Some of you may recall, from just a couple of weeks back, the story of A’isha Leslie Marbach, and the terrible tragedy that befell her. (See The Frost and Freedom of Death.) About a week ago, A’isha wrote to tell me that, in her grief, she had taken to spontaneously writing, which she found cathartic. I encouraged her in this means of healing. I also said that if ever she wanted, via my blog, to share with you all anything she’d written, she had only to say the word. Yesterday she sent me the below, and asked if I would publish it. Please forward it to anyone who continues to cling to the ignorant, toxic belief that being gay is a choice for which God condemns people. (And to the people who in God’s name are STILL condemning A’isha? Save your souls: stop using Jesus to justify your own fear and hatred.)
I’m a Christian—and Gay
“God, please make me pure. Take these feelings from me and make it so I can like boys instead of girls. Amen.”
This is the prayer I prayed so many times I lost count. Throughout high school my one goal was to live a life pleasing to God. I’m not sure exactly where I got the message that it wasn’t okay to be a lesbian, that God didn’t approve, but that is the message I got loud and clear. So I pushed all those crushes, all those tingly feelings I got when I saw a pretty woman, deep inside me, and pretended to like boys. I needed to be accepted by people around me, and I wanted God to approve of my life.
In college I decided that if I had sex with enough guys I’d eventually become straight. Warped thinking? Definitely. Of course it didn’t work. Eventually I came to the point of thinking that there was no denying that I was truly a lesbian. That’s the make-up of my brain, my very being. I have no choice in that. It’s as natural to me as using my right hand or having blue eyes. What I did have a choice about was following a God that I thought hated me. The message from God’s followers is pretty blatant: grace is only for straights; salvation is only for heterosexuals. Fellowship is not for fags and dykes. So I gave up what I did have a choice about, and kept the part of me that I didn’t. I quit being a Christian.
For years I tried to push all thoughts of God away. I called myself an atheist or an agnostic. I agreed with people when they said God was a fairy tale. But throughout all my denying God, he never denied me. I can look back and see the times in my life where God was there, working, never leaving me. The problem was that I still believed God had no place for me as a lesbian. I decided to try again to be straight. In my mind, being straight was all about sex (which is weird, because obviously being gay isn’t only about sex). Trying to be straight meant having sex with a man—so that’s what I did. I tried having a relationship with him, but there was always something missing. Other than ending up with two wonderful children, the relationship was an utter failure. Then began my era of true searching.
A point came in my life, when my children were in preschool, when I realized that I didn’t like life without God at its center. I started some emotional and spiritual healing, and in the process discovered how incredibly much God loves me personally. There was still this issue of my sexuality hanging over my head, though.
I began praying, asking for wisdom. God says he will give us wisdom liberally if we just ask. During this time of searching for the truth I always began by praying that I would be willing to accept whatever truth God presented to me: that if lesbian relationships truly were sinful, then I would be willing to stay single and celibate for the rest of my life. I found that being single wasn’t particularly difficult for me. Especially as I became stronger and healthier emotionally, I was very content with the concept of being single forever, devoting my life to God and his people.
My studies took me all over the the place. Learning Greek years before came in handy as I explored words used in the Greek New Testament. I jumped from one section of the Bible to another and back again. Books, commentaries, blog posts, scientific research—they all began to collect in my mind, and lead me to the conclusion that God’s word, the Bible, does not in any place speak about consensual homosexual relationships as we know them today. For me to try to have a heterosexual relationship is entirely unnatural, and goes against the way God created me. Once I learned this a peace settled on me that was almost palpable. Finally I knew that I was okay with God, and that He was okay with me.
Still, I was quite content in my singleness. Most people closest to me knew I was a lesbian, but, being single, I never felt the need to announce my sexuality. I knew some people would view me differently once they found out, and maybe I wasn’t ready for that.
This past spring I began praying to God about my relationship status in a new way. I asked God what His will was in my life. I said I wouldn’t look for a girlfriend, but that if it was His will that I meet a woman, I asked that He make it entirely obvious to me. I wasn’t praying fervently, but occasionally I would talk with God about this situation. Above all, I prayed to be content with whatever His will was.
In July it became clear to me that God brought Rene into my life. Circumstances were such that it was more than mere coincidence. I’d known Rene for a number of years, but hadn’t seen her since she had become single. Our intention was to start slowly and see how the relationship could grow. We weren’t in a hurry, but quickly it became entirely clear that I loved her and she loved me. We began making plans to share our lives together, to get married next year. Almost every hour of every day we were either together or texting or talking on the phone. We’d go to sleep talking to each other. I’d wake up with a text saying “Good morning, Babe. I love you.” I knew in my heart that Rene was the woman I wanted to spend every day with for the rest of my life. That’s when we decided it was time to start getting our kids together, to start building those extended relationships. We made plans to attend the fair with all three boys. But before that, we decided to go get ice cream with just my two boys. Rene knew my kids already, but they didn’t really remember her. Once they were together, they really hit it off. When my sons asked her to have a “conference” with her at another table, I knew things would work out. I told her she didn’t have to go, but she said with a smile, “Yes, I do. They want a conference.” The boys seemed to easily accept us holding hands and didn’t think anything of it when I kissed her goodbye in the Dairy Queen parking lot. Less than twenty-four hours later, Rene was killed.
One of the things I shared with Rene early on in our relationship was my commitment to living a life honoring God and following the teachings of Jesus. Shockingly, to me, she loved that about me.
The Christian community has for so long excluded gays and lesbians that it is very difficult for any LGBT person to come to the realization that God loves them and wants a relationship with them. Even if not every Christian spouts, “God hates fags,” like Fred Phelps does, that is indeed the message we get, as long as every Christian doesn’t stand up and say, “No, that’s not true. God loves you.”
Because of this history between LGBT people and many Christians, it’s very difficult to meet gays and lesbians who are also Christians. Honestly, why should any of us choose to be part of a group that condemns us? Fortunately there are many like me that are coming to realize that it’s God’s followers who mistakenly condemn us, and not God himself.