They loved me through my struggle with sexuality

I finally felt safe to share my struggles with the leadership, I found that they didn’t pull away from me. Sexuality did not have the power to define me!

Love changes everything

“My earliest memories of my Christian upbringing include morning family prayers, going to church on Sundays, attending Sunday school and taking part in VBS. In all of this, however, I also recall that I felt a distinct sense of “otherness” within me.

No matter how much I tried to belong, whether it was at school or in college, or later in church circles, somehow there was a lingering feeling that I didn’t quite belong anywhere. A deep pain I couldn’t make sense of crept in—it is only in retrospect that I realized where that was coming from.

You see, early on I began to feel an attraction to other girls, an attraction my adolescent mind didn’t understand.

Life went on because, back in the late ’80s and ’90s, there was no language to discuss this struggle, especially for someone growing up in traditional Christian society.

However, the harder I tried suppressing my desires, the more stifled I felt. I started going through a deep depression, which manifested itself in an eating disorder and, in my loneliness and isolation. I found an unhealthy release in addiction to pornography. Guilt and disgust quickly became my constant companions.

Every Sunday morning, I would slink towards the altar to repent for actions that would only repeat themselves on Monday night. The guilt and shame kept me locked in a vicious cycle and I just couldn’t see a way out.

For several years, my sexuality formed my core identity, and looking beyond it was unthinkable!

There were frequent outbursts directed at God, on how He just didn’t understand me and had unreasonable expectations that far exceeded anything that a loving parent would ask of their child—expectations of ‘change / transformation’ that looked like marriage to a man or commitment to a life of celibacy, which in my dictionary translated into a life sentence of loneliness.

Amid these swirling thoughts, I came out to a few people in my church—some friends, and also the leadership. A few of them tried their best to respond to me in love, but not all of them knew how – they lacked the compassion I needed. My desperate heart couldn’t make sense of their responses. Perhaps it wasn’t the right time, or maybe they weren’t ready, because they were unable to handle the person I was and the questions I wrestled with. Adrift, I was completely lost in a storm of thoughts and on the brink of losing my faith.

It was during this time that Danny, who is now a dear friend of mine, noticed my struggle. He reached out to me and began to remind me about grace all over again—about this ridiculous, messy, amazing grace.

I confided in him, and I remember his response, because it has been etched on my heart since then.

“Remember the prodigal son, Supriya,” he said, “wherever you are, make one phone call to the Father. Just make that call to the Father, and He will answer you.”

Danny led me to a new community that later became my oasis.

All Saints’ Church, now known as Highway, was a haven for this restless seeker.

They had no clue who I was, and yet, they were this quaint bunch of ragamuffins that knew how to love, and loved on purpose!

Their unadulterated, intentional love is what kept me coming back for second and third and fourth helpings of grace. This unassuming little group of people became the long arms of Jesus to me, and unknowingly, they wrapped themselves around a flailing soul, ever so gently reeling her in. It took me a while to gauge that this community viewed even the most common moral issues with the utmost grace.

I finally felt safe to share my struggles with the leadership and to my surprise, I found that they didn’t pull away from me, in fact they did the opposite!

I discovered that there was a place even for me within this Body of Christ.

They didn’t have all the answers, and didn’t claim to. The only answer they had was to radically love God, and to love His people with the same radical measure.

I remember one instance in particular when we were attending a retreat. During one of the discussions on relationships, the inevitable topic of same-sex relationships came up. My pastor, Uday, was very sensitive that I was sitting in that group when he answered this question completely based on Scripture. It’s what he did next that made all the difference to me. When everyone had left, he came and sat beside me and in a quiet, compassionate voice, said, “I  know that must have been hard for you to hear, what I spoke about. I’m sorry if that hurt you, but you realize I have to speak from the Bible.”

Uday’s actions that evening spoke way louder than his words—a reaffirmation of how people could balance grace and truth, if they were grounded in love.

Despite knowing all my struggles with God, I was absorbed into the life of the Church—worship ministry, creative arts ministry, and once or twice I was even invited to share the Sunday message!

I’m convinced that people can do this only because of their unshakeable trust in God and His ability to work in the lives of the people He draws into community.

They have always been mindful that everyone, regardless of what murky background they come from, finds a home in Christ; and I see them model that principle repeatedly.

This church is where I found deep, meaningful and authentic friendships that fill my life with much love, joy and hope. In earlier scenarios, as soon as certain people heard I was struggling with same-sex attraction, it was almost always followed by awkwardness, or a “pray-away-the-gay” time.

It’s hard to say which one was worse.

My journey has led me to all kinds of places – but, through all my seeking for truth, love made some compelling arguments with deep experiences of God’s goodness and a growing understanding of His creative intent for human relationships. It led me right back to the first few pages of the Bible, scripted in God’s original design.

Without a doubt, these were the most uncomfortable parts of my journey. For years I had challenged – even rebelled against it – eventually realizing that if God is actually God, then I am not!

His ways are completely different from mine and His logic is far superior than mine.

Jesus’ unconditional love, displayed through the lives of family and church community around me, is what compelled me to begin a whole new journey of what it meant to truly trust God with every aspect of my life and release my sexuality, along with some closely held desires, into His loving hands.

In doing so, I realized something – my attraction to women was only one aspect of my larger reality, all of which was in need of redemption and grace. Sexuality certainly did not have the power to define me!

With years of wisdom, I can tell you this much— God never intended for me to live without love or intimacy.

Am I still attracted to women? Yes! But sexuality no longer defines my life. You see, another thing I learnt was that you can neither discover your identity nor create one for yourself – you can only receive it from the One who made you, and whose love defines you.

By choosing to follow Jesus with my life, I have found that this deep sense of belonging has empowered me to make choices that I never dreamed were possible – embracing a life of singlehood and celibacy.

You know what I have discovered? It isn’t the life sentence of loneliness that I had thought it would be – quite the opposite! I can honestly say that being known and loved in the context of God and community has led to a life overflowing with love and not a deprivation of it. All of us, even the best of us, are on similar journeys of transformation. We’re not who we were yesterday, and we’re not the best versions of ourselves yet. God’s Spirit is the only one who can reveal and empower that change within us.

This is my story – a love story that’s unconventional and worthy of a shout! Not because of who I am, but because I want God’s story to be known, and with it the story of His Body—my church.

Churches, we need to do more!

Authentic, loving community plays a pivotal role in people’s lives. We need to create safe spaces for all who struggle – in this scenario, it’s for those who wrestle with same sex attraction. I can guarantee you that there are a few in every church. I really hope and pray that we tune our ears to these cries and prayerfully begin to look at ways to truly reflect Jesus – who is full of grace and truth.

To people who share this same-sex attraction journey—I love you guys.

You need to know that God already loves you and pursues you relentlessly. You are God’s beloved child; He takes great delight in you. If you find yourself in a place of struggle – just make that ‘one call to the Father’ and Jesus will come. He will find you, wherever you are today. I think this is the very definition of intimacy—to be known and loved exactly for who you are, and not for some future version of you, as I used to understand the premise of Christianity to be.

It does get better. It really does.

Look for a few friends whom you can trust in your church circle and think of confiding in them if you haven’t already. And if you need people to talk to you, we would love to connect with you, please do reach out to us here on this blog. I would really encourage you to get into a healthy fellowship if you haven’t already done so.

I don’t know if this is going to make it easier, but Jesus does understand the grit of this struggle and he doesn’t despise you for it. You are not alone because, not only is God with you, but there are others who can share your journey with you.”

-Supriya Balasundaram

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