Thursday, February 12, 2015

Same-Sex Attraction in Real Life

Posted by Nick Roen

The great evangelical preacher Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, “You can be so interested in great theological and intellectual and philosophical problems that you tend to forget that you are going to die.” At the heart of this admonition is, I think, a reminder that ideas and issues and controversies are only relevant as they relate to people, human beings with real lives and real souls.

Nowhere is this reminder more needed in our day than within the Christian conversation regarding same-sex attraction and homosexuality. It is so easy to discuss the “issue” of homosexuality in our culture while forgetting that gay people aren’t simply an “issue” to be sorted out. Furthermore, when we quarantine the conversation to the theoretical realm divorced from the lived experience of folks with SSA, the conversation inevitably becomes blurry, ambiguous, lacking in clarity. This is no knock on philosophy or theory; these things are needed and helpful. But pushing our musings from the realm of hypothetical reflection toward concrete examples of everyday life tends to blow away the haze and bring the fuzzy corners into focus.

Therefore, I want to take many of the ideas often discussed here at Spiritual Friendship and apply them to a real person: me. In doing so, I am not claiming that I have everything figured out or especially that I am representing the views of everyone who writes for Spiritual Friendship. I simply know my own experience best, and my hope is that this exercise will help clear up a lot of what I am and am not saying about SSA.

For this example, I will use a composite of many of my real friendships and combine them into one specific story. That story is about my friendship with Rick (fake name, real experiences).

Rick and I met at a gathering hosted by my church back in college. I remember seeing him for the first time and feeling a pronounced physical attraction toward him. Now what do I mean by “attraction”? I mean the pre-cognitive physical reaction that makes us take particular notice of certain people. This is what my pastor, John Piper, has described to me as “noticing with pleasure.” I saw Rick, I got “the butterflies”, and it was nice.

It is at this point that a clear distinction must be made. This initial attraction toward Rick was not a desire for sex. Indeed, an attraction is not a desire for anything. It is simply a physical experience that happens in the brain based on chemicals and stimuli. Instead, it is important to note that attractions lead to desires. I was attracted to Rick, which led to the feeling, “I want to (blank).” The “I want to…” is the desire, not the initial noticing with pleasure.

Also, notice that I said attraction leads to desires, plural. As I noticed Rick with pleasure, the attraction produced all sorts of “I want…” desires in me. One of those desires was a sexual desire. No, I wasn’t immediately imagining what it would be like to be in bed with him, but the seed was present. However, I also experienced many heightened desires toward Rick that had nothing to do with sex. I desired to go talk to him, shake his hand, get to know him, laugh with him, and serve him by bringing him a glass of punch. In other words, not only were the seeds of sexual desire present, but the seeds of desires for friendship, hospitality, emotional intimacy, sacrificial service, and love were there as well. All different desires, all colored by the same initial attraction.
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