Monday, September 5, 2011

Stories of Attraction

When I was in high school I moved with my mother from our small town to the big city of Austin. After settling there I began attending a large, conservative church. And on one of my first Sundays at that church, I took note of a cute brunette who was playing the piano. Her name was Sarah, and she was something of a virtuoso on the piano. And did I mention she was really cute?

Before I knew it I had the first full-blown infatuation of my adolescent existence. Whenever I was around Sarah I would start to sweat, and my tongue would get thick, and my heart would race. When I wasn’t around Sarah I would try to think of interesting conversation starters, something like: “Is it hard to play the keyboard with your hands and push the pedals with your feet at the same time?” Safe to say my nickname was not Casanova in high school.

In time, I worked up the courage to call Sarah and ask her out on a date. To my great relief she agreed, and only later did I discover this would be her first date ever. On the way to the restaurant I got lost and drove for almost half an hour looking for the place, before abandoning the search and going somewhere else to eat. I also learned later that Sarah knew exactly where the restaurant was, but was so nervous she didn’t think to say anything. Yes, to say the least, it was an awkward and quiet evening.

We had a few more dates, but then I moved away and the relationship was quickly over. I later heard Sarah started dating another boy not long after I moved and ended up marrying him. I guess she worked out the kinks with me and decided she was ready for the big time.

Do you know what I remember now, almost thirty years later, about that whole awkward experience? I remember how alive I felt. Being attracted to Sarah was my first experience of what happens to the brain and body when your senses are suddenly on fire. That conservative church was quick to denounce the sins of the flesh, so I was happy they couldn’t read my mind when I was near Sarah. Something tells me excommunication might have been in store for me if they could.

When our senses are attracted to something we quickly find ourselves taking notice. Maybe it is the smell of our favorite dish cooking, or the sound of a melody we love, or the sight of a gorgeous sunset; there are countless examples of our senses being awakened and suddenly we feel drawn to something or someone. And the beauty of it is that each time one of those attractions hits us, we suddenly feel alive.

The attractions that enliven our senses and the attractions that awaken our soul are not completely different. Often times, when our senses are brought life, we have opened a door for soulful exploration. Beautiful art or music or poetry can be the gateway to deeper questions and yearnings. Our souls long for truth: truth about God, about ourselves, and about the world we live in. And more often than not it is through some sensual experience that we find ourselves starting a quest for truth.

The sensual attraction that led me to my wife, KaKi, not only resulted in a loving partnership, two children, and a stable home (on our good days). That attraction also meant I discovered new things about myself and the world because I was in a relationship with a person I loved who was different from me. My heart is bigger and my soul is deeper because I was attracted to KaKi.

This is why the demonization of LGBT people is so destructive in our culture. When the dominant heterosexual culture denounces same-sex attraction they are denouncing a core part of our humanity. Without the attraction being allowed to take root, then love cannot blossom. And if love cannot blossom, then many of our soulful yearnings are denied a primary avenue of expression.

The crime against nature is not that gay people are attracted to each other and express it. The crime against nature is denying LGBT people the freedom to express that attraction and create more love and soulfulness in the world. We are all losers in that bargain.

To have our senses awakened is the surest sign we are alive. And what is the point of living if we can’t feel alive?

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About Me

former pastor who is now a pastoral counselor and consultant (mckinneycounseling.org); married with two teenagers; progressive in my politics and theology