“Do you know where the word “compassion” comes from? It comes from the Latin word com, which means “with”, and passio, “to suffer.” “To suffer with” is compassion. Jesus manifests to us that God is a God who suffers with all of us. There is no human suffering in you or anyone else in the world that has not been suffered by God. Consolation begins with this knowing. God is suffering all human suffering.”
Henri Nouwen—Following Jesus pg.76
Last January just after the New Year, a friend introduced me to the idea of praying for “a word”. This word would be a theme and prayer over the upcoming months. A word which frequently kept coming to mind during quite moments was “peace”. This seemed to have many connotations. One, was the concept of “peacemaking” as I find myself in many environments with clashing belief systems. Could I be part of the solution as opposed to causing more polarizing problems? But the other meaning goes deeper. I didn’t feel at peace with my single relationship status. For me, there is a season during each new decade where I feel cranky and restless being single. I find myself asking once again—“Why am I doing this again??” I imagine most single and married people might ask this question when immersed in the “weary daily-ness” of life sometimes.
But, you know my mantra if you’ve been around me for more than 30 seconds—no one has it easy. Being married or single comes with its joys, benefits and equal trials and tribulations. The grass is never greener.
Is there a Space for Grief?
Recently, I have found this lack of peace has led me into acknowledging a season of grief surrounding my sexuality. After much contemplation, I realize I’m grieving the unmet needs that led to some very poor and desperate decisions regarding sex. I’m grieving those choices that left me more wounded and empty. It’s also sad I gave myself away so easily because I wanted to be loved. Sex was introduced to me at an early age (14), and I was not emotionally ready to deal with this big and complicated force. I often wonder how life might have been different without that exposure. There were years of shame for simply having same gender attractions. My sexuality never felt good or right and because of that early sexual experience, I adopted a gay identity far too early.
Looking into the future, I realize I might never experience that kind of “union” with another person for which we are created. There is something very powerful emotionally and relationally about sex. I might not ever feel wanted or desired in that way. I know that sexualizing my emotional needs and sex are not at the center of a relationship. Our longing to connect deeply is ultimately met in our relationship with God. Still the grief over bad choices, damaging situations, unmet needs and not experiencing something that is simply human is real. The grief is real. Being honest before God and entering that grief with Him is the best place to start. And as Henri says in the above quote, God is compassionate and suffers with me and that is a place of consolation to start.
Some questions to contemplate in that consolation might be:
- Have you ever had a space of grief surrounding your sexuality (gender, attractions, behavior)?
- Do you have a hard time forgiving yourself for bad choices or getting into damaging situations sexually, emotionally or relationally?
- Where is the place for lamenting the unmet needs in your life—whether married or single?
We often don’t like to sit in seasons of grief, but mulling over these questions with God is a good place to begin. Usually, we will find a myriad of things to distract ourselves. But if we continue to avoid the realities of sorrow in the various facets of our lives, we will miss God’s deeper work. How do we process this grief? How will God make a way through the desert? I’m glad to share some of my thoughts on this in part two.