It was the title that caught my attention when I first learned of this book back in 2018: Gay Girl, Good God.
At the time, I knew a little of Jackie Hill Perry’s story of experiencing same-sex attraction. But only a little. Most of what I knew was from articles and videos discussing topics surrounding art and the gospel.
All that to say, I was familiar with Jackie the artist, not Jackie the person. But the title was all it took to make me realize I wanted to change that.
An honest and vulnerable story
This book is Jackie’s story, the story of God taking a nineteen-year-old girl who was involved in a relationship with another woman and transformed her into his beloved daughter. It’s the story of a young girl who was emotionally and relationally abandoned by her father. A child abused by a family member. A woman struggling to trust the man she fell in love with while learning to live as the person her Father always intended.
The storytelling is incredibly vulnerable. Perry doesn’t put on airs, as so many of us are prone to do. There isn’t a sense that she’s holding something back. She doesn’t try to make herself appear in a more positive light, or even attempting to play the victim. She just is, warts and all. The circumstances of her life weren’t to blame for her same-sex attraction. Nor were those circumstances responsible for her issues with trusting God and Preston, her friend then boyfriend and now husband. “They only exaggerated and helped direct the path for what was already there—which is sin (Ps. 51:5; Rom. 1:26-27; Jas. 1:15).”
This was refreshing to read, not because it was unexpected, but because it is so necessary for us to remind ourselves. The sins that have a hold on us are just that: sins. We shouldn’t shy away from calling sin what it is. And this also makes Perry’s story more relatable to those of us who don’t experience same-sex attraction. Because although our sins may be different, we still sin. Circumstances may direct our sins to a specific expression, but the problem has always been there. So we have so much more to learn from Perry and others like her because she knows that we all need the same solution: Christ, who sets us free from sin.
The real point of becoming a Christian
But here’s what this book is not: it’s not one where the moral of the story is, “If God saves you, you’ll start being attracted to people of the opposite gender.” Maybe that’ll happen, but it’s not guaranteed to. And that’s the point—heterosexuality isn’t the point of becoming a Christian.
Becoming conformed the image of Christ is the point of becoming a Christian.
Preston and I were brought together not so that we could become the standard of what is to become of all gay girls and boys turned believers…
Marriage was the way God wanted me to glorify Him. Marriage is not what would make me whole, but it would be God’s work in and through my marriage, along with whatever else the Potter chose to use to shape me as His clay that would.Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry, p. 139
To me, this may well be one of the most important and hopeful elements of the book, especially as it relates to the final chapters, which are focused on being a resource to those who experience same-sex attraction and those who minister to them. (As an aside, these chapters are clearly disconnected from the narrative of the book, but are valuable reading.)
It can’t be said too often that the goal of Christianity is to become like Christ, and God will use whatever means he chooses to bring that about. That might mean becoming married, but it may not. But if we put forward heterosexuality in general, and marriage in specific, as the goal for same-sex attracted individuals, we err in doing so. Not because these are bad—by no means!—but because we risk twisting what was intended as a picture of the gospel (Eph. 5:31-33) into a caricature, and placing a burden on them that Christ hasn’t. He will use the right means to make all of his people like him, and we can, should, and must rejoice in that.
Gay girl, Good God and a good reminder for us all
But let’s go back to the beginning. That title was all it took to catch my attention. But as I read Gay Girl, Good God, as I learned more about Perry the person, not just the artist, I was encouraged by all God has done in her life so far. And when I put the book down, my first words were, “God is good.”
Because he is.
So yes, read this book if you want to better understand the experience of a same-sex attracted person. Read it if you want to serve someone who does experience this. Read it if you do experience this.
But most importantly, read this book because you need that final encouragement. God is good. He is at work. And he will use whatever means he chooses to bring himself glory.
Note: This review originally appeared on Lifeway’s now defunct books-focused website in 2018. Thanks to the magic of the Internet Wayback Machine, I was able to recover it. It has been republished with some light editing for style, but my assessment of the book remains the same.