Camaraderie of the Broken
By Scott Davis
Four years ago a close friend from my campus church told me that he had same-sex attractions. This was a first for me. I was shocked, confused, and completely unsure of how to relate to him. My questions ran the spectrum from intensely theological Ė what does this tell me, if anything, about his faith? Ė to the intensely practical Ė is it still ok for me to give him hugs? His questions ran much deeper. "Why me? Who am I anyway? Does God really love me? What now?Ē
For the last several years, Iíve sought answers not just to my own questions, but to the questions and needs of his heart, the other young men Iíve met who struggle with the same difficulty and of countless young men in my church who struggle, not with attraction to other men, but with lust, pornography and the impurity of soul that corrodes their lives. What does it mean to be a man in a world that emasculates us all with twisted images of sexuality and masculinity?
I stand, as a young minister at a college church, at what I consider one of the front lines in the battle for souls. We see the walking-wounded every day with fake smiles on their faces, dulling the pain with alcohol, sex and achievement. We see them every day in our church. It takes a little time and a lot of trust before theyíll drop their masks and let you see them as they are. At first I thought there was something weird about me that I attracted broken people. Eventually I came to accept the truth Ė THERE ARENíT ANY UNBROKEN PEOPLE. At the clear direction of God, and with the help of a great friend, I made my way to the Exodus 2002 Conference in Chicago last month. I was completely unprepared for what God was about to do in my life.
As you may have gathered, same-sex attraction is not something I struggle with. I went to the conference out of love for my friends and a deep desire to do something. I didnít expect to be touched personally. The most I was hoping for was help starting a support group on my campus. God, however, had something else in store.
That week was a burning bush experience for me. It was a completely unexpected unveiling of Godís glory in the most unlikely way imaginable. I came to the conference to learn how to heal others; God healed my own soul. I came to gain ministry skills; God touched me profoundly with his presence. I came to learn how to help a fraction of my church; God taught me how to help them all.
When I arrived in Chicago I didnít have a good idea of how to help my friends who struggled with same-sex attraction; I only had that knot in my stomach that urged me, "Youíve got to do Ö something!Ē By the time I left, I had a solid foundation for implementing a ministry to the sexually broken within my own church. The Exodus staff and ministry leaders were fantastic. They gave me a wealth of knowledge from years of experience in just a few short days: I learned about understanding the roots of same sex attraction, difficulties to expect in gender affirming ministries, how to help the broken find inner healing, and much more.
I also didnít come to Chicago expecting a personal spiritual renewal, but thatís exactly what I got. The worship from Godís people in that place of humility and brokenness was astounding! The sense of Godís presence was unmistakable. We came as humble men and women deeply aware of our needs, and our Lord met us there. Well, many of us were already aware: I had to visit an Exodus conference to begin recognizing my own needs and wounds. God brought me to a new place of humility and awareness of his work in my own heart that weekend.
One of the most interesting things I learned at the conference is that men who struggle with same-sex attraction desperately need strong friendships with men who donít. Iím ashamed that so many of Godís churches have relinquished their responsibility to help men and women walk out of homosexuality. Churches are the natural place for them to find spiritual healing and nurture and to develop healthy friendships with the same sex, but we reject and shun them. Even the most loving and well-meaning churches can tend to just ship them off to counselors when one of their greatest needs is simply for a good friend. Iíve seen in my own church the healing effect that a godly man who doesnít have same-sex attractions can have on a man who does. We need to find the courage to get over our stigmas and warmly embrace homosexuals. Donít you think Jesus would have?
Relating as equals
Weíre not really all that different, you and I. Male or female, straight or gay (Jew or Gentile, slave or free for that matter): weíre all broken by this world, all smeared in our sin, all loved by God. I found friendship and brotherhood at the conference. I found that I could relate as equals with those who struggle with same-sex attractions, though my struggles are different. Was I ever uncomfortable? Certainly. But the family of God is a strong bond and my primary identity has never been "straightĒ Ė itís been "Godís child.Ē
The Christian faith has always been a "camaraderie of the broken.Ē David, the man after Godís own heart, slept with another manís wife. Solomon, the wise king, was led by his many wives to worship other gods. The woman at the well, whose life Jesus so tenderly embraced, had been married five times. The woman who anointed Jesusí feet with oil was a prostitute. When did Godís family suddenly decide that only the "healthyĒ should be let in? We are the church, the broken ones, in the process of healing. We ought to see gays and lesbians flocking to our doors, joyfully leaving their lives of sin behind, because of our open-armed love for them. How did we ever become their enemies? We are their natural best friends! We are the outcasts, the broken Ė the church.
The gift of Exodus
The basic needs of the men I met last month are no different from my own. They long for a deep and meaningful connection with a strong Father they can depend on. They long for a role model to show them how to be a true man. They ache inside for a healing power to touch their buried wounds and bring comfort. They need God Ė Father, Son and Spirit. My needs are no different.
Also, the needs of my church (pastors, are you listening?) are no different. We live in what may be the most sexualized society in history. You canít walk down a street or turn on a TV without being bombarded with twisted sexuality. My generation has grown up infused with the notion that sex is the key to happiness and true satisfaction in life. What a sad lie that leads us to worship a twisted version of Godís beautiful gift of sexuality rather than the Creator himself.
My generation, and those coming after us, are sexually broken. Not just pedophiles and rapists. Not just gays and lesbians. All of us. Our culture is hyper-sexualized: why arenít we speaking about it at least as frankly on Sunday mornings as they do on network television during "family hours?Ē Our church members are broken sexually in every way imaginable: can we give them the grace to bring their brokenness out into the light without condemnation? Our friends are wounded inside: will we trust God for their healing? Itís way past time for the church to begin responding with Godís love and truth in his power.
What God has given Exodus is a gift the wider body of Christ desperately needs. I experienced an atmosphere at the conference that I pray will infiltrate the church. We came as people who recognized our own brokenness and found courage together to let down our masks and open up old wounds. We talked about real life and sex and pain without any stigmas or taboos. We cried out for God to meet us there. And he did! Our God, our Healer, came in power on the broken and humble.
I pray that the body of Christ will become more like those broken men and women whom I met in Chicago. You should come next year. You really should.