A Monument of God’s Grace By Elsie Odom

elsie-odomElsie Odom’s Story

I was born the eldest of five children, four girls and one boy.  When I was born, Satan tried his best to kill me.  I was born at home and my Grandmother said she had to beat me all night to keep me alive.  You gotta remember beatings back then were not considered child abuse.  God had a plan for my life and from the beginning Satan tried to thwart that plan.

My mother came out of an abusive family and she was the domineering parent whom I grew to dislike because of her verbal and physical abuse. I made many inward vows that I never wanted to be like her. My dad was the submissive one who was away at work during the week and drunk every weekend. I became the product of an extremely dysfunctional, co-dependent family of alcoholic parents who physically and emotionally abused me. Also, I was sexually molested many times over the period of my childhood by different relatives.  Even though, I now know my parents did not intentionally set out to hurt me, I felt rejected and began to shut them out. I made up my mind early in life that I certainly did not want to grow up to be like my mother or my father and I feared men because of the molestation.  I felt insecure, had a sense of shame and no value which led to isolation from my peers. Therefore, I had very few friends. I see now how the things that happened to me affected my sense of who I was, both as a person and in terms of my gender identity and sexuality.

As a child, I remember being a tomboy.  My boy cousins and I would hide from the school bus and and when it was gone we would go to the woods, swing on Tarzan vines, and drop in the pond of water.  Other times we would climb trees and get opossums out of tree hollows, place them in burlap bags and take them home and hang the bag on the clothes line.

My parents took me to church maybe once or twice a year at Easter and Christmas. When I was approximately eleven or twelve years of age, I began to attend church with our neighbor’s two daughters. At the age of fifteen, I accepted Jesus as my Savior, joined a church and was baptized.

I longed for love and acceptance and began experiencing sexual desires toward a couple of my female friends as early as fourteen or fifteen years of age. Those perverted sexual desires manifested into experiences and by the age of eighteen, I had already been involved in two different homosexual relationships. After I was permitted to date at the age of sixteen, I dated many different guys, trying to find the right one who would change the direction of my affections.  I was constantly tormented by the same-sex feelings. Somehow I knew the feelings I was having were wrong but I did not know how to change them; therefore, I suffered much pain, guilt and shame while feeling like a freak…not female and not male.

I met a guy on a blind date and he asked me to marry him. Marriage appeared to be the answer and a way out. I told my fiancé about my previous same-sex relationships and he promised he would be the one who made me forget about them. I believed this to be the answer and would fix my troubled life. We married in 1961, and he became a good provider. When I discovered marriage was not the answer, I decided to visit a psychiatrist hoping he could help me find the answer. Of course, he could not. I then decided if I had a child this would bring fulfillment, so we soon had a beautiful daughter. After 8 years of marriage that was not filling the void in my heart, my husband and I divorced. My husband took my daughter from me and would not bring her back, leaving another void in my heart. I was afraid to fight for her in court because I was terrified of my ex-husband’s threats. He threatened to expose my homosexuality by having the psychiatrist to testify in court against me and also said that if I attempted to get my daughter back he would kill me.

I met a woman in the city and had same-sex feelings for her. I decided in order to go on with my life I needed to move.  There, I could get lost in the crowds and pursue the attraction I was having and accept my same-sex identity.

I searched for love, acceptance, and my sexual identity in all the wrong places which led me into alcoholism, drugs, prostitution and many toxic promiscuous relationships with men; one right after the other. My emotional pain became so great I decided to look for another psychiatrist to find the answer to my desperation. Sure enough, what he told me was what I had heard before, “Whatever you do behind closed doors is your business”.  His answer justified the horrible lifestyle I was living and gave me a temporary feeling that it was okay.

I found a job working at a straight bar as a barmaid where I met a woman and immediately started a friendship with her. This led to a love affair which seemed perfect and lasted for fourteen years. Even though, I was living a life of lies and deception, I was the happiest I had ever been, or so I thought.  We bought a home together and did everything together. We knew no other women or men who had same-sex attractions until my partner met a couple where she worked. We connected with them and began to have home parties and attend gay bars. The acceptance we received felt really good. Despite this, our lives continued on a downward spiral into alcohol and drugs. We both became alcoholics.

I attended Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and checked myself into two different psychiatric units. I was not serious about being free so this accomplished nothing except a time for temporary detoxification. Then early one morning before daylight as I was sobering up from the night before, Jesus visited me in a vision. I was still in bed and I saw Him standing in my bedroom doorway beckoning me to come to Him. He was so real standing there dressed in His pure white glistening robe. The vision was so vivid. I saw the same Jesus I had seen in pictures when I was a child attending Sunday school. I will never forget saying, “Help me, Jesus.”

Two years later after being told by my partner I either had to quit drinking or move out, I decided to get serious and start attending AA meetings once again. Through this time of recovery God was working in my heart. One night as I was returning home from AA in 1985, I looked up into the clear beautiful sky where there were millions of stars, and a peace came over me I had never experienced before. This was my “Damascus road experience”. I know now that was the night God totally delivered me from alcohol because I have not had a drink or even a desire for a drink since then. This was the beginning of turning back to God. You see I had been reading AA’s 24-hour prayer/mediation book for about a year. I know it was the Word of God that had been planted in my heart that set me free. Because the bible says in John 8:32, “if you continue in my Word, you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.”

Once free from alcohol and its numbing effects, I was able to sense the wooing of the Holy Spirit. He led my partner and I to watch Christian television. One night, while watching a TV evangelist, I rededicated my life to Jesus as my Savior and Lord.  This was the “Day a Lesbian Died” and I became a “Monument of God’s Amazing Grace”.  (2 Cor 5:17) Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is new creature: old things are past away; behold, all things become new.”  I found out later my partner also had gotten saved about the same time.

The Holy Spirit convicted us both of the lifestyle we were living. We began to search for a Christian counselor in the yellow pages of the telephone directory hoping once more to find an answer to our hellish lifestyle. We found one, made an appointment, and were told once again, “What you do behind closed doors is your business.” The Holy Spirit within us did not agree with this counselor’s beliefs and He led us in search of another Christian counselor who also did not have the answer.

I developed a hunger for the Word of God and started going to church which I also found in the yellow pages. I began to see in the Bible that homosexuality was a sin.  I justified the lifestyle I was living by revising God’s word to convince myself that if God was a God of love then the love we had for each other had to be acceptable to God. My church attendance started to fall off because I was not being fed the Word of God the way I needed it and I desperately needed God’s Word.

Then through an acquaintance I found a wonderful church, Whole Life Ministries, where the uncompromised  Word of God is taught and where we both felt accepted and loved from the very first night that I walked into that church. By the power of the Holy Spirit and the washing of my mind with God’s Word, I entered the path to healing which was a process to full restoration but extraordinarily fulfilling.   Through the process of God’s precious grace, I was given the ability to give up cigarettes, be healed of low self-esteem, self-hate, co-dependency and many emotional hurts that stemmed from a life
of abuse.

My parents began attending church, became “born again” and delivered.  And after I was “born again” I was able to forgive them and we began a loving relationship that lasted until they both went home to be with the Lord, my dad in June 1997, and my mom in November 1998.  God also reunited me with my daughter and we have had a loving relationship for many years now.

I have been serving the Lord faithfully for almost twenty-five years now. God has given me such a desire for Him and His Word that I have served in almost every area of ministry within the church, to include, being an assistant within the Church’s Counseling Ministry and a Facilitator of the Small Group Ministry.  I earned my Doctorate of Ministry degree in 2003, the year I turned 62 years old.  God has opened doors for me to become an ordained Minister of the Gospel, a Board Certified Christian counselor, a Chaplain, author, international TV and radio speaker and guest.

God placed the desire within my heart about 17 years ago that I was to help other hurting women and men to become free through one-on-one Christian counseling and support/recovery groups.  I founded StraightForward Ministries in February 2008 specializing in ministering to those who have un-wanted same-sex attractions. Since I was not told the Truth when I was seeking Christian counseling, I know God placed it within my heart to be a counselor so that He may use me to impart the Truth of the Word of God to those who are searching for it, as the Holy Spirit leads. Since He healed my hurting, wounded soul and set me free by His grace, He will do the same for all that truly want to be free and pay the price of obedience to His Word.

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