My way of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic has actually been to try not to think about it too much (not easy in the circumstances!). I’ve found it hard to write deep and meaningful reflections or come up with profound insights because all my energy has gone on trying to drag myself out of my pyjamas and go for a walk each day. But I was recently asked ‘How has lockdown affected your same-sex attraction?’, and pondering that question helped me make sense of my emotions and seek God in them.
I find it hard to acknowledge the loss that lockdown has brought as there are inevitably lots of people who have things worse than me. I don’t want to be indifferent to their plight but have also found it helpful to recognise why I’ve been finding things tough. Over the years, I have worked hard to build a really good support network and to enjoy healthy intimacy and community so that same-sex temptations have largely lost their sting. Then along came lockdown and robbed me of most of those things – hugs and physical touch, having a laugh with a group of friends, playing sport, playing music in a band, spending time with my elderly friends, enjoying playing with kids, having new and fun experiences, petting animals. These and more are things that help me to have a full, rich and flourishing life as a single, same-sex attracted person.
The current restrictions are confirming that everything I’ve been saying for years about the importance of church family is true!
The thing is that I’m not made to function well without these. God’s word is clear that church family, loving relationships and community are vital to a healthy spiritual, emotional and physical life (Genesis 2:18; Mark 10:30; Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 2:17). The current restrictions are confirming that everything I’ve been saying for years about the importance of church family is true! And here we are with the perfect storm of confinement at home, lack of physical touch, not being able to meet in groups, make music together or play sport and having to make do with time-lagged, stilted conversations on Zoom, coupled with the only way to spend time in person with female friends being 1-2-1.
My first response was to become angry that the helpful things that I’ve put in place have mostly been stripped away by something outside my control. Another prominent reaction has been disappointment in myself that I’m not as strong or as over temptation as I thought I was. I had almost prided myself in the fact that my same-sex temptation had lessened so much over the years. Lockdown has been humbling.
Small steps in the right direction
So how can I and others like me respond well in the midst of lockdown?
- I think it’s important to recognise the very real sadnesses and to be kind to ourselves. It’s tempting as Christians to try and jump straight to the silver lining, but it’s important to acknowledge that lots of things in this fallen world aren’t as they should be, and that’s not good. It’s OK to be upset that I’m missing out on the wonderful gifts of community, touch, laughter and communal worship that God has provided for us to thrive as Christians. In fact, it’s the right response to lament the loss of something wonderful and God-given and to call out to our Heavenly Father for help. Psalms, Lamentations, many of the prophets and Jesus himself model godly lament for us (for example, Psalm 102; Lamentations 1:1-2; Jeremiah 9:10; Mark 14:36).
- I’m helpfully reminded not to get everything out of proportion. My temporarily increased same-sex temptation doesn’t mean that I’m back where I started 25 years ago when I became a Christian, but it does make me more aware of my dependence on God’s grace. The further we are from the sharp-end of a particular struggle, the more we are in danger of taking credit for our own progress. It’s no bad thing to be reminded that I’m here because God has carried me by his grace alone (Galatians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 4:7).
- We know that lockdown isn’t the end of the story. In fact, this life isn’t the end of the story. We can place our hopes in the bigger picture of God’s renewal of all creation. There will be a day when we will experience the best community ever and enjoy the deepest intimacy imaginable (Revelation 21:1-4). That should spur us on in our current struggles and also inspire us to share the good news of a better day to come with others who don’t yet know Christ.
So, the short answer to the question ‘How has lockdown affected your same-sex attraction?’ is that it’s made temptation a bigger battle. The better answer is that through it I have once again found that God’s word is true, his love is enough, he has brought me a long way and will lead me home.