Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD. — Psalm 27:14
Attending church and a Christian high school, the topic of waiting on God was addressed a lot.
Sermons, Bible studies, and books on the topic were pretty common. Seemed like everyone was waiting on God for something—a miracle, a healing, a check, a spouse, a new job, a promotion, a sign from above.
And this makes sense to me.
Faith in an invisible God acknowledges that there are things happening that we don't see. That in a supernatural ecosystem, there must exist invisible agendas, invisible timetables, invisible happenings. It's to recognize that God exists outside of time, and our manmade notions of time—with its clocks and watches and calendars—are probably funny to Him.
This spiritual reality of holy waiting is a great dilemma for the same-sex attracted Christian . . .
How long do I keep holding out hope that God will change me? How long do I keep praying, asking?
By 2010, my hope for being miraculously changed into a straight man wasn't completely dead, but it was shopping for a casket. I'd been on a 15-year journey of hoping and waiting . . .
15 years of begging God to change me . . .
15 years of late night prayers, declarations of faith, and self-reminders that, "Brett, there is no way that gay is God's plan for your life. Just keep waiting."
It felt like I had been staring at an apple tree for 15 years, praying for it to start growing oranges . . .
Staring & praying . . .
Staring & praying . . .
Staring & praying.
Anyone who's been on a 15-plus year journey of faith will eventually come back to one question:
What, really, is God's will for this situation?
And this is one of the key questions a same-sex attracted Christian must answer: Does God will for me to be . . .
1. Rid of gay desires and/or
2. Filled with straight desires.
I had always believed that it absolutely, must, 1,000 percent be God's will for me to be rid of the scourge of same-sex attraction. I saw no room for it, no reason why it should coexist in the life of a Christian. I thought that if I could discover the right tonic of spiritual disciplines, I could minimize it or kill it off altogether. I thought, eventually, oranges should begin to bud on those branches. But that hadn't happened. The oranges never came.
Holding out hope for something that may or may not come is a mammoth-sized test of faith that gets harder over time.
You know without a doubt that God could change the bad situation, you just aren't sure if He will. Over time, this begins to feel like torture.
It's like losing a loved one and, at the funeral, someone approaches the casket, places their hand on the chest of the deceased, and loudly begins praying for that person's resurrection . . .
Could God resurrect your loved one? Absolutely.
But is it God's will? We don't know. We don't have a lot of evidence that God does this very often, though we know Jesus did it back in the day.
Is this a torturous reminder of what is lost? Is this incredibly painful to watch? 100 percent.
This is what it feels like. Except every day, you're the one putting your hand on the chest of your loved one's cold body. Every prayer hurts.
And after a while, this blind faith for something we're convinced we need can begin to erode your faith.
After a while, you begin to question God. You quit praying for oranges, and you begin to actually question whether or not God even made this damn tree, and if He's even really listening. This is how people lose their faith, by trying to twist God's arm into doing something that, for reasons we don't know, He doesn't want to do.
So sometime around 2010, I began to wonder . . .
What if God doesn't want to rid me of this? What if He doesn't want oranges on this tree? What if it's okay to just quit praying for oranges?
I initially hated this thought because it felt like quitting, like giving up. It felt like I was giving in and letting the devil win. After all, shouldn't we persevere in prayer? Like the persistent widow in Luke 18?
Around this time, I recalled something I'd seen a million times—on crocheted wall hangings at friends' house, on glossy posters at church, in cute little frames hanging in kitchens . . .
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Christian people call this the Serenity Prayer, and it was first penned by an American theologian named Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1930s. The prayer was popularized when it was adopted into the Alcoholics Anonymous program way back in the day.
I'd seen this prayer so much growing up that it was cliché, plastic, ignorable.
I listened to a podcast recently, and the guy was talking about how all the secrets of life are hidden in clichés, but we ignore them because we've seen them so much. I think that's true.
But those clichés spring to life when you're at a crossroads.
Serenity was certainly something I wanted in my life . . .
Brett, maybe it's okay to let go. Maybe it's okay to stop fighting. Maybe those apples are there for a reason, and oranges were never God's plan for that tree. And that doesn't make Him any less God. It might just mean you were wanting something that was never intended to be yours.
My fear was that "accepting" my same-sex attraction was an admission that God wasn't big enough for the situation, that I was giving up on faith. But that wasn't it at all. It was simply a matter of giving myself the freedom to loosen my death-grip, to let go of the control, to let go of what I so desperately wanted.
I remembered how Jesus taught believers to pray in the Lord's Prayer when He says, "Your will be done." I was simply saying, "God, this tree is okay. I'm no longer going to try to change it. It's your tree. Let your will be done."
And so sometime in 2010, I accepted my singleness. I gave up on the hope of being straight. I gave up on the hope that I'd marry a woman and have a family. I just decided to let it all go, and this was a monumental decision for me.
To be clear, I didn't "embrace my sexuality." I simply embraced that God's plan for me was to live a life of singleness and celibacy and that my same-sex attraction was my "thorn in the flesh" like Paul talked about in the New Testament. I still maintained that gay "behavior" was wrong, but I was no longer going to beat myself up over the fact that I was same-sex attracted. I drew a hard line between attraction and behavior.
As this acceptance of lifelong singleness set in, I began to rework my view of my future. I mulled all the things . . .
Okay, Brett, you won't have a spouse. But what about kids? Can you still have kids?
Hmmm . . .
I really hadn't given this much thought until now. And I honestly had no idea if single people could even adopt kids. Or even if they should.
In 2010, there was a big pro-adoption movement happening in the evangelical church in America. Lots of big-name Christian leaders were encouraging their people to adopt kids—either from infancy or out of the foster care system—and into loving Christian homes. I was pretty sure these same Christian leaders wouldn't want single men adopting kids, but I didn't care. I wanted to know more. I wanted to know if it was possible. I needed to investigate.
So I caught wind of a conference called Adopting for Life that was being hosted at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
Southern is one of the largest and most conservative seminaries for up-and-coming Southern Baptist ministers. My mom and brother had both attended there, and I had a lot of respect for two of Southern's top leaders, Albert Mohler and Dr. Russell Moore. So I signed up. I'd drive seven hours—from Atlanta to Louisville—stay at my mom's house and attend the conference.
The conference was really well done.
It wasn't huge—only a couple hundred people—and it wasn't flashy. It was held on Southern's campus which is a very stately, traditional college campus with rolling green lawns and big brick buildings with white columns and church bells.
I sat in sessions about the redemptive nature of adoption, trans-racial adoption, attachment disorders, and funding options. It was all very enlightening. Most of the people in attendance were church leaders who were there to investigate the issue on behalf of their parishioners. I kept to myself mostly. I didn't really want anyone asking, "So why are you here?" I mean, I was a single, 28-year-old businessman who'd driven seven hours solo to attend a conference on adoption. Try talking your way out of that one. 😐
The conference only lasted a couple days, and I began my long drive back to Atlanta, so I had a lot of time to think.
My main takeaway was that adoption was unbelievably beautiful.
They'd quoted Psalm 68:6 a lot, "He sets the lonely in families . . ." which I thought was such a tender and lovely description of God.
And this was something I could relate to. Sure, I was born into a wonderful family with two loving parents, but the older I got, the more I felt alone, the more I felt like an orphan myself. Being single for a long time can feel like a reverse orphanship. The older you get, the more orphan-y you feel.
But welcoming in a child and surrounding him or her with love felt so beautiful and redemptive to me. Maybe God could use me, even as a single person, to bring a little more light into the world. I had a lot to think about.
As I drove home, I felt a little lighter.
I felt some of the darkness of the last couple years part a bit. And I felt, for the first time, a strong desire to tell someone else about my struggle. The only person I'd told was my old college mentor, Olan, back in 2006. That was four years ago.
But it felt like the time was right. I needed someone to talk to, someone to process all this with. I needed someone I could trust. I was still so gripped with fear that even thinking about this made my stomach swim. But I knew I had to do it. I just needed the time to be right.
A few weeks later, I booked a flight to Europe.
I'd only been to Europe once before, way back when I was in middle school and was only there for two days (we stopped off in Germany on our way back from Israel). I've always loved history and had been saving my money, so I decided it was time to do two weeks across the pond.
I was prepared to do the trip alone. But at the last minute, I decided to invite Chris, one of my best friends and fraternity brothers from college. Chris is 6-foot-6, extremely outgoing, and sells buses for a company in Birmingham. Chris was also single, incredibly chill, and very spontaneous. If there was one person that would go to Europe with me at the last minute, it'd be him. I called.
"Heyyyyy! What's up, Trapp?"
"What's up, Chris. Yo, I'm going to Europe next week. Wanna go with me?"
"Hmmmm . . . not sure, man. I need to check . . .
[pause . . . Chris lowers phone and shouts, as if to someone in the back of his house . . .]
Hey Sergio! Can I go to Europe with Trapp? . . . Yes? Great. (Sergio is Chris's dog)
[Chris raises phone back to mouth. . . talking to me now]
Yeah, Trapp, I'm good. Let's do it."
So it was official: We were going to Europe.
I hung up the phone and was instantly besieged by an army of stomach butterflies. I knew what this meant. If I had the guts—if I could muster up the courage—I had to tell Chris. I had to unbury the secret. But that was a big, big IF . . . 👊
B.B.P.S. - I didn't discover it til later, but in 2010 a guy named Wesley Hill published a book called "Washed and Waiting," which outlined his journey through celibacy as a same-sex attracted Christian. I've never met him, but Wesley seems like a good man. If you're interested in the topic, I'd suggest you check out his book.
All photos by Sterling Graves. Copyright Blue Babies Pink & Sterling Graves.
B.T. Harman is the creator of Blue Babies Pink, a Southern Coming Out Story in 44 Episodes.
B.T. is a consultant, writer, and speaker living in Atlanta's historic Cabbagetown neighborhood. He was previously a vice president for Booster, an Atlanta fundraising company, where he helped the organization raise $150 million for elementary schools.
B.T. is passionate about storytelling, leadership, good design, Seth Godin, SEC football, Chick-fil-A, Taylor Swift, archaeology, European Travel and CS Lewis.
To learn more about B.T., visit his personal site at btharman.com.