I don’t like to feel vulnerable. Hardly ever do I voluntarily step into situations where my expectations may not be met or my hopes let down. I know that many blessings—especially in the relational sense—can only been attained if you’re willing to cross the bridge of vulnerability to get there. But generally, I haven’t felt the blessings to be worth the risks.
Dating has been the sphere of life I’ve been most hesitant to enter into since becoming a Christian. Quick rewind—for those of you who don’t know, I have experienced same sex attraction almost my entire life, and when the Lord saved me in 2010, my entire identity was wrapped up in these feelings. I was gay. Proudly. The very beginnings of my Christian life sparked while I was in a gay bar. In the days following the odd occurrence at the bar, I submitted my life to Jesus and have since striven to turn from sinful desire—including but not limited to my homosexual desires. However, not acting out on my same sex tendencies hasn’t made them disappear. I do find myself increasingly interested in women as time rolls on, but my attraction to men is still present. It is a very real part of my life today.
Though I sometimes paint myself as an emotional Nazi who lives unaffected by this particular brokenness, the truth is that it frequently fills my heart with insecurities—especially when I think about dating and the possibility of marriage. I know I am redeemed and made new by the gospel, but I am not delusional. I have baggage. Yeah, yeah, I know, everyone has baggage. But the presence of homosexual desires presents unique struggles to a relationship dynamic. This is a weakness that only the strongest of women can handle. I know that finding a woman who has the strength to deal with both my history and my present struggles is like finding the tiniest needle in the most massive of haystacks—which is why I’ve always been reluctant to try.
Until recently, anyway.
In late 2014, by some Holy Spirit miracle, I began to lightly tread into the heterosexual dating world. I set my fears aside and decided that a godly relationship may just be worth the risk of rejection. Sadly, the risk has had very little payoff at this point. I’ve been in a few “situations” over the last 14 months, and each has left me pretty drained and discouraged. I was genuinely drawn to each of these women, but after a few dates and entertaining the possibility of a relationship with me, they each decided they were not interested. While I’m sure their disinterest was not based purely upon my SSA, the majority of them were honest enough to tell me that was a massive part of it. They just didn’t know that they could feel secure and desired in a relationship with a man who is attracted to other men. And I can’t say that I blame them; if I were in their shoes, I don’t know that I would be able to deal either.
But even though I understand their disinterest in dating me, it has been a tough pill to swallow. Every time I start to get my hopes up only to have them quickly come crashing down, my willingness to continue making myself vulnerable dwindles. And honestly, anger ignites. I struggle to make peace with how a good God could allow my life to be plagued by such a horrific, life-robbing propensity. I know the theology; I know my sinful nature trickles down to me from my very first Ancestor. I understand that though I suffer from feelings I don’t choose, I have chosen to commit grievous acts against God. I am a sinner who doesn’t deserve a struggle-free life. I deserve Hell. Anything in my life now or in the future that’s better than Hell is pure grace.
But in the discouraging moments following rejection, my heart struggles to embrace my theology. I feel shortchanged. Unduly afflicted. Hopelessly alone. And in the midst of these crappy feelings, temptation comes barging in. Satan begins whispering.
“You’ve always felt overlooked by women, Matt—the sane ones, anyway. The only people who will ever really desire you are men. Remember how it felt when you stepped into the gay bar for the first time? Guys noticed you. They wanted you. They pursued you. Your only hope for a real relationship is being true to your strongest sexual desires. No mentally stable woman will ever be able to deal with this part of you. Stop putting yourself through all the pain and rejection of dating ‘God’s way.’ It will never work!”
These thoughts are difficult to immediately reject, if I’m totally honest with you guys. There is some truth to a chunk of them—Satan’s lies are usually riddled with bits of truth. I have always felt overlooked by women . . . and I’ve always felt noticed by men. Dating guys felt natural. It was easy. On the other hand, my experience so far trying to date women has been full of insecurity and disappointment. I would be lying if I said I’m not tempted to some degree to go back to my old way of life every time a woman rejects me. Returning to a dating world in which my flesh feels so comfortable is a very real—and terrifying—thought that pops into my head after every dating-disappointment.
Thus far, by God’s grace, I have been able to shut this temptation down. However, a temptation I haven’t been as successful in shutting down lately is faithless self-preservation. After this latest let down, I’ve been really inclined to totally give up on dating and the possibility of marriage. As I shared in a blog post a few weeks ago, I haven’t been prowling around looking for prospective dates; I have just been open-minded when opportunities fall into my lap. But recently I’ve found myself less open to pursuing future fall-in-lap opportunities. I’m already weary over the 100% failure rate I’ve suffered so far, and I really don’t feel like enduring more rejection, disappointment, and insecurity. If I simply choose not to date anymore, I wouldn’t have to deal with my hopes being let down, because they would never be “up” to begin with!
But this kind of self-preservation is not of faith; it’s of the flesh. When I take preventative measures to protect myself from situations in which I’d be vulnerable, I’m essentially saying that God isn’t big, able, or loving enough to work every situation I face for my good. However if the gospel is true, there is no pain I can experience that God hasn’t both foreseen and ordained to work for my good (Romans 8:28-32). Who knows the hundreds of good things God is already doing in my heart in each one of these dating-disappointments?
Additionally, God is not working for my good in a detached, a-million-miles-away kind of sense—he’s actually with me in the situations. Though letting my guard down is risky, the Lord is closer than I can imagine and abundantly able to strengthen and sustain me should discouragement come. He has so far! I have thrown myself into many vulnerable situations over the last year, and I’m still here standing. I’m still a Christian. I’m still sane (I think). I am okay. So today, I am making a decision to move forward in faith, not in fear. By God’s grace, I am not going to try to be sovereign over my own life by shutting myself down to the possibility of a future relationship. I will strive to keep an open mind, allow myself to be vulnerable, and trust God in the process.
Though my big vulnerable thing is dating, I think this applies to many (if not all) aspects of our lives—including non-romantic relationships. Some of us have faced disappointment after disappointment in our search for true friends, and find ourselves growing unwilling to continue putting ourselves out there. Brothers and sisters, remember this: we are secure in the love of a sovereign God and therefore have great freedom to be vulnerable. God is with us—guiding, protecting, and sustaining us as we risk our hearts and lives in various ways. No rejection, disappointment, or pain we may face is meaningless. Because God is for us, we don’t have to shrink back from whatever situations in our lives cause us to feel most vulnerable. By faith, we can press forward with confidence that God will do great things in our lives through our various, heart-risky situations . . . regardless of whether or not those situations turn out as we wish.