I have a friend who, for my purposes here, I’ll call “Todd.” Of the many things Todd and I have in common, two of the most important are that we’re both committed Christians and we’re both committed husbands married to wonderful women. He’s one of the people I look to when I get discouraged, because he loves God and he loves his wife and he shows me that I’m not alone in my struggles.
In a conversation we had recently, Todd told me that he battles against an addiction to pornography. He had hinted at that before, but it didn’t strike me as an insurmountable problem. All he had to do was avoid the magazines, porn shops, and web sites—problem solved. Until that conversation, I didn’t realize that pornography can wreak havoc in a person’s life as easily as heroin. I didn’t realize how debilitating such an addiction can be, nor how helpless a person can feel against it. This addiction was real, it was serious, and it was damaging his marriage.
If that confession was a stick of dynamite, what he told me next was a full-fledged bomb. “I struggle with homosexuality,” he said. “And the pornography I’m addicted to is gay pornography.” Perhaps only another conservative Christian can appreciate the pain and difficulty involved in his making that statement, and in my receiving it. (If this bothers you, please read the statement at the end of this post.)
I can’t really speak to his state of mind at the time, but I can tell you how it affected me. The revelation shocked me, to say the least, and in a way infuriated me as well. I felt no anger toward Todd—I love him as much as I ever have, maybe more, and nothing has changed that—but I felt a lot of anger at the situation. I know this is irrational, but I was furious at homosexuality for existing, for invading his life, for causing him feelings of guilt and isolation, for placing a nearly unbearable strain on his marriage, for holding him back from true peace with God and others, as if it were an entity that could be fought, an enemy that could be hated. Hours after our conversation had ended—days, even—I was still numb, not knowing how to feel. The entire situation confused me, addled my mind, and forced me to rethink a few things.
First, I had to re-evaluate the encouragement I drew from Todd’s marriage. I had always assumed that both our marriages were based on the mutual love, respect, and attraction we felt with our wives. After learning of his homosexual struggle, though, I had to wonder whether his marriage existed more because of social pressure and familial expectations. Second, I wondered whether he would actually stay with his wife now that his secret was out (he had told six people, including his wife, before me). Third, I wondered whether his wife would actually stay with him.
Upon subsequent conversations, my fears about his commitment to his marriage dissipated. Regardless of his struggles, Todd truly does love his wife and will not repeal the commitment he made to her. The whole ordeal, I think, has been harder for his wife. From her perspective, she now lives with a man wholly different from the one she fell in love with, one in whom she has invested much of her life. When she found out, I’m sure she felt a betrayal that touched the core of her being. She continues to feel that. She continues to feel angry and wronged and cheated out of the life she knew, a life she knows she can never have again. But she remains committed to Todd and to their marriage. With God’s help and the support of her closest friends, she makes it through those days when she feels no hope. The two of them have good days, bad days, and horrific days, but they so far remain committed to restoring their relationship to a state of true love, trust, and devotion. In a time when so many couples split for no reason other than boredom, their commitment inspires and encourages me and raises the bar for everyone.
This is an excerpt from a note I wrote Todd’s wife recently:
Todd is quickly becoming one of my heroes in the faith, and I get the feeling that if I communicated as much with you as I do with him that you’d be near the top of my “most admired” list as well. I sometimes get discouraged when I see so many marriages fall apart for very little reason. For the two of you to persevere through one of the hardest tests I can imagine encourages me more than I can express.
And this is from a letter I wrote to Todd:
I have a tendency to look at the Christian life as a holy standard by which to live and judge ourselves, as a guideline showing us how to make the right choices, as a description of God and how we can serve Him. I’m slowly expanding that understanding, looking more at what God can do than what I can do, and a lot of that stems directly from you.
Todd still struggles with his addiction, and he and his wife are going through some pretty intensive counseling. But they both have exceeded any and all reasonable expectations of them and are emerging stronger because of it. True Godly love is not reasonable. True Godly love is sacrificial, extravagant, and enduring. Their efforts and their marriage encourage me more than ever before, because they are living proof of the power of true Godly love.
Please note that any discussion about the acceptability/sinfulness/biology/psychology of homosexuality lies outside the scope of this blog. Todd and I both believe that God intends for marriage and (therefore) sex to exist between a man and a woman. Trust me, we’ve talked about it and we both know all the facts/arguments on both sides of the issue, so have that discussion in another forum.