Our lives are indeed journeys through valleys and mountaintops. Before coming to Living Waters, my journey seemed more like driftwood floating through the ocean. I was waiting for the next wave to move me along. My heart was hollow. My walls were thick. Life was painful.
When I was a small boy, my paranoid schizophrenic mother sexually abused me in the bathtub. I reacted to the abuse by shutting off the “little boyness” in my heart—that tender, joyful part of my heart that was excited about the world. My early years were a confusing cycle of bonding with my mother when she was well, and fearing her when she was not. The safety, love and nurturing that God intended for me to receive from my mother was tainted. I believed that somehow I was responsible for her mental illness.
Construction of my emotional walls (defenses) was well under way as I turned away from my mother and toward my father. It was his job to teach me what it was like to be a boy, to call me into the good of who God created me to be. One of my earliest memories of my interactions with my dad involved watching him shave. I can remember standing outside the bathroom and excitedly asking him many questions. I was just happy to be there talking to him. I can remember his voice as he looked at me and shouted, “Would you stop driving me crazy and asking me so many questions before I turn into a monster again!”
A monster again? He must have done that before. I didn’t remember what it was like when dad turned into a monster, but I thought it must be really bad. My dad was supposed to be the safe adult in the house. I decided if he wasn’t safe, no-one was safe. The only option for me was to just “stop being.” I turned off even more of my heart that day as the walls of defensive detachment grew stronger.
I went through school not feeling like one of the boys. They were tough, rugged, athletic. Day after day I was picked after the girls for the classroom games. I wasn’t sure where I fit in. Somehow it was a little easier talking to the girls than trying to play with the boys. When the hormones began in junior high, I began to lust after the boys. I was drawn to the boys who were energetic, confident and kind. I didn’t know how to be that way.
When I discovered the theater, I was thrilled with the chance to become someone else. The script taught me how to be somebody I could love, somebody who could relate to others. The theater gave me a place to hide. My fantasies offered encounters and relationships with males that I could control.
I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ at the age of twenty-two. I wasn’t sure He was safe either, so the walls remained. I was faithful in all the right Christian calisthenics: Bible reading, church attendance and basic prayer. Just don’t ask me to share the deeper parts of my heart. I wanted God, but I wanted Him on the other side of the wall. So the pain remained. The Holy Spirit would call to me and ask me to let Him into the depths of my soul, but I didn’t want to face the pain. I was good at keeping God on the other side of those walls.
In spite of the walls, the Lord honored my Bible reading and prayers. I learned many great life principles at church. Slowly things began to change. Somehow I was able to trust a kind, Christian young lady. First we became friends, and then we became husband and wife. The years passed. The kids were born, and I entered the ministry. But the walls remained and so did the pain.
After almost fifteen years of Christian calisthenics, I began to crash. The inability to fully relate to others in the church, the shame of codependency and the condemnation of the same-sex attractions had taken their toll. I finally acknowledged that all of my religious efforts to fix myself had not worked, and I gave the Lord permission to do whatever He had to do to change me.
It was then that I entered the Living Waters program. I was scared as I finally began to lower the walls. As I learned to be honest with my small group about the awful things in my heart, I began to notice that they didn’t reject me. Instead they listened to my heart, helped me to embrace my pain and walked with me to the cross. In the presence of Jesus Christ and the wounded healers in my small group, I embraced forgiveness for my sin and received healing for my wounds. The walls of defensive detachment began to crumble. The Lord began to heal the wounds that I received from my mother and father, and began to give me the holy love and nurturing that I so desperately needed.
Living Waters gave me a safe place where I could be honest about my sin and shame. I learned to be appropriately vulnerable with the men in my small group who were walking a similar journey with me. The more I allow the Holy Spirit access to the deep wounds in my heart, the more I receive healing and freedom from fears, fantasies and broken relationships.
One of the biggest breakthroughs in my life came as I brought an unusually intense season of same-sex struggles to the Lord. He convicted me that I was trying to cope with my gender insecurity in a sinful, eroticized way. As I repented and asked Him for help in the areas where I felt week, He showed me that He would provide the empowering masculine love of a father that I so desperately craved. A part of my heart came back to life that day.
Another significant breakthrough came as I received healing prayer for the wounds I received through my mother’s sexual abuse. I could sense the love and compassion of Jesus as He came into the memory, covered me and held me in His arms. He showed me that it was safe to let Him bring the little boy part of my heart back to life. He would give me the nurturing and care that I did not receive from my mother.
Years later I continue to learn what it is like to have the Lord as my healer. He equips me and leads me through the challenges of life. I continue to learn what it is like to have safe, Christian friends to walk with in this journey. Most importantly, I continue to learn who I really am in Christ, and stand in the good of who He created me to be. I no longer feel like a piece of driftwood. I am on a wonderful journey with my Savior through the peaks and valleys of life—a journey of purpose.