John Fuller: Today on our Best of 2017 Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, we’re gonna return to one woman’s amazing story. She was a self-proclaimed feminist and lesbian who went through what she called a “train wreck” conversion when she gave her life to Jesus Christ. Here’s how Dr. Rosaria Butterfield described that experience.
Dr. Rosaria Butterfield: My walk with the Lord played out like this.The sinfulness of my sin unfolded in theBiblealone and in my growing union with Christ and in my growing separation from theidentityof myself as a lesbian, into an identity of myself as a Christian woman saved by grace. And what had happened very early on is, I realized — and this was shocking; this wasn’t … I had an identity crisis. I mean, there’s nothing short of that. What I realized is that I was standing in a long line of godly women, the Mary Magdalene line and that, that was right where God had me and that my sin was wiped away and if He brought to me a godly husband, He would make me a loving godly wife and the Lord did that.
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Jim Daly: John, last year we aired Dr. Butterfield’s dramatic testimony, which she outlined in her bookThe Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. And then in January, we aired a follow up program which was one of our most popular broadcasts of the year. I’m telling ya, this is a powerful message. Obviously Rosaria’s message touched a nerve with you, the audience, and that’s great news, considering how often we in the Christian community feel marginalized for not embracing homosexuality as normal and regular for our culture today. I believe every once in a while, God chooses key spokespeople– think of Moses– who can speak up for biblical truth and bring clarity to issues in our culture. Rosaria has a unique perspective and influence for the Lord based on what she has experienced.
John: Yeah and she’s having such a profound impact, Jim, as you said. The listeners really responded back in January when we first aired this broadcast. In fact, one comment reflects that, they said this, “I struggle in this area of sexuality so much. Up until this morning, I’ve been a staunch supporter of the LGBT cause. Some of Dr. Butterfield’s message though is rocking the very heart of my identity. God is making rapid and drastic changes in my life and I’m struggling to keep up!”
Jim: John, that’s amazing and a great reminder of the often unseen work of God that He’s doing in people’s hearts. Now if you or someone in your family is struggling with issues like same-sex attraction or gender confusion, Focus on the Family is here to help you– or them! That’s one reason why we’re bringing this program back today. We have Christian counselors who want to talk with you and pray with you and they can refer you to resources in your local area. And if you go to our website, you’ll find articles and links that will help you as well.
John: And that website is focusonthefamily.com/radio or if you prefer, give us a call and we’d be happy to talk with you. Our number is 800-232-6459.
Alright, here’s how we began the conversation with Dr. Rosaria Butterfield on this Best of 2017 Focus on the Family broadcast.
Jim: Rosaria, today we wanted to share kinda the rest of the story.
Jim: You’ve got this—
Jim: — wonderful book out and I’m just reaching for it,Openness Unhindered. And it’s kind of the next step in your journey.
Rosaria: It is; it is. The subtitle isFurther Secret Thoughts(Laughter)of an Unlikely Convert, specifically about sexual identity and union with Christ.
Jim: And you know, again, for those that didn’t hear the program, that thumbnail sketch, give it to me, that ani … animosity that you had for the Christian community.
Rosaria: Yeah, I did.
Jim: And somehow, you know, it was deserved in many ways.
Rosaria: Well, I … I … at least from what I saw, at least from what I saw,so I was um … very happily partnered in a lesbian relationship and had been a serially monogamous lesbian for a decade and started to embark on a book on the Religious Right, specifically from a lesbian and feminist point of view. I was a professor of English um … at Syracuse University. I was a good caregiver and a … and a good neighbor and I really just did not understand why Christians would not leave consenting adults alone.
And in the process of writing this book, I wrote some other things, including a … a pretty snarky response to thePromise Keepersvisit to town. And … and in the process of all of this, I met a Christian neighbor and pastor and friend, Ken Smith. And Ken Smith and his wife, Floy, they just hung in there with me for years and years, sharing the gospel and living the gospel.
And I was reading the Bible because I wanted to condemn it, of course. So, I was happy to read this Book. I’m an English professor and one of the things that happened as I was reading the Book and meeting with Ken and Floy weekly is, that the Bible got to be bigger inside me than I.
Jim: Can I stop you there, because—
Jim: –it … a critical aspect here is—
Jim: –Ken and Floy–
Rosaria: Oh, huge, yeah.
Jim: –their willingness to be with you–
Rosaria: Right, even though–
Jim: –and to sit with you and—
Jim: –to talk with you.
Rosaria: –right, even though I was not … I was not—
Jim: (Laughing) Right.
Rosaria: –I was not an easy, you know, nut to crack—
Rosaria: –as it were.
Jim: Well, and in our community unfortunately and I’m guilty of this, too, so I’m not casting stones.We tend to pull away from those things that make us uncomfortable.
Jim: It’s completely human—
Rosaria: It is.
Jim: –to do that.
Rosaria: But …
Jim: But what does the Lord want us to do?
Rosaria: Yeah, and see, Ken always understood that my being a lesbian was not my biggest sin.
Rosaria: See, he just wasn’t tripped up by that–
Rosaria: –because he knew that my being an unbeliever was my biggest sin and he had faith in a very big God that could make all of this right. And he knew that I needed Jesus, as unlikely as that was, as impossible as that was to imagine, because like pretty much everybody who is a convert, in order to come to Jesus, I would have to give up everything.
Jim: Your sexual identity.
Rosaria: My friends, the people who had become my family um … of choice, um … I did not lose my job because I was tenured. That might be a stor … a conversation for another (Laughing) time.
Jim: Yeah, that’d be interesting.
Rosaria: I just tell people I lost everything but the dog.
Jim: (Laughing) Yeah, right! (Laughter)
Jim: You know, in the book, you … you described that haunting past and you—
Jim: –you kind of made a… an analogy to the life of Paul—
Jim: –and the way that he suffered and the way that he—
Jim: –kind of experienced life in its fullness on both ends—
Jim: –great joy, great sorrow.
Rosaria: That’s right.
Jim: Talk about that analogy.
Rosaria: Yeah, absolutely. You know, one of the things that I struggle with today, so you know today, I am a happily married pastor’s wife. I homeschool my children. You know, in some ways, I’ve become one of you, you know. (Laughter) I … I’ve joined the enemy. (Laughing)
Jim: It’s pretty remarkable really.
Rosaria: It’s crazy. (Laughter)
Jim: I mean, it is amazing.
Rosaria: It’s crazy, but one of the things that … that the Lord impressed upon me very early on and … and Ken and Floy, as I said, they were … they were the hands and feet of Jesus, so this was not a “me and Jesus” experience. These were Christians that loved me when I had every prickle around me that you could have.
Rosaria: But one of the things that God allowed me to experience was notjustHis forgiveness, but also Hispowerto defeat and combat the sin in my life. See, I think sometimes we live with half the gospel.
Rosaria: And we think that’s okay. We say, “Well, Jesus forgave you; you’re forgiven.” And we don’t preach thepower of Godto change you at your deepest level. Now does that mean I don’t struggle with sin? I struggle with sin all the time. Until glory, every single one of us will, but the gospel comes with power. And you know, part of why Paul could do what he did, think about this, this man had blood on his hands.
Rosaria: He was probably interacting with the very same people whose mothers he had murdered. He could do that because God took not only the guilt of his sin and the shame of his sin, but the history of his sin. And you know, the only reason I can walk back into the world I helped create and help redeem it, is by God’s grace He’s done the same thing for me. You don’t see me shackling the history of my sin because that’s not mine anymore.
Jim: But it still um … haunts you, a term that you used. In fact, there’s a—
Rosaria: Yes, it does.
Jim: –story in your book that caught my attention, where you were in the kitchen, maybe a … a church kitchen—
Rosaria: Yes. (Laughing)
Jim: –and you’re prepping meals, but you’re—
Jim: –in there on … with only another woman.
Jim: And she said something to you that shocked you.
Rosaria: Yeah, yeah, you know, it was really shocking and I think part of it, you know, I just had this real conversion. And part of this real conversion meant that my identity as a lesbian was really competing with what it means to have union with Christ. And you know, guess what? At some point, Christ won and He won because He always does.
Jim: (Chuckling) That’s right!
Rosaria: So, I sort of, I … you know, I … it’s not like I’m lobotomized. I know the … the sin of my past, but it’s not quite at the front line for me in the way that it is for many other people. So, I was a newly married woman and I was in the kitchen of a … of a church and um … you know, we were doing the Crock-Pot thing, right, before the … the Lord’s Day. And … and this woman came up to me and um … and she … and … and she just said, it was … it was sort of startling when she said, um … “Well, is this safe, I mean, you and me?” And I said, “Well, what?” And she said, “Is it safe for you to be alone with another woman?” And I’m thinkin’, “What?!” (Laughing) And she said—
Rosaria: –she said, “Well, does this bring back feelings to you? I mean,thosekinds of feelings?” And you know, it took me a while to figure out that she meant, am I chopping chicken and lusting after you?
Rosaria: Am I a walking danger? And are my past uh … feelings and … and we’ll talk a little bit about this, because I will not say sexual … same-sex attraction is a deep and abidingproblem,but you know, but was my past as a lesbian, did it make her unsafe? Am I a dangerous woman?
And I just kinda mumbled something like, “Yeah, you know, everything’s cool. Don’t worry about it.” And you know, meanwhile and this is so sinful. My … your … your listeners just have to forgive me for this. This is not what you should be thinking about what your pastor’s wife is thinking, but I thought to myself, “Sweetheart, don’t flatter yourself.” (Laughter) I … you know, you have got to be kidding me! (Laughing)
Jim: But it is … it’s a deeply rooted thing in her, too.
Rosaria: It was deeply rooted thing in her that if I struggle with same-sex attraction or if I everhavestruggled with same-sex attraction, I am just a driving lust machine and … and you know, everybody else just steer clear. And that is ridiculous. We struggle and especially as Christians. If you’re not struggling with … with sin, you’re dead.
Jim: Yeah, exactly.
Rosaria: Okay, so … so if you don’t know what sin you’re struggling with, you’re much more dangerous than someone who knows their sin pattern, knows their indwelling sin and puts a fresh nail in it every day.
Jim: Right and that—
Rosaria: That’s what we’re called to do.
Jim: –and honestly that’s what Jesus attacked the Pharisees for.
Jim: That’s why that comment.
Jim: I mean, they were—
Jim: –they were unaware—
Jim: –of their hearts.
Rosaria: And I—
Jim: That’s what Jesus was goin’ after.
Rosaria: –and I think this wo … for this woman and for many people in our churches, we’ve had this idea that if you have lived as a lesbian or a gay man or if you ha … struggle with same-sex attraction, you’re a reprobate.