The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith. Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.
Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors. I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their thoughts and experiences. Thank you.
Extended Devotional Thoughts for Today
“What Do You Say When Your Child Says I Feel Like a Boy/Girl?”
Ephesians 2:12 (ESV)
“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ . . . having no hope and without God in the world.”
Romans 15:7 (NIV)
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
Upon learning about “Klinefelter syndrome”—an abnormal male genetic condition—I wondered whether a character called “Klinger” from the old ‘70s hit TV show M.A.S.H. was maybe named to sound like this syndrome. Sergeant Klinger, desperately seeking a military discharge, habitually wore women’s clothing to feign mental illness. Affecting one in every five hundred male births, those affected have an extra X chromosome in addition to the normal male match XY in the 23rd chromosome that determines sex. They are “phenotypically males but with tendency toward femaleness” (e.g., enlarged breasts, underdeveloped body hair, long legs and hands, etc.). Then there is “Turner Syndrome” that affects 1 in 2500 females. Missing the X in the usual female pair of XX, the adult females “have virtually no ovaries, lack most sexual characteristics and are sterile.” I am not certain what portion of those people who struggle with transsexual tension actually come from those who have these syndromes; perhaps some; in fact, there may be other physical factors more pronounced behind transsexuality. Whatever the case may be, these conditions are predispositional, not predeterminate—meaning that environmental pull, including, on the one hand, the plodding from influential institutions, and on the other, traumas, is still necessary for anybody among those affected to identify themselves as the opposite sex. In fact, a physician related to me that for some, their transsexual struggle is entirely due to having suffered traumatic events.
But enough about the exact science of these conditions. How do we minister to people afflicted with looking one way while feeling another? If most of you are like me, who have never struggled with sexual identity, we hardly know how those genuinely struggle with this feel; but, looking wistfully to our own past, perhaps we can recall a moment that can bring us closer to understanding their pains. While obviously I could never truly identify with how they must feel, I imagine that it can be a bit like how I felt at my predominantly white college in Virginia, where I began to feel very self-conscious about Asian physical features. My self-loathing for my Asian-ness was so intense that more than once I would hate myself for it. Looking one way but feeling another, I wanted to be white on the outside so much. Once, to appear like my taller Caucasian friends, I carved out the sole of an old shoes and stuck it inside my Nike high tops to gain an inch. Before long I was so enslaved to appearing taller that I couldn’t go anywhere without wearing those shoes.
Later, while studying at UCLA, I met a professor of clinical psychology, Stanley Sue (of Chinese descent), whose study of Asian-Americans with similar experiences as mine identified them as “marginal men,” to whom rejecting their Asian heritage in order to be accepted by whites is the key to happiness. That was once me when I was young, unsure of myself, and easily influenced. Pejoratively dubbed as a “banana”—yellow on the outside, white on the inside—I often felt frustrated, anxious, and hyper-sensitive when people didn’t perceive me the way I preferred. I wonder if that’s anything remotely similar to how young men or women who want to identify themselves as the opposite sex feel. That’s my own story, and I would gently tell it to those struggling with how they appear on the outside versus how they feel inside, to convey that I empathize, however tangentially, with them.
I’d then point out that the rejection of our own selves stems from the brokenness within, because of our willful separation from our Creator for wanting to live independently from His guidance (Rom. 3:11-12). Then I’ll share the following from my heart: Thirty-eight years removed from those miserable days, I haven’t struggled with that sort of confusion for a long time. How? First, at age 20, my Creator found me. It was a powerful encounter that began the process of accepting myself the way God uniquely made me. Second, I found a Christian community in which my worth wasn’t tied to my looks or ability but to Christ’s unconditional acceptance of us; so I was accepted on that basis, and in time I ditched the shoes. Third, my maturation in Christ gradually helped me take my eyes off myself, and instead focus on others who felt alienated from themselves, because they were separated from their Maker.
This is how I’d speak to those confused over their sexuality, who believe that self-acceptance and happiness are waiting to be found through becoming someone else. Now find your own story, and share with those who feel the same way.
Prayer: Father, we are living in an time where the foundations that You established are being brought down by otherwise intelligent people who may be acting very foolishly. We fear for our children and their future. Lord, we cannot do it. Help us! Help our kids! Please. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 3
Tomorrow’s Blog: “One Trait Women Don’t Share with Men”
Lunch Break Study
Read Romans 12:2:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
“Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, 25 lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.”
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Questions to Consider
- What do these three passages assume about human behavior?
- What is one factor the parents hold to increase the possibility that their children will walk in the Lord and uphold biblical values later in life?
- Is a positive outcome guaranteed if the parents diligently ply themselves to “train up a child in the way he should go?” If not, then, what are we do to?
- These passages imply that our cultural condition, including pop culture, peer groups and authority figures, can and will affect how we live, even our personality and faith.
- Parents can control the environment in which their children grow up. Wise parenting discerns good influences from bad, so that their children are given every opportunity not to conform to secular beliefs and values, and model behaviors that are unhealthy and harmful.
- Ultimately, human behaviors are not formulaic, meaning nothing we do guarantees a positive outcome. To believe otherwise is to uphold positivism, a belief that applying observed facts about human behavior that elicit happiness will always produce harmony and order. This may work with pets, but not with inherently sinful humans endowed with freewill. Despite even a perfect upbringing, at any given moment one bad choice can undo much of good parenting.
How was your day? Did something happen today that reminded you of your brokenness from within? Yes, the believers can still experience brokenness, because we are both sinners and righteous at the same time. Observing from my own life, I’d describe brokenness as feeling self-condemning, shameful, lonesome, etc. How would you describe it from your own experience? Whether it is the same or different from mine, its short and long-term resolution is the same. The Hebrews writers puts it like this: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15). Shall we go to God right now?