Sunday, December 11, 2016

Proverbs 3--Discipline and Creativity v. Fear and Loathing

As I journey through the chapters of proverbs, I am struck by how often the father-son relationship is invoked. Solomon seems to take very seriously his role as a father, and his father's role as his father as well. Yet the specific historical details of King David's family do not figure in the proverbs. The words of wisdom speak in general rules applicable to anybody reading them.

In the third chapter, "loyalty and faithfulness" now enter as important companions to wisdom (3:3)--both are to be worn like a tie around one's neck, and written on one's heart as if etched on a tablet.

From this mention of loyalty and faithfulness comes a new tone here. Somewhat surprisingly, loyalty to God means the inverse for one's faith in one's self. Here the struggler determined to overcome a homosexual past is probably most called to the Book of Proverbs. The memories of one's time in the gay world will always be, unfortunately, mixed together. There will be times of kindness, friendship, and even something approaching love--certainly some pleasure--mixed in with the darkness of the falling away from God, the loneliness, the unstable relationships, the health problems, and the constant sadness.

I find myself struggling now to die fully to the past, because there is still a part of me longing for the positive things I had in the gay lifestyle, but the Lord has set events before me that have made it clear: I cannot have the pleasure (even the mental or verbal pleasure of thinking or talking about it), the camaraderie with fellow travelers, or the thrill of doing something forbidden, without falling away from God.

I cannot trust myself. Certainly I cannot trust the friends I made when I was in the gay lifestyle, because their natural motive will be either to punish me for leaving them, or to draw me back into their circle. The third chapter of Proverbs states, "Don't consider yourself to be wise; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. This will be healing for your body, and strengthening for your bones" (3:7-8).

I feel that these lines are written so perfectly for a man in the struggle I face. Part of surviving the gay world is the memory of all those moments when I sensed that I was shrewd and cunning, able to compartmentalize and engage in secret pleasures while playing all the people around me so that I would avoid falling into the ruin that I already saw consuming so many of my gay colleagues. I thought I was smart because I knew how to use condoms, how to avoid getting HIV, how to have flings without getting caught up with stalkers or tiresome relationships. I thought I had it all figured it out.

But there is no wisdom in me apart from God, and God's wise words have stated that I should not be in any paths that lead to sodomy. This may mean, now, that I have to cut off all communication with friends I made in the gay world--not because I do not love them, not because I don't want them to be saved, but because I am not wise enough or strong enough to deal with them directly, without stumbling. Proverbs states, "do no loathe God's discipline, for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, just as a father, the son he delights in." (3:11-12).

It was sacrilege each time, in the gay world, I indulged the fantasies of the gay leather community. In that world, "daddies" search for sons and sons search for "daddies." As a tan-skinned Puerto Rican it was expected that I would be a submissive; the entire underground culture circumscribed to me the role of the subordinate seeking "discipline" from a white father figure. There is no way to engage in anything of the sort without dishonoring God, who Proverbs tell us is the one who disciplines us with wisdom, holiness, and divine love, not sin and sodomy and perversion.

"Happy is a man who finds wisdom," says Proverbs 3, as wisdom is compared to jewels, riches, honor, and pleasant ways. Wisdom flows from the creator of all things, since Proverbs 3 tells us "The Lord founded the earth by wisdom and established the heavens by understanding. By His knowledge the watery depths broke open and the clouds dripped with dew" (3:19-20).

The man trapped in gay living yearns to overcome the lines above, to replace creation and creativity based on the divine model of male and female becoming one flesh, with another model based on worldly concepts misconstrued as "wise" and a rejection of God's plan for an overconfident alternative put forward by men. Creation is a divine act, one that Proverbs would depict as tied together with wisdom. Wise ways are fruitful, not sterile or destructive.

Then Proverbs 3 paints a happy picture of the man who lives by wisdom, a man who "will go safely," "will not be afraid" upon lying down, and will have pleasant sleep without fear, for "the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from a snare." (3:23-26).