Written by: Esther Chua (Photo by: Lemuel Teo)
Five liberating moments
21 years into life, seven years as a Christian, two years since my baptism — I thought struggles of this kind would immediately cease as I conscientiously made decisions to become more committed to Christ. Sadly, it didn’t. Deep contemplations of leaving the faith and submitting to the homosexual identity played within me.
All I wanted was to be normal like everyone else, being attracted solely to the opposite sex. But here I was, feeling gay, utterly self-condemned, and questioning my existence. If I was living in Old Testament times, I would be putting ashes on my head, mourning for myself.
These struggles started when I was seven. I fantasised about being in a relationship with a close girl friend of mine — she was my best friend then. She was really pretty and had a good heart. Surely being in a relationship with her would be harmless, I thought. But I did not dare to approach her. I thought there was something really wrong with me because I could be attracted to a guy, and also to a girl.
Growing up, it seemed like my parents always treated my brother more favourably than my sisters and I. He got what he wanted easily; while my mother would force me to wear dresses everyday. I hated it. I wanted the freedom to choose my own clothes. I constantly struggled with the thought that it would be better to be a guy. I often imagined being in a relationship and playing the dominant masculine role.
The inner turmoil escalated when I was 20. I had a good friend who had a sex change operation overseas and was in a relationship with a girl; it was then that I really felt the temptation to change my sex. I started hearing stories of friends and friends of friends who gave up their faith to pursue homosexual relationships. I thought, “How great it would be to follow in their paths!” Their lives felt more like freedom than mine did. Yet, as a Christian, I knew that God had created me as a girl for a reason. Emotionally and spiritually, I was torn; I had to diligently choose that which I knew God has set as rightful. I wanted to choose His path and not the world’s. Yet there were many moments where I really felt like giving up my faith altogether and go on to live a worldly lifestyle — struggle-free!
I’ve heard of stories of people with LGBT attraction who were prayed for, and suddenly, they did not want to pursue LGBT relationships anymore and some even started loving people of the opposite sex. As I got water baptised and prayed for, I hoped that I would also have this breakthrough instantly. But it did not happen. Even so, with my baptism, I had set my foot down to choose following Jesus. I made a choice to not pursue anything that would make God sad — and that meant giving up bisexual attractions and wanting to be a guy as well. My baptism did not remove these desires, but it set a resolve in me to choose God above my desires.
The liberating moments in my struggle came as I was praying one night. I asked Jesus if He really understood the temptations I was facing. Sins of sexual immorality are explicitly mentioned in the Bible, and there was no way Jesus felt any same-sex attraction. Would He really understand me? Having bisexual attractions made me feel like a downright sinner. I read the Bible intensively and the revelations I received broke down every feeling of condemnation I was facing in my struggle. Here are some of the revelations I’ve discovered along my journey:
1) The difference between temptation and sin
No one came to Jesus and said, “You sinner! You were tempted three times by the devil, you asked your Father to take away the cup of suffering Gethsemane…” We still acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God and our High Priest precisely because “He has been tempted in every way, and yet He did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
There is a difference between temptation and sin, LBGT tendencies and the act of it. I can be struggling with LGBT tendencies, yet not commit the act of it, and still be a Christian. Before God, I acknowledge my area of temptations, but I do not allow my attractions and the temptations I experience to define my identity.
2) God’s original design for mankind
When we consider “God’s original design,” many people fixate on the idea of heterosexuality — that sexual relations should be between one man and one woman only. However, if God only wanted mankind to be straight, then any heterosexual relationship would be all right, including adultery and pre-marital sex.
God’s original design for mankind was to be holy (1 Peter 1:16). He wants us to set aside ourselves for Him. Being holy is a beautiful thing, but in the world we are living in today, it may not be easy to lead a holy life. This is why we need grace…
3) What the grace of God truly means
The kindness of God leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). God is the One who brings us through the process of change: to be healed from our past hurts, to overcome our struggles with sin, and to understand our original design to be holy. This is the grace of God. Encountering His grace might not bring our struggles to a total cessation, but He gives us the time to change to become more like Christ. Having experienced the grace of God, I still struggle genuinely with these attractions; this seems to be case for many other sins too.
4) The constant love, power and acceptance of Jesus
Yet, I have come to experience the constant love, power, and acceptance of Jesus. For a long period of time, I was wallowing in condemnation, thinking that I would never be worthy to come into His presence because of my ongoing struggle. In a sense, I disqualified myself from His presence through my self-condemnation. But every time I pray, I feel His love and grace; His presence and peace is so palpable! I know I am accepted by Jesus.
Also, I thought that I was not able to be used by God because of my struggle, but He proved me wrong. He has given me spiritual gifts which I am able to use to bless others. I have prayed for people and seen God moved in healing and filling people with the Holy Spirit.
His love, power, and acceptance constantly washes over me. Bit by bit, I understand more about who He has made me to be and the joys that come from abiding to His idea of a family unit; gradually my struggles are fading away.
5) A church family that shows you WWJD (What Would Jesus Do)
I am thankful to have a church family walking alongside me in this issue. In our Singaporean culture, everyone is so scared of showing weakness. We are kiasu and kiasi; we don’t want to lose face. Vulnerability is for losers. However, the support I received from my community in church really liberated me by helping me be honest about my struggles and discover who I am meant to be in Christ. They showed me WWJD, gave me the encouragement and acceptance I needed, and the time to change. If not for their prayers and support, I know I will not be where I am today.
As someone struggling with these temptations, honestly the last thing I want to hear is, “You know that this is wrong in the eyes of God right? So, repent right now. Turn away from this.” I am aware that this desire is wrong; I do not need more reminders about this. I have chosen to turn away from sin, but that does not mean the attractions would instantly fade away. Temptations still come and I still struggle from time to time.
For those who may be struggling with same-sex attraction or LGBT desires, I urge you to continue keeping your faith in Jesus. Draw near to Him, for He understands and desires to walk this life-journey with you. He will not condemn you; Satan condemns you and makes you think it is God that blames you, or that you should blame yourself. But do not condemn yourself anymore because God loves you and longs for you to be free.
For those who are Christians, I appeal to you: Give your friends the time they need to change. It is not easy for anyone struggling with these issues to open up to you. It is like any other sin you find hard to kick away; we feel the same way too. We need your support, and His grace and power to help us change.
I am coming out of the closet — not the closet defined by the world. I am coming out of the closet, proclaiming that I am human, just like all of you, struggling but still experiencing God’s love for me day by day. And this day, I choose to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him.
“For it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. For this life I live, I now live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave His life for me” (Galatians 2:20).
To protect those around her, this article has been published under a pseudonym.