In a comment that I offered about my last post, I referenced a post over at The God Article w/ Mark Sandlin entitled "A Minister's Letter to a Small God." You can view that piece at this address: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thegodarticle/2015/10/a-ministers-letter-to-a-small-god/ In the post, the author describes how he gradually came to the conclusion that the god that most people worship wasn't worthy of such adoration and respect.
Well, I have my own story to tell in that regard. In a private response to my last post, it became clear to me that some of the folks who read this blog on a regular basis are not familiar with my own background and story. Although I have shared parts of my story in previous posts, it occurred to me that it would be easy for folks to miss a post here and there and consequently miss some or all of the story behind my expansive views regarding the nature of God. Hence, I am offering this more complete treatment of my own story to explain how this blogger came to be aware of the fact that God cannot be contained.
I was aware of God at an early age. I remember my grandmother reading the Bible to me as a toddler. I also recall laying across my father's bed, next to my younger brother, and listening to Garner Ted Armstrong talk about God on my dad's little transistor radio. These experiences had a profound impact on me. As a boy, I began reading the Bible on my own and studying the literature of the Worldwide Church of God. Moreover, although my father did not join the church, I began attending on my own as a teenager and was baptized into that organization at the tender age of seventeen (something almost unheard of in that church).
All of this irrespective of the fact that I was physically attracted to members of my own gender. I was convinced that those feelings were wrong and dirty, and that God would help me to overcome them. As a consequence, I pursued a life within what I believed to be God's one and only TRUE church. Indeed, I was so scared and repressed with regard to anything sexual that I ignored both genders throughout my adolescent years. I did not date or establish intimate/close friendships with anyone during this period. I told myself that I was saving myself for marriage, but the prospect of marriage really scared me and seemed a remote possibility. Looking back on it now, I was a miserable, opinionated and self-righteous young man who had a very narrow view of myself, God and the world around me.
And then, wonder of wonders, I met a bright, attractive young woman in college. I felt comfortable around her. I could talk to her. Even more astounding than my own interest, this young lady appeared to be interested in me! For the first time in my life, I began dating (I was 24 years old at the time). In time, I grew to love Darlene and began to imagine that it might be possible for me to have a "normal" life. After all, wasn't that what God expected/wanted/demanded?
There was, however, one big problem (other than the fact that I was GAY): Darlene was not a member of the one and only true church. Why was this a problem? Because we (the members of the church) were not supposed to be unequally yoked - we were not permitted to date outside of the church! Being the innocent, naïve and silly young man that I was back then, I went to the ministry and told them about Darlene. Much to my surprise, instead of compassion and understanding, I was immediately disfellowshipped/excommunicated for breaking the church's dating rules!
The Lake of Fire yawned before me. What was I to do? I was on the outside of the one and only true church. Nevertheless, I knew that this might be my one and only opportunity to have a "normal" life - to do what God expected all men and women to do. I wanted to have children. I desperately wanted to be within God's will and to do what I thought God wanted me to do. What was the right decision?
I broke up with Darlene. I was miserable, and she was too. Even so, I was told that I would not be allowed to return to church until I had "fully repented" of my sins. Now I was really alone. Talk about depression - I can tell you a thing or two about the "black dog."
In the meantime, my father had joined an offshoot of the Worldwide Church of God that had been founded by that same Garner Ted Armstrong whom I had listened to as a child. In desperation, I wrote to my dad for advice. I poured my heart out to him and asked him what I should do.
Miraculously, in spite of everything that had happened, Darlene was even interested in my religion. The church, however, was not interested in her.
My father quickly wrote back to me. His letter was full of compassion and assurance that God had not abandoned me. He would not tell me what to do, but he assured me that God would be with me if I asked for "His" help and guidance.
I decided to marry Darlene. Suddenly, it became clear to me that God was bigger than the Worldwide Church of God. I had an epiphany: A God of love and mercy would not condemn me to a life of loneliness and hopelessness.
Of course, none of this addressed the much bigger problem that underpinned everything else that was going on - I was a closeted and repressed homosexual! Even so, I told myself that God would bless my efforts to live the kind of life that "He" wanted me to live. Selfishly, it never crossed my mind just how unfair I was being to Darlene. I didn't allow myself to stop and think about how a Gay man could possibly expect to satisfy the physical and emotional needs of an attractive and vibrant heterosexual female. I told myself (truthfully) that I loved her, and that that would be enough.
But, it wasn't enough. Although we had two beautiful little girls together (the joy of my life), the marriage was falling apart. I was a reasonably good dad and provider, but I sucked as a husband. Oh sure, I was technically faithful to my marriage vows; but the entire relationship was built on a lie. I was not (and never would be) sexually attracted to females.
I wanted to overcome my "perversion." I wanted to do what was right in God's sight. I had prayed. I had begged God to change me - to make me "whole." Why hadn't God answered my prayers? Hadn't I done everything in my power to do what "He" wanted me to do?
The marriage finally collapsed under the weight of my own self-denial. To say that I was bitter and disillusioned would be the understatement of the century! How could God allow this to happen? Hadn't I done everything that "He" expected of me? Hadn't I done the right thing?
For a time, Darlene and I went our separate ways. We all suffered (the girls, Darlene and me).
Eventually, however, Darlene and I were able to focus on the love that we shared for the beautiful daughters whom we had created together. We both came to realize that they were more important than our petty differences and mistakes. We both came to understand that God was much bigger than we had thought "He" was when we first met each other. For the first time in our lives, we were honest with each other and God about who we were and what was really important to us in life. And, we finally forgave each other and fully accepted each other exactly where we were. In short, we embraced reality and a much bigger conception of God and what It wanted for us and our children.
Darlene and I have lived together as friends, parents, companions and family for many years now. She has stood by me through thick and thin. She is my very best friend in the world, and I love her with all of my heart. We have been devoted to God, our children, grandchildren and each other for years; and I can't imagine any other kind of life now.
Yes, I am still a homosexual. I will always be a homosexual (at least, as long as I inhabit this tabernacle). And, although I now believe that I would be free to engage in a committed relationship with another man if I chose to do so, I have learned that fidelity/faithfulness extends to things way beyond a physical relationship between two people. Love is much more complex and diverse than I ever imagined before. Moreover, my current circumstances (of not being in a homosexual relationship or overtly acting on those feelings) enables me to be a voice with the weight of a considerable amount of moral authority on the subject of homosexuality (and sexual orientation in general).
I have learned that God's grace is sufficient to save me (and any other homosexual who wants it). God is big enough to love me, to help me and to someday enable me to stand in His/Her presence! I no longer believe that God hates me, or that "He" is capable of hating anyone. I now understand that men have created an image of God that is inconsistent with the reality of God. And, I can now clearly see that even men and women who are (or have been) inspired by God are capable of making mistakes and presenting false ideas about God and "His" will. Even a book as grand, beautiful and special as the Bible is not big enough to contain God or explain all of "His" purposes. In short, God is much greater than you or I have ever imagined!
Anyway, that's my story; and I'm sticking to it!