Testimony of Andrew Comiskey: Healing the Homosexual
Testimony of Sonja Stark: Healing Sexual Abuse
Testimony of Judy Dolhof: Healing the Homosexual
Testimony of Steve Pershing: Freedom from Homosexuality
How Jesus Heals us Through His Church by Andrew Comiskey
We are a people of desire--desires that can drive us toward noble and true expressions of our humanity, and desires that can reduce us to the animal kingdom--the rat in the wheel.
The only way that transformation can occur is through Christ and His community. As we come broken into the church, His faithful love can transform our desires. This is with the help of the church, not in spite of her. Jesus' body on earth has the authority to convert the rat into a saint. I will use my own story of healing from homosexuality to demonstrate how Jesus, through His community, transforms our desires.
25 years ago, I began this process of transformation. My starting point was as a practicing homosexual. Today I can join with the Psalmist in proclaiming: "You, Father, have satisfied my desires with good things, so that my youth is renewed like the eagle's. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed."(Ps 103:5,6)
My oppression had to do with misplaced desire. God's justice involved the realignment of my desire through the power of His transforming love. That love elevated my sight as to who He was, and the higher purposes He intended for my humanity.
Growing up, I faced goodness and brokenness, like all of you. All of our families possess both, as all are fallen subject to sin in all of its depth and complexity. In my case, I had loving parents who were nevertheless a bit detached from me. That left me hungry emotionally, and vulnerable to false ways of getting my needs met. This was especially true of my father. I had not a good connection with him, and that contributed to a great hunger for masculine love and affirmation.
In my culture, one can readily embrace the homosexual world as a way of finding masculine love. It is a perverse and idolatrous world that promises in vain to take away one's deep desire for love. That was true for me. I began to hunger for more. There, in the gay world, I began to realize that another human being could not satisfy me. It had to come from God.
God who? I was not a Christian. But people were praying for me, including my faithful mother. One day I came home after a night of partying, bearing the deadly pallor of sin. My mother looked straight into my eyes and said: "You need Jesus!" She was right--I needed a Savior who was more powerful than my misplaced desires. For the first time, I began to cry out to the God who revealed Himself in Jesus Christ.
Jesus invited me into a life I knew nothing about. His persistent mercy made all the difference in my ignorance and rebellion. It reminds me of the story of the prodigal son. When I turned a little toward Jesus, He ran toward me and closed the gap created by my sin and shame. Luke 15:20 reads: "While the son was still a long way off, the Father saw him, ran to him, threw his arms around him, and kissed him." Jesus revealed the Father's love to me--a love far more powerful and patient than the perverse objects of my desire.
The church embraced me as a healing community. This occurred at first more in spite of myself than through my obedience. Once I backslid, and went out partying with some friends. Right away I could see that I was in the wrong place&--these people were not my people anymore. I was a Christian, born of the Spirit. So I ran out of the party, and did not stop for a mile or so. I was in a strange city at midnight; I had no idea where I was going.
On the right side of the street, I saw a gathering of people, spilling out onto the pavement. I ran by them and recognized a few. These were people from my church, holding a revival meeting in that downtown area! I joined them, and immediately felt like I was at home. "These are my people," I thought. "This is where I belong, in fellowship with those who worship the same Father, who bear the same Spirit." Church became home--I knew that without the community of Christ, I would be lost, subject to the powerful and perverse "fathers" of my other community.
Gratefully, I found a church that gave people room to be converted--to discover over time who the Father really was so that we could be changed through our devotion to Him. There I grew as a worshipper of the One. That transformation occurred as I experienced the continuous witness of grace and truth through members of that body.
My story reminds me of how Jesus related to the Samaritan woman. (Jn 4) If you recall, Jesus meets her at a well, and asks her for a drink. He offers her "living water." That special drink symbolizes the Spirit of resurrection poured out on human hearts, able to satisfy the deepest desires within us. What makes this offering all the more remarkable is the nature of the woman. She would have felt great shame in Christ's presence, disqualified from holy love. Why?
First, she was a Samaritan, a product of Jewish and Canaanite ancestry. That mixture signified idolatry--the Jews pursuing the gods of other nations. Thus she was conceived in shame. Also, she was a woman, and Jewish leaders were forbidden to freely engage with women. Lastly, she was a sexually immoral woman, whose shame and brokenness drove her into degrading practices. Disqualified from real love, she sought love in the wrong way, through cyclical, dead-end relationships.
But Jesus had other plans. He meets her and relates to her as an object of divine desire. He offers her His unfailing love in the form of "living water." He knows that only a higher love can satisfy the true cry of her heart, and set her free to become who the Father intended her to be.
Jesus demonstrates this to her through relationship with her. So must we as Christ's body model the same way of relating to seekers who like her are full of shame, and bound to sin. The body of Christ continued to do that for me. I would sometimes come to church with a dark and unbelieving spirit, ready to dismiss every good thing as irrelevant to my life.
The love and acceptance of fellow Christians broke that spirit. Their love was like "living water" to me, poured out upon the thick shame coat I wore, able to dissolve the lies with the power of love. Such encouragement kept me coming back for more. Real love satisfies. It breaks the power of lies, and keeps us on the pathway of transformation.
Jesus appeals to our greatest desire--our need for love. And He promises to satisfy our desires with good things. He does so through His Spirit--the living water--that He pours out upon us through the consistent love of His body. Jesus said this to the Samaritan woman about the power of such love: "Whoever drinks the water that I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (4:14)
But Jesus is also wise. He knows well that we can refuse that living water by continuing to draw from false sources of love. God used Jeremiah to describe this: "My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and the have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." (Jer.2:13) Wise and truthful in His mercy, Jesus exposes the false wells we have dug in a vain effort to satisfy our needs, our way.
That's why, immediately after offering the Samaritan His Spirit, He exposes her sin. Jesus asks her to call her husband--He gets personal with her. She stammers out, "I have no husband." Jesus then reveals His awareness of her string of broken relationships with men. (vs.16-18) These unions were her toxic wells. He sheds light on them to reveal His all-knowing Lordship. And at the same time, He reveals to her and to us that only He can satisfy our souls. To refuse the awareness of sin is to forfeit the gift of His Spirit, the living water capable of quenching our deepest thirst.
The community of Christ can help us here. In love, we can gently encourage one another to examine false sources of desire that we may be tempted to draw from. We must do so humbly, well aware of our personal vulnerabilities toward false feeding. I am grateful for my brothers and sisters who over the years invited me to look at my motives in certain relationships. That freed me to admit my sin. I could then receive forgiveness and gain the objectivity I needed to live within certain limits.
When I was just exiting the gay community, a good friend helped me to understand my particular temptation as just one of many that were common to all. He employed his struggle against heterosexual fornication and pornography as a model that I could follow, even though the objects of my desire were different. That difference did not exempt me from playing by the rules. I had to learn to deal with my sin and struggle as honestly as did my fellow traditional sinners.
We serve each other well when we gently point out another’s sin, especially in the sexual arena. It is a gift. This is because sexual sin reduces its players to something less. To be bound by lust in any direction binds us to the animal kingdom. We become rats on the wheel, running like addicts toward our next fix, never satisfied. On the other hand, God’s love for us is powerful and expansive. He wants to empower us to get off the rat’s wheel and set forth onto the awesome journey toward becoming all that He intends for us. That higher view of His purpose for our sexuality and relationships becomes apparent as we seek Him through His body.
I committed to a Bible-based church that at the same time held fast to the power of the living water to set captives free. There I discovered that I, like all the men and women in that church, was created to bear God's image in how I related to the opposite-sex. (Gen.1:26,27) Further, like Adam, God created me with a good yearning to "not be alone." (Gen.2:18) That meant that I was not exempt from having to work out my salvation as a man in relationship to women. I had to learn how to learn to love in a way that fit with my new identity as one sourced in the living water, created to love others the right way.
That was a challenge to me. But my good male friends did not let me off the hook. A part of me wanted to hide in my homosexual struggle, to be treated as special, somehow exempt from the dance of heterosexual love. My friends did not let me hide there for long. "Get in the game!" they urged. That meant to start living out the truth that Jesus defined me, not my past. As I continued to grow in my security as a man among other men, I began to feel and think differently towards women. God began to release my heterosexual desires.
The journey had just begun. Heterosexual desire alone does not make one a good gift for another. That requires the deeper, harder work of learning to love others sacrificially, with or without passion. I also had to face and forsake the comfort of my aloneness, the glorious selfishness of deciding things for myself. Loneliness has its rewards.
Gratefully, God led me to a beautiful woman who became my wife. With Annette, I emerged out of my aloneness and into a whole-enough man who could love another well. The support and example of more mature Christian couples was crucial here. At our pastor's encouragement, Annette and I began to minister to other sexually broken people in our church. Soon after, we started to have kids. Four children later, the first now in college and the rest all teenagers, I can say with authority that it is more difficult to raise a family well than it is to come out of homosexuality! But it is also much more joyful, and deeply satisfying.
Jesus through His body is faithful to transform our desires. Our passions may be broken in different ways. But the Source of our healing is always the same--God's living water poured out upon the dry, shameful, and sinful ground of our hearts. He grants us His love as the means and the end of our healing. As the church learns to love as Jesus loved the Samaritan, broken ones will realize that hope more and more.
Our desires are changed as we discover His love for us in the His community, the church. We respond to that amazing offering of love through our worship of Him. He gives us His all; we in turn give Him our hearts as we devote ourselves to Him. We worship Him out of gratitude. We pour out our affections and our thoughts---we yield our bodies to Him as acts of worship.
Worshipping the true God transforms our desires. While sexual sin and other forms of idolatry enslave our desires, real worship liberates them. That has certainly been the case for me. Worshipping Jesus with my community has been a continuous source of healing. He realigns our desires according to His will as we pour out our love to Him in worship.
Perhaps that';s why Jesus named the Samaritan woman as a true worshipper of the living God. In John 4:21-24, Jesus describes her as among the true worshippers who will worship God in Spirit and in truth (v.24). In a few verses, He exposes her sin then identifies her as a holy worshipper; Jesus takes one devoted to sin and makes her one who glorifies God through her devotion to Him! That’s the power of divine love. His love transforms misplaced desire into holy devotion.
In so doing, we are not only compelled to give ourselves to Him in worship-- we also cannot help but make Him known. The power of His mercy transforms our very purpose in life. God is not just content to satisfy our desires through realigning our sexual and relational orientation. He also wants to grant us a whole new focus in life--Himself, His Kingdom come now! There is nothing more satisfying than knowing we, out of intimate communion with the Lord of the universe, become agents of restoring others. I am in awe of how Jesus has sent my friends and I all over the world to make known the power of His living water! The privilege of making Jesus known is perhaps God's answer to the deepest desire of the human heart. To be aligned with God’s purposes for us--nothing surpasses that.
Back to the Samaritan woman. Immediately after Jesus declared her a true worshipper, she leaves her water jar and begins to fulfill God's purpose for her life. She declares Jesus as Lord to the people of her town (vs.28-30, 39-42). Revival broke out in Samaria through this raw evangelist. Having received living water hours earlier, she freely made her Savior known. As a result of her witness, many entered into communion with "the Savior of the world" (v.42). Her transformation of desire provoked the same change in many.
The body of Christ must take up that call of transformation. All of us are people of desire. And Jesus wants our desires--the good, bad, and ugly. When we gather in His name, He wants to meet us like He did the Samaritan woman--granting us freedom from shame and sin as we receive His love and give back love to Him. In the process, we enter into the reality of God’s high and holy purposes for our lives.
Without the body of Christ, "living water" will remain merely a good idea. But when we seek to extend that water to one another, we will answer the cries of broken hearts. We will see revival break out, even as the Samaritan did. We will witness Jesus' transformation of our desires, and of many others. We will become the healing community of Christ--His very Presence in the world today, extending living water to those who hunger and thirst for truthful mercy.
Rising Out of the Shadows by Sonja Stark
"He is calling me now to rise out of the shadows of oppression
and to believe in His love and good intentions for my life."
I had been waiting for three years to plant a church in France when God sovereignly chose to change the direction of my life. His instrument was a conference that I attended on sexual brokenness. Being interested in counseling most of my Christian life, I thought that this conference would be a wonderful educational experience. But as I listened to the teaching about homosexuality and the affects of abuse, I felt God speaking to me and calling me to ministry for the sexually broken.
As a result of this conference, a small group of Christians from different denominations met together and prayed for over one year, asking God to raise up a ministry for the sexually broken in our city (Cologne, Germany) which is known as a center for homosexuals. When Desert Stream came to Germany in March, 1995 to conduct the first German Living Waters Training, we knew that this was the answer to our prayers. Consequently, we began a Living Waters group in our city. (It is amazing for me to see that intercession is always at the beginning of something that is birthed by God.)
As a child, I grew up in a very abusive environment which included physical, verbal, and emotional abuse. Depression was a normal part of my family existence. For a number of years, my father regularly threatened to kill himself. As long as I can remember, I was always depressed. However, being religious, I was too afraid to commit suicide, not knowing if I would go to heaven. My life was a constant struggle to just survive.
At the age of eighteen, I became a Christian; nevertheless, I still struggled with depression. I once said that I would choose to live - if only to help others in the future who were as desperate and hopeless as I was. God's faithfulness carried me through all of the years when I was repeatedly victimized and abused.
Only three years ago, God began to reveal to me my repressed emotions and that I had been sexually abused as a child. I had to be willing to let down my carefully guarded defense of "self-control" which I had used to protect myself from further hurts for so many years. God then began to access my heart and start a deep inner healing process that continues to this day.
He is calling me now to rise out of the shadows of oppression and to believe in His love and good intentions for my life. Finally, the Lord has helped me see that His love has always been there for me. I have realized that the walls around my heart and my bitterness against God and men had been keeping me from receiving His love and acceptance. I have learned that there is a place for all of the pain from the years of abuse; this is at the foot of the cross. I can come to Him as I am and express and release my bitterness. He showed me that "He allures me and speaks tenderly to my heart (Hosea 2:14)" as a bridegroom to the bride. I am learning to yield to His love by making myself vulnerable to God and to others and risk trusting, over and over again.
My prayer and heart's desire is that God will use all my wounds for His glory by teaching me to minister to the sexually broken. What a privilege it is to proclaim the good news that Jesus came to cover the nakedness of the homosexuals and the abused by taking their shame away. He desires to meet their deepest needs, and to pour His healing oil over their broken hearts and wounded spirits.
"Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows and pains, yet we considered Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities, the chastisement needful to obtain peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes that wounded Him we are healed and made whole." —Isaiah 53:4-5
Note: This article was written in 1996, shortly after Sonja joined the Desert Stream staff.
Testimony of Judy Dolhof
As a little girl growing up in the 60s, I felt twinges of things being “not quite right” with my interests. Dolls seemed lifeless and boring, as did playing house. My best friends were the boys in the neighborhood, and we played all kinds of sports and made up exciting “cops and robbers” games. On the other hand, I enjoyed learning to cook, and playing jump rope with the girls at school. “Who am I really?” I wondered, “a girl or a boy?” Feelings of being different would surface periodically, but I’d just push them back down, because they made me feel bad.
I am the youngest of 3 girls. Our family life was quite stable. As I continued to grow up, I was more and more aware of how I seemed so different from my sisters. They were each “feminine” in their own way, and I couldn’t imagine myself someday being a teenager who would giggle and read magazines about boys like they did. In the neighborhood, sometimes I would be made fun of for playing sports, or for acting or saying something goofy. I also remember feeling that my Dad seemed to pull away from me the older I got. It seemed to me that he liked my sisters better. Mostly though, I loved being a child, and enjoyed being outside and being active. If I felt bad about myself, I’d just push it aside.
However, I realize now that because of these confusing feelings, I unknowingly put a wall up around me to keep from being hurt by other people. Unfortunately, the wall also kept out the love that I needed.
During my first year of high school, I was mortified – and yet fascinated – by my attractions to 2 different girls at school. It didn’t make sense, but I felt drawn to something about each of them. I had noticed actresses or older women in the past, but didn’t think too much about it. Now, this seemed so ever present. I was very confused. The way I dealt with it was, of course, to push it down and try to ignore it. I even allowed myself to become sexually involved with an older man during that period, perhaps partly out of a desire to seem somehow “more normal” to myself.
I became a born again Christian around this time when one of my sisters shared the “4 Spiritual Laws” booklet with me. However, I didn’t have others to help me grow or understand what that meant as she went back to college. What I did know was that it made sense that I needed to ask Jesus into my heart, and that He promised me eternal life. Being a Christian however, did not magically change how I felt about my gender identity.
I was very glad to be going off to college, where I imagined all the freedom I’d have. I had developed my own kind of sub conscious “world view”: “If I get a good job, I’ll be independent, people won’t hurt me, and I’ll be happy!” This was the beginning of what Andy Comiskey calls the false self:
“The false self exists in separation from the Creator. It arises out of the creature’s own misdirected efforts to find a center, a core reality out of which one can live.” (Living Waters Guidebook)
I was rather surprised to meet a girl at college who became a good friend. It seemed like she got past the wall I had built, and it really felt good to be “known” by someone. Our close relationship turned sexual over time. As much as I loved her, we went our separate ways after graduation, and I headed off to become “happy”.
I was jolted by the reality of how much I missed my friend, and that the world of work was not all it was cracked up to be. I was “successful”, but rather depressed. Fortunately, I did meet a young Christian couple at my job who were very nice. They had me over for dinner several times, and we would talk about the Bible, and our lives. But, I never told them about my past, because I was too ashamed. Because of them though, I again hungered for a real relationship with God.
I got transferred to a new city , found a church, attended the singles group, and even got water baptized. Right around the same time, I met a woman at work who was a lesbian. This was the first person I ever knew who admitted that. Eventually, we grew close and ended up in a secret sexual and emotional relationship. Again, I was very confused. I assumed all the old stuff from my past would just “be gone” after I gave my life back to the Lord. I was wrong. Within the next year, I met yet another woman, and ended up in a similar relationship. Now I was really confused, and in despair. I was still going to church, but afraid to tell anyone about my secret struggles.
What I do remember most about that year is the disparity between the primary emotions I had. On the one hand, I felt very much in love and happy with the person I was with. On the other hand, I had a deep sense of the loss of my personal relationship with Jesus. I was really unhappy deep down. I was also still very hidden behind my self protective wall and the shame and denial I had about my sexual attractions and behaviors.
I had an opportunity to move to new city again, and I knew I needed to do that. This time though, it was quite painful to leave my latest friend. In my heart, I truly knew that I needed to get away from that relationship. As much as I felt for her, I knew I was putting her above God. I was also discouraged about my ability to live a Christian life. Regardless, I just decided that this time I’d be obedient no matter what. I didn’t care if I ever had friends again, or even if I was happy.
However, this was much harder than I thought it would be. During the first few months in my new surroundings, I cried and cried, and felt so much sadness. I almost chose to “come out” as a lesbian during one particularly “dark” stretch, but in the end, I could not convince myself that God didn’t care what I did. Also, I could not get away from the truth I saw in the scriptures. Looking back, I can see it was this major step of obedience that changed the pattern of failure in my life. I did not decide this based on feelings, but simply on what I believed to be truth. Again, I had to make the same choice – I would do my best to live as a Christian – regardless of what I felt.
From then on, I felt God leading me, and I started to understand how to follow Him better. There were 3 other main topics that He was using to change me, besides obedience. First, I learned that I needed to be very open and honest with the Lord about what I was feeling. I started talking TO Him about my past girlfriend, and my current sadness. A scripture that hit home for me was Hosea 4:6. “My people perish for lack of knowledge.” I was perishing it seemed. And I did feel clueless about most of life. Another equally powerful verse said “You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part, You will make me know Wisdom..” (Psalm 51:6). That was it! God wanted access to my “hidden part” – my heart. God wanted to reveal to me why I felt like I did, and He did just that. I was amazed at the sense of His love I felt as I came out of denial, talked to Him honestly about my attraction to women, and read my Bible.
Second, I began attending a church that majored in excellent Bible teaching, with an equal amount of grace, mercy and love. I learned so much about praising God, and about how to apply His Words to my life. It was life changing. The Pastor was like a Father figure, and I felt protected by him, even if it was from behind the pulpit. I also realized that there were other things in my life besides my sexual identity, and I loved receiving that knowledge. I actually looked forward to going to church, something I never would have imagined.
Finally, I had to learn how to be comfortable with other Christians. My self- protective wall had kept out most people over the years, until my inner needs were so great that I “leeched” on to any woman that seemed kind of like me. This changed for me when I met some other young Christians who loved God, and were very “real”. This particular group of 20 year olds would share their faith in the gay district of the city, and then have a Bible study the next night for anyone who was interested in attending. Actually, I was pretty apprehensive the first time I went to the meeting. Telling my story for the first time to a bunch of strangers turned out to be a death blow to my pride, and my tendency to say “you can handle this on your own.”
The miracle was that I became good friends with one of the women from the group. She had not been gay, but had her own sexual issues. I was disappointed at first that she had not also dealt with homosexuality. I basically “wrote her off” that first night. However, she was very kind, and pursued a friendship with me. Over time we were both surprised to learn that we shared many of the same core issues: fear of people, lack of confidence, anxiety in new situations etc. The funny part was that we were so different in how we coped with those feelings – she would become more outgoing, and I would become quieter.
I was amazed to realize how rich a same sex friendship could be with someone who loved God, and who was willing to be gut level honest about their personal shortcomings. I truly could say that this was better than any of the sexual relationships I had with women! I had not known that I was really looking for a close friend, not a lover. I also came to trust the guys in our group, as they too loved God, and were friendly, kind, and respectful. Now, through obedience, honesty, and good friends, I was armed with an understanding of how to actually live out my Christian life. I could more easily resist temptation, and grow from it, rather than be shipwrecked by it.
For the last 20 years I have continued to grow as a person and a Christian, and have been involved with several ex-gay ministries. However, this time has not been without trials. Several years ago, during a particularly stressful time, I gave into sexual temptation with another woman. Fortunately, our church had a Living Waters program. This program helped me so much. It was a place where I could talk freely in my small group about my sin, the pain I felt, and the anger I was experiencing. The group leader was not condemning, nor did she condone what I had done. Instead, I received grace from her to again be honest before God and fellow believers. I received prayer from the group, not advice, and was restored in my soul.
Living Waters is a great program for anyone on the road to sexual and relational wholeness. It is for the person just starting on their healing journey, or, like me, the person that finds that they “blew it” after many years on that road. Today, I am part of a Living Waters leadership team, and continue to receive God’s grace through teammates, and other relationships within the body of Christ.
Testimony of Steve Pershing
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.