Gay people, including our longings for love, are part of God's gifts to the church. If we trust him, we must accept ourselves.

When I became Catholic in 1998 as an especially naïve 19-year-old, I didn't know any other gay people who were willing to accept the church's teaching on sexuality. More than that, I didn't know of anyone else like me.

Since then, I've been able to watch the startling development of gay Christian communities that accept the traditional teaching that sex is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman. Slowly but surely we've begun connecting to one another: through books like Wesley Hill's "Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian," conferences like Notre Dame's 2014 “Gay in Christ,” blogs like Spiritual Friendship, and the “Side B” community at the Gay Christian Network. This tiny but increasingly open movement has been featured in the New York Times Magazine and the Washington Post. Some of us, like Ron Belgau, are theologians; some, like Wesley Hill, are Scripture scholars. But most of us are more like me: I take the church's teaching on trust. I don't totally understand it, I don't think I can prove it to you, but I accept it as a given and try to understand it as a gift.

It's not a gift I would have picked out for myself. The Christian satirical magazine The Babylon Bee captured some of my feelings in its headline, “Local Woman Looking to Return Gift of Singleness.” I don't feel particularly “called” or drawn to celibacy, and I'm not especially good at it.

But many of us learn to recognize a call from God in the unchosen circumstances of our lives. Whether we're staring at that second line on a plastic grocery-store pregnancy test or realizing that our fertility specialist's conclusions mean we should start looking into adoption, so many of the blessings in our lives begin as catastrophes.

God calls everyone to love. He chooses which paths of love are open to us, but there is nobody who is left without any means of pouring out their life in giving and receiving love. Once I accepted that God wasn't calling me to a lesbian partnership, I started to look around and find other, neglected pathways.

It was only because I accepted church teaching that I realized how far we've strayed from the wide varieties of love found in Scripture. Today we think of love in terms of romance, marriage and the nuclear family. But in Scripture we find the extended family of Ruth and Naomi and the “familial,” sacrificial love of the early church. We find beautiful examples of same-sex love in David and Jonathan's covenant of friendship, and in Jesus' life: in his love for Lazarus, for his disciples, and perhaps most startlingly in his intimate love for John, “the beloved disciple.”

For a long time after my conversion I focused almost exclusively on accepting church teaching. But there is another struggle for acceptance, which for many gay Christians will be even more challenging: the struggle for self-acceptance.

The self too is a gift from God. Your life, with all its weirdnesses and inexplicable longings, is a gift that it is your duty to receive with gratitude, trusting that God has given it to you for your own good. Self-hatred, self-rejection, self-deception are all ways of rejecting that gift.

And yet when I finally started meeting more gay Christians, I found out how many of them had been trained by their Christian upbringing to hate themselves and fear their deep longings for love and intimacy. I was lucky: It was easier for me to know God as a loving, cherishing Father because I didn't grow up Christian. That should be an indictment of our churches.

My friends have been trained in self-hatred in many ways. When they made steps toward self-acceptance, like coming out, they were treated as if they'd rejected God. They've been told that they can't be in ministry because they're not masculine enough, or gossiped about because they're too butch; they've been given spiritual guidance that focused solely on lust, as if all gay people are inflamed by lust but have no spiritual needs beyond chastity. They've been told incessantly what not to do but given no hope that they can stay gay and still lead a life of fruitful love. They've been told to fear their friendships even when isolation led them to despair.

Gay people, including our longings for love, are part of God's gifts to the church. If we trust him, we must accept ourselves.

Eve Tushnet is a writer and blogger based in Washington, D.C. She is the author of "Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith."