It was my freshman year of college. I enjoyed newfound freedom, which mostly consisted of late-night trips to Steak & Shake with my new circle of friends. On the surface, my new life in university was flourishing, but in the depths of my soul, I sensed something integral to my well-being was muted, or missing.
My growing sense of this lack followed a series of heartbreaks in my teenage years. At the time, I wouldn’t have told you that I had been in love. I never had a boyfriend. I had never been interested in many boys. My attention was devoted to my close female friendships. At first, I didn’t recognize the strong emotions and desires I felt for my best friend as out of the ordinary. Then, one evening my senior year of high school, we sat on the beach alone and I finally expressed my desire for romantic intimacy, which was not reciprocated. I left feeling embarrassed, ashamed, and I hoped that no one would find out about my momentary candor.
In college, I put this episode out of my mind. When I found myself attracted to a new friend, I became possessive of our friendship and then disappointed when our exclusive circle of trust became inclusive of other friends. In this frustration, I read a self-help book to learn to love others well and be loved in return. I wanted to figure out a skill or technique that would result in a satisfying, lasting, relationship. But repeating the mantras recommended by my book did not seem to affect any lasting transformation.
A little while later, I heard a speaker who introduced me to the idea of a “bridegroom fast” from Luke 5:35. The purpose of the fast was simply to express a longing for Jesus’ presence. Something in this idea resonated with my deepest desires for intimacy. I decided to throw away my self-help book and start fasting instead. A couple months later, a friend invited me to a Christian conference in a nearby city. When I first arrived, I was a little wary of the charismatic form of worship on display. But by the end of the evening, I sensed God’s presence in a new way. I felt Christ’s overwhelming, extravagant love for me as a unique individual. God responded to my fast—to the longing in my heart for intimacy—by filling me with His love.
When I returned to college from this conference, my prayer life changed. Instead of daily mantras, I spent hours every week in our campus prayer room singing, reading Scripture, and fellowshipping with other Christians. I decided to study theology so that I could better know the One I loved. Yet, this love for Christ did not remove my desire for intimacy with another person. Again and again, I felt myself attracted to my female friends, and then disappointed and heart-broken when these friendships withered. There were many desires, many loves, inside of me—and sometimes they seemed to be in conflict—battling in my soul.
When I finally admitted to myself that attraction to other women was part of my story, I felt ashamed. I wanted to rid myself of these desires and replace them with rightly ordered loves. So, I asked God for deliverance—the complete cessation of these attractions. It did not come. Then I ignored the desires, choosing to mute them inside of me as soon as they rose to the surface.
But God was less avoidant of my attractions than I was. At the right time, the Holy Spirit began to invite me to be vulnerable with some close friends and mentors about my experience. I found that they received me in love and that I did not need to feel shame. I also discovered that these attractions did not negate my love for Christ—that it was possible to be honest about my desire for women and still pursue my desire for God. Through recognizing my attractions, I was able to give them to the Lord as a gift. Honesty provided me freedom—freedom to choose to fast from pursuing these desires for the sake of growing in likeness of Christ and pursuing intimacy with Him.
In this way, even my attractions have become an opportunity for self-gift to the Lord, and a space for receiving His love for me. Sometimes this process is full of joy. Other times it is full of heart-ache and askesis, but the ongoing journey to intimacy has been worth it—in a way that only makes sense in the experience of His goodness. Through fasting, my love has not been muted, but intensified.
If you have resonated with any part of this story, I hope that you too experience the Lord’s extravagant love. He is not ashamed of you. He is not angry at you. He says you are good and He invites you to a life of intimacy.
"Clare" is a pseudonym. This story is anonymous for personal and professional reasons.