May 6, 2018

love conquers all

Note: This piece was written for a book, Good News for Bruised Reeds: Walking with Same-Sex Attracted Friends. The book is a collection of personal stories targeted at Christian leaders, a rallying cry for our churches to love our same-sex attracted friends better. Besides the pieces that I contributed the book, I also helped a friend write his story, but it didn't make it in time to the editors for the first edition's publishing. However, he did get to read out his story at the book launch. Check it out here.

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Somehow, Cecilia got the permission to use the air-conditioned library room. I settled down in a chair and, as usual, watched as she did her homework. There wasn't much I could help with, although I guess in this case, it wasn’t so much about what I could teach her, but about being a friend, a confidant, and perhaps a role model.

“Eh Karen, I got a boyfriend,” she said out of the blue.

“Oh. Uh, okay.”

What else was I to say? What did I care? She went on with her work.

As she continued with her Math worksheet in silence, though, a strong urge to tell her about my first relationship crept up on me. I tried to shake it off. Fought the urge in my heart. Why would I do that? There was no reason to. It wasn’t relevant. She was going to think I was lonely and in need of attention, telling anyone who would listen about my scars. Or, worse still, might she think I was trying to say that I was interested in her? Might she become wary of me? Was the friendship worth putting at stake, all because of a silly impulse?

But if this was from God and I decided not to do it, I’d be missing out on the opportunity to be a blessing.

What strange ways God worked through. What did God want from me, and did it require me to put my heart out there like a fool? Did God come in these ways: strange, vulnerable, foolish?

I quelled the battle in my gut.

“Um,” I blurted, breaking the silence, “I was in a lesbian relationship in secondary school, but that was a long time ago.”

She met my gaze. I noticed a flash of curious realisation in her eyes, still shrouded in caution, like a puppy realising that it just might be safe after all.

“Really? …I have something to tell you… the boyfriend I was telling you about, it isn’t a boy. She’s a girl.”

A peep of Christ’s wisdom unveiled itself to me.

Cecilia went on to reveal that she had been feeling terribly guilty about it, and that she felt unworthy to be in the presence of God. (oh, but darling, we all are.) The previous two Sundays, she would go to church, but sit outside the hall until the service was over. At that moment, my heart felt like a flask that had been shattered to release its aroma. I knew why the Lord had grown this particular revelation in me, the purpose of the fruit of my own travail, why the Lord had brought me to her. These are the lengths Jesus would go to to tell somebody He loves her.

“You know, I might do a lot of things that make my father angry. I keep coming back late. I don’t spend much time at home. I’m not a great daughter. But what would be worse than these things is if I were to stop talking to him altogether. Nothing beats the relationship. No matter what you do, it isn’t as heart-breaking to God as cutting off the relationship with Him.”

Tears welled up in her eyes, and I could feel Jesus’s love for her. He brought me into her life by a stroke of chance, all so I could tell her that He loved her when she couldn’t hear it herself.

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I was in a lesbian relationship when I came to Christ. I was invited to a youth service, and as I watched everyone lift their hands high in worship, I realised that they actually knew God. I realised that I had been living a lie; that although I called myself a Christian, I didn’t actually know Him at all. I never prayed in earnest, never read the Bible, and scarcely even thought of Him as a real being. That night I gave myself to Christ in tears, wanting nothing more than to know Him. The season that followed was peppered with joyful fasting, where I spent my recess breaks reading the Word. No one at church spoke to me about my relationship. They must have known, since my girlfriend and I attended church and hung out with the cell group together. Years later, I found out that my cell group leader had told the other youths, “If you’re wondering about Karen, just give her time.” Because of that, I was given the space to experience the love of God unhindered. I pursued Him with joy. And as I pursued God, the desire for sin began to fall away. As I read His Word, revelation poured into me. Love was always gentle, and Love’s edifying Word wrapped around my sins with a weighty beauty. It wasn’t “Don’t do this, this is wrong” that convicted me. It was “Don’t you know that you are a temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you?” I didn’t know what lay ahead, but I knew that the Word was slowly shaping my life with its beauty. Transformation is not about debating what you can and cannot do. Transformation is “not I, but He”. Under the weight of His beauty, though, the problem spots naturally surfaced like red blisters screaming for the soothing balm of repentance.

One day, in the midst of yet another argument with my girlfriend, I called my cell group leader in tears. He finally said, “I think you know what you need to do.” By then, there was barely any positive feeling in the relationship to hold on to. I blamed God for a while after we broke up, of course, because it’s always convenient to put your blame on one who cannot fight back. But neither He nor my church had done anything more than to present me with a Love that was so much greater.

A non-Christian told me some time back that he couldn’t comprehend why a Christian would refuse to date him, even though she had made it clear that she had feelings for him. “Amor vincit omnia,” he had declared, an accusation. Love conquers all. Yes, it is true; Love conquers all. Under the light of the Greatest Love, all other loves stand or fall. As for me, my life and my body are Christ’s; He has given Himself for me, and I give myself to Him.

***

It has been ten years since Christ first dropped His love into me. Recently, I’ve been diving deeper into the Theology of the Body, of teachings about sexuality, and about the role that gender and marriage play in shedding light on the marriage between Christ and the Church. One December, as I prayed about the upcoming college semester, God told me that I was not to think about boys. “Focus on loving Me as a husband.”

As a husband? I was perplexed. A silly thought cropped up: If I loved God that much, where would I have the space for my earthly husband?

And then it hit me that that was the devotion God demanded: the singlemindedness of a spouse. I was to love Him with the exclusive devotion that I would give my future husband. Like a doe, I was to be focused completely on Him, looking neither to the right nor to the left.

But oh, God. How is that possible?

There in my room, I had a vision of a wedding. In the vision, I am wearing a white dress, a white veil. There are white flowers in my hair, and the same white flowers line the aisles. Jesus the Bridegroom stands before the altar, his eyes fixed on me, smiling. Slowly, I take one step down the aisle, and then another. And every step I take down the aisle is a step of sanctification, until at last, my life is done and I am right in front with Jesus. Jesus lifts my veil, and I see him face-to-face.

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