Season 1 / Church & Sexuality: Honesty - with Sarah Brown

Editor: Ariana deVries
Mastered by: Joshua Snethlage with Mixed Media Studios

In this episode, Ariana chats with her long time friend Sarah Brown on what it was like for her in coming out, her thoughts on what the Bible says regarding homosexuality, and how she is choosing to walk that out now.

Ariana deVries

Well, welcome. I'm so excited to chat with my good friend Sarah Brown today and to hear some of her story. She currently lives in Powell River, BC with her partner Mel and their dog. We both met when we were shy eight year olds, and we went to the same church, and were both homeschooled. So we have a fair bit of history together. So welcome, Sarah.

Sarah Brown

Hi! Good to be here.

Ariana deVries

I am so glad that we're able to chat. This is not an easy conversation to necessarily have but one that is important, and I'm very proud of you for wanting to share this.

Sarah Brown

Awesome. I'm glad to be able to share and I guess my heart in sharing news, I'm kind of to not so much focusing on you know, the details of exactly how it happened for me and how I've experienced this, but I think it's helpful. I've been helped by people that kind of also have shared some of the details of how they've gone through all of this similar situation. You can set up the topic if you want. [Laugh]

Ariana deVries

[Laugh] Yeah. No, that's good. Well, give us a little bit of your backstory. You grew up in a family of all boys, right?

Sarah Brown

I sure did.

Ariana deVries

How was that growing up as the only girl in a family?

Sarah Brown

I loved it, honestly. I think a little bit of just the way I am actually wired, and I know there's some, you know, nature versus nurture in there, but the way that I am wired is kind of just I play well with boys. So it was actually very easy to have guys all around. And being the second oldest always makes it easier because it wasn't like, well I have my big brothers that are always picking on me, kind of situation. I was able to somewhat have some rule of the roost. And yeah, no. I never really felt like I needed a sister or anything like that. It was a good childhood, I would say.

Ariana deVries

Yeah, and really you had a lot of friends, too. So it's not like you were completely all by yourself in a world of boys.

Sarah Brown

I wasn't on an island with boys only.

Ariana deVries

Yeah.

Sarah Brown

That would have been different.

Ariana deVries

Yeah. Growing up, did you ever feel like, I don't know , you didn't really fit in? Or did you feel pretty comfortable as a kid and as a teenager?

Sarah Brown

I did have a sense that I didn't fit in. But, as I look kind of look back on my childhood, I realized how somewhat oblivious I was of some of those social dynamics. I remember always having kind of a sense, but I'm not a natural fit for lots of situations relationally. But I also didn't feel super self-conscious about it. Like, I think I felt I felt a bit self conscious. But it wasn't that really held me back. I liked myself.

Ariana deVries

Yep.

Sarah Brown

So I was aware that I wasn't...that people didn't all understand me. But I did like myself.

Ariana deVries

Yeah, cuz you were a little bit quirky to some people, I'm sure.

Sarah Brown

I was - I’m positive.

Ariana deVries

[Laugh] I mean, I loved you.

Sarah Brown

Yeah. I think some of the, some of the quirky things that, you know, introverts can enjoy together, like being a little more bookish.

Ariana deVries

Yeah.

Sarah Brown

Yeah. Things like that that we shared, too.

Ariana deVries

So did you feel as a kid, that feeling that you might be gay? Or did that kind of show itself a little bit later?

Sarah Brown

Definitely later. I did not...I wasn't even aware of the gay being a thing.

Ariana deVries

Yeah.

Sarah Brown

I think that I was like, I was somewhat aware. You know, and I grew up in the church. So I had heard stories about, you know, Sodom and Gomorrah, or whatever. And I was probably, you know, somewhat young when I was like, oh, okay, you know, it was explained to me. Oh, like, this is men with men, women with women. And that's not how it works. I really had a very simplistic concept of that, though, I did not understand.

To me, it was like the same as...it was presented as if it was like a psychosis or some thing people that, you know, want this are so messed up. Like they need loads of assistance and help because they're really turned around in their thinking about things. It was never presented as something that was just natural to people. And I never once, until I was probably 15, or 16, even had the slightest thought that...oh. I don't think I even know, it might have been around 15 or 16, when I first kind of thought, oh, maybe I have some attraction to women.

And at that point, it was more just me identifying something that had been occurring my whole life. But I hadn't realized that me being attracted to women was that; it was attraction. It wasn't just, you know, real admiration, or I'm just particularly really drawn to this person. I didn't really have a framework to put it in before then.

Ariana deVries

Do you feel like the way that you were brought up, in say church and things, affected the fact that you couldn't identify with that? Very well?

Sarah Brown

Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think it's somewhat similar to...some of it was, you know, what you're taught. Some of it is also is just what you're exposed to.

Ariana deVries

Right.

Sarah Brown

I didn't have anyone around me in my life that wasn't straight, to my knowledge. That's talked about, at least, as openly LGBTQ or whatever. Yeah. So it was definitely,the influence of my upbringing very much that kind of kept me from understanding those things. Yeah. I would say so.

Ariana deVries

So was it shocking to you when you finally made that connection and finally decided to, “You know what, this is me and I'm going to share this part of me.”?

Sarah Brown

Um, yeah, it was. It was weird. It was a weird shock. It was a shock while also not being a shock.

Ariana deVries

Yep.

Sarah Brown

I was 19. And like I said, I'd had three or four years of having a niggling concern that this might be a thing. I never thought that I was gay.

Ariana deVries

Right.

Sarah Brown

But it was more like, Oh, well, maybe I'm also attracted to women a bit. But I can just ignore that. I just will not act on those feelings, because I'll just wait, hold out for the magical man that is actually...that I actually feel attracted to in all ways.

It wasn't until I was 19. And is through a series of unfortunate events, some of which I created myself. I kind of, came face to face with the fact that maybe, maybe this isn't just a...”Ooo possibly, sometimes, I have these feelings”, thing. Maybe this is a very present reality of the way that I am. I need to figure out what to do about this now.

Because the minute that I kind of recognized and owned that this is going on in me my next immediate question was “ How do I walk this out?” Because I'm not supposed to be this way; before God. You know? And my immediate thought, I'd always been taught that it was a sin. What I think I hadn't been taught is what do you do? What do you do with that sin?

Or what do you do with the way that you experience your your life? I think it touched on a bigger, a lot of bigger questions, and I had only ever heard it spoken to in a way of this is a sin. Make sure that you don't do it.

Ariana deVries

Yeah.

Sarah Brown

And the sin was having actual intercourse with a another same sex person, what I did not really hurt spoken to was, what is your future going to look like? What is God calling you to? What if, maybe, he isn't calling you to be married and have a family? That never even crossed my mind.

Ariana deVries

Right.

Sarah Brown

What if the life that God is calling you to is different than you pictured? And are you willing to accept that? Weigh the cost and be prepared to hear from God what his goodness is in the way that he's actually made you. Because, when you're young, you only have so much awareness of who you are, and the way that you're wired. And I think that some people will come to this understanding of their own sexuality a lot younger than I did.

Ariana deVries

Right.

Sarah Brown

But regardless, you reach a point where you're realizing how much this could influence...the way that you handle this could influence the rest of your life.

And it's no longer just a question of having a good time; the pleasure of a happy, fulfilled sexual experience. It's also, “Am I going to be alone the rest of my life? Am I going to be able to have a partner who I can have children with? Am I going to be able to be loved in a way that is deep and committed and long term?” You know, beyond this family member, or that family member.

Ariana deVries

Yeah.

Yeah.

Sarah Brown

Yeah, there's all these questions that kind of come up. So when you ask, “Was it shocking?” It was. I think it was a shock that kind of slowly unfolded in layers.

Ariana deVries

Right.

Sarah Brown

And those are some of those layers.

Ariana deVries

Yeah. Oh, man. So did your family and friends have much to say about it? Or were they also unsure about the whole thing and [laugh] not sure what to say?

Sarah Brown

So when I was 19, I was the first time that I talked to anybody about it. And I spoke with my parents first, before anyone else. They received it really well. In that it wasn't that they had a perfect understanding, or answer to what to do and how to handle those questions, and that sort of a thing. But they kind of were just like, “Okay, yeah, this is a thing”. How can we...we want to walk with you in figuring out how to walk before the Lord rightly in this. Both of them came from the perspective as well that it's God's design for marriage is between a man and a woman. So it wasn't like, we accept you, and you can do whatever you want. But it was - nothing has changed between between us.

And I think having that conversation really helped, especially in the beginning, because I was struggling so much with understanding for myself how to place that. I didn't talk to anyone else about it for at least a year, maybe a couple of years.

Ariana deVries

Yeah.

Sarah Brown

Because I just didn’t even know how to how to understand it within myself. And then you start talking about it with someone else who also doesn't understand how to slot it. And it just gets more confusing.

Ariana deVries

Right.

Sarah Brown

Yeah. When I did begin to share it with other people I got a range of reactions from...

Ariana deVries

I can imagine.

Sarah Brown

Yeah, from the good, the bad, and the ugly. But I think that it was really important for me to have at least a few people who were able to respond both in a loving way and also with biblical guidance and willingness to walk forward in it with me.

Ariana deVries

Yeah. Does that have any factor in why you chose to move to BC?

Sarah Brown

Maybe a little bit in that.

This is skipping forward a little bit. Because there was me realizing when I was 19 - okay, this is a thing. It was several years later, I think it was 25, when I finally kind of was like, Okay, I'm going to be gay. And I'm going to date women.

Ariana deVries

Yep.

Sarah Brown

Later that year, when I was 25, I was kind of hitting a crisis of faith.

And a lot of this was brought on, and influenced by dealing with this issue. And trying to understand what is the right way to respond to other people who are in a similar situation, even if it's not being gay. A lot of my faith crisis was brought on by wanting to know the balance between making it safe for people who are just different, and people are not understanding them.

How should the church be walking with those people?

Ariana deVries

Yeah.

Sarah Brown

And I think in that time, I began to really lose my trust in the actual word of God.

Ariana deVries

Did you lose your trust in the church at all, and this time? Church being not the people.

Sarah Brown

I've never really divided the two. In my mind, the church is...that phrase only counts towards people who are actually devoted to Jesus. I realized that a lot of people that are devoted to Jesus make a lot of mistakes that are hurtful to other people. But that's a different thing than people who are in the church, but not devoted to walking forward and understanding, basing their understanding of truth in Scripture, regularly putting themselves before God, to be changed and renewed and given the grace to even be able to walk through things with people that they can't relate to. I think that's something that the world, especially today is really trying to say can be done effectively. And well. And I don't believe it. I don't think for a minute.

I think that you can walk forward with somebody that you don't understand. If you want to just say that the difference doesn't matter. This is probably getting into a larger topic. So yeah, I guess in that time, I had lost faith in the church. I'd definitely been hurt by the church.

Ariana deVries

Yep.

Sarah Brown

But I think I've just always known that. It's the Lord's work, to build the church and preserve his bride. And he is doing that.

Ariana deVries

Yeah.

Sarah Brown

And me being angry at the church, as a whole, actually steals my hope in the truth away.

Ariana deVries

Yeah.

Sarah Brown

And that doesn't mean, at all, turning a blind eye, or pushing under the rug a lot of the injustices and wrongs that people who call themselves Christian do. And do without growing and without repenting. There's a lot of that, and actually, Scripture says, all over the place, that that is wrong. And it's not acceptable, and the Lord's angry about it. And so therefore, we're also allowed to be angry about those things.

Ariana deVries

Yeah.

Sarah Brown

Yeah, but I definitely I stayed plugged into the church. Until I was 25, at which point I had a bit of a crisis, and there was a blip of not feeling like I belonged in the church.

Ariana deVries

What do you think now, and kind of through your processing and through your crisis of faith? What point did you come to in realizing it's ok to be gay and reconciling that with what the Bible says about homosexuality, too?

Sarah Brown

Yeah. Okay. So this is a two part process. The first was when I was 25. Leading up to that for a couple of years. Like I said, I shared with my parents that I was gay. Couple of years later...we didn't talk about it regularly. It wasn't like, “Oh, let's be accountability partners”, or something.

Ariana deVries

Yeah.

Sarah Brown

It was just okay, this is a thing, and you're always welcome to process through it with us - kind of a thing. But the Lord laid it on my dad's heart to really start studying this. And it wasn't that he was studying it for me, because it was two or three years after we'd chatted. It wasn't a very current conversation. He was actually lead by the Lord to study into this, because he's in leadership at the church. And he was just seeing how this is a thing. This is something that culturally is talked about all the time. And it was actually him beginning to try and scripturally dive into it. That led me to also begin to scripturally dive into it.

So we were able to kind of share back and forth and what we're seeing, as we're processing through that, where I learned when I was 25, was I kind of jumped from believing that it's not okay to be gay, and it's not okay to do gay to a, it's okay to be gay and to do get my thinking in that, at that point was essentially that, you know, it's big in Scripture, some of the terms that are used in this in the passages that are talking about homosexuals and homosexuality, sometimes some of them. And I think that along with so many other current modern issues, there's no specific passage that is saying, a woman and a woman who are both Christians, and both loving the Lord, and who are desire to be committed and monogamous, may not be married. It's not in Scripture.

At 25 I basically took that as good, awesome, because I definitely want to be married. I'm not going to be alone for the rest of my life. I want to have a family. And it sounds like that's fine with God. I'm so at that. At that point, I did actually decide I'm gonna begin seeing women and up till that point I hadn't. And at that point, I also began to come out to other people. Give me a quick refresh of the question. [Laugh] I was headed somewhere. There's a point I wanted to point to.

Ariana deVries

Yep.

[Laugh] The original question was, what did you end up coming to the conclusion of that the Bible said about homosexuality?

Sarah Brown

Okay. Right. So that's the conclusion I came to at 25. Later that year, I received a message from a Christian who was on this one dating app that I was on. But the question that she had messaged me was what does your faith look like? And to be honest, that was in the middle of my faith crisis, where I felt, for the first time, I couldn't even I wasn't even sure if God was real. It was a real landslide down into confusion, and feeling really unmoored and unhinged. I remember actually the Sunday after really deciding, "Okay, I'm gonna date women", walking into church and feeling separate.

Ariana deVries

Hmm. Yeah.

Sarah Brown

Like an invisible separateness. Like, "Oh, guys, if you really knew that I liked women. And then I am going to be open to a relationship with a woman, then I definitely don't belong here". I kind of used some bravado to make my way through some of those coming out conversations.

Because I was like, "Well, you shouldn't care. You should accept me the way that I am". But there was something going on spiritually in me. As far as...this decision changed something.

Ariana deVries

Yep.

Sarah Brown

The girl that messaged me who we did end up dating. We both were of the mind that it was something that was permissible in God's eyes. I'm in a loving and monogamous and God centered way. Today, we are not dating. Today we call each other partners sometimes just because we're really committed to each other. Butwe both are very much of the persuasion that God's word, it's very clear that marriage is between a man and a woman. So I would say yeah, today, what has changed is the be gay thing is something that is that I've accepted as this is part of my experience in this life. And it may never go away. And that's okay, if it never goes away.

As far as pursuing, you know, sexual, a homosexual relationship. I just don't see room in Scripture for that. And actually, it's been really amazing. How, as I've, again, surrendered/resurrendured that to the Lord. There's been a real change in my ability to hear from God. And just in the way that I'm able to hold him in my heart. Because it is ultimately about, actually, as Christians, it doesn't matter if it's, you know, that you feel that you're gay. If you know, you feel...it could be anything that you feel that you are. It's "Well, what does God say is true?" Saying this is scary because that is very quickly taken out of context.

Ariana deVries

Right.

Sarah Brown

That's very quickly used as a reason for people to tell those who are not straight, that they just need to throw away those feelings. And I need to disregard those experiences entirely, and that it's wrong to even accept that that is a true and present reality in your life. I think that's very damaging. I think that's really hard to just be told you can't even acknowledge part of your experience as being true.

Ariana deVries

Right.

Sarah Brown

And there's a difference between acknowledging that your life, your experience, and the things that God has allowed to be present in your life. They may not all be supposed to lead you forward. But they may always be there.

Yeah, so I guess what I would say is, when it comes to homosexuality, I totally would say I am a gay Christian, I am gay.

If the Lord decides to change that, I guess he could? I think he does. I've heard that people do not change that. But the Lord does give them like a really beautiful relationship with with someone of the opposite gender. It can happen. But I don't think that that is the answer that we're supposed to hold out to our gay brothers and sisters in the Lord. That's not the end goal. The end goal is the same one that would be held out to all of us in the body, which is, let's surrender to Christ. And let's ask him what our life is to look like, and receive both the cross and also the choice because there's cross enjoys, for both straight people and gay people for you know, since people and people that have are struggling with gender dysphoria, this whole conversation, which is really present in a lot of our lives and a lot of our minds and conversations, and is at the heart of a lot of controversy with the church.

I think that it really does set her down to, it's going to be hard to lay down all the layers and understand stand how to move forward. But the end goal for all of us is, you know, when we when we reach heaven, there is no marriage, there is no man or woman, you know, and I'm getting so caught up on our pictures of ourselves, the constructs that we have our ourselves in our own minds, and not even laying that down for the Lord and working it out over time. We have to do that it's part of our walk with the Lord.

Ariana deVries

Yeah.

Sarah Brown

Those are my thoughts.

Ariana deVries

So good. I'd like you to talk a little bit about how you and your partner have decided to be celibate and how that is translated into your relationship. And how sometimes, especially when you get older than 30, people don't totally understand that.

Sarah Brown

Yeah, yeah.

This was a very much the Lord thing, how we both...Like I said, we were both in a relationship because we both believed that it was permissible with God. But my partner was struggling more with it; she was more uncertain. I had kind of been like, Okay. I had gone back and forth on this so long, that I think I was just like, I'm tired of going back and forth. I'm tired of fighting this. This is where I’ve landed, and I don't want to revisit the conversation.

She was revisiting the conversation, even though it was obviously a stressful conversation to be having, even internally, when you're in a relationship. She one day was talking this out with God, again. And really just finally settled it in her heart. She's was like, “Well, I think this is what the Word says”. And she says that she heard God kind of say, “It sounds like you've decided then”. And she was like, “Oh, yeah. Yeah the conversation is finally settled then”.

And she told me about this a day or two after. And it was totally Lord, because the minute she started talking about it, my spirit just said, “Yeah. Yes, that is true”.

Ariana deVries

Crazy.

Sarah Brown

Yeah. Because I mean, I've heard this is hard [Laugh] when this does not always go so easily. But yeah, it was very much, we were both on the same page. And as far as what that looks like, to us, we both very much see that our commitment to support each other in each other's walk with the Lord, to be there for each other, emotionally, and a very present part of each other's lives. That's something that we believe is right and holy.

And from the very beginning, I've seen very much the hand of God in bringing the two of us together, and it was my error and, you know, our error, in making that relationship something that God didn't intend for it to be. But yeah, it's honestly, it's a huge blessing to have someone who is committed to go through life still with you.

I think that that's one of the things that, definitely when I was younger, anytime I heard of someone who was a celibate the message I were told is basically, that celibate people are sexually repressed, and that it's gonna end up in depression and a big hit on your mental health, basically. And I would say that, loneliness, is very hard. And I wish I could speak to that in the most tenderest way, because I know that I am particularly very, very blessed to have someone consistent in my life. And not everyone does. But I think that‘s like what the body of Christ is supposed to before.

And as I've been diving into scripture, and really just been seeking the Lord, and as a woman, first of all, what is your will for women? Then secondarily, as a woman who does not have a husband, and won't be at home, caring for the kids or anything like that; that's not a part of my life. What is your will for me? And as I study scripture, I really do see that the Lord's heart for men or women that are single, there is such a place for celibate people in the church; there's such an important place. And it's different. It's different than people that are married, but actually they are totally on the same level. And Paul says, he says this is his opinion. But he says, it's actually better to be single. I always read that as well, it's nice for you to say, but...[Laugh]

I don't wanna be single.

Ariana deVries

Right.

Yeah, You didn't want that for yourself.

Sarah Brown

Yeah, exactly. But what I really have been like hearing from the Lord in that is how there is a different glory, there is such a glory in yeah, living the life that it's not for yourself. What I do see is that a lot of people who they're maybe disillusioned with marriage in general they just, you know, are holding out for Mr. Right, or whatever. Sometimes that can be in a godly way. And sometimes that is actually in just a really selfish way. It is in a...I want to be able to rule my own life, I don't want to be tied down. I don't want to have all these responsibilities. I really want to focus on my career, that sort of a thing. That's not the heart that any of us should have, whether married or single.

If you're married you're not focused on building your career, or maintaining your independence. You're serving the Lord, you surrender to the Lord. And you do that in really close communion and intimacy with your spouse. As a single person, you're serving the Lord, you're in community with the body, and that is what your life is for. [Laugh]

Ariana deVries

Yeah.

That's good. That's good. I like that.

Sarah Brown

I see that there's a lot of place for single people in the church. But that's not my experience in people's response, often, to single people.

Ariana deVries

Which is unfortunate.

Sarah Brown

Yeah, yeah, it is. And I think, you know, with some better teaching on this and more openheartedness to understand different people's callings, and willingness to be able to support each other in our different callings. I think the Lord is already at work in doing that in people's hearts, and I pray that continues.

Ariana deVries

Yeah. So in our last couple of moments here, what would you say to someone going through this journey of discovering who they are, or struggling to find the courage to come out? What would you say to them?

Sarah Brown

I would say, the way that you hold these things that you're seeing about yourself, is really important. Don't dismiss it and feel like you have to be straight.

That said, don't feel like you're so special, I guess, in that you have a different situation then a lot of people, but you also have a very, very common situation, which we all face. And that is coming up against things that are a part of our experience that we need to surrender to the Lord.

I often, for myself, go back to the analogy of someone who is born with some kind of a disability or an illness, disease, something like that. I don't like to liken sexual orientation to a disease, because I think that's really not accurate. But my point is something that you didn't choose for yourself that is a part of your daily experience and affects your life. It can't just be ignored. The response to that is still to surrender to God. The response to that is still to study scripture, look into what the Word says, not just exclusively focusing on, “Well, what does God say about the gay thing? What does God say about it? What am I supposed to do at the gay thing?” But no. No, actually study all of Scripture. That's where you will find your answer is in the whole entirety of: Who is God? Who are you? Who is mankind? What is sin? What is holiness? What are we called to walk towards? That is actually where you're going to find the answers you're looking for. And it's longer. It's not a quick point A to B answer.

Ariana deVries

Yeah.

Sarah Brown

That's hard. But it's also what we're all doing. It is what we're all doing. And I would pray that if anyone who is listening to this and is not a gay or has gender dysphoria, or anything like that, be tender with your brothers and sisters in Christ. And don't be quick to need them to put it all in a box and tie it up in a ribbon. Because there's a lot of layers to this.

And I would say, encourage them in their walk with God. Encourage them towards greater obedience. Pray for them; actually pray for them. I think that's what's needed in the body of Christ is, you know, for me, I had some safe people who were grounded in Scripture and loved me to process some of these things with. And that's been a huge deal for me. And I think that is what the body of Christ is supposed to be for each other.

So yeah, if you're gay, and there are people that you have in your life who would be able to walk with you in that, take advantage of that. Definitely. It's important to not trust your own singular opinion on these things in your own singular sorting through of these things. Because it's confusing, and it's hard, and we need each other to point out where we're not faithfully fully surrendering to what the Word of God is saying; and it's for our good. I would say there's so much joy, and so much hope, and so much fullness in living your life for Jesus; surrendering your whole self to Jesus. That's what I would encourage you to do your whole heart.

Ariana deVries

That's great. Thank you, Sarah. Thank you for joining me and sharing your heart and being open and honest.

Sarah Brown

I'm always happy to be able to share.

Ariana deVries

Yeah. And for those of you who are listening, thank you for stopping by and opening up your hearts and being willing to journey through this with us. And we hope that you continue to listen and have your hearts be open to those who may not be exactly like us and whose journey may look a little bit different. But we can still be there for them with grace. Right, Sarah?

Sarah Brown

Yeah, exactly.

Ariana deVries

Thank you, and love you.

Sarah Brown

Love you, too! [Laugh]

Ariana deVries

I look forward to more chats with you in the future.

Sarah Brown

Absolutely.

Ariana deVries

All right. Bye, everybody.