Freedom from homosexuality is real. I bear witness of this truth in my own life. Read on.
As early as I can remember I idolized other boys. I was fascinated at their ability to fit in and appear normal. Feeling like an outsider, I adopted the label of “other.” I felt “other” than male or boy. I didn’t identify myself as female, but just seemed sure I was somehow different than the rest of the guys. I was “other.” As years went by, my internal obsession with my own gender turned sexual. Needing to connect relationally with other boys my age was a normal developmental stage. Yet, the shame of feeling “other” kept me at bay. My aloofness even brought more shame my way, since these peers noticed my distance from them. Not fitting in brings opportunities to acquire more labels. So the shame in me grew as well as isolation. I needed to find a way to fit in.
By high school I had adapted well, socially. Intuitively I found a way to cope with the self hatred and shame inside. I became the image of what I perceived others would accept. Author Andy Comiskey writes, “Shame makes us want to hide who we are. We see ourselves deficient in our real selves making it imperative to conceal the defects, often behind veneers of a false goodness.” These false selves, which require considerable energy to maintain, consist of a collection of placating, people-pleasing behaviors designed to evoke admiration, sympathy and perceptions of like-ability. The downside of this perpetual smokescreen is that others can never meet us in our places of greatest need. Believing those parts of our real self will immediately elicit rejection, we cut off from them, so that it becomes overwhelmingly painful to deal with these areas. It is akin to ignoring a cancer that is growing inside us, for fear of the pain of treatment. Untreated, shame will kill.”
I entered college with the hope of “snapping out” of this inner conflict. I dated women, yet I had so little to offer relationally. My true interest was in a special male friend. And before long this relationship turned very emotionally dependent and finally sexual. Horrified of what was happening, I ended the friendship, covered in shame. Unable to confess the confusion of my gender identity and homosexual feelings, I began living a double life. Keeping my outward image pleasing to family and friends, I silently harbored emotionally dependent and sexual relationships with other men. Eventually I was convinced my internal needs could only be met through illicit sex. I quickly became addicted to the rush of feeling good and being wanted through sex. This lifestyle continued for five years.
After college God gave me a gift, a trusted friend. His vulnerability and transparency cut through my layers of shame and defensiveness. One day he asked me if I thought I was gay. After the blood drained from my face, he understood the profound nature of his question. No one had ever asked. Believing his trustworthiness, I was honest. This quickly led me in a direction of hope. I entered therapy.
The counseling went on for about six months. Significant inroads were made and I experienced intimacy with Christ. My therapist’s insight brought to light great broken-ness in my family relationships. My inability to emotionally connect with my father, even though his physical presence was available to me, created deep wounds of abandonment and feelings of shame as his son. My identification with my mother became my sole emotional outlet, confusing my identity as a man. I felt like an extension of her. Finally being able to clearly see these vexing deceptions for what they were gave me new vision for change. Quietly, healing began.
Donna and I were married two years later. During our engagement I briefly shared my past homosexual struggles and failures. Still steeped in shame, I was unable and unwilling to talk about the past. I allowed no time for questions…ever. So, we went down the aisle hoping for the best and believing the past was truly behind us…or, behind me.
The strains of marriage revealed great insecurity inside me. I began to see my deficiencies as a husband and as a man. In fear of true intimacy with Donna I looked for something to ease the pain. And within our first year of marriage I began seeking illicit gay relationships and acting out sexually with other men. This addiction continued for 6 years.
Believing I had no choices, the shame kept me from confessing my sin. Not wanting to devastate Donna and others, a new dual life seemed acceptable…at least to me. Considering my past, I knew I could pull it off.
I tried many ways to sanitize my sin. For starters, I went into full-time youth outreach ministry. And secondly, we began a family. Keeping the appearance of health was my ultimate goal. For years on end I was convinced I could stop this destructive behavior. As long as I felt sure I could pull it all together in a moments notice, I found some bit of solace. As long as I could stay one step ahead of being exposed or uncovered, I believed I could survive. Whenever the condemning voice of my mind would heap shame and guilt , I would fight depression and suicidal options on my own. I cried out to God time and again. But I could not trust Him anymore. I had fallen back into hopelessness and sin. Aloneness was all I felt. Internal wrath became my companion and I honestly believed I had to make it on my own. And the more years I tried, the more years I failed.
In the midst of this chaos, however, God’s presence was evident. I see this now.
About the time our second child arrived, my heart began to change. My ministry focus took a turn toward “the city.” I was now involved with urban ministry. In serving the obviously poor kids under my care, my understanding and experience of God expanded greatly. God’s heart for the poor gave me hope. My friendships deepened and became more and more authentic. Even though this frightened me, I was attracted to the hope of being known and accepted. For me, hanging out with co-laborers who loved and served the poor made me feel as though I could trust these folks with me own depravity.
Slowly I began to trust — to trust God, to trust Donna.
The brokenness became more acute in me and I began to make bolder moves to ease the pain and conflict within. It almost seemed that any step I made toward opening myself up to God was met with greater attack from the enemy. Even so, seeing Jesus’ love for the poor affected me deeply and I had a small hope that Jesus could reach me.
The summer of ’95 my prayer life changed dramatically. Prayers like: “your will be done in my life, Lord” and, “do whatever it takes in me, Jesus” had never been spoken before. They frightened me. They were too costly. But the stakes for my life and marriage were higher. I needed Jesus, desperately.
That fall I entered seminary. The focus of the first class was “community.” Required reading included the book Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Needing to complete the book, I told Donna I was needing to study at the library. In truth I was “going out.” In the midst of this sinful and risky behavior I became frightened. My eyes were opened for an instant and I saw myself spiraling out of control and going to new depths to ease my pain and loneliness. Yet, in my spirit I knew the Lord was calling out to me. Something was different. It was as if I could actually hear the voice of God, “;Will you stop running?”
Later that evening I went to a coffee shop and pulled out the Bonhoeffer book. The last chapter began, “He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone.” Tears began to fall as I read…a lot of tears. Never before had I felt so alone. The text continued, “Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him.” The chapter then unveils the need and power of confession. It was as if I had never heard this truth before and again my spirit heard the Lord’s voice, “Will you stop hiding?”
By the grace of God I made a call to a dear friend and I confessed my sin and brokenness to him. Jesus was with me. I was encouraged to talk with Donna and the next day my confession to her changed our lives forever. Exposed before her, my illusory and perfected image died.
Our friends surrounded us and we were directed to seek help through Desert Stream Ministries. I never knew such an organization existed. Now, I had been down this healing road before. Yet, alone. But this time was different. The Lord’s faithfulness to Donna and me was present through our community. We were loved and supported. These friends understood brokenness and sin. They were not afraid of the mess that laid before them.
Donna and I were blessed with opportunities to receive healing. Our counsel was to seek healing for ourselves first, then, in time, seek healing for the marriage. Everything seemed to get worse before it got better. Much confession and forgiveness was extended. The Lord’s protection and provision was evident and His healing hand was, and continues to be, upon us.
The truth I learned about my homosexual affections has helped me immensely. I understand the wounded-ness and pain. But in the end, knowing Jesus has brought the healing of my soul.
Now, establishing the cross of Jesus is central to my life. By this I mean that only through “death” at the cross can God raise up what is pleasing to Him. Experiencing the Cross of Jesus begins with confession…the ultimate death of sin and shame. God can only raise from the dead that which has died. The cross of Jesus bids us to die…to the sin we bear, to the outward images we create. Bonhoeffer says, “we experience the Cross of Jesus as our rescue and salvation. The old man dies, but it is God who has conquered him. Now we share in the resurrection of Christ and new life.”
God blessed us with two more children. That makes four! Donna and I now stand side by side, serving the church by offering hope of relational and sexual healing. In Revelation, John writes, “now with Christ enthroned with the Father…He is releasing a crystal stream, the water of life flowing for all who hunger and thirst.” And Ezekiel states, “that where that river flows, everything will live.” May we continue to remember that this truth remains anchored in the Cross.