During a rather difficult time in my life, when I had been praying consistently for a broken relationship to be restored, I recall mentioning to my rather conservative Christian father that God seemed to be responding to my prayers with silence, as the woman who I was desperately in love with continued to ignore my requests for an attempt at reconciling. After all, I had done nothing to hurt her. I felt I was the one who has been wronged. He gladly offered information about a book he was reading entitled, “Why Is God Silent?” The information he shared, in a nutshell, was that God was silent when we disobey God, which he then turned into proselytizing to me, telling me that since I did not take the Bible literally (especially my thoughts that homosexuality and bisexuality are not sinful-and my support of LGBT rights-which he thought was the indication that I was not really a “real” Christian yet) that perhaps God was “holding out” on me until I “straightened up and flew right”. (For the record, I was not out to my father as bisexual and still am not to this day, for obvious reasons.)
This depressed me for quite some time, yet at that time in my life I was very young in my faith — more of a seeker than an actual believer. It took me a long time and the harsh ending of the hopes for restoring that relationship as it had been to understand that God was not being silent at all, it was me who was not listening to God. And God did not reveal the whole picture at that time either, for if God had, I would probably have dismissed it, thinking it was far too good to be true. For there was a different future God had in mind for me, one that was far better than the one my small and unenlightened mind had conceived. You see, I was hoping for a relationship where another person made me feel loved, whole and secure, instead of looking to God to help me feel those things first.
I was settling for a relationship where I could be loved, but at the cost of my own soul, my real being — the person God made me to be. I was living as a monogamous heterosexual when in reality what I wanted was to have a special woman and a special man in my life. I was settling for silencing my feelings instead of giving them a voice. I was settling for belief in the God of rules, restrictions, and punishments I felt I had to believe in instead of the God of Love I knew was real in my heart and soul. Most of all, I was settling for less than God wanted me to have. And even though I still love the girl, I have understood that God may have a different path in mind for her as well. Will she and I cross paths again? I cannot say. All I can do is accept the fact that although relationships end, love never does. That we can hold on to. People sometimes do part and go their separate ways, not because one is right and the other wrong, they are just on different paths that intersected for a brief time. I am just grateful now for the love we did share and wish her the best. I am convinced that the reason we did not get together then is not because God was refusing to answer my prayers, but that I had some growing to do that God knew would be of more importance, and when I began focusing on that, and praying for my own strength and spiritual growth, I was suddenly overwhelmed by God’s Presence in my life.
I don’t believe for one moment that God is ever silent. I truly, in my heart of hearts, believe that it is we who are simply not listening to what God is telling us, in such a myriad of wonderful and unexpected ways, mostly because the Love, mercy, forgiveness, acceptance, and Grace seems far too good to be true for us. I cannot speak for everyone, just as I cannot speak for the whole bisexual community or Christian LGBT community, but I can attest to that being the case for me. If you had asked me ten years ago if I thought God would love and accept me as a bisexual who has honest relationships with both a woman and a man simultaneously, or if you had told me I’d be writing about my experiences as a bisexual and a Christian for a Christian magazine, I would have laughed in your face. Now I thank God everyday for making me this way, and God is where I seek my guidance. But God was there even through my worst and darkest times, even when I did not acknowledge God’s Presence (as if there actually WAS a way to be out of God’s Presence). I just did not listen. I let that old demon called fear interfere with the messages of Love God was sending me. Looking back now, they make sense, but at the time I had no idea God, the God that Jesus taught of in the Bible, was speaking to me.
First of all, a lot of it may have to do with exactly how we feel that God communicates. Most of us, even the most conservative scholars would agree that the average human being is going to walk down the street tomorrow and walk around the corner right into a burning bush that talks to us or hear a booming voice from the clouds (and if we did, and they related the story to us, we could quickly have them arrested as a lunatic!) But experience has taught me that there ARE burning bushes and voices from Heaven and visits from angels that we can experience on a daily basis if we cease being so literal about them. For just as the eternal message of the Bible and Christ can be interpreted metaphorically and gain a strength greater than it carries at the literal level, so can the way we understand God’s Way of communicating with us individually.
As supportive and loving friends would call me and ask how I was and if there was anything they could do to help me feel better during times of need, I would lament to them how “God does not care. God has forgotten me,” when God was caring for me right there through the care and support of those who loved me. And all those years that I lived a life in the closet, refusing to allow myself to come out as a bisexual who had a lot of different and unique perspectives about God and love and life, God was constantly sending lots of messages that I ignored. The first girlfriend I ever had who would have embraced me and supported me had I actually come out as bisexual to her (she knew, and so did I, but at that point it was just like God and Christianity was in my life — I knew I believed in God, I just never talked about it or did anything to acknowledge my faith. My mind was far too busy remembering an angry God from my Southern Baptist childhood.) For months, this caring and loving woman encouraged me to let go of my fears, to accept the Holy Spirit, and to come out as bisexual. She understood, cared, and accepted me as such and I know now that God was speaking to me through her love. I did not listen. (And years later, after I HAD come out as bisexual and met a bisexual woman who wanted to give me all the love I was seeking in an unrequited relationship, I said “no” to God’s Grace again, believing foolishly that being loved unconditionally was “TGTBT”-“Too Good To Be True.” Thank God I have grown since then!) I clung to my fears and worries, afraid God would never love the “real” me, instead denying God altogether and choosing alcohol to numb my pain. But God was planting seeds then, and years later when I finally did accept God, this liberal Christian woman and the Loving God and Loving Jesus Who “loved me no matter what my sexuality was” she spoke of would be the catalyst on drunken Christmas Eve when I held on to that tiny mustard seed of faith that was in my heart as I prayed for God to Love me just as I was.
I had friends who belonged to other more accepting churches, other denominations who taught of a Loving Christ and a Loving God, who pleaded with me not to give up on Christianity or church just because one was non-accepting. One close friend would constantly give me pamphlets about every open-minded church he knew of, from Lutheran to Presbyterian to Episcopal and when I was in some way worried about hell fire talk from those, he said, at least try a Unitarian Church. But no — I was finished with God then. God was not finished with ME however, and was with me, carrying me the whole way. Even though I kept a closed heart to God for thirteen years, never once did God become silent on me. I just didn’t believe God could love a bisexual “freak” and “pervert” like everyone said people like me were. God’s Love is like that — it is beyond any human concept of Love acceptance or tolerance that we can conceive. I am certain of that.
When I was throwing up my hands in despair over how I was going to sustain a relationship with both a woman and a man, God brought me all sorts of wonderful and accepting people who had done so, and done so with honesty, and integrity. When I was worried and concerned, I would “just happen” upon an article, or a website, or a comment from a friend that dispelled the fear I was holding, regardless of what the issue was. Whenever I would feel alone or depressed for being criticized for my sexuality, God had this way of a friend calling or visiting at the very moment I felt my darkest, or my finding a book or a resource where I found a new and positive insight. Now in the past, I may have seen this as “luck” or “coincidence”. But I do not believe in “luck” or “good fortune” any more. I only believe in God’s Grace and Love. And God always, I have found, if we hold fast to our dreams and hopes with faith and hold on with Love for God Who gave us those dreams and desires, as well as Love for all the rest of God’s Children to the best of our ability, will give us blessings to work with — situations if we are only alert and aware and truly BELIEVE these blessings are God’s Will for us. We haven’t open our eyes to the visions of Truth God has for us, as the old hymn says.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — we can only do our best and let God do the rest. But we have a part to play, too, by listening to the blessings when they come, and being prepared, for we never know exactly when the Kingdom will come for us. Or how. And if we are not careful, we can let them slip by in the false belief that we are not deserving of all God’s Love, or the delusion that our dreams are too grand and wonderful even for God. I agree with Norman Vincent Peale to “Dream big!” I agree too with a man I feel is his modern-day counterparts, Neale Donald Walsch. He says we know that the messages we receive in our lives are from God when: They are always the highest thought, the grandest feeling and the clearest word; the highest thought being one that contains joy, the clearest word being one that contains truth, and the grandest feeling always being the feeling of Love. We should always ask ourselves, “What would Love do now,” and “What would Jesus do?” when faced with people in our lives who seem to want to crash our dreams to the ground.
I think I agree that “faith without works” can, depending on how one interprets that, be settling for less than everything God wants to bless us with. I cannot count the times I have discovered support and blessings simply by doing Christ’s ministry of Love for my neighbor and kindness to all God’s children. The bisexual support group that led me out of a growing pit of despair as I was finding no support to speak of from the gay or heterosexual communities was discovered by me as I was doing volunteer work for an AIDS Services Agency. The first client I had as a volunteer emotional support counselor was a bisexual man with AIDS who had contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion and who understood what it was to be attracted to women and men. When I was in places waiting for patients I had driven to doctors appointments, I discovered positive resources in the books and magazines I read while I would wait for them. This I know — God never ever leaves us, even when we doubt. Especially when we doubt.
Some may feel that God has abandoned them when they seem to have difficulty after difficulty while others, even those who act in less than loving ways towards others, prosper. There’s something to be said, at least from my perspective, about that comment in the Bible about God’s rain falling on both the just and the unjust, the righteous and the wicked; as if to state plainly and clearly, it does not matter how good or bad we are, sometimes, well, bad things happen. But God will carry us through, as the footprints poem says, and through it all the things that truly matter, such as who we are, never change. They only grow stronger, as we too grow, at least in my experience. Besides, I don’t feel that God gave us the teachings of Christ to punish us if we don’t quite make the mark on them all the time. God, to me, is much too big to have the need to amuse Him/Herself by demanding our obedience to a specific doctrine. I feel confident that Jesus’ teachings are not from an angry father or parent amusing Himself/Herself with arbitrary rules for His/Her amusement and demanding obedience, but guidelines for a happy life from a Loving Creator who wants us to have the best life possible. For if we follow the Great Commandment, even if it does not seem to be the easiest thing to do (and often especially so if we perceive that God is not listening or responding), in the long run I have seen that we find that it always serves us while serving God simultaneously.
I think the most important way that we can stay aware of God’s Omnipresence in our life is to practice gratitude. I so whole-heartedly agree with Meister Eckhart’s sentiment, “If the only prayer you ever say in your life is “Thank You”, that will be sufficient” but I also agree with putting it into practice. And the way I do this is by keeping a “gratitude journal”. You don’t have to buy a fancy one-just keep a notebook and every day, think of five things, five special things that happened, that made you happy. It might be that supportive phone call or compliment a friend shared with you, a hug your partner/spouse gave you, or just hearing a song on the radio you liked driving home from work. All of these, all things that make us happy, are signs of God’s Love for us.
We often forget, when things seem bleak, that God has created so many wonderful things to bring us peace, and there is no better way to remember this than keeping a record of them. I think that what Jesus was communicating when He said, “Those who have an abundance more will be given to them, and those who have nothing will have that taken from them,” was that if we are constantly aware and grateful for all the goodness in our lives, we will continue to seek and discover many blessings we may have previously taken for granted. But if we feel as if we have nothing and that God has given us nothing, then that will be our perception. For, in my opinion, knowing that God created everything and is the center of everything that makes me happy and brings me joy. If I fall into the delusion that I could lose God, I have lost it all. The way I always try to give thanks is not by sitting for prayer for hours, but by doing loving things to help others. The greatest gift we can offer to God in prayer is our loving actions for another.
Another reason we might perceive God as being silent, is that we are “looking for God in all the wrong places.” Yet I have been in the places where “God is supposed to be” such as certain churches and religious groups and felt very distant from God, and been in places that are supposedly “un-Godly” (as if any place could be un-Godly) and felt closer to God’s Love than anywhere else. I attended a lot of very spiritually lively churches in my childhood, and although the preacher talked a lot about the Bible, and this verse and that, I quite often came away feeling very spiritually empty. I felt fear of a God that wanted to punish me for every little mistake I made, and I was too busy asking to be forgiven to even think of asking God for help with anything. Yet the first time I attended church thirteen years later, I began to look for God in the details and all the little corners of life, and especially in the hearts and loving actions of those who surrounded me. I found God in the loving words of a therapist who helped me to come out as a bisexual and accept myself, who counseled with me and supported me. I found God in a church that did not judge me based on my sexuality but accepted me as a child of God. I found God in a room of supportive bisexual men and women who had been able to come out to their girl/boyfriend or spouse and find acceptance, and who had found ways to have an honest relationship with a same sex partner as well that was loving and caring instead of deceitful, hurtful, and exploitative. I found God in the tender relationship I had with a bisexual woman and a bisexual man. I found God in the books and articles and resources that showed me that maybe the religious right was not so right after all. And I found God in other Christians, who had been through the same things I had been through. And this all came to me when I finally realized that there really is no place where God is not. There’s a great story about a minister who asks a student, “I’ll give you an orange if you can tell me where God is,” only to have the boy say, “I’ll give you TWO oranges if you tell me where God is NOT!”
I practically kicked myself when one day I had been lamenting about how I was having to deal with so much harassment for my being bisexual, poly-fidelitous, and very socially liberal and then all the sudden I found myself without a car and stuck at home for a few months. And I looked around at my house and saw, on the bookshelves filled with books I had found, in the email and internet resources I had, in all the supportive friends that I have, and in all the friends who reached out to me, a wealth of blessings God had given me to overcome all these obstacles. All I needed, God had guided me to. I was the one letting others get the best of me instead of turning inward to God and seeing all the things God had already given me. So sometimes, we get the false perception that God is silent because we are not taking a deep breath and trusting that God is there, and taking the time to reflect on all the resources that God has already given us and is just waiting for us to utilize. Sometimes a good prayer is just asking God to remind us of all the love and blessings we have and asking for guidance in how to use them to accomplish the goals we are seeking to accomplish, to help us to trust even when it seems like God is not there, and to open our eyes that we might see the blessings and opportunities that God sends us all the time, not allowing our fears and false sense of low self worth we occasionally allow to cloud the picture to obscure the rays of hope shining in-the ones that we all too often find have been there all along.
We who are LGBT might feel that God is silent because of fears we have picked up from old and limiting beliefs about a God who despises us for possessing a sexual orientation or sexuality that is in the eyes of some, “Biblically incorrect.” But those are the beliefs of other human beings, not of God, and Jesus had very little to say about sexuality. I think He was far more concerned with our spiritual behavior than our sexuality. I’m sure He would want those of us who are LGBT to always act lovingly, regardless of who we love, (or in the case of myself and some other bisexuals, the ones that we are committed to), with honesty even when it seems scarier than the painful consequences of dishonesty, and with love and respect for all the rest of God’s children even when they may not show us the same consideration.
It has been a major healing miracle for me in recent months, when after being berated and criticized for being who I am, I suddenly, while praying, had a vision of Jesus and I sitting together by a mountain stream, with water as clear as the feeling I had at that moment: I could almost imagine what His voice would sound like, but I felt a feeling instead: That it didn’t matter how many fundamentalists or conservative Christians or anyone else told me I was wrong, or inadequate, or going to burn in hell, or fail because I am bisexual, poly-fidelitous, and liberal, God loves me and supports me just as I am. As long as I love God, the source of all of our joy first, and put my Love for God and neighbor first, and do the best I can to walk my talk, God will be there for me and help me to achieve the desires of my heart and soul, and help me to be so at peace that no words of discouragement or judgment from another can hurt me. God created me, and others, with our own unique sexuality. I know in my heart that all sexuality is a sacred gift of God and that it is something to be grateful for and not ashamed of. Whatever your sexuality is it is, in the end, between you and God, not you and your parents or your peers or the religious right. I know God gave me my bisexuality and my ability to love both women and men as a gift. One of the ways I show my thanks is helping other LGBT people find peace and acceptance and hope. The real devil I see so many suffer from is the demon of fear, but like the monsters in so many children’s stories. If we cease to give it power and become aware that when God is with us, no fear can ever hold power over us again. Fear dissolves in a brilliant blaze of God’s Eternal, Unconditional and Unfailing Love.
Another reason why we may feel as if our prayers are unanswered is simply because what we are praying for may be in conflict with God’s Will for another human being. I wholeheartedly believe that whatever it is that we hold as our heart’s desire, God will gladly give us all the tools, strength, and opportunity (which we must in turn remain awake and aware for, expecting the unexpected and expecting miracles even when it seems impossible, especially when it seems impossible-we never know when that time will come) to achieve it. But I know that in my own experience, I have occasionally prayed in such a way that was a bit selfish in that it imposed my own will on someone else’s life, rather than what it was they wanted and the plan God had for their life. This is especially true in the case of relationships. For I believe that we pray for God to “make someone stay with us” even if the relationship is not making them happy and they find themselves off on another path, or if we are trying to “make” another love us or change to be who we would desire them to be instead of the person God made them to be and the person they are happy being, we end up hurting that other person and also ourselves. As I said earlier, when I was praying for a relationship to be restored, what I needed to be praying for was the strength to be who God made me to be and find someone who would love me for who I really was. When I began praying for personal guidance and growth, and attaining goals that would help me to be stronger in myself and therefore a more pleasant person to others, I heard God loudly and clearly. Just from being silent, turning within, and listening to my heart.
Or perhaps it is simply because, we have not yet seen the plan God has for us. What seems to initially be a failure can turn around and be the fulfillment of a dream and a longing we never before thought possible, because we were putting limits on God’s Love and Grace-that “TGTBT (Too Good To Be True)” disease. Jesus alluded several times in His ministry that there were things that would be revealed at a later time, and folds that we did not yet know of. As it is with our own lives. Little pieces and bits and snippets of life, that did not seem to make sense to us at all at one time, can often be seen later with greater clarity.
I will never forget something my Minister shared with me, when I told him that I felt in my heart that it was God’s Will that my relationship be restored. He responded, “Well, I don’t know. It very well COULD be God’s Will, but the question is not whether or not it is God’s Will, but whether or not this girl wants it to happen. God does not force a person to do something, or make them do something, even if God wants it to happen as much as you do, for we are all created with free will.” That changed my entire outlook on things. Now I firmly believe that the only thing we in this life will ever have control over is who we are, how we feel, and how we choose to deal with life. To me if we attempt to coerce another or emotionally or spiritually manipulate another in order to reach one of our goals, we can end up hurting everyone. The chaos that ensues could very well create the temporary illusion that God has left us to fend for ourselves! Not so. Honesty and love and letting go and letting God can fix a situation like that. I assure you that God will care for you, even if it seems as God is silent.
God, to me, presents us with a jigsaw puzzle that comprises who and what we are, and it is part of our life’s work to discover how all of the pieces fit together. We can choose to be angry, overturn the table and scatter the pieces everywhere in frustration, or we can take each one and patiently and carefully put together with love, growing more excited as the full picture comes into view. But the puzzle is only 1% of this equation. How we choose to look at it is 99% of the battle. If we trust in God even when it seems like we’re never going to make the pieces fit, trust in “the evidence of things not seen” and in the Truth Jesus gave us about being able to accomplish what may seem impossible with just a tiny mustard seed’s worth of faith, and in a God that Loves us and created us the way we are for a good reason, we can catch a glimpse of how it all comes together. We’ll know that somehow it all will, even when none of the pieces seem to come together and it looks like God has played a trick on us. But let me tell you, God does not play tricks. Sense of humor? Definitely. A prankster? Never.
Whenever we put God first, and “seek God first” there are always a lot of wonderful surprises as well. As mentioned earlier, I found resources for support while doing volunteer work. I found my first support for bisexuality as a real sexual orientation and not a “phase” in a UCC church. The therapist who helped me to come out was one I called because I had been praying about how I was going to reconcile my spirituality and sexuality and I “ran across” the ad she had that said, “It could be the answer to your prayers.” While seeking the Internet for sites where liberal minded Christians would communicate I found a wonderful website on poly-fidelity where bisexuals were welcome and was freed from a lot of concerns I was having at the time and led to people who really were angels in my personal growth. While searching bisexual websites, I landed here at Whosoever, which has always been such a blessing to me. I have to confess that last issue when I wrote about the discrimination I had received as a bisexual, I had been feeling a little bit like Job. I was even beginning, at times, to let anxiety get the best of me. It wasn’t that I believed God was silent, I was allowing others and my own fear to get the best of me, and began t feel as if God was not saying “no” to my prayers for others to understand and accept me, but rather, “Not yet” when I was begin to feel pretty bad. But I continued on, doing what I love, writing about how I still love God even when I feel discriminated against and alone. And I kept on loving God even in the times when I became anxious, focusing instead on all the joy God has already given me in this life. Then suddenly, when I least expected it, peace came over me, and I was no longer bothered by the hateful and thoughtless remarks that others had made, because I knew God was there with me, and loved me even when I had allowed others to make me feel a little unlovable.
I truly believe that no matter who you are, whether you are a bisexual man or woman, a gay man, a lesbian woman, a transgender person, or a heterosexual man or woman, whether you are liberal or conservative, whether you are monogamous or poly-fidelitous, no matter what you have been through or how distant you have ever felt from God or even if you have been angry at God all your life, whether you attend church or worship alone-no matter what, God Loves You as you are and wants to fill your heart with joy, hope, peace and love. And even in my times of fearing that God was not listening only to find out later that it was me who just thought the message I was hearing was too good to be true. God was with me, and will be with you always, too. If you are reading this, know that God has something to say to you, like, “I Love You, you are my special and precious child, and I want you to know My love forever.” The Loving Spirit of Christ is just waiting to fill you with this Truth forever. I only say this as the knowledge has come to me, even more deeply than ever recently; it is too good of a feeling not to want to share with you too. Listen! You can hear God’s Love in every breath, in every heartbeat, in every loving thought that you have ever had.
John Campbell is a native of Alabama.