In November 2017, my devotional for LGBTQI+ individuals and their allies was released. I knew what the title would be after hearing the refrain of the hymn Here in Christ We Gather in church on Sunday:
“God is love, and where true love is,
God himself [sic] is there.”
The book I’d been working on for nearly a decade finally had a name: Where True Love Is. The phrase was powerful and connected directly with the revelation God had been pouring out over those years.
The road to publication was long, filled with pain and joy. Here’s an excerpt from the book’s introduction, which offers part of the story:
“In 2008 I began writing about the way our souls hunger for God, in a blog titled A Theology of Desire. At that time I was desperately lonely and struggling to keep my unhappy marriage afloat. I was completely submitted to the idea of Until Death do Us Part, and hoped for an early demise. Exploring the intersection of sexuality and Catholic theology kept me alive, and provided an outlet for my spirit’s raging demand for love.
But God, in his mercy, had other plans.
Into church one day walked a Baptist woman named Diane who would eventually become my wife. She was at a crossroads in her own marriage, though I wouldn’t know that for another few years. She began attending my weekly Bible study, where we prayed together for our husbands and families. We desired obedience to God’s will, with our church’s assurance that if we were Proverbs 31 wives, our men could surely become Ephesians 5 husbands. But as we continued to study the word of God and share our lives together, we realized no matter how hard you Proverbs 31, you can’t make someone else change. And as we became increasingly closer–laughing, crying, working for the church, and praying together–something inexplicable happened. We fell in love.
This was a pretty big deal given that our Christian foundations, while completely different, were both adamantly opposed to same-sex relationships. It was an even bigger deal for our socially conservative church. As our marriages went through their final death throes, the priest and his all-male rector’s council was at a loss about what to do with us. We were eventually asked to stop attending so we wouldn’t cause “confusion” amongst the body. It was ugly and painful, and the memories still hurt.
Our story is far from unique, and we were the lucky ones; we had each other. Many people aren’t as fortunate.
Diane and I come to the LGBTQI+ table in a unique way. We identify as heterosexual and yet are deeply, completely, and eternally in love. Together with God we are a cord of three strands which cannot be broken. Every day we commit to putting God first, each other second, and everything else in proper order after that. Every day we agree to submit to God’s will for our lives together, and seek his guidance over all our work. That is what Christian marriage is all about, and that is what we desire for all of God’s people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
As the introduction points out, we are the lucky ones.
We’ve encountered hundreds of people who have suffered much more than we have. Jamie was kicked out of his house as a teenager when his mother found out he was gay. Allen lost his job teaching at a Christian college when he announced he was transitioning to his true gender after being falsely identified at birth. Kim stopped going to church when her son came out because she only heard words of condemnation there and couldn’t line up those statements with the reality of her beloved child. Kathy was told she couldn’t come to church wearing women’s clothes.
I channel the pain of these stories into my writing; praying that God will take my little alphabet mustard seeds and grow them into sources of healing and transformation.
My wife has a harder time. She is an intercessor and prays for the broken hearts and lives she hears about daily, but she also cries.
I wrote Where True Love Is for the people she cries and prays over. But it’s also for the family members who struggle to integrate the reality of their LGBTQI+ loved one with a faithful walk with Christ. And it’s for every pastor, church, and denomination trying to discern God’s will.
We are all given the work of continuing God’s reconciliation through Jesus. May Where True Love Is be a tool for that work.
Her work is designed to shine the light of love into hearts darkened by discrimination and fear. You can learn more at www.sdewitthall.com.
Suzanne lives with her beloved wife, two terriers, and a cat named Chicken. Her life is so full of joy it's surprising her house can hold it all.