I said in Part 1 of this article that at the root of same-sex attraction (SSA) is the same desire that’s at the bottom of heterosexual attraction: the desire to love and be loved. God himself put this desire for union in us and as Martha says, it’s a good thing. But just as with all good ends, it matters just as much how we get there.
The Catholic Church teaches that while same-sex attraction isn’t inherently sinful, homosexual relations are never part of God’s plan for us. So what is? As my experience, as well as that of Melinda Selmys and others suggests, marriage may be God’s call more than you might think. (And I mean traditional, heterosexual marriage, not gay marriage.) Whether a person is called to marriage or not will depend on whether their SSA is something caused by woundedness or whether it’s more innate. For those whose SSA was caused by abuse or another deep wound, psychological and emotional healing may make it possible to engage in a loving marital relationship.
Evidence, too, suggests there’s a spectrum of SSA, with men who experience SSA being more solidly homosexual and women being closer to the heterosexual side. This is probably why more women than men who have SSA are able to enter into and sustain marriages. I’m a prime example of that and I’ve talked to many women whose SSA, while a temptation, doesn’t impede their ability to connect with their husbands physically and emotionally. Many who commented on my original testimony were happily married despite a history of lesbian relationships.
But what about those who believe they are “born with” SSA? What about the man or woman who finds physical relations with the opposite sex viscerally repulsive? Obviously, marriage isn’t an option for these folks and it’s wrong to suggest they should get married. Too many Christians–even some with SSA– think marriage is a “cure” for SSA. If, like me, your SSA is rooted in a deep emotional wound, the love of a spouse may help heal some of that wound over time. But for any healing to occur, your love for and attraction to your spouse must exceed your attraction to every other person. My marriage works despite SSA because my love for my husband eclipses entirely the occasional and fleeting sexual attraction I have to women in general.
Even so, it’s not my husband’s job to heal me of the wounds that led to SSA; it’s God’s job. When I struggle, I take my weakness to God, who gives me his own strength to conquer it. It would be unfair to put that responsibility on him, just as it’s unfair for husbands and wives tempted toward infidelity to expect their spouse to keep them from straying. There is only one Divine Physician, and it’s not your spouse.
I’ve come to believe that for those with SSA who are not called to marriage, God has a unique and profound plan…a plan that still ends in a splendorous union, just not a conjugal one. Sex, that most intimate tangle of persons where we most profoundly love and are loved, is intended to be a foretaste of heaven. But once we’re in heaven, we won’t need sex or marriage anymore, Jesus said, because we’ll say God face to face. We’ll no longer need the “sign” of sex to point us to our ultimate destiny–union with God–because we’ll be living out the reality of that union. And just as it always is, the reality will be unimaginably richer, more beautiful, and more satisfying than even the best earthly shadow of it.
In our world, where finding your “soul mate” is considered the highest goal of human experience, it’s hard for people to even consider that God could be calling some individuals to live out a most intimate union with Him–exclusive of romantic relationships–here and now, in this life. Yet it’s true. God desires for these individuals to be in a deep intimacy with him even before heaven, not only for their own sake, but as a sign to the world that union with God is our ultimate destiny. Vocations to religious life (all religious life, not just priests and nuns) are one such call, but so is the single life. With the exception perhaps of contemplative religious life, it’s the single person who has the most freedom to cultivate intimacy with God.
Single persons who embrace God’s call to intimacy are greatly privileged. I’m blessed to know such a woman, who is the godmother to one of my children. She’s in her mid-40s, has many male friends, yet seeks union with God above all earthly relationships. It’s clear from talking to her that her relationship with the Lord is far richer and more intimate than what I can cultivate with God in my busy life of being a wife and mother. She is being drawn into that intimacy with God right now, instead of waiting as I am until death for that more perfect union. It’s beautiful to see and at times I think I even envy her.
A saint (I can’t remember which one) once asked Jesus why He doesn’t call more souls to greater intimacy with him. His answer was, “I do, all the time, but they say no.” One reason it’s so difficult for people to accept that SSA is a disorder is that they can’t imagine our loving God would allow souls to be so afflicted just so they’ll be lonely and miserable if they choose to be faithful Catholics. But what if God permits SSA as a means of reserving some souls for Himself? God permits heterosexuals, after all, to be wounded or even born with specific proclivities toward sin because it’s only through our weakness, our brokenness, that we can admit our need for Him. Far from being a shameful affliction, then, SSA is more likely to be the sign that a soul is set apart by God, destined for a profound and rare union with Him that begins not in heaven, but in this life. If God only ever permits suffering to bring about a greater good, then what greater good could there be than ordering the soul so that it’s drawn primarily to Him?
Many faithful Christians see SSA as a pitiable disorder and believe it makes the person repulsive to God. Imagine getting to heaven only to discover it was the gay or lesbian person that God specially favored.
None of this is to say that there won’t be struggle…tremendous struggle for some. For the soul who chooses to remain faithful to God and eschews earthly union with another person of the same sex, the process of growing in their relationship with God will almost certainly be fraught with temptation and difficulties. But just as in marriage, it’s the struggles that strengthen the relationship and draw the couple closer over time. Of course it will be hard; anything meaningful is. But the person who flings himself into God’s arms when faced with his own weakness will never be abandoned.
Social justice crusader Dorothy Day probably understood the sacrifices required to choose God over earthly relationships more than most; in December 1928, she ended her common-law marriage to Forster Batterham, father of her only daughter, Tamar, to become a practicing, faithful Catholic. Near the end of her life, after decades of living chastely with God as her primary companion, she wrote:
“First, when God asks great things of us, great sacrifices, He intends to do great things with us; though they will seem small, they will be the most important. Who knows the power of the Spirit. Second, when we are asked to show our love for God, our desire for Him, when He asks us as Jesus asked Peter, ‘Lovest thou me?’ we have to give proof of it. ‘Lovest thou me more than these, more than any human companionship, more than any human love?’ It is not filth and ugliness, drugs, and drink and perversion He is asking us to prefer Him to. He is asking us to prefer Him to all beauty and loveliness. To all other love.”
Not many with SSA will choose God above earthly relationships, especially with same-sex marriage legitimizing homosexual unions. But Jesus always warned us that “The gate to life is narrow and few will find it.” For the few who do, may God reward your fidelity with courage, joy, and a peace and intimacy this world cannot comprehend. Bless you.