|Conviction and Vulnerability||
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by Sonia Balcer January 1, 1998
My journey to God began as a small child searching for the face behind the mysteriously personal love reaching me from beyond and within a lonely silence. As I became older, my attraction grew for a God who had reached to me in ultimate vulnerability, holding back nothing of Himself as He willingly entered into human suffering and death so He could gain with humanity what He has wanted from the beginning of time--intimacy. These thoughts are never far from my mind as I, with fear and joy, share in the Bridges-Across experience. These bridges have nought to do with ideologies and doctrines, for those are the canyons of the divide. Rather, they have to do with our responses to those beliefs--what we do with our convictions, motivated either by fear and hurt, or by passion for growth and trust in a wisdom infinitely greater than ourselves.
From prayer and scripture, I have always had the personal conviction that same-gender sexual relationships were not God's highest intention for me, and that this might be true in general (though I lack the scholarly expertise to know the latter for sure, Matthew 13:24-30, 1Corinthians 8:1-13, and John 21:19-23 bringing much-needed balancing perspectives). This belief may at core be deeply offensive to many on "Side A" of the homosexuality issue who understandably experience it as a moral analog of racial prejudice or slavery, rather than an enlistment dilemma about military conscription (either path of which could cost one's freedom, wholeness, and life). In truth, I have no response that could mitigate the depth of conflict over this issue. But this saddens me, because what I see getting drowned out in the increasing polarization between activist revisionism and religious traditionalism is the still small voice of the humble Shepherd Who longs to wash the feet of those who have not yet been touched by His love. His ways confound all human notions of justice and righteousness-- His arms are sacrificially extended without coercion so all may experience the joy of being known by the only One whose love is perfect, Who willingly allowed His heart to be pierced by human rejection and death so that we could know His infinite compassion and fullness of existence. The Creator who risked Adam turning aside into paths of alienation is the same God who came into the world as an infant and entered fully into the agonies of human existence in separation from His love (Hebrews 4:15, Philippians 2:8). His invitation to relationship is made in total vulnerability--it must be freely chosen or it is not a relationship at all.
My early spirituality as a child was inexorably shaped by the lives of those humble yet resolute men and women behind the then-Iron Curtain who laid their lives on the line and endured years of imprisonment and torture rather than deny their love for Christ. On one level it seems absurd--a tragic waste of productive lives, a senseless enduring of unspeakable pain. Neither blind traditionalism nor empty inclusivism could sustain a person through such prolonged suffering, and neither violent intimidation nor ideological vacuum could extinguish the passion ignited by Calvary. The voices of these brothers and sisters continually urge me towards a devotion to Christ in which I withhold *nothing* of myself from Him, entering into such close relationship that the frame of reference for who I am as a person is not found in any world-view or sexual identity, but in connection with Him alone.
At the same time, in various of the life stories of men and women from Side A, I am touched by a familiar sense of uncompromising devotion to Christ (or, for those whose world-view may be non-Christian, a deep and abiding integrity in how they live out their lives). Some have studied the scriptures and/or technical literature in great depth and have come to different understandings about homosexuality than I (tentatively) have. While I may not quite share their conclusions, I esteem the personal journeys they are making and respect their convictions as derived by honest searching, reflections upon experience, and (as applicable) prayer. Indeed there are persons of conscience on both sides of the divide. These are different sides, but part of a larger mystery which God offers us for our growth in faith and love. The walls of the canyon, however deep, rise and merge into a larger landscape beyond human visibility which ultimately connects them. My prayer since childhood has been that nothing in my life would be off-limits to Him-- so that He (Who withheld nothing of Himself from me) could transform all aspects of my existence and work through me however He chooses. If I can trust Him enough to commit myself in obedience to His leading even before fully understanding the reasons behind it, I can also trust Him with the apparent contradictions of life which He somehow contains in a larger whole than my finite wisdom could ever apprehend. He is indeed larger than the divide.
And it is a welcome challenge and refinement to my own journey into the heart of God. In scripture I hear the admonishment that it is not enough merely to do the "right" things--the motivations must be considered as well, whether of love or fear, trust or judgment. Some of Christ's sternest warnings are directed at those who on the surface appear to have done all the most exemplary things but in the final analysis must hear the terrible words, "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:20-23, also Revelation 3:17-20). Not wanting to be found resisting Him (Acts 9:4 and Psalms 139:23) or being, on account of my limited wisdom, a stumbling block to others (Luke 17:1-2), I am continually asking whether my passion to allow Him to know me and others exceeds all my other motivations. Though pursuing for over 25 years what I understand to be His calling away from homosexuality, the recognition of my human frailty suggests that my need to ask Him to search my heart in this area will always remain (Romans 8:26, Psalms 42:7). My place at Bridges is not one of persuasion concerning beliefs--it is sharing who I am so that others may personally know an individual outworking of God's grace, as well as listening in a searching way for whatever He would teach me in response to the investment of others' journeys entrusted to me. Along with this are occasional opportunities to serve in authenticity and repentance on behalf of a Church which needs to regain a greater wholeness of passion and intimacy in Him--received in the safety of His love, and affording in Him a complete trust amid all the relationships through which He desires to reveal His character.
It is relationships, rather than theological or philosophical precisions, that are of the greatest eternal consequence (John 13:34, John 15:1, 2John 5). My belief in God as both transcendent (infinitely beyond us) and imminent (dwelling in us) causes me, despite my personal experience and understanding, to approach with open-endedness many questions with regards to His intent for sexuality, deferring with awe to His wisdom being much higher than any amount of human learning and experience (Isaiah 55:8-9). In the end I'm certain that I'll regret being wrong about a great many things-- I just don't know which ones they will be, and there is humility and freedom in that. Perhaps the view of either Side A or B will be borne out, and perhaps (likely?), it will be seen that neither is any more right or wrong than the other because of perceptual distortions we bring into the journey that are unknown and on account of which we have missed a real Side C (or Z...) that we could not possibly have imagined. No matter of division ought ever take precedence over the more important issue of whether we love well (John 15:12-17, 1John 3:11).
The scriptures say that perfect love casts out all fear, fear of torment and anticipation of judgment (1John 4:16-19). Along with this they give hope of healing the wounds caused by this, and other, Divides, (Isaiah 57:15-19, Matthew 5:1-12) If Bridges Across can serve in relational authenticity to extend His compassion in lifting burdens of fear and contempt borne by each side with regards to being touched personally -- and changed according to His greater plan -- by the other, then it will be nothing less than a miraculous outpouring of His redemptive grace into the world.
"Will the future ever arrive?...Should we continue to look upwards? Is the light we can see in the sky one of those which will presently be extinguished? The ideal is terrifying to behold, lost as it is in the depths, small, isolated, a pin-point, brilliant but threatened on all sides by the dark forces that surround it; nevertheless, no more in danger than a star in the jaws of the clouds." -- Victor Hugo
"And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. --John 17:22-23