I love the clean slate provided by a new calendar. It gives me an opportunity not only to look back, but also to set goals and cast vision for the next 12 months of life.

Several years ago, my Bible study leader challenged our group to come up with a word for the upcoming year. She didn’t give many parameters for this exercise, in fact, it was really just an icebreaker so our group to get reacquainted after a long Christmas Break. Despite the casualness of that setting, I’ve taken that exercise and used it religiously in the years since then. Instead of coming up with a specific New Year’s resolution, having a word for the year creates a general theme for me to focus on for the duration of the calendar.

A word for 2019

Last year, my word was “Strength” which I picked as a theme because of my lengthy rehabilitation for a knee injury. In 2017, I chose the word “Hope” as I faced the uncertainty of a major job/school transition.

For 2019, the word I’ve chosen is “Connection”. What I love about this word is that the possibilities are endless (connection to God, connections at a church in a new city, a healthy connection to technology etc.) yet it also provides me with some specificity.

As a same-sex attracted woman, I find navigating basic friendships to be ridiculously difficult for me. When I reflect on the past few years, I can see clearly how my misguided connection to other girls has ruined friendships, destroyed healthy accountability, and hampered ministry opportunities in my church. Even through those relational hurts and inevitable awkwardness, I still have a God-given desire to be connected to others. It is a beautiful desire. Thank God for the desire to be connected, but it’s so incredibly complex to live out!

A healthy example of connection

What does it look like to be connected? Perhaps I chose this word because of the incredible example displayed in the early church. I recently read through the book of Acts in the New Testament and was so encouraged by the stories of deep love the first century Christians had for each other. These people opened their homes to each other, sacrificed their financial stability for those who had less in their community, and cared for widows and orphans in their midst like their own family. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says that love for other believers is a sign of love for Him. I envision the secular Roman world was able to pinpoint a Christian in a crowd simply because of the love he or she expressed towards the fellowship of believers.

Scripture also says how this was possible; the book of Acts repeatedly states that the Holy Spirit empowered these believers. Even when the annoying old widow used up another valuable flask of oil to make bread for her squirrely grandchildren, the Christians in the early church still showed deep love for each other because of their common love for Christ.

I have the Holy Spirit inside me too. Christ promised that the Spirit would empower all believers until he returns. That means that like the early church believers, I have the Spirit empowering me to love other Christians. This includes the overly attractive woman on my ministry team and the pushy young man who in my small group whom I avoid without fully understanding why.

Friendship Love as Connection

Practically, that truth has profound implications for those awkward friendships I frequently experience. In recognizing its importance, C.S. Lewis writes a whole chapter on Friendship in his book The Four Loves. Lewis devotes the first part of this chapter to building up the idea of selfless friendship as the most unique type of love capable to man. Even in the culture of England in the 1960s, Lewis refutes the idea that same-sex friendship has inherent homosexual undertones. Instead of requiring erotic love to unite to same-sex individuals in friendship, Lewis says this about friendship love:

“This love, free from instinct, free from all duties but those which love has freely assumed, almost wholly free from jealousy, and free without qualification from the need to be needed, is eminently spiritual. It is the sort of love one can imagine between angels. Have we here found a natural love which is Love itself?” (p. 111)

This love that Lewis profoundly describes seems to be what was exemplified in the early church. The Spirit-filled love in the church was free from, even contrary to, instinct and was freely assumed.

Upon reflection, it seems that in order to live out the theme of connection for 2019, I’ll need to dig deeper into this idea of friendship love. While human connection is a basic need, friendship is something I should approach selflessly by putting my own interests aside for the sake of someone else. More than that, by Lewis’ summation, true friendship love offers a healthy connection that is categorically different from the erotic love in a romantic relationship. That sounds like the connection I’m seeking this year.

It’s obvious that healthy relationships and meaningful interpersonal connection are beyond my human capabilities. Same-sex attraction is not a battle I would have wished upon myself but perhaps it is God giving me the opportunity to lean into him more deeply for my basic need of human connection. Spending a year, or even a lifetime, of unpacking that reality seems to be worthwhile endeavor.

1C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1960), 111.

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