Almost every story I read, personal stories of individuals dealing with their sexuality within the church, involves a part where they admit to thinking about killing themselves, attempting to kill themselves, or praying that God would take them to heaven so that the struggle, the pain and the loneliness would be over.
Almost every story. That’s too much.
Too much longing for death by the very people who should be celebrating new life in Christ!
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full,” says Jesus, in John 10:10.
Life. And life to the full.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
For the record, I’m not a theologian, so if I’m taking things out of context feel free to write me, or comment, or tweet me to get me onto the right track. But in the meantime, here’s my take on it …
I’ve always known that when I come to Christ, he brings me Newness of life. I knew it theoretically, and I knew it literally and practically too. I’d seen light glow from dark places, over and over again. Old habits or thought processes would be melted in the presence of the king. The old would be gone, and NEW would become more apparent. I knew that I was a new creation in Christ and that I had access to the FULLNESS of life that is available in Him. But I am also gay, and that isn’t something that has changed with my new life. I am a new creation in Christ, I am a son of God, and I am still gay.*
And, like so many other gay Christians over the years, I would pray, night after night till my (metaphorical) couch overflowed with tears, “God, let me just die here. I don’t want to wake up again. I can’t do it. Please…in your mercy…let me just wake up in heaven, with you.”
Was it a lack of faith? Or an expression of faith? I don’t know, but I certainly knew it was an expression of fear and of pain.
And this is a story that we see repeated over and over in the lives of Christians who identify as gay, who are attracted to people of their own gender, and who the church has (mostly through no fault of their own) long condemned, silenced and pushed down.
Why are so many Gay Christians trying to kill themselves?
What is it that they cannot face?
For me it was facing a the future. I’d wake up and take a shower and think about the fact that one day I’d be old and need to invest in a bath with one of those fancy doors, or at the very least have bath rails and Imperial Leather soap in a soap dish and maybe a flannel. I’d think about being old, and with it would come a sweeping sense of loneliness and a sense of a life unlived. Would I have a partner? Would I have children? Would I have friends that I lived with? Who would look after me? Who would know my stories? What would my legacy be if I continued to be silent?
These kind of thoughts would become overwhelming, even though I knew that God was with me. I’d cling to the promise of new life, while wishing to be done with this life here on earth.
So, at night, I’d pray earnestly, “God, just let me die tonight so I don’t need to face these questions again…”
And, let’s be honest, life is pretty easy for me.
I live in the UK where homosexuality is embraced by the majority. It’s much, much worse for others. I’ve read stories of people in countries where being gay is not understood, discussed or embraced AT ALL. Where people fear someone will find out and will beat them to death. And so, at night, they pray, “God, let me die in my sleep…painlessly please, before someone beats me to death.”
I fear that we, as a church, have created a culture in which people who are gay are more scared of living than dying. Where they feel a life cut short is better than a life lived among their Christian family.
I no longer pray that I will die in my sleep (well, I haven’t done so for a few weeks anyway. I may again in the future.) Instead, I pray that God will show me how I can live my life out in fullness, embracing eternal life here and now, not from the grave. He came to bring life, and life to the full no less!
I’m excited to see what journey he has plotted out for me and where he can take me.
As Christians, we need to become intimately aware that there are brothers and sisters among us, sitting in the pews, praising the same God with all their hearts (as David did) and going home to cry into carpets (as David also did) that they wish they were dead.
The discussion isn’t about policy anymore, its about people.
What would Jesus say to them (to us?!) and what can we do to help?
I will probably always pose more questions than answers, because I just don’t have a lot of the answers. But the two things we can do right now is: Look and listen, and Speak and love.
Look and listen: Read stories. A simple Google search will bring you access to testimonies of gay Christians who don’t know how they can live in the culture of churches. Read their stories and let your heart lift up prayers as you read. Pray that God will see them through your eyes and be moved with compassion (#bemoremoses), and pray that YOU will see through HIS eyes and be moved by His heart towards them (“How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!” Psalm 139:17)
Speak and love: Acknowledging in conversation and from the pulpit (and via Twitter and over Facebook) that you know there are people out there who are struggling with suicidal thoughts related to their sexual identity will help others speak up. Talking about the fact that there are honestly many Christians (gay or straight) who struggle to live on Earth when dreaming of Heaven will help to normalize the issue so that it can be talked out. It’s important not to talk down to the issue when its a reality faced day-to-day by so many. Much has been said in Christian teaching about heaven as if it’s simply a great place to be when you die…when in reality, heaven (the kingdom) is constantly invading earth right here, right now. (Matthew 3:2 says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near!”) It’s “at hand,” right here! Jesus came to earth and brought the kingdom with him!
We need to start embracing heaven here on earth, in our churches, in our Christian culture, so that our brothers and sisters will no longer feel a need to escape from earth in order to feel connected or for the pain to stop.
So…it’s a much bigger issue than I can blog about in one go. This is just a few preliminary thoughts that struck me today. Let’s chat about it more over the next few years as God continues to bring us new life, here and now, and let’s keep inviting his kingdom to come.
– Matt Drapps
(Disclaimer: My thoughts are often thrown out over blog posts, tweets and messages. These are no concrete statements. They are shared thoughts. Take the time to ask yourself the questions, pray into the situations and respond. Don’t take my word for it. Ask God what he is saying, and what you can do about it.)
P.S. On a positive note, I’ve seen similar messages being spread throughout the internet at the moment, and it’s raising awareness in a very exciting way.
* I’ll delve into the Old has gone, New Creation, stuff in more depth another time, definitely.
photo credit: “Dreamful Suicide” by Yahya Natanzi via Flickr, cc