As a worship offering during Lent I watched The Passion movie. Of my “fasts” and “feasts” this year, one fast was to abstain from movies unless I was in the company of others. So I invited men and women from my community to join me for this “feast” on the Saturday before Easter—only two came. That’s all I needed, to be with a brother and sister as we witnessed the breaking of His body and the outpouring of His blood.
So much blood—streaks covering His body, pools gathering on the stones beneath him as he was flogged, smears on the wooden cross as he agonized under its oppressive weight and drops from the thorns blurring his vision. It is an uncomfortable movie to watch. It was uncomfortable to me physically. I felt anxious, my muscles were tense, my stomach was tight; I shook as I wept watching Jesus cooperate with and subject himself to this most humiliating, raw and violent death. And I worshipped deeply in my spirit, overwhelmed by His love for me.
Is this what I “feast” on every Sunday at communion? Are these the images and impressions that come to your mind? This year it was for me. Having freshly witnessed Jesus’ offering, the blood was real to me, it was abundant, it was more than enough to cover me. It was precious—every last drop. I could envision it gathering at the base of the cross in a dark pool mingling with the soil from which our Creator formed us. What a picture.
When I think of the ways I’ve been controlled by sexualized relational deficits and need, nothing short of His blood will do. My addiction involved deep, intense and idolatrous relationships with women. It confused me for a long time because this kind of relationship seemed at times to be affirmed in the church, though not to the point of idolatry. When these relationships became sexualized in my midtwenties, I was shocked, ashamed and extremely confused. For six years I was able to contain, manage and “white knuckle” my way through same-sex attraction (SSA) without acting on it.
But there was no healing, no hope, no sense that change was possible. I believed, “This is just the struggle I’ll have for the rest of my life, so I need to figure out how to deal with it.” So I kept it together, set good boundaries, told one or two people of my struggle, and maintained. Then the wheels came off.
I’d recently left full-time ministry, my father had six months to live and I sabotaged a six-year mentoring friendship by sleeping with her. That’s when I entered therapy. That’s when I dove into a new church community that actually believed God could heal physical and emotional wounds, which was news to me. In the midst of all this amazing community and help, my life got much messier before it got better.
I remember being completely triggered at a Leanne Payne conference—imagine Living Waters condensed into one week. Just walking into the women’s restroom set me off in a swirl of gender confusion, as I felt both repelled by and drawn to the feminine bustling all around me. In my pain I turned to my community, a small group of men and women at the conference. I was face-down in the grass outside the Wheaton College chapel, bawling my eyes out while they prayed over me. It was so uncomfortable, so raw and so necessary.
My hunger for woman came from a deficit in my relationship with mom, primarily due to her own self-hatred, depression and misogyny inherited from my grandmother. It was fueled further by my self-identification as a “tomboy” and the resulting gender confusion as I rejected the vulnerability of the feminine and embraced a false masculine strength.
My experiences with an emotionally anemic dad left me feeling unprotected and unseen as a girl, vulnerable to early adolescent sex play and in a combative and competitive stance toward men. When my mom died when I was nineteen, the loss was a catalyst for the unraveling of all this pain. Combined with the existential loneliness and baseline anxiety of being a human this side of heaven, I was in desperate need to learn how to feast on the real meal of Jesus. I resonate with the phrase, “Addiction enables one to secure pleasure amidst the anxiety generated by life itself.”
For years I wrestled with my “addiction,” because at many levels and on the surface it didn’t seem like one to me. It felt even more confusing because I couldn’t point to one big incident, deficit or traumatic experience that would explain the sexualization of female relationships. Over time and lots of healing through community, Jesus revealed the layers of “big enough” incidents and deficits of my life. I’d often go to therapy and then bring what we talked about into my small group for prayer and support. I had to choose to submit my same-sex friendships to my community for accountability and boundaries.
Even then, for an entire year, I shirked this support and engaged in an ongoing sexual relationship with a woman. Remember what I said about it getting messier? My community didn’t know how unhealthy it was because I hid it. I was meeting my own needs in my own way. I was feasting on a false meal that left me hungry for the real one. Even in the midst of that disobedience, God’s mercy and kindness shone through. Aspects of that relationship were redemptive, life-giving and healing for my soul. Finally, in the crucible of confession, the truth came out and over time more freedom and healing was released.
My healing journey continues today after thirteen years, and Jesus has freed me from my daily struggle with SSA. When red flags come up, I know now how to respond, how to turn to real food to nurture and sustain me. I know now that I’m not a sexual deviant but a hungry and broken spiritual being in need of Jesus’ body and blood. I regularly feast on Jesus in worship on my own but also in daily community with Living Waters and the larger church. My friendships with women are deep, intimate and well-boundaried in the safety of this community and regular confession.
He continues to redeem my pain in ways I could never have imagined, and He uses my story and struggle to inspire and give hope to others. What a good and gracious God to provide everything I need for life through Jesus’ body and blood.