The Importance of Rounded Stories

Andrew Bunt 3 weeks ago
Blog 3 mins

A friend made a passing comment recently that has really stuck with me. They were going through a difficult time, finding their experience of same-sex attraction particularly painful and their efforts to faithfully follow Jesus particularly hard. Not surprisingly, this was dragging them down emotionally.

As we talked, my friend said something about feeling like they don’t do as well as other people. They’ve been in a same-sex relationship in the past, after becoming a Christian, and have really wrestled with their sexuality in various ways. At that particular point, they were struggling to choose to live out what the Bible teaches, and they noted that when compared with the stories of others, reflecting on their own story can make them feel like a failure.

I was confused by that comment. I certainly don’t see my friend as a failure or really as struggling any more than anyone else, including me. We all have our struggles; we all have times when it’s really hard to faithfully follow Jesus, and we all have times when we don’t really manage it. That might look different for different ones of us, but it’s certainly true of us.

We all have our struggles; we all have times when it’s really hard to faithfully follow Jesus, and we all have times when we don’t really manage it.

I haven’t ever been in a same-sex relationship, but I did spend years addicted to pornography, and lust is still a huge risk point for me. I know if there was an area of my life that the enemy was going to use to take me out, sexual temptation and lust would probably be it. That’s why I have to be extra vigilant about it, I have to be ruthless about avoiding situations that might lead me into lust, and I have to keep open communication about it with trusted friends. We all have areas where we’ve fallen short and have to fight hard.

I shared this with my friend, and it seemed to be reassuring to them. They weren’t alone in having made mistakes in the past or in sometimes struggling to faithfully follow Jesus in the present. But it surprised me that I needed to tell my friend that, and that got me thinking. I realised how important it is for us to share rounded stories of Christian experience.

The reality is, when I share about my experience of same-sex attraction, I usually share the positive stuff: I’ve wrestled with what the Bible says and have concluded that sex and marriage are reserved for opposite-sex relationships. I’ve decided to remain single and celibate, and God has helped me to see how that can be plausible in the context of church family. I’ve experienced how friendship is a context in which I can experience the human intimacy God has created me to need. All of this is true, but it’s not the full picture. It’s not a rounded story. It misses out the mistakes I’ve made and the struggles I’ve had and still have. As I found with my friend, a more rounded picture is more relatable and can often give more hope.

A more rounded picture is more relatable and can often give more hope.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should all be sharing every detail of our sin and struggles with everyone. There’s certainly a need for wisdom to be applied in deciding what we share and with whom, but it’s probably also true that all of us could give a more rounded picture of our walk with Jesus than we often do. Doing so may make us look worse (which doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things), but it’ll make Jesus look even better and could help many others.