My guest on the blog this week is Julia Mitchell. Julia is an intern with Authentic Intimacy. She loves Jesus, living and teaching English in Southeast Asia, and rescuing stray cats.
This question is where it all begins for me: Can I really trust God with everything, including my sexuality? (Presione aquí para leer en español)
I still picture myself in my room that night, tossing and turning, overwhelmed by the anguish in my soul. Gripping the covers tightly, I spoke into the darkness, divulging my deep, dark secret to God.
Tears rolled down my cheeks as the words escaped, timidly yet bravely. The agony of my soul bubbled over and spilled out.
But there it was, brought into the light, given voice, no longer hidden. Wrestling over my sexuality had sent me packing from my childhood faith. And now it was the thing that left me once again so desperate for God.
In that moment, I ached to know I was still loved and embraced. I remember later recounting this experience to a father-figure in my life. He smiled and said gently, “Do you think God was surprised?” I smiled too, knowing the answer was of course not. Psalm 139 says “You are intimately acquainted with all my ways” (AMP). God knows the deepest secrets of my heart and does not turn away.
Something happened that night as I took off the mask, admitting what God already knew. It was the beginning of a deep internal transformation. A few years ago, I would have been terrified to say such things to God, but now it brings me great comfort and has led to a deeper and more intimate relationship with Him as I’ve begun to grasp the power of these three life-changing truths from Scripture: The Father embraces me. Jesus empathizes with me. The Spirit empowers me.
Whenever I think of God embracing me as a Father, my mind goes to Luke 15. “When he was still a long way off,” the text says. This means the Father was vigilant, watching and waiting, longing for His son’s return.
The son who had squandered everything.
The son who’d basically wished his Father dead.
The son who had rejected His Father’s love and home, and went in search of worldly pleasures to fill his hungry soul.
This is the son the Father is craning His neck for, hoping to catch a glimpse of coming down that road.
Have you ever felt like the son in this story? Does the memory of your past choices fill you with a burning shame? Maybe, like me, you ran away because you felt you were too unworthy to live in the Father’s house anymore. Or maybe, like the son, we believe true pleasure and satisfaction is not found in the Father.
And yet, the moment we turn back, miserable and in pain, the heart of God is moved to compassion. He runs to us, and wraps us in an emotional embrace. I think this story can be so familiar that we skip over the intensity of emotion that Jesus ascribes to the Father as He tells this story. Let’s look at how the moment of reunion is depicted in Luke 15:20:
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him (ESV).
His father...ran and embraced him and kissed him [fervently] (AMPC).
His Father...ran and fell on his neck and kissed him (NKJV).
Do you sense the intensity and depth of the Father’s love for His son? I don’t know about you, but this is not the image that comes to my mind when I’ve sinned. Whispers of “you’re not worthy now,” “you will never be clean,” and “you are not beloved after what you’ve done” fill my mind causing me to completely miss the lavishly loving heart of God who says with great joy upon my return: “This beloved of mine was lost and has been found!”
During my prodigal years, a few things kept drawing me back to Christianity. The most compelling was this: Jesus, fully God, voluntarily embracing this human life.
Choosing to deny my fleshly desires is tiring at best, and on the really dark days, it threatens to crush my soul. In these moments, I keep coming back to the humanity, the humanness of my Savior. On a particularly hard day a few weeks ago, as I wept again with God, feeling ashamed and unworthy to be His child, the words of Hebrews 4 came into my heart. Phrases from verse 15 started jumping out at me:
He sympathizes with us in our frailty.
He understands humanity.
He was tempted in every way, yet without sin.
I find such deep comfort knowing that Jesus, though fully God, stepped down into the miry existence of humanity, walked the dusty roads and knows firsthand the pain of heartache and loss. Then, because Jesus took on flesh and blood as we did, living sinlessly in spite of temptations and struggles, He paved the way to the throne of grace. Because of this, what is my blood-bought right as a child of God? The answer is found in the next verse:
Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God's unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it] Hebrews 4:16 (AMPC).
How do you picture yourself approaching the throne of grace?
If I’m honest, I usually envision myself shuffling in, clothes tattered, eyes cast downward in shame, hoping the door won’t be slammed in my face. But just as the Father raced to His son, our Savior Jesus walked the halls to the throne on our behalf and threw the double doors wide open, giving access to the place where mercy’s kiss awaits. He does not turn away. Instead, He puts his arm around my shoulder and says, “I know, I know.”
Living in our culture often feels like a continual, upstream swim and, let’s be honest, sometimes we just get tired of resisting the flesh (or am I the only one?!). This is one reason why I’m so very grateful for the raw honesty of God’s word. Paul often feels like a superhuman Christian to me, and then I remember this “superhero” of the faith penned these words in Romans 7:
“What I want to do, I do not do; and what I hate, that I do. What a wretched man I am!”
This verse reveals the reality of our internal struggle with the flesh, so why do we still feel surprised when it happens?
Paul didn’t stop there though.
On the heels of this confession, comes Romans 8, an oft-quoted, well-loved chapter packed full of home-run truths. Remember that cowering child, afraid to approach the throne? I realized that is the same posture I often take when fighting the lies of the enemy or the urgings of my flesh. I just sit there and take it, acting as if I have no choice. But Paul reminds us in Romans 8 that as the beloved children of God we are full of the Holy Spirit. My new identity proclaims that I am no longer obligated to give audience to the voices of sin and the flesh. I have no obligation to do what my sinful nature tells me to do.
The Holy Spirit gives me the power to say, “No”.
Okay, this might sound a bit out there, but when is the last time you said, “No” to your flesh? Out loud. Like, really loud. Satan is a bully set on destroying us. I was an early childhood teacher for six years, and we taught our students three things when someone starts bullying-type behavior.
I wonder what would happen if we start responding to Satan’s barrage of lies this way, as empowered children of God. We are privileged and protected, and we have the authority in Jesus’ name to declare with power, “I am not obligated to say yes to you anymore. This lie or temptation is not my identity any longer.” We can then walk away, straight to our Advocate, our Counselor, and tell Him all about it.
The more I get to know and trust the heart of God, the more I’m learning to practice this, moment by moment, day by day. I still falter and forget my true identity. But each time, without fail, the embrace of my Father awaits, and the empathy of Jesus comforts my heart, reminding me that I am an empowered child of God. And so are you.
Our God says, “Come, I am safe for all your secrets and struggles.” So I come, and lay my weary head on His neck and rest secure, knowing that I really can trust my God with everything, including my sexuality.
Want to learn more about how God cares about your sexuality?
Photo by Yuvraj Singh on Unsplash