Saturday, 31 January 2009
Guest post by carleton1958
I've been talking with a couple guys about how we categorize or label ourselves in regard to struggles in our life. When I was 24 and first faced the reality that I may have become alcoholic, I started to label myself as an alcoholic, or what I came to prefer "recovering alcoholic" because it reminded me and clarified to others that I was in recovery. Most people in AA just call themselves an alcoholic, but I find that confusing and potentially misleading if others think of them as an active alcoholic.It also dominates some people's thinking of themselves, where their identity is completely wrapped up in being "alcoholic".
When I was 19 and 20 and first grappling with my attraction towards men, I struggled with how to think of myself. Was I "gay", "homosexual" or just confused? And when I was 24 and just starting to seek freedom from homosexual attractions if that was possible, I started to hear the term "ex-gay," but I found that inaccurate or misleading as well. I had never really labeled myself as gay, nor had I really entered into a gay lifestyle. It also implies that one has no attraction towards men anymore either. The reality is that it is a process of change or else little change in feelings but a matter of overcoming temptation and behaviors that I came to believe was contrary to God's will for my life.
So what to call ourselves when we struggle with an unwanted homosexual orientation? Or as I have more recently been calling it, "same sex attraction", which is the term Celebrate Recovery has also adopted? If I were in a Celebrate Recovery small group dealing with this, I might introduce myself at meetings by saying "Hi. I'm Jeff, a Christian believer who struggles with same sex attraction." But that makes it sound like I struggle with it day after day after day, which I really don't. In our addiction small group, most guys say "I struggle with alcohol (or drugs)" or "I'm an alcoholic" or "I'm a drug addict." If they are still early in recovery that may be entirely accurate, but as times goes on and somebody builds up extended sobriety, what is the right way to identify oneself?
My Xanga friend Lonnie has written a new blog post in which he talks about labeling oneself, and he recommends using the term “new creation in Christ” because it is scriptural and it places our identity in Christ rather than in an area of struggle. I like that, and I am starting to rethink the whole label issue since it is easy to get hung up on when addressing change in our lives as Christians. This phrase “new creation in Christ” comes from 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! And Lonnie also reminded me in his post that we are transformed individuals, as we are called to be in Romans 12:2: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
And so rather than go back and forth on which label to use for myself or when talking about others, particularly in regard to overcoming same sex attraction, I am going to start thinking about myself more as Lonnie has recommended.
“Hi, I’m Jeff, a new creation in Christ.”
If I want to identify myself further in the context of a specific group like Celebrate Recovery or sharing with some individual seeking support, I can add to that by saying that “I have struggled with same sex attraction (or alcohol or codependency or whatever)”, but in general I don’t need to make this label thing a focal point of my identity. I am transformed by Christ. My identity is in Christ. I am a new creation in Christ; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Have you ever identified yourself by your struggles?