What if I’m wrong?

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What if, by transitioning to living as a female, I have put my eternal life into jeopardy, and even now have doomed myself to damnation in hell?

The answer to the title question—what if I am wrong?—is found in the answers to these questions:

  1. How are we saved?
  2. Who does the work?
  3. What is our part?

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This essay is divided into three parts. I have written in detail for those who are new to my blog. Because many will want to get right to the question, I have placed the ultimate section first. If you are not familiar with my story, you would be well-served to slide down to parts one and two, which follow the conclusion of the first section.

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Part three: What if I am wrong?

Despite the outward troubles which came from publicly transitioning—family, church, and friends who were hurt and confused and offended—finally, I was feeling like myself. In 2016, peace has settled into place so wonderfully that the struggle of my life has become something I view as if watching a movie of another person’s life.

As of early September, my situation has now become widely known in my church body, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). Many pastors and lay people have contacted me, either asking me loads of questions about all of this or simply convicting me of sin. Among the questions is the big one.

What if I am wrong?

This question must be answered in light of the life of every Christian. Does one’s stand before Holy God rely on his being right in all of his actions? For having made every correct decision? For having recognized every last error and specifically repented of it? For being absolutely positive that he is not, right now, in error with a precept of God and unable to repent because his mind-set is wrong?

  • How are we saved?
  • Who does the work?
  • What is our part?

1. How are we saved?

  • “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).”
  • “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10).”

2. Who does the work?

  • “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).”
  • “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them (2 Corinthians 5:19).”

3. What is our part?

  • “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1).”
  • “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one (Romans 3:10-12).”

Summarizing the three questions in reverse order, we were dead in our sins, Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself for our sins, and for Christ’s sake the Father attributes to us the salvation which His Son accomplished.

Romans 5:8 informs us: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This begs my questions: If God so loved us to atone for our sins while we were dead in them, does it fit His character that He would be unwilling to live for us in the worst times of our lives? When we are completely beat down and broken? When we find ourselves totally befuddled with our situation?

I have said it before, and I do not shy from continuing to say it: I would not place my eternal life into the hands of a fickle deity like that, who would abandon me when I need him most.

I have, indeed, continually and gladly placed my life in the hands of the God who promises to acknowledge me before His Father in heaven as I acknowledge Him on earth (Matthew 10:32). By the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, I have never ceased acknowledging and confessing Jesus Christ before men. Indeed, my zeal for proclaiming Christ has consistently deepened.

I shifted my question from what if I am wrong to how we are saved because so many pastors have turned this on its head, placing a heavy yoke onto my shoulders, accusing me of having lost my faith—even of God’s having given me over to my sin—because I have sinned so badly, causing me to constantly beat off the old guilt-play, that I have to get my act together before the Lord will love me again.

Based on how Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, and how I have clung to Him every single day of my struggle, I suggest that if God abandoned me in my greatest time of need then the following Scriptures are false:

  • “No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3).”
  • “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief (1 Timothy 1:15).”
  • “It is by grace you have been saved through faith, it is a gift of God, not by works, that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).”
  • “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).”
  • “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him (John 3:17).”
  • “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).”
  • “A bruised reed, He will not break (Isaiah 42:3).”

I was, have been, and remain the bruised reed. I implore my fellow Christians with this question: When I need Christ the most, that when He’s going to break me?

Not only does this make no biblical sense to me. It goes against everything I have learned about the Lord’s character from His own Word.

When did the seven quoted Scriptures cease to belong to me? By the work of the Spirit in me, I have never wavered in my faith, never ceased being in God’s Word, and never had a day go by when I did not place myself before the Lord in repentance and prayer.

Therefore, repentance always looks the same for me: I throw myself at God the Father’s mercy for the sake of Christ.

Thankfully, we are not saved by being right about every move in our lives, and the Lord does not say, “Oops, you just did the ONE thing that will cause me to remove my Spirit from you!” When it is clear that we are sinning, we shall not do so. We shall not take another’s spouse, or steal, or lie, etc. But when we are in situations as challenging as mine has been? The Lord doesn’t sit in heaven just waiting for us to do make the wrong move, ready to kick us out as if we are contestants on some game show.

No, the Lord is not fickle, and He is not a man to act the way we would. He is longsuffering, merciful, and faithful.

This never means that we can do as we wish when right and wrong are clear. What it means is that we do not live in fear, but in faith and trust, secure in Christ’s finished work. Christianity is based on Christ’s salvation, not whether we make every right move and don’t blow the big ones. Christians are habitual blow-the-big-ones people.

“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” and while we remain sinners in this life Christ’s death continues to atone for us. Having been resurrected from the dead and ascended to heaven, He lives to serve us. He sent His Holy Spirit, who leads us to Him. When I was nineteen days old, I was given the Spirit in Holy Baptism, including every baptismal gift of which God’s Word speaks, including this one: “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:27).”

I am clothed with Christ. When God the Father sees me, He sees His Son, whose righteousness covers my unrighteousness. I rejoice in this truth! I praise and thank the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for this gift!

What if I’m wrong? Praise the Lord that my salvation relies on Christ’s being right. He is the Righteous One. He is my Savior.

~ To Christ alone be the glory! ~

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Part one: Birth to retirement

When I was a child, as I lay in bed every night longing to be a girl, the Law of God weighed heavily upon me. I was carrying such a burden, thinking I was unlovable because of my desires, that for about a year when I was in high school I spent every single night trying to go to sleep as I pondered what life would be like in hell for eternity.

I would think, “It will eventually end. It has to. Everything finally comes to an end. But, no, just when I think it will be done, there will be one more day. Then one more day. Always one more day.”

I was scared to death. That is no way to live as a child of God.

In my early twenties, I became a Lutheran. I finally heard the Gospel in a way that it was for me. I became free!—freed me from a fear-faith because I finally knew that the Lord Jesus fulfilled the requirements of righteousness in my place.

My gender identity issues consistently deepened. Despite that, in my thirties I was motivated to enter the seminary, from which I was approved for the ministry. I served as a pastor in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) for eighteen years. At about the fifteen year mark of my service, in my early fifties, my gender identity issues took a turn toward my hating myself. In 2013, I finally experienced full-blown gender dysphoria, the deepest ill feelings over having a male body and life when my brain was screaming FEMALE.

I retired from the ministry in 2014. For more than two years—from early 2013 to mid 2015—I fought transitioning to live as a female. I began and stopped hormone replacement therapy three times. I attempted outwardly transitioning once, beginning on January 1, 2015, and then stopped after six weeks.

The more I fought, the worse I got. Each time I ceased taking HRT, after a few weeks I crashed worse than the time before, akin to what a person with depression might experience when cutting off medication and it is no longer in her system.

Suicide or insanity were the only results I saw from myself if I remained a male. Suicidal ideation began early in 2013: “You hate being a man. You can’t be a woman. Just kill yourself.” I had a plan: I would get my car going as fast I could on one of Huron County’s country roads, unbuckle my seat belt, and aim my car for the ditch.

By early 2014, I thought I was only days from losing my mind. At that time, I wrote this: “Going insane is a long, slow, gradual process. After nearly fifty-seven years of life, I believe that I am almost there. I am on the brink of insanity. I am being torn in half. The more I tear, the less of me there is left to tear. I’m almost torn all the way through.”

The Lord held me together. I was able to continue working until I retired on June 30, 2014.

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Part two: Crashing in Indy

The final weeks as a pastor, I had experienced a surprising level of peace with myself. At my final monthly pastors’ meeting, I told a couple of the brothers who were in the know: “I am feeling really good about myself. I am wondering if I can attribute it to my retirement only being days away. This might be what I need, to get out from under the pressure of the ministry. I sure hope it is.”

Three days after I retired, Julie and I moved to Indy. Three days after moving to Indy, I crashed. So much for being out of the ministry.

After month of fighting, I restarted HRT. A month after restarting, when my estrogen increased enough and my testosterone decreased enough, the peace returned which I enjoyed the previous two times I was on HRT.

KEY NOTE: To you, who insist that gender dysphoria is a mental illness, explain to me why being on HRT, reversing my hormones brings peace—a physical thing, not a result of my self-determination.

As sometimes happens with those on depression medication, I mistook the HRT-provided peace with a newfound strength to fight off my gender dysphoria. I stopped taking the pills. I vowed to Julie and to my children that I would never again even allow myself to consider transitioning, that it was necessary for me to have such a resolve if I were to beat this and remain male.

That lasted for five weeks.

As I could have and should have predicted, when my hormone levels once again reverted to those of a typical male, my brain once again caught fire. I was filled with a new level of self-hatred, of what I have described as a two-person struggle. My dis-ease with myself forced on me an inability to see anything good in life, despising Indianapolis and longing for Port Hope and my former ministry, for things and places I knew and loved.

I hated everything.

This was October, 2014. In November, I went home to Michigan for (my final) family deer camp. The times that I would retreat to the trailer to read, I spent crying.

I still was not back on HRT. It was now late December. I decided that I had to try living full time as a female to see if it might ease my pain. I was determined to do it long enough to give myself a reasonable experience from which to make a decision.

Three weeks into it, I restarted HRT. Six weeks into it, I was feeling so good that—you should know what is coming—I was able to resume thinking I could live as a male. I stopped living as Gina. I ran out of my HRT medicine, which was from my former doctor in Michigan.

Soon, I was back on HRT, having been approved by my new therapist in Indy. By late April, after the worst therapist appointment I ever had—I spent the hour screaming and bawling, at odds with every last thing in my life—I finally sensed the Lord saying YES to the prayer with which I had beseeched Him for months. It was time to go public.

I did that on April 29. Because I was fighting to remain male, I had support from the ones I feared the most, my former brother pastors.

I (naively) had hoped that going public would strengthen me for the fight. It did . . . for a matter of days. Over the next two months, I sunk to the lowest of lows. We bought our house at this time, and my doing almost all of the packing and moving by myself was a saving grace.

A month after we moved, I was back to needing to try living as a female. This time, it stuck. After six weeks, feeling so right about my being, I went public, posting online that I had begun what is called the Real Life Test. On August 19, I changed my online identity and photo to Gina.

I settled into Gina. It has been fifteen months. Finally, enjoying blessed peace inside myself, I have no thoughts of going back, of trying to be a male, of once again fearing the big three: suicide, insanity, or having to be so heavily medicated in order not to feel the self-hatred that I would be left a shell of a person.

And all the while, from first considering transitioning early in 2013, I have been asking myself the eternal question: What if I am wrong?

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What happens when we die?

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Over my years in the ministry, I learned that a large majority of Christians do not know the answer to the question of the title. Answers, actually, as there are many things to consider. I composed the following as a Christian, writing to Christians.

Sadly, we swallow large doses of what popular culture spoons out to us. We wind up believing things like this: people become angels, they watch over us, and they can get trapped on earth if they have unresolved issues.

People are people and angels are angels. “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14)?” Humans were the pinnacle of God’s creation, whom He made in His image. He created angels to have great power, but He did not make them in His image. Even more, He created angels for us humans.

Yes, we have guardian angels. No, we don’t become guardian angels when we die. And we do not look over our loved ones from heaven. Revelation chapters four and seven provide a picture of heaven, with all the saints—used here to signify any Christian, not specifically, say, Saint Peter or Saint Paul—gathered around God’s throne in worship of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.

Many are comforted by the notion that a loved one is watching. It hurts, for example, that a mother is not present to see her child’s accomplishment, so if we can conjure her watching from heaven we feel better. What we do not consider is that if Mom is watching us win the blue ribbon, she also hears us when we let fly with a blue streak of foul language.  Even worse, how could heaven be joyful and glorious if our loved ones watch when we suffer illness, divorce, and all of this life’s tragedies?

God’s Word gives us no information that our deceased loved ones are watching, and certainly not that they have power to assist us. On the latter point, it is vital that we do not turn them into idols. The Lord God is almighty, all-powerful, and all-knowing. He needs no help in taking care of us, and when we feel we are getting help from our dead relatives, we rob Him of the glory He deserves for being God—our Father, our Savior Jesus, and our Comforter the Holy Spirit.

Here is what happens when we die. “The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7).”

Later, I will explain why the death of the Christian is not the ultimate thing to happen. For now, keep it simple: We die. Our soul goes to heaven. Our body stays on earth. For the time being.

There’s no unfinished business. If a person left a huge task undone, he will not be haunting his house or friends. And, no, he won’t be coming back, reincarnation-style. “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment (Hebrews 9:27).”

(You’re wondering: What about ghosts? If one sees a ghost of a human, it will be a demon impersonating the person. Since people just love this stuff—We eat it up!  It’s scary, but it’s also so cool!—Satan uses such things to distract us from the Lord and His Word.)

As this age continues its course until the Last Day when Christ returns in glory, death is a temporary situation. It is not good that our body and soul are separated by death. The Lord will fix that.

The following passage is one that, over the course of the 150 funerals I officiated, I found myself using in my sermons almost without fail. Soak this in: “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).”

Perishable/imperishable: This is obvious. We are prone to dying and we die. When Christ raises us from the grave, it will be impossible for us to die again.

Dishonor/glory: It is a disgrace to be placed into a box and under a few feet of earth, or to have our bodies cremated. That we will be raised will be glorious, bringing us back to the living beings which the Lord always intended.

Weakness/power: Our bodies are weakened by disease, accident, aging, and more. In the resurrection we will be powerful, no longer prone to any of the maladies of this life.

Natural/Spiritual: In this life, we are bound by the laws of nature which the Lord created for our good. We do not have a firm grasp on what it will mean to have spiritual bodies, but one good thought is that we will not age. From those who died as fetuses, babies, youngsters, and elderly, all of us will be perfectly whole and healthy adults, no signs of premature death or aging, and that perfection will continue forever.

I love talking about this, and here is more good stuff! How will all of this take place on the Last Day? Here is a shorthand sketch:

First, the resurrection: “For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).”
• Christ will return but will stop above the earth. The dead will first be raised and will rise to meet Him, and then those who are alive when He comes will also join Him in the air.

Why in the clouds? This question begs another: Where will we be living forever? Here is the answer to both questions: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved . . . But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:10, 13).”
• We will need to meet the Lord Jesus in the air because He will be destroying and recreating the earth, bringing it back to the perfection in which He had created it. After the judgment, we will return to earth and then, literally, heaven will be on earth: “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them (Revelation 21:3).”

I bet you know the next quote: “Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left (Matthew 25: 32-33).”
• In the air, all people will either be on the Lord’s right or left. Sadly, those on the left will be judged in their sins and “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’ (verse 41),” while the sheep will given the crown of eternal life (James 1:12), and then . . .

From John’s revelation of the Last Day, “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband (Revelation 21:2).”
• The judgment complete and the earth having been recreated, Christ and His people—pictured here as the new Jerusalem—will descend to the earth, to dwell with our Lord and with each other, forever, and never again will death or mourning or crying or pain visit us (Revelation 21:4).

A final, wonderful, comforting note. Did you catch in the Thessalonians passage the reference to our being asleep? Did you know the word “cemetery” means “place of sleep?”

All over the New Testament, the death of the believer is referred to as sleep. Why would this be? Because Christ is going to wake us up to the dawn of the new, eternal day!

To you and me, death is final. We can’t do a thing about it. To the Lord Jesus, death is the enemy which He conquered by rising from His own grave, and it is no harder for Him to handle than it is to say, “Wake up! The Big Day has arrived! Look at everyone who’s here and rejoice!”

I cannot wait for that day, so I close the way the Holy Bible closes: Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen.