During my third-grade year, Cabbage Patch Kid fever swept the country. Little girls (mainly) couldn’t get enough of these dolls with their hard faces and soft bodies. Each doll came with an official birth certificate with a name, and date and time of birth—details you could only discover when you purchased the doll and opened the package.
I remember when they released the first little boy Cabbage Patch Kid. I met him on a shelf at Kmart. He had curly, blond hair and (literally) rosy cheeks. He wore light brown overalls fringed with red. I didn’t know his name, but I had to have him.
In those days, Kmart had a layaway program—a bulwark against instant gratification. Basically, such a program allowed a person to set aside something they wanted to buy until they had sufficient funds to make the purchase. So, my eight-year old self marched the doll to the layaway department at the back of the store. And there he sat and waited for five months as I did extra chores for my parents and grandparents. With each window I cleaned, each floor I swept, each leaf I raked, I inched closer to him.
And then he was mine. His name was Colin Levi, and he opened doors for me—new friendships formed with a group of girls at school who also had Cabbage Patch dolls. Colin was the only boy among all those girl dolls and he didn’t think anything of it. We told stories to each other. We had adventures on bikes. Colin liked to change clothes, and especially adored his baseball uniform with stripped shoes and blue batter’s helmet.
I fell in love with him. Though, I never quite knew how he felt about me. Isn’t that the way of things?
Over time we drifted apart, but not before I took on his hard face. Jesus set his face like flint as he headed toward Jerusalem and all that awaited him there. I too took on a stony face as I grew up and leaned into the wind of Christian Evangelicalism. After all, isn’t stoicism akin to holiness? After all, aren’t we called to not let the things of this world steal our joy, modify our holy mood?
But I had a soft body that betrayed me (like all bodies do). It was easy enough to put Colin on layaway and work bit-by-bit to buy him for myself. Why couldn’t I strive little-by-little to free myself from my gay box? Lord knows, I tried. But God doesn’t have a layaway program. Everyone’s already been purchased and given a name—our only role is to live into it.“But God doesn’t have a layaway program. Everyone’s already been purchased and given a name—our only role is to live into it.”
But I don’t know how. How does a gay man who loves Christ learn to live with a soft body that wants (needs!) to be intimate with other men—to feel their touch, to let the impression of their fingers leave marks on his skin? How does a person do this righteously and still let his body be the body it is?
It’s easy (and likely right) to spiritualize everything—friendships, marriage, walks on the beach, “random” occurrences, the dog that greets you, food on the table. But the body is the body. It has a spirit (and, hopefully, the Spirit), but it isn’t spirit. It’s the body and has its members. These members do different things, look different, and are each important. What does this mean for the sexual parts of my body? Are they good as they are, as differently-directed as that may be?“Everything, including our bodies and desires, needs to be redeemed. But does redemption mean reversal or reformation?”
Everything, including our bodies and desires, needs to be redeemed. But does redemption mean reversal or reformation? Do my sexual desires for men need to be reversed and directed toward women, or reformed so that I live into these desires in increasingly holy and God-honoring ways? Does such reformation look like life-long celibacy, or a committed and loving relationship with another man?
I wish I knew. I have no idea, and what I do know seems less and less every day. This world is beautiful and baffling and bruising all at once. Perhaps the challenge before us is to let our soft bodies soften our spirits, so whatever choice we make concerning singleness or marriage we make unclutchingly in vulnerable relationship with the Spirit and the Body of Christ.