I’ve often shared about my struggles with homosexuality and how the power of God has set me free. What is sad, however, is that I could have found that freedom many years ago if I had been willing to open up and talk to other members of the Body of Christ about the issues in my life.
Although I received the Lord into my life at an early age, I became an atheist during my teen years, and by the age of 20 was a heavy drinker and into a variety of “recreational” drugs. Through a series of events, the Lord revealed Himself to me and to the amazement of many people, I became consumed with a zeal to serve the Lord. I would often spend hours a day praying, reading the Bible, and witnessing to others. I used to come to church on Sunday and testify to the number of people I had led to the Lord that week. I eventually became a licensed minister with my denomination and started a campus ministry at UNCA.
But all this time, I struggled with a dark secret. I often battled with homosexual lust. I had begun having sex with other guys as a child, having been introduced to it by an older student at school. It had fulfilled a deep and unmet need to be approved and affirmed by other males, and it had sunk its claws deep into my soul. And when I had come to the Lord at 20 years old, the desire to drink, smoke, and do drugs all went away. But I still had the desire to be with other men in a sexual way.
For nearly five years, I struggled with this temptation. And although I never acted upon it during that time, I would at times go to places where I knew homosexuals hung out, often in the guise of witnessing to them. I did this because I was drawn to what I knew was going on there. Abandoned by many of my friends and church family, I too was equally devastated and, after a few months, turned my back on Christ. I fell back into a life of alcohol, drugs, and promiscuous gay sex.
For the next 15 years, my life took various twists and turns, too many to detail here. But it ended in total shambles, running from the law for drug-related offenses. I was living on the streets of San Francisco, eating out of trash cans and shooting methamphetamine in my veins. At that point, I was really ready to die.
But God, who had never given up on me, was more merciful than I could imagine. He brought me back to NC and sent me to prison for a year. While there, I came into contact with a man who mentored me and helped me understand the roots of my sexual struggles and, more importantly, how to be set free from them.
That was nearly five years ago, and I cannot begin to say how grateful I am! The freedom from homosexual temptation now is truly awesome, and I want to share with everyone I know that, no matter what they are facing, there really is freedom in Christ! In fact, I’m writing a book on the subject with a good friend of mine who’s come on a similar journey. It is a book about liberty for those who struggle with same-sex attraction, but the principles that we share really could apply to a variety of life-controlling problems that many believers face.
The first chapter of that book is about transparency, the need to be open and honest about whatever sin we’re facing. Without a willingness to put our needs out on the table, little or nothing can be done about them. In fact, we feel so strongly that this is the necessary prerequisite to freedom that we go so far as to say that, if one is unwilling to ‘”fess up” about their struggles, they might as well put the book away, because it isn’t going to do any good. As long as our sins are secret, they remain in the dark. The darkness is the area where the devil operates. But he only has power until we let the light in. I John 1:7 reads, “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Walking in the light, the place of full disclosure, the place of transparency, is the key to being cleansed of sin!
Sadly, it is in the gathering places of believers, in our houses of worship, that people seem to be the least able to take this step toward liberty. Everyone at church seems to be all smiles with not a problem in the world. They have what I like to refer to as “church face.” Even if their world is falling apart, their marriage is ending, their kids are on drugs, and they’ve lost their job, they smile and tell everyone that everything is okay. Is it any wonder that so many seem to be unable to find freedom?
This behavior, I believe, is rooted in the fear of others opinions. We too often base our sense of self-worth and validity on what other people think of us. This means that we are too often more concerned with presenting a “false image” of ourselves designed to cultivate the approval of others. And nowhere does this false image get more “play” than in church.
It is that fear of others that kept me from seeking help from the Body of Christ with my homosexual struggles. If I had felt that I could have been honest and open about my temptations, it’s very possible that I wouldn’t have lost 15 years of my life. And while it’s awesome to see God take those years and turn them into a powerful testimony, a lot of people besides myself paid an awful price because of my inability to seek help.
It is encouraging today that many Christian authors and leaders are writing and teaching about the need for transparency. It is even more encouraging when we see that transparency put on display by pastors and elders who are willing to stand up and say, “This is what I struggle with, this is what I need help with.” It is essential that, when this happens, others in the body of Christ come alongside them and shower them with support and affirmation. It is also vital that we be open to see how we might emulate their behavior in our own lives.
After all, when they do this, when they set aside their fear and say, “I’m only human. I need help,” they are putting on display for us how we need to live. They are modeling for us a key to making our lives more real, honest, and connected with God. They are teaching us to “walk in the light as He is in the light.” Isn’t that what we pay them to do?