feels overwhelming to look ahead to my next 60 years. However, I have remained convinced that this is the life God has for me.

I will not lie to you. This is often a difficult road to walk, trying to be faithful to the Gospel’s demand on my life. We all are called to sacrifice much in order to best follow Christ. My sacrifice just happens to include sexual intimacy.

I have continued along this path as I have served among you and share life with so many of you. Several close friends have been there every step of the way. They’ve cried with me, encouraged me, welcomed me into their families, and allowed me to pour out onto them all the extra time and love I have to give.

Some of you may be wondering right now why I would feel the need to share so much of my story with everyone here today. Trust me when I say this was not a decision I came to lightly.

While I have several “safe spaces” where I can talk about the joys and sorrows of my life, the broader Church has been very much a “don’t ask, don’t tell” environment. I read a sermon this summer that explained this really well.

Pastor Dan Scott from Christ Church in Nashville preached on homosexuality back in June or July. Some of you may have read or listened to this same sermon as Pastor Bill and a few others shared it on Facebook. I appreciated the entire thing, but a couple of points really stuck with me. Allow me to highlight them:

“It would be far healthier for a church and its people if a homosexual person were able to appropriately reveal their struggle than to force him or her into a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation. When congregations quietly accept a person’s contribution to their church while suppressing the reality of their struggle, it corrupts the integrity and witness of that church. It also creates denial mechanisms that disillusion individuals who grow up in that church.”

“The bottom line then is that many people we love are attracted to members of their own sex. Just like the rest of us, they struggle to live godly lives. If they are not welcome among us, or if we must shame them into an unreasonable silence about the nature of their struggle, we simply don’t have much to offer the world except condemnation. For all these reasons, we must become more mature in the way we deal with our friends, family and brothers and sisters in Christ who experience same-sex attraction.”

It’s as if what we communicate by our silence is that I will remain a welcomed part of this community as long as I don’t talk about this aspect of my life. I would not say that this is intentional, but it is an unhealthy dynamic that exists within the church. I came to see that one of the only ways to help make the church a safer place was to step up and speak. That’s why I’m up here sharing this morning. That’s why I’m opening myself up to answer any questions you all may have. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ll gladly share my heart with you all and keep the conversation going.

I stumbled upon this quote from Tim Keller last month and found it to be profoundly relevant as to why I felt I needed to share this morning.

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything.”

Another great thing that I found was a blog post written by a man named Matt Jones. He recently came out publicly and wrote some beautiful articles about the reasons why he chose to begin talking openly. I found that I resonated with these reasons and wanted to share a few of them with you.

Matt says, “This isn’t just about me. There are still countless men and women whose knuckles turn white when the pastor mentions homosexuality because, suddenly, he’s talking about them, who feel like they are walking this path alone and are haunted by anxiety that someone may discover their secret. I know they are there because I’ve been one of them.”

He continues, “Living out of the closet as a celibate, gay Christian gives me the opportunity to speak to a world that has lost its mind when it comes to sex and relationships. The culture at large (including the Church) has drunk deep the lie that sexual activity is essential to being human and that true joy or flourishing are impossible to find outside of a romantic relationship.”

After all that, Matt says, “As I stand up and speak out, reminding the Church what it is called to and how it could love more fully those in and outside itself, the Church will do the same for me. I’m choosing to live openly because I love the Church too much to let it love LGBTQ people so poorly, and because I know that as I press into it I, too, will learn to love better.
“And so we will all become a little bit more like Christ, together.”

For ALL of these reasons, I felt it was important to help open up the dialogue at Calvary by sharing my story.

And to the Church family that has mentored me and encouraged me these last 12 years, thank you.

In Christ,
Andrew Asdell

PS: A word on causation. 40-50 years ago, a common psychological theory was that homosexuality is caused almost exclusively by very dysfunctional parenting. The popular theory attributed male same-sex attraction to a distant father and over-bearing mother. Social research has by and large disproven this theory. Many who experience same-sex attraction do not come from these dysfunctional homes, and conversely, many who have had traumatic or difficult childhoods have grown up to be straight. I want to clarify that I, in no way, believe that my upbringing created these desires within me. No unifying theory of causation has been determined. It is likely a very complex combination of factors, and knowing the exact cause of same-sex attraction does not make a difference in how we in the Church are to love others and treat those who are different from us.

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25 thoughts on “Telling My Story

  1. Andrew….I have always respected you and our friendship even though we lead such different lives. That respect has just grown to a new level. I am looking forward to your blogs and learning so much more from one great guy. Much love and Heart peace to you. colleen

  2. hey Andrew. Thanks for being brave enough to speak out. I think you said a lot of good here. I personally don’t think that those who are gay have to remain celibate, but I validate your choice, and I support you in your journey. God bless my friend.

  3. Andrew, you have the courage of Daniel in the Lions den and the wisdom of Soloman! I love you and I’m very proud of the truthful, godly, caring and compassionate Christian man you have become. God truly blessed our family that wonderful day HE mad me your mother!

  4. I definitely agree that celibacy is the only way for a Christian who has same-sex attraction to live in holiness. Just like any unmarried person should also be celibate. We all have sinful desires within us. Some sins are socially acceptable, like gluttony. How many of us eat like there’s going to be a famine tomorrow? I think the key is to put God first, and ask him to keep us within his will. When we desire something else more than him, it’s idolatry. Most of us idolize ourselves, and indulge our passions, and insist on our rights. I’m not homosexual, but I’m not real keen on sex either. Kinda wish my hubby wasn’t so keen on it. I could do nicely without it at all. But I have a reason, having been molested most of my childhood. I’m not comfortable with sharing my body with anyone else. But that, too, is unacceptable. I’m married, so I have to. I think all these thoughts, wrong thoughts, are the devil’s lies. All things are possible with Christ, even overcoming negative thought patterns.

  5. I am so impressed! I so appreciate your commitment to the truth. Many people are going be blessed and encouraged by your story, and Im confident that you will be a part of challenging others who share your stuggle to choose the diificult road that you have chosen. All glory to God! Thanks!!

  6. I applaud your honesty, sacrifice, and godliness. And I agree with you that the biblical thing to do is remain celibate. I have a friend whose son is doing this exact thing because he came to the conclusion you did. Don’t expect it, but also don’t give up on the hope that God can change your desires. After all, he does that with all those who call Him Lord in one way or another. Either way, He will bless your obedience.

  7. As I read the letter you wrote to your church, I thought about Paul’s discussion of John Mark in Acts who made the commitment to travel with him on a missionary journey fraught with danger, sacrifice, and commitment. Something happened along the way, resulting in John Mark making the decision to step aside. Paul did not handle this well, it seems, and a breakdown of communication took place that split up a missionary team. We later learn from Paul’s writings that even though Paul didn’t acknowledge a change of heart, he did acknowledge that John Mark was faithful and was of value to Paul’s ministry. I believe it was Barnabas who stayed by John Mark’s side and who provided the support he needed.

    In some respects, I feel that the public call to personal celibacy is parallel to John Mark’s call to mission work. I get its gravity. And I completely respect the stand you are making. However, there may come times when you falter in ways that the “Pauls” in your life cannot understand because of their personal life experiences. They may not have grace for you, perhaps because they do not have the capacity to understand the price you are paying. They may wholeheartedly agree with your public commitment and without realizing it, hold you to a greater standard than you or others can handle. Their standard may sound “holy,” but the response–as in the case of Paul–may be anything but.

    So my prayer for you is that your life may be complete with Barnabas friends who stand for you in moments of weakness–for you will have them! –and will bring you back to your calling even if others dismiss you for “selling out.”

    I think sometimes we believe that holiness is neatly packaged in strong statements like “celibacy” and “commitment.” And we forget that it really is a messy business. You cannot dwell in a fifty-year commitment to holiness in the world of loss of relationship and loss of family. You can only dwell in the path directly in front of you today. Everything else is expectation and eventual disappointment and it shows itself in communication breakdowns like what Paul and Barnabas experienced.

    No matter what happens, God’s grace is sufficient. And His sovereignty alone will carry you–even if your desires NEVER change and you happen to stumble along the way.

    With all respect to those who are agreeing with your stand toward celibacy, I find it incredibly burdensome to hear anyone make the statement that “the biblical thing to do is remain celibate” as if they are speaking from some kind of authority on the topic. It does not sound like something that a Barnabas would say, even if it may be right in principle. May you have grace for these statements as well, trusting that perhaps in time they may have greater understanding of your journey.

    Stephen

    • Thank you, Stephen. I appreciate you taking the time to write this all out. I hope to always keep my heart open to the ways God will provide to meet my needs. Often he has done this through great friendships within the church. Hoping we can continue good conversation about this in the future.

      Nice to meet you.

      Grace and Peace.
      Andrew

  8. Well said. I’m one of those still hiding in the shadows. I’ve told a few people at my church, and they don’t necessarily shun me, but no one wants to talk about it, no one seems to be aware I need love and acceptance….. I wish all Christians would read this.

  9. Thank you for your courage in sharing your testimony to your church community and to all your readers, Andrew. I too remain in the closet with regards my struggle with same sex attraction as far as my church community is concerned, and I also long to be known and loved by my church community, the way God knows and loves me. Thank you for the inspiration to follow your example of self disclosure within my church community, and I seek the help of God’s grace to be able to do just that. May God continue to bless you in your mission in helping your church community to support and love church members who struggle with same sex attraction. And may God likewise, bless and guide those of us who have a similar calling, and grant us the strength and courage to overcome our own shame and fear of rejection to be open to our church communities about our personal struggles in pursuing chastity and holiness despite having same sex attraction.

  10. God bless you for having the courage to talk about your journey.
    God has gifted you with the ability to communicate our need for honest, acceptance, to journey together.
    Bless you for potentially opening a door for this to occur.
    God bless….

  11. Andrew, thanks for sharing your story. Mine is similar, though I think I have identified some of the “causes,” found some “straightening” and am now married. Your story is a balance to my experiences in the journey on which God has led me. Thank you for that balance. I am still a shadow dweller, and appreciate all those who God leads to speak out.

  12. this is another tragic example of someone who believes that being religious or spiritual means believing everything everything written in the Bible word-for-word. there is nothing wrong with being gay! snap out of it!

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