Finding Grace in the Wilderness

Two people sitting on the beach

Image Credit

The wilderness resonates with me. It symbolizes uncertainty, internal wrestling, and solitude. I find myself wandering the wilderness every now and then, as God shifts my perspective and turns my world upside down. Comfort and certainty transforms into tension and reservation. I’ve found myself back there since moving to Virginia. Real life uncovers questions I’ve tried to suppress and ignore. But the more I learn and the more diversity enters my life, the more tentative I become–the less tightly I hold onto my assumptions. As I’ve interacted with LGBTQs over the past few years I’ve found less confidence in definite positions. I don’t have absolute assuredness about Side B or Side A, celibacy or same-sex relationships. I just know grace. I know I can trust God with these gray areas, because I believe he is good and he loves. Oh, yes. He loves.

~     ~     ~

I was recently interviewed by Nico Lang about my experience as a celibate gay Christian. My thoughts revealed some of my internal tension and some of my doubts as I shared pieces of my faith that I found beautiful and inspiring. The article arrived with little notice, so I sighed a breath of relief and moved on.

 

But then Queerty featured a story about me that was, well…interesting. The story revealed a major misrepresentation of my faith, and the comments stung with cruelty as people hit below the belt. But as I reflected on the piece, rather than experiencing anger, I felt a desire for compassion, grace, and forgiveness. So I wrote Queerty an email they may never read, but I want to share it with you:

 

“Hi there,

My name is Seth Crocker; your website recently ran a piece about me regarding my interview with Nico Lang for Mic.

I would like to humbly submit your article mischaracterizes me and my faith. I have repeatedly stated in my public writings that I have no desire to convert other gay and lesbian people to my perspective. I believe God loves all people, and that includes the LGBTQ community. You don’t have to change your sexual orientation or choose a life of celibacy to be ok with God. God loves you just as you are in this moment.

I have spoken publicly about celibacy to share with a specific demographic my story of faith and sexuality. It’s never been intended to shame anyone or change anyone’s mind. We live in a multicultural world filled with different perspectives and values. I respect your dignity and autonomy, and I would hope you would respect mine even if you disagree. The beauty of our diversity is our ability to challenge each other so we can grow.

I realize my position may trigger negative emotions and painful memories with insensitive and homophobic Christians and traumatic experiences with the church. I can simply say I don’t condemn anyone. You don’t have to be celibate, or even believe in God for me to love you. You are loved unconditionally.

I confess that I could be wrong about my position. I have doubts and uncertainty. I’m ever seeking to learn and interact with other Gay Christians and local LGBTQs. I might not always be celibate. Who knows. I’m simply doing my best to reconcile my faith and sexuality according to my conscience. Others will choose different paths, and I extend no judgment to them. I’m just trying to make it through life like any other human by God’s grace.

Much love to you and your readers,

Seth”

~     ~     ~

I’m still journeying through the wilderness. I don’t black and white answers. Maybe celibacy isn’t the answer for me, or maybe the future will strengthen my previous convictions. Despite my doubts, I am committed to deepening my relationship with Christ and following where he leads. If I’m learned anything, it’s that the world hates uncertainty. It pressures and intimidates, when we just need room to think and reframe and breathe. No one can interact with God’s Word and the world and remain unchanged. A dance occurs between scripture and the stories we tell. Each reveals something marvelous about the other. The more we learn from both, the more questions we may discover than comfortable answers–at least I have. I question whether I’ll ever find certainty again–maybe it’s just an idol holding me back from trusting God. To my surprise, I’m finding peace sitting with this tension. “Walk by faith, not by sight.”

 

So what I want to extend to Queerty, to every sexual and gender minority, every Christian, whether conservative or liberal, is grace. The wilderness may seem barren and lonely, but there’s grace here. God is here. And I’m learning to extend grace to myself. Grace to question, grace to learn, grace to grow.

 

Grace to live life.

  • Jeremy

    Yes, I so often find that just when I think I’ve got it right, something happens to knock the delicate balance and it all comes tumbling down again. We build our house of cards and it falls too easily. So appreciate your honest sharing and identify with your uncertainties. I’ve been more Side A and was growing in certainty on my views there when someone kindly knocked me off my perch. The knock was sufficient to send me into a faith spin too, but I’m glad to say I’m back on track with that. Loved what you said about your faith: “Despite my doubts, I am committed to deepening my relationship with Christ and following where he leads.” But the knock has severely damaged my desire to go back into a church environment, sadly. I say sadly because I do think the church is supposed to be an all embracing safe place of love and affirmation in which one should be able to root and grow, but it is not at all.

  • gregofzion87

    Remember that God sometimes intends to lead us to the other side of the wilderness or only lead us while we’re in the wilderness and we feel every harsh effect on our bodies and hearts. Keep trusting. You’re here for a reason.

    Like you said, the journey is full of uncertainty and we’re easily filled with doubt at the beginning, but it’s your trust, your commitment, your faith and your growing love of Jesus that will separate you from the ones who will forsake Him and go their own way.

    That same God who leads us on paths that are unclear to us always has a purpose and He always has a plan to work for our good. So it comes down to what you as an individual choose to believe and and follow.

    The world is always changing to appease itself. But God’s character is unchanging. You’ve read the Bible and know the stories and promises of God. What He’s done for so many others, He’ll do for you too; He’ll humble you along the way, then bring you to a state of peace.

  • I’d be much more worried if you thought you had achieved certainty. Then you would have no more need of faith. Absolute certainty about virtually anything in this life is unattainable, and if you set that as the standard you’ll either convince yourself somehow you’ve attained it (which is the self-deception in which many Christians live) or give up your faith entirely (which I’ve seen people do). But you can hold to absolute truth without achieving absolute certainty over the details. One of my favorite CSL quotes: “Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect.” — C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (BTW if you’re not aware of it, check out They Stand Together: The Letters of C. S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (1914-1963) ed. Walter Hooper. Lewis stuck by his friend Greeves for the rest of his life until Lewis died in 1963, even after Lewis found out around 1917 that Greeves was gay.)

  • Laura Grimes

    This is so beautiful, Seth, and a surprise to me after I clicked from Eve Tushnet to the article and skimmed it too fast assuming that everyone mentioned would be equally certain about side B as her or Belgau. I love the humility and openness to the Spirit leading you to another path which are a model for me as I also try to build bridges in war zones as a deeply feminist and deeply traditional Catholic. Hugs and prayers from a sister in Christ and queerness who is pretty committed to side A in part because of a nearly sexless mixed orientation marriage (I am bi, though not out even to myself when we married, and DearSpouse is straight and male). The challenges are not orientatinal but stem from a mix of clergy sexual abuse as a young woman, hyperfertility which made NFP require near constant abstinence, and the sexist and heteronormative RC teaching I accepted for a long time. I know and love some amazing side B folks, value the courageous embrace of and witness to celibacy, and especially grieve how some of my progressive compatriots who are supposed to value diversity can be so hurtful on the topic, as you experienced with Queerty–as well as the harsh condemnation from the other direction by some conservative Christians.