Friday, August 2, 2013

He Will Make It More (John 6:5-14)

Remember how in my last post (over seven months ago) I mentioned that I’d been dating a girl? Well, to make a really long story really short, we got married! Now, this obviously changes the nature of this blog a little bit. In the past, the intro at the top has always read, “I'm a college-going Latter-day Saint man who lives all the commandments happily. I hope to marry an elect daughter of God in the temple and have children someday, despite the fact that I'm attracted to men. For now the only passionate relationship I'm in is with the scriptures, and this blog is the story of that relationship.” Obviously I had to tweak that a bit.

I know that a lot of you (most especially those of you also experiencing SSA) want to hear a lot more details on how I got to this point, what the struggles have been, advice, etc. You probably think I’m a block-head for not having put up my thoughts throughout the whole dating period. My response: you’re probably right. As lame as it sounds, the main reason I didn’t was lack of time. I actually have about 5 half-written posts waiting in the wings, and I do intend to finish at least a few of those and post them still. I also hope to still post some of the many lessons I learned during the dating period over the coming weeks, I will have at least a little bit more time than usual this month before school starts back up again. As for this post, I wanted to share some of the thoughts I’ve been mulling about marriage, despite the incredibly brief period of experience I have on the subject.

A couple years ago one of my best friends got married. While searching for a gift, I came across a print of a painting by Simon Dewey of the young man who offered his 5 barley loaves and 2 small fishes, with which Christ fed the 5000. This is one of the few stories that actually shows up in all four of the Gospels. Following is the account from John 6:5-14, which I especially like as it is the only one to actually mention the young man who donated the food (I also quite appreciate John’s commentary asides):
When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?
And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.
Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.
One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him,
There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.
When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.
Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.
Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.
The painting, shown below, is a masterful work and I appreciated it, though it certainly was not what I had in mind as a wedding gift until I saw the title the artist had given it: He Will Make It More. It seemed to me that this was great advice for a celestial marriage: letting Christ make more out of the little we give so long as we give our all, and I said as much in my letter attached with the gift. At my own wedding recently, that same friend and his wife gave my wife and I a card reminding me of the painting and offering the same advice I’d given them. I haven’t been married long yet, but already I’ve begun to see how very real this principle is.
Being a partner in a marriage is a monumental thing. In many respects, I think it can be far more overwhelming than the prospect of suddenly finding one’s self in charge of providing food for a crowd of 5000. You find yourself immediately confronted with all of your own shortcomings and inadequacies, keenly aware of how they could prevent you from being the kind of person your spouse deserves. There are lots of wonderful, happy times, and there are some rough patches and misunderstandings both before and after the wedding ceremony. Marriage is a celestial thing, but we are currently telestial beings, incapable of completely living up to the responsibilities of marriage. Nonetheless, when we offer up all we have to God and to our spouse (the other parties of the covenant), He will make it more. It is important that we always give our offering to our spouse just as much as we do to God. You can’t hold part of yourself back from your spouse, for you’ve made promises to give them your whole self, just as they’ve promised to give you themselves also.
Like the lad in the story, our offering must be willing, but size doesn’t matter. As Andrew asked, what are five loaves and two fishes among so many people? The order fell dramatically short, but all Christ needed was the willing offering. When we give that offering, as in the story, we will find ourselves and our loved ones with us filled, with extra to spare. He will fill us with His love, which makes up the difference in what we lack and will improve our weaknesses into strengths and multiply our strengths into greater strengths. I have seen him make me into more than I was, and improve my capacities so that I could be more of the man my wife deserves. I have seen Him do the same for her also, and our joy has increased and we have grown continually closer and closer. However inadequate you feel to be a husband or wife, if you give your all, He will make it more. That’s what He does.
It has been said quite wisely by many others on many occasions that getting married is not going to “cure” anyone of same-sex attraction, and nobody should ever get married merely in hopes that it will make those feelings, temptations, and experiences go away, because it won’t and because that is a really lousy, shallow, self-serving reason to marry someone. I want to make it clear that I agree 100% with all of those sentiments. Getting married so you can “cure” yourself of anything is like reducing your spouse to the value of a therapy session or a Tylenol. Don’t go setting yourself up for a divorce by rushing into a marriage for the wrong reason, especially only to discover that it won’t “cure” you after all. Opposite-sex attracted folk don’t find themselves suddenly no longer attracted to other women or immune to sexually deviant temptation just because they get married. If so, there would be no adultery. Likewise, if you think a man is hot now, chances are you’re still going to think so after you marry a girl. That is vitally important to understand in advance.
Now, that last paragraph probably seemed a bit off-topic, and it was. However, I needed to make sure I was clear about that so that nobody misconstrues what I’m about to say, or cites it to claim that marriage is in any way a cure for being gay. I merely want to share one of the deeply personal ways I’ve seen Christ take my meager offering and expand it in my marriage. I do so carefully and ask for your respect for what I’m about to share, especially as it isn’t a very easy thing for me to express.
I find my wife gorgeous. She has a stunning natural beauty. It’s great; it’s also NOT why I married her, though it is a wonderful thing. I chose to marry her because I love her; because I love God immensely and so does she; because she is jaw-dropping intelligent and intellectual; because she has a kind heart and loves to serve; because we get along splendidly and have wonderfully fun adventures together. In those and many more ways, I am very attracted to my wife. However, despite the fact that I find her beautiful, I cannot say that prior to our marriage that I was aroused sexually by her. Now, in many ways that is because we tried quite specifically not to be in situations that would have aroused either of us, but beyond that, for me it was quite obvious that my SSA was an obstacle there. I’ve definitely seen young Mormon couples who get married quite specifically so they can have sex. Certainly there are other reasons in most of those cases, but for some folks being able to have sex is pretty high on the list of reasons why they tie the knot. That was not the case for me. Sex wasn’t even on the list. I married her for who she is, and because the thought of going through life with her by my side and being old with her and being exalted with her is the happiest train of thought I’ve ever had.
If you are a young same-sex attracted man who gets aroused seeing two men kiss but can lose that arousal twice as fast by seeing a picture of a naked girl, I’ve been where you are. If you’ve had far more sexually-themed dreams about men than women, I’ve been where you are. If you’ve never had to look away when a girl in a bikini goes by because it doesn’t faze you, but the shirtless dude next to her makes you blush, I’ve been where you are. In many of these instances, I’m pretty much still where you are, and I know that it means you are especially terrified of marriage perhaps above all because the idea of sex with a woman is not only unappealing, but perhaps even borderline disgusting to consider. It is for you that I offer the following insight: it is okay to not get married for sex. In fact, it’s a lot better to have lots of other more meaningful reasons to get married. If you find someone for which those other reasons apply, don’t let that obstacle hold you back from marrying someone you love. I reiterate again: the love must be real and there must be substantive reasons for you to want to marry her. BUT, if you choose to marry and give your all to her and to the Lord, as weak and flawed as it may be, He will make it more. He will bless your union with beautiful physical intimacy so long as you offer your heart willingly and completely to God and your wife. I can’t fully explain it, nor am I going to delve into any details in what is truly a very sacred, personal matter between my wife and me, but I can assure you that if you are fully committed in a righteous marriage, then in whatever aspect of marriage you feel you have shortcomings, if you rely on Him then He will make it more.