The Longing of Caitlyn Jenner
My heart hurts for Caitlyn Jenner.
While his/her struggle and gender transition has been well chronicled in recent weeks, the place I see his/her struggle most accurately displayed is in the pages of Scripture. I will explain this later, but for now, consider Bruce Jenner the human being.
Here is a man who tasted the greatest heights of today’s so-called gods.
As a decathlete, he stood atop the gold-medal Olympic podium while the Stars and Stripes rang out. His winning feats of strength and stamina were immortalized on posters, cereal boxes, and in the memories of a grateful nation. To many parents, this is the highest of aspirations for their children – athletic achievement and recognition.
Bruce Jenner conquered the athletic world.
It wasn’t enough.
The god of athletic achievement did not save.
Jenner’s fame on the athletic field led him to a host of opportunities. He visited the White House, appeared in multiple television series , amassed millions of dollars in business, even gave his family a platform on their own wildly-successful TV show which not only fed off of his fame, but gave it to his wife (of multiple decades) and children. In so doing, they are monetarily set for life.
Bruce Jenner conquered the financial world.
Bruce Jenner conquered the media world.
Bruce Jenner conquered the family world (by pop-culture’s standards).
It wasn’t enough.
The gods of money, fame, and family did not save.
The trophies could not satisfy. The fame could not satisfy. The family could not satisfy. Something else was missing.
In an interview with Diane Sawyer, Bruce revealed to the world what he believed to be a major source of his longing and emptiness. He believed he was a woman in a man’s body. He began charting a course including hormone-replacement therapy, gender reassignment surgery, and other physical, social, and emotional transitions.
Bruce Jenner is now Caitlyn Jenner.
Surely this will fix it. The god of sex will save.
While many, including ESPN and the president of the United States, are lauding Jenner’s “courage” and, “heroism,” in a “pioneering” effort, his story rings as old as the pages of Scripture.
The chasing after other gods is not new. We all do it. We have done it in every generation, just in different ways.
King Solomon chased achievement, prosperity, sex, and after chasing each of these winds, the wisest man in the world concluded the following:
“So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem… whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun” (Eccl. 2:9-11 ESV).
My heart hurts for Caitlyn Jenner because I know what lies on the other side of her current journey. It is the same void Solomon felt. The lights will fade. The emotions will level. The emptiness will return. The longing will ache – unfulfilled. This god will not save.
The longing in Caitlyn Jenner is a longing we all share. As Augustine rightly recorded in his Confessions, though we seek salvation in all the things of this world, our hearts will be restless until they find their rest in God. We were made for Him. We all will chase other gods and other fountains until we come to the source of true living water. Without Christ, we are striving after wind.
The Bible portrays this over and over. We all have taken on different identities to cover the void in our souls – The Professional, The Athlete, The Perfect Parent, The Model Christian, The Sex-Symbol.
They all have calmed the ache for a while, but in the end they are not God. He has given us a hunger only He can fill.
Caitlyn shares our longing. May we pray that by God’s grace, He will save her, others, and us as He saved Solomon, David, Abraham and Paul as they chased wind apart from God. All have sinned. All need Christ to save and heal.
In the end, I pray Caitlyn Jenner will find true love and identity in Christ.
Only God can save Caitlyn. Only God can save me. Only God can save you.
Lord come soon.
Photo credit: Vicki L. Miller/Shutterstock.com
Well written Ryan!
Respectfully, and although I’m sure you have the best intentions, I am discouraged to see fellow Christians take such a short-sided approach to this extremely complex and very real issue. Is it your opinion that once a person has fully come to know God they will never again feel a sense of longing or be unfulfilled in any way? This seems like an unfair expectation; it perpetuates the idea that a person’s unhappiness is a result of their mistakes for which God must be vindictively punishing them. My church emphasizes the importance of the “belong, believe, become” model. Our pastor often uses the phrase, “If you’ve got a pulse, you’ve got issues.” We truly believe that all people are God’s children, crafted uniquely by His hands, and thereby we are all loved unconditionally. In the Diane Sawyer interview you referenced, Jenner also revealed that his trust and faith in God would be his main source of strength on this journey. Unless you’re claiming that this profession of faith was disingenuous or illegitimate, how can you so freely judge what a person holds (or doesn’t hold) in their heart? Like you said, all have sinned and all need Christ. But implying that any time one feels unfulfilled is an indication that they don’t know God is frankly a pretty clear contradiction of scripture. Christians experience burdens just like anyone else, and thus Jesus invites us to come to Him for rest. Have you never made any kind of change in your life, after careful consideration, because you knew it would bring you peace or joy (as recommended by Paul in 1Thess)? Did you consider that perhaps this identity discomfort and the lies surrounding it for all these years have prevented Bruce from being the honest, authentic Christian he wanted to be, and that now Caitlyn is liberated from those chains? It’s so easy for Christians to climb on top of others to elevate their perceived approval from God (not directed at you, just in general), but I don’t think that’s what we’re called to do. I think we’re called to receive people the way Jesus does: with open arms. We all have a pulse. That’s why He went to the cross. We’re saved by grace, not acts. Rather than continuing to deeply suffer in such a way that so often leads to suicide, Caitlyn Jenner has become my new sister in Christ and a hero to many. I praise God for that.