One common struggle I increasingly hear as my friends enter their 20s is the struggle with singlehood. Some are worried that they may never find someone to marry.
But for Christians struggling with same-sex attraction (SSA), the concerns are even more pronounced.
I sit down with Melissa (not her real name) one afternoon to hear her thoughts as a Christian with SSA. I want to know why someone would willingly chose to be a Christian – knowing she may have to remain single for the rest of her life.
“Did you ever blame God for your sexuality?” I ask. The underlying question: Do you blame God for robbing you of the possibility of being in a relationship?
Melissa shakes her head. “God did not make me like that. Whatever happened was my choice.”
But she tells me she’s thankful for the experiences He’s allowed her to go through to become who she is today.
Singapore Sports School, for example. Melissa says she was supposed to part of the pioneering batch – “So prestigious!” she exclaims. “And sports was everything to me” – but her family disapproved, so she had to turn down the offer.
And for a period of time, she looked for someone to blame for her disappointment. “I used to blame God even before I was a Christian! I don’t know which god I blamed lah. Like, why did you give me a family like this?”
Now, looking back, Melissa realises that if she had gone to sports school, she wouldn’t have met the classmate who eventually brought her to church. And she wouldn’t have known Christ, she muses, “which is so much more precious compared to sporting glory and all that”.
“It’s just trophies, after all.”
TEMPTED, EVEN IN CHURCH
She’s also started to see God in her journey of dealing with her sexuality.
“I saw how going through SSA has got me to where I am now. I gained another level of empathy. God is like that – He can use anything and turn it into something good. So I stopped blaming God because I finally saw how He could make my struggle with SSA something beautiful.”
Melissa admits that while she still may not fully understand why God puts her through certain situations, she knows that what is important is holding on to the knowledge that He is still sovereign, still good.
To illustrate this, she tells me about a time when she was attracted to a girl in church.
Even the Church can be the enemy’s playground if we allow it.
“I felt that side of me wanting to come out,” Melissa recalls, “and because I didn’t want to go back there, I had to keep away from this girl, which was very hard, because we were in the same church and my church is so small.
“I almost got angry with God. How can? This is Your church leh! How can you allow it? I was very confused.
“But I went through that and drew the line and did what was right. In the end, I realised that if you resist following your fleshly desires and pass the test, you’ll have breakthroughs.
“I learnt that temptation can happen anywhere. It taught me that the world may look at Christians at church and think they are perfect – but they’re not. Even the Church can be the enemy’s playground if we allow it.
“That’s why it’s so important to be strongly rooted in God’s Word and what He says about you.”
I slowly start to see what Melissa means when she says that God allows us to go through certain situations to teach and grow us. I go back to the topic of singlehood and ask if it’s harder for someone with SSA.
She pauses for a moment before she says: “If singlehood is a problem, it’s probably because you feel lonely and you want a partner. So I think the underlying issue is the same whether it’s of the same or opposite gender.
“But is getting attached really the end-goal?”
“I chose to be single not just so that I stay away from SSA, but so I could be fully secure. I want to be fully secure in who I really am – I don’t want to base my security on being with another person.
“I felt liberated when I came to the revelation that I’m going to be okay no matter what my relationship status is.
“Previously it was all about self-reliance, but God is now in the picture, so I know who I’m really depending on. That’s carried me through my struggles with loneliness.”
“But is getting attached really the end-goal?”
If anything, she says, what’s difficult for Christians with SSA is the support and understanding they receive from the Christian community.
“For a heterosexual single, it’s easier. You can talk to anyone, even a gay person, about your singleness and they wouldn’t judge you. But for a homosexual, you cannot speak freely. It’s like a stigma – it’s hard to talk about it.”
I’d always felt that Christians with SSA had the short end of the stick. From my perspective, I thought a romantic relationship was something they could never enjoy – like the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.
But perhaps we have been focussing too much on fruit we do not need to have.
Speaking to Melissa, I start to realise that rather than it being a burden, having SSA can give one a special understanding of how much we all need God, rather than seeking to be completed by a man or woman.
Not that marriage is off the cards for Melissa. She says she’s come to the point where, after many years, she is open to the idea of a heterosexual relationship.
“It’s not about what I want, but how I can allow God to do what He deems best.”
“I’d consider marriage because I see it as way to grow my faith on another level. As a single, you die to self. With a partner, you have to consider his feelings and what he wants – you need to know it’s not about you anymore. And subsequently, having kids will really test you.
“So I began to entertain the thought of being in a marriage. Can I imagine myself being with a guy? Is it going to be awkward? I’ve never dated a guy before, and I was the ‘guy’ figure in my previous relationship.
”Right now, I’m just giving myself that breathing space to get to that point, then work towards preparing myself to be a good partner.
“I feel that I’ve come to the place where if a guy comes along, whom God says I want you to have as a partner to do greater things together – I’ll take it.
“If not, I’m going to be okay too.”
She concludes with an arresting simplicity: “It’s not about what I want, but how I can be flexible and allow God to do what He deems best.”
Coming out of the interview, I’m beginning to have a new understanding of the challenges that a Christian with SSA faces.
More than understanding one’s singlehood – which all of us has to come to terms with, SSA or not – the more specific hurdle they face is the lack of proper support.
Even as they choose to walk away from their personal desires to instead pursue a life of a higher calling, are we, the Church, helping them to succeed?