The following post is from Shawn Harrison. Shawn is a youth pastor and he regularly blogs at six11.wordpress.com.
“Shawn are you ex-gay?” “Nope.”
“Then are you gay?” “Nope.”
“Wait, what? Then what are you?”
I hate this conversation.
Throughout my life, I have struggled to embrace my true, core identity. I’ve been all over the spectrum in this pursuit. As a teen, being gay was the center of my life. Everything I did, everything I was about revolved around being gay and proud. When I became a Christian, I changed my identity to ex-gay, reflecting my newfound faith. I was told to reject the past and embrace what Christ had done. I was no longer gay; I was hetero. However, I didn’t feel quite hetero, as I was still attracted to guys. I believed what the Bible said, but I was struggling to mesh the truth of scripture with my attractions to men. Changing my identity to gay Christian, then, seemed logical to do.
For me, though, that stint didn’t last long. In due time, I underwent another identity change and eventually became a husband, then a father. My same-sex attractions haven’t ceased totally, and this of course confuses many people. They either want me to pick a side or they want me to deny my attractions altogether. Yet, I refuse to pick a side or deny what’s going on inside. To me, all of these characteristics make me the unique person I am today. However, at this point in my life, I refuse to be labeled by the terms “ex-gay,” “gay,” or even “mixed-orientation marriage.” None of these labels make-up the core of who I am. My wife, my kids, nor my role as a pastor defines my core identity. My life centers around one core truth that my identity is shaped around: child of God.
Everything I do centers around this one, simple, yet all-freeing truth. Outside of this, nothing else matters. In my experience as a pastor, most people form their identity around talents, work, heritage, sexuality, and church affiliation. While these are all true characteristics of one’s identity, they do not make up one’s core identity. See, if the core of who we are centers around anything other than being God’s child, if these things pass away, we lose who we are. Being God’s child can never be taken from us. Being God’s child is what we were originally created and called to be. Moreover, as we continue to move closer to Him, as Christians, the Holy Spirit continues to mold us into God’s likeness, as His children. These truths should be very freeing to us. For more about who you are in Christ, go to this page on my blog.
The verse that has set this idea aflame in my heart and life is 1 John 3:1, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Other scriptures highlight this truth too, but I find great freedom and assurance in this particular passage. There is a universal truth extended here that holds the depth of God’s love for people despite who they are or what they’ve done. It speaks of a love that He has initiated with us, and it’s love that is beyond our comprehension. Yet, it’s a truth and a identity that few of us model our lives around. Rather it serves as an attachment, or a side-thought, to something we hold in greater importance. What, though, could be greater than being called a child of God?
For me, I don’t reject being a husband, a father, a pastor, a writer, an artist, a reader, a evangelical Christian, and so forth. I love all of these traits about me, but they are a part of something greater that I choose to center my identity around. My sexuality is a part of this great identity, too. My attractions aren’t the totality of who I am. They simply add to my uniqueness. For me, I choose to be known as God’s child, primarily, and everything else is secondary. If people can’t accept that, well, that’s not my problem. I live to please no one else, nor answer to anyone else, but God alone. I know exactly who I am, and I am quite content with life and myself.
“What am I? I’m God’s child; that’s who I am.”