Imagine, if you will, a gay teenager in a vicarage on a council estate in South Bristol in the early 90s. No internet, virtually no out gay people on TV, and even if there had been an LGBT section in Bishopsworth library, this vicar's son wasn't about to be caught there.
Nope, my entire knowledge of what it meant to be gay was picked up from a terrible game show on Channel 4 called 'Sticky Moments with Julian Clary' and a VHS recording of the Rocky Horror Show which I kept in a biscuit tin sellotaped to the bottom of a chest of drawers in my bedroom. If you haven't seen it, the film ends with a song called 'Don't dream it, be it' while all the characters float about caressing one another in a swimming pool.
As far as I was concerned, there were two options for the future - righteous celibacy, and downright depravity.
I imagined two futures for myself, one where I escaped from an increasingly permissive British culture and went to be a tremendously worthy missionary in Africa, and another where I went to London and tried to track down that swimming pool.
So how does the Bible speak into that situation? Trapped between a gay culture which said 'anything goes' and a church culture which said 'don't even THINK about it', how do we form and think about healthy relationships?
One of the passages which speaks to me is one which my partner of 16 years and I had at our civil partnership blessing:
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
To my teenage self, it said we as LGBT people are not mistakes, that God does not make mistakes. There is a dignity and a worth to who you are, the person you are becoming and wherever you go, God will be there (even if you end up in the swimming pool).
To my later young adult self exploring the gay scene in London, it reminded me that people are not disposable, that everybody else is fearfully and wonderfully made too, and worthy of a dignity and respect which you don't always find in G.A.Y.
And to me now, sixteen years into a relationship, it's a passage which reminds me never to take anything for granted. Whether it's a good day or a bad day, I get to thank God for this amazing person in my life and everything he is. For he is fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are God's works, that I know very well.