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A Matter of Choices

by Imani (A pseudonym which, among other things, means faith in Kiswahili)

 
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What I have been asked to do seems very difficult, at least, and at most, fairly impossible. I have been asked to write my "story," not for other women like myself, not for gay men, but for the leadership of the church! What could I say to you? Which "story," for there are many, should I tell?

There is nothing I can mention from my childhood in explanation for how it is that I came to have the ability to love women. I was not molested as a child. My father, who has been with my mother for 35 years, was never abusive to me in any way. He never abused my mother in any way. And I was never abused by anyone else, male or female, in my childhood. I have a "good, churchgoing family." My father came home every night. Neither of my parents drank or smoked. My father didn’t even gamble. My parents were conservative during my upbringing (though less so with my younger sibs), but not overly strict, although sometimes I thought so, as most kids do. My father was raised in a much earlier time, so it was rather the natural order of things that we children were much closer to mom than to dad, but he was always there to back my mother up with the discipline. One certainly did not remain at home on church day without his permission! Perhaps there was some biological component. Perhaps it was a biological predisposition that just happened to meet up with the "right" circumstances. Perhaps it was a choice I made at a certain point in my development. I don’t know, and I am not sure that it is even important, since I am not very political on this topic, and I have no "agenda" with regards to it.

I am not a radical feminist, although I would have to say I have some feminist leanings. I do not hate men, although one would have to agree that past and present history certainly does lead one to believe that a great deal, if not most, of the trouble and danger in this world comes from that half of the species. I am a married woman…married to a man. Yes, that is what I said! I am married, with a daughter and another child on the way…but you thought this was a "lesbian" story, didn’t you? And perhaps the story of how I came to be married is the one I choose to tell.

Since I was fourteen, I have sought the Lord. I have searched the Scriptures. I have tried to do all I could to please Him. I was "led" to this church. It was not the church that I was raised in. I went to high school with rich Jewish kids on the other side of town, which was something rather unique for a young black teen to pull off, but I was smart, so they let me. I was really following my best friend. She begged me to try to get a transfer. They had to skip me a grade to do it, but like I said, I was smart, so they let me. Anyhow, at this school among Jews, I learned the Sabbath and chose to keep it. I also set my teenage mind to leaving the church I was raised in because they did not keep the Sabbath. But I could not become a Jewess, because I strongly believed in Jesus. I also had sense enough to know that I could not simply "walk out" of church! Not while living with my parents, at any rate! So I waited until college.

I went far away from home for college. Although it was a Christian university, I quit going to church and kept the Sabbath as best I knew how in my dorm room. One day I heard Dick Gregory speak on the "evils and perils of eating meat," and from that day to this, I have chosen to be vegetarian, just because it seemed to be the right thing to do in light of the new information I had just been given about how the animals were processed, the inability of inspectors to catch all of the diseased meat, the inhumane conditions in which animals were raised for human consumption, the design of the human digestive tract and its lack of suitability for meat consumption, etc. Now, when I went home that first time after dropping meat, my parents thought I was a little nutty, but that was a piece of cake compared to the following year, when I came home again and told them I was leaving ‘their" church to become a Seventh-day Adventist. That, too, seemed to be the right thing to do, given the fact that I had finally found a church that believed in Jesus but still kept the Sabbath and believed all the things I had already accepted as biblical truth from my own study of the Word. And besides that, I learned some things I had not studied, which was a welcome challenge to my intellect, both spiritually and academically.

My father did not take this well. (Yes, this is an understatement.) He thought I was being influenced by the guy who invited me to church. But lo, these many years later, when I have no earthly idea where that young man is, I am still in the SDA church. I gave my father literature for years, took him to Revelation Seminars whenever one was going on when I came home. He believes, but he is old and set in his ways. He has accepted that I am SDA and that there is truth to what I believe as an SDA, but I fear he will die without taking his stand.

All that, to indicate that I have this habit of doing things and making choices because they seem to be the right thing to do, not because they are the easiest or most pleasant and desirable. Which brings me to women. And men, and marriage. At some point, it doesn’t really matter when or how, I discovered that I have the capacity to see women as men do. I can be attracted to them in the way men can. I can want to be with them just as a man would want to. And I, being the same woman who has wanted to please the Lord in every way I could since fourteen, began to search the Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy for anything I could find on women loving women. And in all honesty, I found…nothing. Nothing in Scripture, except that one verse in Romans, that pertains to women. And when I used the techniques the Adventists taught me about using Scripture to explain Scripture, all I found regarding prohibited sexual acts for women related to intercourse with the "wrong" men, and intercourse with animals. So, as far as my mind could understand, intercourse between men was strictly and unquestionably prohibited by Scripture, but the only sexual behavior Scripture prohibited for women was intercourse with a man not her husband and intercourse with animals. So for me, that little verse in Romans had to be referring to something like bestiality, since there was no other evidence anywhere that women being sexual with women was a problem. I mean, Leviticus says semen is unclean all the time. Women don’t produce semen. Leviticus focuses on intercourse, and women cannot have intercourse with other women. It is physically impossible. Leviticus says that blood is unclean all the time. Women can easily avoid contact with blood, since we only see it once a month. Nothing ever says that the normal lubricant of women is unclean. So, no prohibition could I see. Not even in the Spirit of Prophecy. She doesn’t even mention women with women. It seemed very logical and still does. But, I didn’t stop there.

I have always wanted to do the right thing, the thing most pleasing to the Lord. So I kept asking and praying and searching and came to the matter of "underlying principles:" purity in the life, the proper context for sexual behavior. That kept coming up the same. Marriage is the proper context for sexual behavior. Purity in the life requires the proper restraint of sexual behavior until one is within the bounds of a godly marriage. Naturally, this "discovery" posed a dilemma for one such as myself. I did not want to marry a man. I wanted a woman in every sense of the word. But I wanted to do what was right and pleasing to the Lord, so I asked Him to work this thing out. Well, He eventually did give me a heart for the man who was to become my husband, and we did get married, even though he is aware, and has been from the beginning of our acquaintance, of the fact that I am lesbian. He even insisted that we address this in our marriage contract! I am happy with him. It is not always easy. There were adjustments to be made, as one might imagine, but I would not change this. (Well, I would have made him a little less messy and more helpful around dishwashing time…)

Does this mean that I no longer have the ability to love women? That I am no longer lesbian? Not at all. I am still very much lesbian. I try not to "feed" that part of myself too much, but it is still a part of who I am. I have chosen not to nurture this part of myself. I have chosen to follow what I know to be right, even though I don’t have a Scriptural prohibition against being physically intimate with a woman. I have chosen to act on underlying principles, regardless of how it was I came to be what I am. This choice is not always an easy one for me, but it is a consistent one for me.

I am a sincere Christian woman. I even teach Sabbath School regularly and am one of the most requested and most well-attended teachers in my church. You would never know I am lesbian. Outside of certain groups designed for the purpose of spiritually nurturing and promoting understanding of and among gay and lesbians SDA’s, I would never have shared with any SDA other than my husband that I am lesbian. It is unfortunate that we SDA’s have a tendency to hate the sinner as well as his or her sin.

We have "stop smoking" programs for those who have a problem with smoking. We have cooking schools for the dietarily challenged. We have all kinds of health and temperance programs, but nothing to speak of for those of us in the church who struggle with our sexual orientation. I would never expect the church to lower its standard and accept something that the Scripture, either directly or by principle, prohibits, but I have hoped that there would be a place within the church where people like us could have some support in our journey to follow Jesus in spite of our tendencies. Perhaps I am more acceptable to you because I am married and you can’t "see" that I am lesbian. But I tell you, I am not much different than my gay brother or sister who finds it difficult to let go of a relationship with someone of their gender, or whose only alternative seems to be a lifetime of celibacy in order to live a life pleasing to God. I chose celibacy for a portion of my life, and it is a lonely and difficult road when traveled without support.

There are more gay and lesbian and even bisexual SDA’s, and those who have same-gender attractions, yet do not classify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, than you might care to admit—all at various places in their journey to serve the Lord. And they don’t all serve in the music department! I would suggest that perhaps we, like Mary Magdalene, need a place of acceptance, not simply at the feet of Jesus, but in the arms of the church. When I suggest "acceptance," I do not speak of acceptance of sinful behavior, but of people. Mary was a sinner, but Jesus accepted her and blessed her, while at the same time commanding her to go and sin no more. Her gratitude for His acceptance of her personhood, her humanity, was poured lavishly at His feet, and is a memorial for all time of what the love of Jesus for the outcasts of society and the church can do for a heart.

I am strong. Jesus is my strength. I will remain in this church as long as I live. I will raise my children in this church. But what of the many who are not strong? Those who are easily discouraged and will not stay in the church to receive its blessings if there is no support as they try to live holy lives against strong tendencies at best, and hostility against them because they are not always successful, at worst? We are relatively patient with the smoker who decides to quit, realizing that it may take more than the "five-day" plan allows. Can we not be more patient with our gay and lesbian people when, though they have decided to follow the way of the Lord, they sometimes slip and fall?


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