Friday, May 11, 2012

Attraction, Love, Marriage

This post is in response to a Facebook discussion. A poster asked me a question, and the answer got to be... well, a little long. So I decided to blog my reply.

First, the question posed:
I will ask one question: did you pick who you would be attracted to or is the gender choice of your partner part of who you are? Your answer responds to your assertion that who you love is different from who you are. And I do not understand how a god who preaches love and acceptance of all can conclude that people who love one another are damned to be eternally different.
Chris: I don't remember asserting that specifically, but I will try to answer your question. Your question is phrased in a way which makes me think that what you think I believe is not quite what I believe. In order to be clear in my answer, I am going to have to share something of what God has done in my life. This does not mean I want to impose my religion on you. I am simply telling my story from my perspective. Take from it what you will.

My wife was, quite literally, an answer to a prayer. I remember one night very specifically when I was feeling my bachelorhood like a burden. I placed my future in God's hands and asked Him to make sure I didn't miss my chance with a woman who would have the right qualities to put up with me. I specifically remember asking Him to "drop her in my lap", so that I wouldn't miss the chance never knowing it had even come my way. He came through, sooner than I expected, and a little bit more literally than I expected!

So, I did not choose the person to whom I would be attracted. I didn't choose her gender, and I didn't choose her race. We have an ongoing joke between us: Early in our dating, she asked me if I knew I liked "black women". My reply: I love a woman, and she is black. I guess it was the right answer!

I did not choose the initial attraction. But I did choose how to respond to that attraction. I chose to love her. I chose to make her the most important person on this earth in my life. I chose to give her myself and my future. I chose to accept the gift from God which was her entrance into my life.

Attraction is not a decision. But love is an act of will. If you've had a child who has ever tried your patience to the very end, you know that love takes willpower. My wife and I have made a commitment to choose to love each other, even when one of us does something very unlovable. In five years of marriage, I must confess to having done a few very unlovable things, and yet, my wife has chosen to love me anyway.

Is same-sex attraction a choice? That's a question about human nature, and like any question about human nature I think the only honest answer is, "it's complicated". It's not something I've had to personally wrestle with, and I pass no judgement on those who have. But I do believe that how each of us responds to any attraction is ultimately a matter of choice.

There have been other attractions in my life which I have had to choose to turn away from. Attractions which could have spoiled the best thing ever to come my way. I'm not out to judge the attractions that anyone else has to face in their life, that may be healthy for them or unhealthy. All I can say is, I know they exist, and I know we all have them. If a neighbor asks me for help and advice in navigating their challenges, I can only share what I know. One thing that I know is that, as a man, there are things that my wife shares with other women, even complete strangers, that I will never ever be able to understand. Even if I had my "plumbing" surgically changed, this fact would never change. Saying this does not make me love her any less. It does not make me hateful, or a sexist, or a misogynist. But the moment I try to get philosophical on this idea, you can bet your bottom dollar that someone will say I'm waging a war of religious oppression on women.

(I can't wage a religious war on women. I've got three women in my house: wife, daughter, mother-in-law. I'm outnumbered. I'd lose, hands down.)

I find your last statement puzzling, and I am certain that it says a lot about the difference between your understanding of love and mine. Or maybe between your understanding of what I believe, and what I actually believe.
And I do not understand how a god who preaches love and acceptance of all can conclude that people who love one another are damned to be eternally different.
Is it really a damnation to be different? My wife is different than I am, and I absolutely love that about her. I don't want her to be the same as I am, that would be boring. I don't want my daughter to be the same as I am, I want her to grow up healthier, wiser, and more sensible. I don't want my friends to be the same as I am. I love cultural variety, and linguistic diversity. If I only love those who aren't different from me, that's very close to self-love. Self-love is easy. Loving someone you don't know, and can't possibly understand? That is incredibly difficult, and incredibly rewarding. It's also "practice" for loving a God who is very different from us, and often very difficult to understand.

But, while my faith does teach that we should love all people, it does not teach that we should accept all choices and behaviors. We are called to come to God just as we are... but in order to come to Him, we have to be willing to let Him transform us. It's up to you to decide whether that's something you want.

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