What Has Stuttering To Do With…?

The Internet Monk has a post up called “Remembering the Stutterer.” When I started to read it, I was like, “Ho hum, why exactly am I reading this? Who cares about stuttering anyway?”

But then I got into his discussion of what he learned from his experience as a stutterer, and found it startlingly relevant to the subject matter of this blog. Here are the point headings within his discussion.

1. I’ve learned what it’s like to have your imperfections unavoidably noticeable.
2. I’ve learned what it’s like to live with a problem for a lifetime
3. I’ve learned that a problem or flaw can become the occasion for sin.
4. I’ve learned about human cruelty and the power of love.
5. I’ve learned about the fellowship that exists among the those with persistent flaws and problems.

The whole thing is very much worth reading, but I was especially struck by his reflections on his point #3 (emphasis below is mine)…

Yes, believe it or not, my stuttering didn’t entirely work for my good. At times, it became the reason I excused and tolerated sin in myself.
One of my co-workers was, for many years, a missionary to a particular disabled population. He had worked at a school for this disability and always pointed out how this disability made those who had it particularly difficult, bossy, selfish and aggressive. When I first heard this, I thought, “How mean!” But he was undeniably right, and not just about that particular disability.

All of us who have to live with an imperfection need to face up to the fact that our “suffering” isn’t automatically redemptive. Satan comes to us and presents particular kinds of sinful choices that are tied to that flaw.

Are you overweight? From a dysfunctional family? Poor? Single? Are you old? Neglected by your children? Not compensated appropriately for your work? All of these are occasions to trust Christ and move forward in his grace…or opportunities to sin, be demanding, self-pitying and manipulative.

He is so right about this. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but this was me in spades, and it still is me a lot more often than I’d care to acknowledge. There’s a part of me that felt a tiny bit robbed after falling for Mr. DM, going “straight,” and getting married, because it really took the wind out of the sails of my self-pitying pose. There is an ugly part of me that so loved playing the “nobly” tragic sufferer, destined to never have what her heart longs for. There’s a part of me that loved to imagine that people who saw me thought, “Wow, isn’t it amazing that she’s following God so faithfully in the face of this difficult struggle? Even though she’s going to probably end up spending her whole life alone, never again knowing romantic love or physical intimacy, all because of her love for God?” Now, in retrospect, I can mostly laugh at the ridiculously self-obsessed arrogance in that. But I’d be lying if I said that I don’t feel a twinge of sorrow at my newfound ordinariness every now and then. Who could possibly be impressed by my love for God now, after He’s blessed me beyond my wildest imaginings, after I’ve hit the ex-gay jackpot? To that insidious part of me, being happily married is almost something of a letdown. My struggle with homosexuality has spawned all kinds of prideful and self-centered thoughts like these.

And boy did I ever use my struggle as a reason to “excuse and tolerate sin in myself!” I too often fell into a terrible attitude: If I have to give up my sexuality and any hope of a future relationship, well, that’s all I’m giving up. If God’s asking this hard thing of me that He isn’t asking of all these other people, then He has no business holding me to the same standards as He’s holding them in other areas. I would use my struggle as a way to try to shame my heterosexual brothers and sisters into silence when they tried to hold me accountable regarding other areas of sin in my life. What do *you* know about difficult obedience, little straight Christian? What do *you* know about counting the cost? What do *you* know about suffering for righteousness’ sake?

I love this line especially: “All of us who have to live with an imperfection need to face up to the fact that our ‘suffering’ isn’t automatically redemptive.” I know it sounds dumb, but I used to sometimes think that just because I was miserably celibately same-sex-attracted, I was getting closer to God. I was, obviously, wrong. It was an opportunity to get closer to God, but an opportunity that had to be seized and put to good use, by a holy (i.e., not self-pitying) response to my predicament. My difficult situation was an invitation to loosen my grip on the things of this world, and turn my longing and attention toward the things that are eternal, but it was an invitation that I chronically declined. My struggle opened the door to a deeper reliance upon the grace of God, a deeper trusting in Him, a deeper thirsting for Him, but more often than not I refused to walk through that doorway. Looking back, I realize I wasted a lot of time and treaded a lot of water because of this confusion.

I also liked the iMonk’s thoughts under his point #4:

Of course, at the heart of Christianity’s story is the cruelty of those who humiliated and executed Jesus. He had prepared his disciples for this by repeatedly teaching the power of forgiveness and love towards enemies and persecutors. Those of us with public flaws and imperfections will have opportunities to see these kinds of people with the eyes of Jesus. Jesus taught that it was a great privilege to suffer for him. It’s our privilege to take cruelty aimed at us over lesser things and to transform it into opportunities to be like Christ in forgiveness and grace to others.

I’m not going to talk about my middle school experiences as a queer kid, because I can’t talk or write about it without shaking, and I’m just not really in the mood to shake right now. I’ve worked up the nerve twice in my life to tell the whole story, once to a psychiatrist, and once to a staff member in the residential program. I think I could probably die happily without ever telling that story again.

But recently, one of my lesser tormentors from that era has come back into my world (though rather peripherally), so I’ve had occasion to casually and superficially meet him again, after all these years. He has turned out to be a normal and nice guy, as I expect most of them have. Somehow I doubt he even remembers what he did, or even remembers me at all, although I haven’t asked so I don’t know for sure. (I don’t plan to, either.) In any case, I find myself needing to remember this: It’s our privilege to take cruelty aimed at us over lesser things and to transform it into opportunities to be like Christ in forgiveness and grace to others.

13 Responses to What Has Stuttering To Do With…?

  1. Jay says:

    Oh…dear…

    You know, in the entire time that I’ve known Him I’ve never really known God to be subtle. He certainly isn’t being so tonight. This post is like a mirror that you’re holding up to me, and my reflection sure isn’t pretty. (I was thinking of saying this post was like a brick that you’ve thrown at my head, but I didn’t want to imply that you’d ever be so violent ;))

    That whole description of the “noble tragic sufferer”: Yeah, that’s pretty much me right now, though I haven’t really acknowledged it. Heck, just check out my blog! There’s way more angst than there needs to be in my life. But it’s not the struggle that’s the problem, nor the angst. It’s how I use that struggle. You know that whole paragraph in italics, the one about using this struggle to excuse and tolerate other sins. Yeah, I’ve done that too…recently, actually…and I’ve also imagined the the “oh how wonderful you are” Christians.

    Geez, I need to pray and meditate on this subject. I’ve been kind of wondering about it but you writing this has really just brought it out into the open with me. I’ve been viewing myself as a victim, someone that God “didn’t give a fair shot.” But heck, if he didn’t give a fair shot I don’t know what a fair shot is! He’s saved me for the love of Christ (literally)! Now I just need to figure out how to glorify that wonderful fact in the right way. Thank you for the mirror, DM. Goodnight.

    P.S. Adventures is spelled wrong in your link to my site. Not trying to be rude or anything. I’m just a grammar nerd. :)

  2. Hey Jay,

    Spelling is fixed! Thanks for the heads-up. I apparently don’t pay enough attention to my blogroll. I just realized TODAY (well, yesterday, as it’s past midnight now) that Now The Green Blade Riseth wasn’t on there at all. What’s up with that?

    I was aiming the brick at my own head, but I guess it rebounded and hit you too. I’d say I’m sorry but I’m honestly glad I’m not the only one who’s felt these things, as evil as that sounds. :)

    p.s. I absolutely loved “The Reason I Do This”, and I’m two-thirds of the way through writing a post about it right now.

  3. Jay says:

    No need to be sorry, DM. I needed that brick, and I know a few other people who need it too (not ex-gays, just friends of mine who wallow in self-pity WAY too much). I suppose we just never really hear of self-pity as a sin, but it is one, and it really gets in the way of the things we have to do here as Christians.

    As for writing a post about “The Reason I Do This,” here’s my only reply: :D :D :D

  4. mary says:

    Yeah, I needed that brick, too. I have often used my “struggles” as an excuse to misbehave in many other ways. when you sort of put out there so bluntly it becomes apparent to myself. Duh??? is what I’d like to say but I think whoops is more in line. Thanks for helping correct my step.

    BTW, Cheers to you – love the blog.

  5. Joe says:

    Keep throwing the bricks DM. Another one boomaranged and hit my head. :)

    For 20+ years I have nurtured a fantasy of tracking down a particular homophobic college guy and, you know, shooting him dead on his doorstep. The rage I felt for all the misery and pain he inflicted on me didn’t disappear when I became a Christian. I was ready to forfeit my soul for a chance to kill him. If my tormentor turned out to gay himself I would kill him with a huge grin on my face. Some Christian I turned out to be!

    It’s so true that our suffering isn’t automatically redemptive.

  6. When I was hanging out for a while in an online group for people (which turned out, I guess culture being what it is, to be mostly women) dealing with infertility, I found that: A) lots of people wanted the infertility to be in some way redemptive, and would, for example, talk about how much better parents we’d be, knowing how to appreciate the kids, etc., but B) though there was lots of support in the group, some people seemed to respond to infertility in really bitter, unredemptive ways, leading me to doubt that A) was really true. So, similar deal.

    And I do know (from more than one thing I had to give up) the feeling of “God, if I have to give this up, I should get a break on everything else.”

  7. h-ster says:

    Hey DM,

    Yeah, you’ve got a gift for brick throwing, thanks :-) The fact you’re writing this stuff is giving me hope, it shows I’m not alone in my convictions and struggles.

    God Bless

  8. The same new reader says:

    Hi DM-

    I’d love to hear your thoughtds on Ted Haggard’s cure.

    http://www.denverpost.com/colleges/ci_5164921

  9. [...] Mutability points to a post by Internet Monk on stuttering and ties it to her own experience of being unwillingly attracted to her own sex. Internet Monk spoke of the things he learned from [...]

  10. Hugo says:

    Lynn sent me here; a terrific post, As a straight Christian active in an affirming church, and as someone who teaches GLBT history at a community college, I’m moved and challenged by this post. There’s a tendency that folks like me sometimes have to bemoan the decisions our more conservative queer brothers and sisters make to try and transform — or to at least refrain from living out their sexual desires in relationship. We tend to say too quickly “What a waste”.

    Thanks for this.

  11. Yikes! Super-delayed response on some of these. Mary, Joe, and h-ster…you’re welcome for them bricks. :) Lynn, yeah, I never thought about it but it makes sense that infertility would work in a very similar way.

    Hugo, thanks for stopping by. I read your blog from time to time (also through Lynn, I think) and I enjoy it quite a bit. I have a thing for different perspectives. :) I guess that part of my faith is that if we are trying to glorify God, that nothing (even our mistakes) will be “a waste”. So, yeah, we “more conservative queer brothers and sisters” might be mistaken about what God wants from us, and there may well be a cost to that. But even in that case it would still be something God can work with and use in our lives.

  12. Jon says:

    ” If I have to give up my sexuality and any hope of a future relationship, well, that’s all I’m giving up. If God’s asking this hard thing of me that He isn’t asking of all these other people, then He has no business holding me to the same standards as He’s holding them in other areas.”
    ————————————————————–

    Boy!
    Boy did I ever ride that horsey! And I was very, very explicit about it towards God. He HAD to give me a break, and He knew it!

  13. […] point about humility may seem a little insulting to some (myself at times included). But Disputed Mutability had a good post that’s relevant to this a few years back. Also worth a read if you haven’t seen […]

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