Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Growing Pains

Just like our physical bodies can grow too fast for our comfort, so can our spiritual lives. Branches are lopped off, our impurities are scorched away by fire, God uses trying circumstances in molding and growing us--it's far from easy. But even in the changing process, we can find the most amazing peace and fulfillment in Him. As uncomfortable as it is to go against our flesh, there is nothing compared to walking in the Spirit. For me, it's been two years since I rededicated my life to Christ. This part of my journey has been one of the hardest times of my life, but I wouldn't change it for anything.

It's hard to downplay the battle I've fought against my sin during this time, though. Before my rededication to Him, I lived in the lesbian lifestyle for almost ten years. Habitual sexual sin, gay or straight, is one of the hardest yokes to overcome. A Christian counselor I know likened it to a dog who escapes through a hole under the backyard fence...once the dog gets out even one time, once he's tasted that pleasure, it's almost impossible to keep him from escaping again.

This past year in general, I have felt really defeated--repeatedly. I have had literally one female crush after another, and the shameful thing is, it is usually on other Christian women. I have struggled and struggled...and given in to lustful thinking some of the time. Either way, whether I'm resistant or compliant to the thoughts, it's been pretty miserable.

One night several months ago, I was angry, hurting, and hopeless. I had just gotten back from my small group, and I was sitting in my car in the parking lot, watching the rain pour down. I had been battling another unhealthy attraction, without much success. As the tears rolled down my face, I laid my head against the steering wheel and cried out to God, "Why won't you deliver me, why won't you just take this? WHY??!!" And He replied, perfectly clearly, Because you don't want me to. My tears stopped. Whoa. And I knew it was true. I battle sometimes, but am I really 100% wanting Him to heal me? No. I still hold on. Out of my flesh, out of the lie that it can't change. Out of familiarity, out of weariness from fighting, out of rebellion...out of having a last ditch resort. I hold on.

That moment of realization brought a turning point. I thought, "Ok God, I get it. So, what now? How do I let go and fully give this to You?" And I think He revealed to me the simplest of answers, one which I've had to realize time and time again: I've got to give Him everything. It's not just my same sex attraction. It's my life. Here I am, excusing my "little" sins here and there, giving myself license to do certain things I know are wrong. But true freedom means NO chains, I can't hang on to one area of sin and expect freedom from another. They are all related and strengthen the same fleshly nature. And there are no gray areas about what God wants from us. He's an all or nothing God!!

He wants all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, all our strengths, but here's another kicker: he wants them ALL THE TIME. Not that we are even capable of giving Him both 100% of our lives and doing it all the time, as broken as we are, but it's our efforts that are important. There shouldn't be a halfway, like, I try some of the time to keep my thoughts pure and then deliberately indulge some of the time. I've got to try constantly to align my will with His.

Our motives are important, too: If I'm doing this so that I can be healed or get married, I'm not really giving Him 100% because I make my submission to Him based on a condition. I make it more about what I can get out of it than about living my life for Him. I've got to submit to Him regardless of what happens with my life. I've got to offer my life as a living sacrifice for Him out of love...without selfishness, without condition, without pridefully taking credit for my victories...

And I can be hopeful that I will be victorious, because of Christ in me. I am a NEW creation in Christ--not ruled by my sin anymore!! The Sunday after God spoke to me in my car, there was a whole sermon about how when we accept Christ and the offer of salvation, a MONUMENTAL change happens within us. We are different--no longer under the dominion of sin--in fact, turning to those former sins is submitting to slavery again. And I started realizing how miserable I was when I gave in to my sin anyway...I was just putting my shackles back on and going against my NEW nature in Christ. That sinful nature only has as much power as we give it, but it does not rule over us anymore. Our desires change, our hearts change, everything about us changes. God kept giving me scripture to inspire me and give me new hope...He makes all things new...nothing is impossible for Him...

And yeah, it's possible for me to be free of this, to God be the glory!! Up until that point, I had been subconsciously (and even somewhat consciously) believing lies rather than the truth. I've been believing that my same sex attraction doesn't get any better whether I battle it or not, that I am always going to struggle with it, etc. But I had to admit to myself that it wasn't true. When I struggle with all my might against it, and I depend on Christ for strength, it diminishes. If I gave this to God and trusted Him, doing my part with my utmost effort, who knows what could happen? I don't!! I have not done it in these past two years!!

I am starting to, though. It's been several months since these realizations, and I know that I am still very vulnerable, but I sense that the hardest part of this battle is over. If this was a test, I passed, because I have not budged an inch on what I believe to be the truth, or wavered in my commitment to God's will for my sexuality. With new hope and by the grace of God, I am beginning to really let Him have this sin. I am entering a new stage of my journey, one where I give Him my all. No more excuses, no more looking back...no more fear. I am running the race marked out for me with perserverance, and fixing my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.