Last week I wrote about my sexual compulsion which flourished in grief, despair, and self-loathing. Most of all, the sex addiction was watered by the unwillingness to allow myself to love and be loved in a distinctly erotic way.
As I slowly came to understand, my refusal of erotic love was not saving me but fracturing me, and culminated into depression, anxiety, and a vicious sex addiction. It was fracturing me because it was based on a theology of my inherent badness. There was no waiting, no refining, no disciplining of sexual desire for the greater good, as with straight Christians. There was simply badness, brokenness. My sexuality was a still birth of God; dead from the get-go. I was to simply hold off on any kind erotic love, and wait till the next life. Of course, like so many, I cracked under that weight. Love was too dangerous, too immoral, too broken, too vulnerable. Not only could I be heartbroken for loving, I could be damned to Hell. In attempting to keep my heart and morality intact, I wrapped myself up in a paralyzing cocoon, as C.S. Lewis describes in his book The Four Loves,
There is no safe investment. To love at all is the vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrong and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
I isolated my heart, protecting it from love and keeping my Christian integrity intact, but in doing so I created a Hell for myself. My ability to give and receive love – all love – went numb. And I ignored the cries of my heart for intimacy, partnership, and family for the sake of my theology.
This is a position many gay people are faced with – C.S. Lewis’s coffin of selfishness, or compromising their convictions and their theology. It is no wonder so many of us fall into despair, or lose faith altogether. There are some gay Christians who try to make this dissonance work, and I applaud their efforts. Maybe even a few succeed, but they are not representative of the whole. Under such pressure, I became a sexual compulsive, and I was eaten alive by depression and anxiety. The sexual compulsion compounded the shame, which compounded the depression and compulsion, and on and on, an unstoppable avalanche.
Over time, I began to ask myself – is it worth the risk? When I am an old man, could I live with myself for having said no to the whole realm of love and sex and family? For saying no to a husband? Could I live with myself for having amputated sexual and romantic and erotic love completely? Could I live with myself for having chosen to deny erotic, partnership love for the sake of my theology? I decided that I could not, and that however wrong gay love might be, that was a risk I was willing to take, because surely God and grace are more present in life, and there was no life in my frozen state.
I decided, in the words of Lewis, that, “I believe that the most lawless and inordinate loves are less contrary to God’s will than a self-invited and self-protective lovelessness.”
Perhaps selfishly or weakly, I decided that love was better. I decided that connection – to myself, to others, and even to a partner- was better. I decided that gay love is good. Only with such a decision was I able to cure my broken heart, my impulses, and my fears. With that choice, I was able to make other, healthier choices.
Love frees us, even if it is dangerous. Self-protective lovelessness is a Hell that slowly suffocates us, until we are too dead to even notice.