Jackie Hill Perry is blazing a new trail for transparent, theologically sound, female leaders on the Christian circuit with her first book, Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was and Who God Has Always Been (B&H, 2018). You might be tempted to glance over this book if you are not female or someone who struggles with same-sex attraction (SSA). However, may I strongly recommend this book for all believers? Let me explain.
Hill’s story is one of laying down an idol — at first with white knuckles — and eventually releasing her desires at the foot of the cross.
Gay Girl, Good God is a powerful story of God’s unyielding pursuit of a young woman who struggled primarily with the sin of unbelief. Perry is adamant that God didn’t just save her from homosexuality; he saved her from unbelief. She explains that she had many sins, but “each of them stemmed from one root — one organic sin that grew up, branched out, and became the seeded fruit of all other sins. Unbelief: it was the sin from which I hung guilty as charged” (5). Isn’t every believer in Jesus on a journey to discover the love of a heavenly Father who persistently pursues them in the midst of their darkest days of unbelief?
If you don’t struggle with homosexuality or SSA, you can still apply the truths of this book to a variety of sin struggles. Hill’s story is one of laying down an idol — at first with white knuckles — and eventually releasing her desires at the foot of the cross. Her journey was difficult, but God provided guides and companions along the way. You will probably discover that the author’s journey has many similarities to your own. She challenges readers to examine their cravings for sin opposed to their cravings for a deeper relationship with God. Trust and obedience to Christ’s commands are the only hope for any of us to be restored. So many truths in this book can be universally applied to any believer.
This vulnerable, beautifully authentic memoir challenges a culture that insists we put our best Instagram-worthy foot forward. Perry doesn’t glorify her sin struggles, but she doesn’t leave the audience wondering, either. She invites her readers in to see how her struggle with sin is a battle of faith. For her, “to give into temptation would be to give into unbelief” (89). Her authenticity stretches back to the stories of her past, as well. She strives to honor and respect her family and friends even when she is explaining unimaginably difficult circumstances. Her mom contemplated aborting her, she had an absentee father (for the most part) and she was sexually abused at an early age. She tells her story in such a way that God receives glory as the grand tapestry weaver and ultimate redeemer.
But it’s not just Perry’s story that’s compelling; it’s how she tells her story. Perry brings the words to life with such powerful imagery, and she personifies emotions and inanimate objects. Grief breathes, and sin steals, speaks and wears loud clothes and shiny shoes. Sobriety was an unwelcome guest, mercy walks down a hall, temptation was slapping her around like a weightless doll. She has a gift to use words in such a captivating, poetic way. This is an easy transition to another question that you may have about the book.
Perhaps you are wondering, “Should I listen to the audiobook or read the book that has actual, turning pages?” My answer to both questions is simply, Yes! I accidentally stumbled into the perfect method. I recommend a first pass via audiobook and a second pass via hard copy so you can really meditate — especially on the truths of part three of the book. First, just listen. Jackie is a gifted performer, poet and spoken word artist. The rhythms and intonations of her poetic lyricism are captivating. It’s almost as if she is at the front door of her story with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate inviting you inside. Simultaneously, her theologically sound truth bombs will leave you wishing you had a Bible, notebook and pen ready to write. Both experiences will benefit your spiritual growth, so take the time to listen first and turn the pages second.
Sin struggles are not our identity.
Part 3 of the book will require a few passes to fully digest. She spends significant time talking about identity and how our sin struggles do not define us. She also gives ample voice to combat a common misconception that Christianity is a heterosexual gospel. God calls his people to himself, not necessarily to marriage. This idolization of family has been detrimental to single people who struggle to find their place at home in a local church. Her grace-filled reprimand will challenge believers to reevaluate their approach to prolonged singleness regardless of their situations. This section of the book is saturated with biblical truth.
Perry certainly has and will continue to receive criticism and critique from our homosexual-affirming friends and churches, but her biblical support provides her a strong foundation on which to stand. She unashamedly comes from the perspective that SSA is not a sin, but acting on those desires is sinful. I loved how she clarified that sin struggles are not our identity. “The only constant in this world is God. Gayness, on the other hand, can be an immovable identity only when the heart is unwilling to bow” (1). Throughout the book, she offers hope that we are not defined by our sins or by our past. We can be encouraged that God will continue to pursue us.
As you can probably already tell, I loved Gay Girl, Good God. I was challenged and encouraged throughout the pages. As you are Christmas shopping, consider picking up a few copies to give to friends