Jennifer Thorne did an interview with her Pastor (Terry Folks) which aired on the TBN network. Hope you find encouragement from this.
God said in my heart. Choose Life or Death…decide.
I grew up in an Italian, Catholic, middle-class family in NJ. My Dad owned his own business and worked a lot like most fathers. He did very well, so we were not lacking in the material realm. Mom worked as the administrator so she was always home with my younger brother and me. Life was good.
As I look back to what might have planted the seed of my attraction to the same sex, I can attribute it to two main factors. One, I believe was the culture in the 60s and 70s. From my perspective, women were subservient to men, waiting on them hand and foot, which was not very attractive to me. I thought, “I don’t want to be that woman. I want to be the strong, self-sufficient one.” Two, looking back I can see now how being exposed to the hard-core porn in my Grandfather’s dresser had a seriously negative impact on my view of women and their role in the world in which I lived.
Mom began a personal search for truth, and we started attending different churches. One of my mom’s friends invited us to her Pentecostal church. When the gospel was preached, I responded and became a born again Christian at the age of 12. My entire family became believers around the same time. We eventually ended up in a Baptist church that we all loved. I had a wonderful youth pastor and youth group that helped me grow and get close to God. I was on fire for Him and started serving and sharing the gospel with others. Then I met a boy and things went downhill from there. My focus went from God to him. From that time through my college years were a series of ups and downs, but I felt God’s presence to some measure.
During my first year in college, I met a girl from Canada, and we really hit it off and spent all our extra time together. We would walk to class and meet for lunch. We were inseparable. At the time, I could not see how Satan was going to use her to draw me into a lifelong battle with homosexuality. After the relationship became sexual though, I felt like something had invaded my body. I was like a zombie walking around campus. I couldn’t eat or sleep. People would ask me what was wrong, but I could not even answer. In the past when I was tempted, I was able to overcome, but not this time. This was very different. The feeling and attraction for this relationship was so strong that I didn’t even try to run away. After the first semester, we moved off campus together and became a secret couple. We were together during my entire college season.
At some point I began to feel very guilty about my new lifestyle. I started to attend a Baptist church and was no longer having an intimate relationship with my partner. She eventually found someone else and we broke up. “Now I am free” or so I thought, but I didn’t realize this isn’t something that just goes away. It’s not a phase. I eventually became involved with another woman, and we too became a couple.
We had tons of fun and enjoyed each other’s company. As the Bible says, “Sin is pleasurable for a season but in the end it leads to death.” I remember sitting in my office with such conviction that I had to immediately tell her, “I can’t do this anymore.” She was devastated. It was a short-lived conviction because shortly thereafter I called, apologized and told her that she was my best friend, and I couldn’t live without her. She came back but with much hesitation and hurt. My flesh was happy but my soul was empty and longing for God, the only one who could fill my void, but I didn’t completely realize that yet. So we resumed our relationship, but it took years for her to feel secure with me again.
Thirteen years into our relationship, a very small spot was noted on a routine x-ray in the left lower lobe of her lungs. The doctor wanted to remove it, so surgery was scheduled and it was positive for cancer. He removed the lobe immediately. He said they caught it very early and didn’t find any other spots so there was no need for any further treatment. We were elated! Then 18 years into our relationship several spots were found in several of her lobes. The prognosis not good and intervention treatments unsuccessful, chemotherapy became the topic of conversation.
During this time, I felt powerless and knew there was only one person who could help us. I felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit and began watching the news instead of all the fantasy shows on TV. The news was the only TRUTH I had in my life. I started reading the Bible and praying for my partner. I asked God to forgive me for my lifestyle; because I knew the entire time I was in the relationship that it was wrong. My friends would ask me if I believed homosexuality was a sin, and I agreed it was, but couldn’t leave my best friend, especially now with her so sick. People ask me now… ‘Did I believe I was saved during all those years of living in sin?’ I can say, “YES!” I know that I was saved the entire time. How can I say that with such assurance? God gives us assurance when we accept Him as our savior. He reigns in our hearts and no matter how far we run from Him, He is always there with open arms. However, I do believe there comes a time when God gives us a last call for repentance. This is clearly what happened to me the night He called me to repent. Also, I believe that the conviction in my heart from the Holy Spirit to change was evidence of my salvation. I tried to suppress that conviction by constantly feeding the flesh and trying to fill the emptiness with partying, success, wealth, accumulating things (buying that dream car and house) and going on exotic vacations. But then all that wears off and you are still left with a void that only one thing can fill–Jesus Christ. He created us with that void and until we find Him, nothing will ever fill it; not fame, wealth or power or any one other person.
My partner and I started going to a Biblical Church called Brookwood. We had received a postcard in the mail and I felt led to go. I asked her if she wanted to attend with me, and to my surprise she agreed. Maybe the Lord would bring us both to Himself. So we attended our first Sunday at Brookwood. We couldn’t believe how big the church was. It even had a bookstore, so we checked it out after the service. We bought a devotional book called Jesus Calling and read it every morning. I was so encouraged! We also noticed another book called Coming out of Homosexuality, and I remember her saying, “I hope they don’t go there, or I am out of here.” She knew at that time where I stood on the subject, but I don’t think she ever wanted to believe it. The relationship had changed though. We had been like only roommates for several years.
After reading the Bible and praying for weeks, I had a divine intervention moment where God spoke to my heart and it was very clear. He said to my heart that it was time for me to turn from my life of sin. “If you do, I will bless you and her. If you don’t it is death for the both of you.” I believe that death was a spiritual and physical death for the both of us. After I encountered God’s clear direction, I remember crying so hard and looking up to Heaven with tears streaming down my face and saying, “There is no way I can do this to my best friend during this critical time in her life. You are going to have to do it!!” My prayer was very simple. “HELP ME JESUS, HELP ME!” I gave it all over to God but also had the faith that He would do it now. I had to put it into action though. I prayed everyday for hours and read my Bible. I would cry myself to sleep. God gave me enough strength to get through one day at a time.
I knew He wanted me to move upstairs to the guest bedroom and that conviction kept getting stronger. I think moving to the upstairs bedroom was the most difficult move in the process, as it was finalization that we were no longer a “couple.” The enemy was strong but God showed me He was much stronger if I relied on Him. There was much pushback from her, but God continually gave me the words to say. She began to do better with her cancer treatments, and I started attending Brookwood Church on a regular basis and even volunteered on the production team. I loved it and found it fascinating. It felt like a call to ministry. I started to grow stronger as the days went by.
She could see the change in me, and I think it scared her. God put it in her heart to leave. I never told her to leave as I let her know I would take care of her as long as she would let me, but I couldn’t be in that lifestyle if God was going to bless us. There were many details to untangle. We had been like a married couple for 18 years; things like taking her name off of the mortgage so that she could buy her own place. During this time, my business wasn’t doing very well so when I called the mortgage company and they asked me my earnings I told them the truth. They said there was no way I could refinance the house on those earnings.
So I prayed about it, and I felt that the Lord was asking me to GIVE HIM EVERYTHING, even the house. I decided to obey and put the house up for sale. After taking pictures and listing it myself, not one offer came in for over two months. I called the mortgage company for the second time hoping we could figure something out, to no avail. I decided to get serious and asked a realtor for help. One thing led to another and I ended up calling the mortgage company for a third time. I got on my knees in my office, hands folded in prayer on my chair and I prayed for God to send me the right person to talk with at the mortgage company. A woman answered, “Hello, this is Angel how can I help you?” At that moment, I knew the Lord was going to work a miracle. I learned that Angel was a Christian so I told her my story and asked about leasing my home. She said that wouldn’t work. I asked her about my options to keep the house and release my ex-partner from the mortgage. She suggested I get a co-signer. I called my brother and my parents and could barely get out the words without crying. They both agreed. I started to cry, I just couldn’t believe it. I called Angel back and after answering some more questions, it turned out that because I had not filed my taxes yet, and because of some loopholes in that, I could indeed refinance my loan without the co-signer. The new payment ended up being significantly lower than the first one. God had really supplied my need in a miraculous way!
That was in 2011 and there have been so many more miracles since that first one. One last miracle that I would like to share is that God laid my ex-partner on my heart in 2012, and I began seriously praying for her. He promised me that she would be healed. She had a series of tests and her doctor told her that she has a rare gene and no longer had to take the IV chemotherapy but instead could take a pill, which was much easier. On May 2, 2014, she posted on FB that she just completed a routine PET Scan and that it was 100% clear and they are taking her off chemo and will do a repeat scan in six months. Praise you Father!
God is faithful. I know this by personal experience. I continue to grow in my church and have now become a part of the Hope for Wholeness Network which is such a blessing to be engaged with so many others like myself that God has redeemed in this way. I’m so glad I heeded his “wake up call.” This new life is not without its challenges. I’m still working through so much, but He is right there with me, daily, making Himself more and more known to me. I wouldn’t trade this new life for anything. I feel more alive than ever!
The oldest of three children, I was born in Decatur, Georgia in 1966. My father, though passive, was a faithful provider for the family. My mother, a stay-at-home mom, was a strong, controlling woman. Our somewhat typical family went to the local Presbyterian Church on holidays and a few Sundays each year, but there was no real relationship with Jesus. I was very active in sports, graduated from high school, and spent two years in college.
When I was 14 years old, I was molested by a male neighbor. After becoming involved with pornography, I soon became addicted to playboy magazine and became sexually promiscuous in heterosexual relationships. Later, at 15 years old, I was baptized and joined the church. As I had not heard the gospel of repentance, there was no significant change in my life. Therefore, the sexual promiscuity became worse. At age 19, I became pregnant and had an abortion. Then at age 21, I became involved in a lesbian relationship with a married woman who had two young children. After two years, that relationship ended. At that point, I began to embrace the homosexual lifestyle and frequently attended gay bars.
At age 26, after being introduced to the truth of God in Romans 1, I began to experience conviction concerning my lifestyle. I cried out to God for help. After seeking help by contacting Resurrection Life Ministries in Atlanta, I received counseling and prayer. About a week later I attended a church that preached the full gospel including real repentance. At that time in my life I became a born again believer. I knew that I would never go back to the gay life that I had been living.
I then began a discipleship program in church, but I never told anyone of my homosexual past. My soul was born again, but I had not received the needed healing from the past issues. Born again- this was an absolutely life-transforming experience for me! Born again-birthed from above-this is the foundation of the gospel that Jesus preached. Without it, I believe that no “real” life-changing transformation can happen in the believer. Through genuine repentance from the heart, the seed of God, by the Holy Spirit is planted in the believer of Jesus Christ and our inner man is born again. This process is only the beginning. From that moment on, we are changed from the inside out. Our soul is born again and we begin that process of sanctification as we walk out our relationship with our heavenly Father, through Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. Through this discipleship walk, we begin to receive healing for our wounded places in our soul that cause us to have broken relationships with others. After my first year as a new Christian, God showed me that much healing was needed. I began more in depth counseling with Resurrection Life Ministries for1993-4.
In 1994, I married a wonderful Christian man who had full knowledge of my past before we married. In 1996, I began the discipleship program, Living Waters by Desert Stream ministries and received tremendous healing in so many areas that had previously kept me from having right relationships with others. I continued with Desert Streams as an assistant small group leader and then as a small group leader. I attended two Living Waters weeklong leadership trainings and served as group coordinator for Living Waters during 2003-2005. God used this discipleship program in a mighty way to create a “safe” place for me to be real with my past and receive healing through Jesus. I have continued in praying and discipling others and teaching at local Living Waters and Cross Current programs in the Atlanta area. In 2007, I taught on sexuality in the Discipleship training School for Youth with a mission in Kona Hawaii. In 2008, I became the Ministry Director of His Wonderful Works, Inc. where I currently serve.
My husband and I have been married for 20 years and have three wonderful children, ages 19, 16, and 14. We have been attending the Christ Fellowship Church of Stone Mountain for the past 16 years. My husband and I currently serve on the church leadership team. I believe that in addition to counseling and healing ministry programs, involvement in church fellowship/community is crucial to walking out healing from same sex attraction and in learning to have real healthy relationships with others that does not involve healing group focus.
My mom told me that my father had contracted AIDS through homosexual relations. I could not speak. I was beyond shocked. How could my father who was a deacon at church, the one who led me to the Lord, MY dad, do something like this?
I grew up in a Christian and loving home. My dad worked for a Christian company as an editor. My mom worked at the Christian school where my older sister and I attended. I had a wonderful childhood. My family had a lot of fun traditions for the holidays and birthdays. I was always in my dad’s lap and laughing at his jokes. When I was about 4, I noticed that I was not like the rest of my family. Once a month, there was communion served at my church. My family could partake in it, but I couldn’t. I would get so upset that I couldn’t have communion because I didn’t want to be different.
My dad would take me out on dates every other month. We always went to the same restaurant, and we would talk about my school and friends. Even when there was silence, I was comfortable because I knew I had my dad’s undivided attention. One day as we were leaving the restaurant, he asked if I wanted to accept Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I remember getting very excited and with a huge smile said “YES!” I crawled in his lap, he prayed, and I repeated the prayer. I was almost 6 at the time. I did not think that I could ask for a better life.
Several years later, when I was 9, my life took a traumatic turn. In 1993, my dad became very sick with pneumonia and was in and out of the hospital for a couple of months. I thought he would get better, but he was not fully recovering. In the late spring or early summer of this same year, we had a family meeting. This was our first and only family meeting. My dad told my sister and me that he had AIDS. I had never heard the word before and did not understand what it meant. I had no idea what this would mean for my dad and our family. I knew it was something big when I was told to keep this a secret. This was our first family secret. It was not explained to me at this time how my dad contracted AIDS, and I did not think to ask.
As the months progressed, my dad’s behavior changed. I did not know the details of these next events or the reasons why they happened until many years later. One day we came home from school and there was a man who came out of our bathroom. I was nice to him because I thought he was another one of my dad’s friends who I had not met before. My mom began yelling at him, questioning who he was and what he was doing in our house. At that point, I knew that he was not one of my dad’s friends. My mom took my dad into the bedroom and began yelling at him. I later learned that the man was a hitchhiker my dad brought home. My dad was arrested one night at the mall for having relations in the men’s bathroom. He brought gay pornography into the home. He would hide it in the bathroom that my sister and I shared. Thankfully I never found it. My dad would buy expensive gifts to give my mom which she would return since there was not enough money in the bank for the purchases. I think he bought them as peace offerings for the pain he was causing. My mom continued to notice thousands of dollars missing in the bank account without my dad remembering where the money went or without him wanting to tell my mom what he spent the money on. He would go out to be with numerous men each week. Having AIDS didn’t slow him down. I don’t even want to think how many other men may have been infected because of being with my dad. My mom never knew how many men or how often he was unfaithful. My dad truly was living a second life.
My mom nursed my dad in our home until a week before he died. We did not make it to the hospital in time to be with him at his death. I hate that we were not there to say good-bye. He died with one arm reaching out and his head tilted to the side with his eyes and mouth opened wide. I know he was escorted out of this life into Heaven. He died in 1994 when I was only 10. We never talked about my dad’s death and how it affected us. I was actually relieved that my dad had died. He had not been my dad for several months, and I wanted my life to get back to normal.
I had come to my own conclusion that my dad got AIDS from his IV’s when he was in the hospital with pneumonia. I asked my mom if that was right. My mom then told me that he contracted AIDS through homosexual relations. I froze. Time stood still. I could not think. I could not speak. I could not breathe. I could not move. I was beyond shocked. How could my father, a godly man who led me to the Lord, MY dad, do something like this? I saw NONE of the signs that would lead to this answer. I decided I would stop talking about my dad. It was as if I turned off a switch to “forget” him completely. At that moment, I took all my memories of my dad and locked them up in a steel room, a steel vault in my heart. I completely cut off all emotions and thoughts that had to do with my dad. By shutting them out, I also shut off my personality and lost a lot of memories-the bad and the good of growing up.
Shame from my dad’s behaviors began to control my thoughts and actions. I stopped being me. I became very quiet and withdrawn. I was no longer bubbly or talkative like I had always been. Not feeling accepted at school, I never had any close friends. I also never had a curfew because I never went anywhere. I was always at home. I didn’t have anyone close to talk to about my feelings, and we never shared our emotions in the family…except for anger. I was silently struggling.
At the age of 13, I began contemplating suicide. I no longer wanted to live without a dad. I hated being the only person in my class at school without a dad. I did not want to live with this pain any longer. Every night for many months, I would cry myself to sleep thinking through all the different ways of killing myself. I thank the Lord I never attempted suicide. God showed me that He has been my Father and had not left my side. I knew then that I was not fatherless. To this day, I have not had any suicidal thoughts since that time.
No man has ever come into my life as a father figure since my dad died. My mom has not dated since my dad. I grew to not trust men. Part of that reason is that the only man I knew turned out to be a man I did not know. A man I did not like. A man I could no longer trust. Because of this, I did not think men were honest or trustworthy. I believed they would hurt me if I got close to them. I did not know how to relate to men nor was I comfortable around them. I never had any guy friends and was never asked out. I began to believe that I am unlovable. To this day, I have never been pursued romantically. My image of God was skewed, and I have struggled to believe He truly loves me and wants the best for me. I was afraid He would not show up when I needed Him most, and He would not be who He says He is. I am happy to say that He has been restoring my image of Him. Now I know He is constant. He is always loving. And He is continually pursuing me with His gentle love.
I was referred to Meleah Allard a few years ago for counseling. I have been facing thoughts and memories that I have kept locked up for nearly 20 years. I am learning that I have been living through a shame-based identity. I wanted to be invisible and had no self-esteem. I believed that because my dad’s actions brought shame to the family, and I am a product of my dad, then there was something shameful about me. I had this huge secret I could not tell anyone, so I could not let anyone know who I truly was. I continued to feel that I had to act as if nothing happened…and keep the family secret.
I am on a journey toward healing, but I still have a long road ahead of me and much more to learn. God has placed a desire on my heart to help others who are hurting. I have become a family counselor to help walk along side those who are in need of support. I am educating families on how to communicate effectively with one another and talk about their emotions without burying them inside. God is redeeming my pain for His glory by using me mightily to further His Kingdom in the lost world.
God has built a group of trusted people around me to walk in this journey together. He is teaching me how to walk in victory which has made all the difference. The shame I was carrying around has reduced as I share my story with others. I’m grateful I don’t have to walk alone anymore, and I know I can rely on God in every circumstance.
God Never Changes But I Have By Brenna Kate Simmonds
This is an excerpt from a much larger story – of how I came to be who I am today. Since Psalm 139 says that God created my inmost being, and He knit me together in my mother’s womb, His unrelenting pursuit of me began before I even saw daylight. Here is my story. I pray that it encourages you, and rings true in your heart.
I was born prematurely in May of 1975 and spent two months isolated in an incubator, out of the warmth of my mother’s womb but also out of her warm embrace. In those days, preemies were not touched or held. How this is initial isolation affected me, I do not know exactly. What I do know is the tone of the rest of my life. I have distinct memories of songs and stories that scared me as a child. I’d zero in on themes of abandonment, and I carried those feelings of fear with me into adulthood. For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with a lack of self worth. I’ve had a hard time believing that I could accomplish anything or be someone other people could like.
During my youth, my family faithfully attended liberal churches, serving on various committees and singing in choirs. I’d always believed in God, but in those early years it had little effect on my daily life. I did cry out to God in times of trouble, wondering why He didn’t rescue me from the difficult life I was living. By high school, I lacked many necessary life skills. I was not one of the “popular” kids. I never wore the right clothes, I never said the right things, and I didn’t have the right friends. I had no understanding of how to properly deal with my emotions, which were growing increasingly disoriented. So I became self-destructive. I “self-injured” by cutting myself with sharp objects and banged my head and fists against walls and floors. I had started having eating problems at age 14, and by the end of high school I had a full blown eating disorder.
I began experimenting sexually with girls at a young age. This continued until, as a high school freshman, I found myself physically attracted to my best friend. Before our relationship became physical, it was already emotionally unhealthy. When we began to act out our attraction physically, I became totally dependent on her for my self-worth.
About a week into our relationship, I secretly looked up “homosexuality” in a health book. The book said that if you had attractions for someone of the same gender, then you were gay. I remember thinking, “There it is, in black and white. I am a homosexual.” The summer after my high school graduation, I was in a coffee shop having a conversation about a novel I was reading. A character in the novel would quote Bible verses as a justification for abusing his wife. A man passing by our table heard the word “Bible” and asked if I was interested in going to church with him. I had attended many different types of churches throughout my life, so I accepted his invitation. I began meeting regularly with this man’s girlfriend, who was quick to tell me that homosexuality was a sin that would condemn me to hell. She would pray with me every day. And every night I would cry myself to sleep, praying, “God, change me! Why did you make me gay if that means I have to go to hell?” In my heart I wondered, “Is it true that God wants me to be forever separated from Him?” The church I was attending did not share the hope for change that the gospel offers. Their stance was change first … then God will accept you. I eventually got away from this woman and this church. I had asked God to change me, and He didn’t. And so I embraced my lesbian identity. After three and a half years together, my first girlfriend and I broke up. I then met an older married woman, dropped out of college and moved across the country to live with her and her husband. Her husband said it didn’t bother him to discover his wife was bisexual. He also claimed it didn’t bother him to have me move in because by doing so, I was satisfying some need in his wife that he couldn’t meet. She and I had a mock wedding ceremony and from then on, she introduced me as her “wife.” I lived with this couple for close to two and a half years. During this time, I became even more involved with the gay community. I spoke out for gay rights, frequented gay bars, and embraced my identity as a lesbian. I even became engaged to a gay man. We decided we would marry to be companions as soon as I finished college, but I would continue to be in a relationship with my “wife.” It made perfect sense to me at the time because I knew my “wife” would never leave her husband, but I certainly didn’t want to be alone. My “wife” and I eventually decided it would best for me to continue my schooling, so I moved to Boston to attend a prestigious music school, the same school from which my “wife” had graduated.
Though I was in an environment where my sexuality was affirmed, my life was far from happy. My relationship with my “wife” continued to crumble until she ended our relationship about 10 months after I moved. My eating disorder spiraled out of control. I descended into fear and loneliness.
Oddly enough, it was during that time that I started learning more about Jesus. Christians seemed to pop into my life to share with and pray for me. They never took it upon themselves to point out my sinfulness or say that I should not be a lesbian. They just pointed me to Jesus. Like everyone else, I was a sinner in need of Jesus in my life. My sexual choices were only one of many indications of this need. It’s pretty amazing to look back and see how God was cultivating a heart for Himself in me, and I was completely unaware of it at the time.
I wrote to a friend during this time: I may finally have the strength to turn to God for help. I’ve been turning away from God because I want to stay sick so I don’t have to deal with the real issues. Well, it’s strange because there have been some very influential Christians in my life. I think their prayers have really touched me somehow. Though I haven’t been able to pray for myself, the fact that I consider it to be an option is a big step from where I’ve been.
Things continued to get worse until I eventually came to the end of my rope. I knew that I needed help with my eating disorder, or I was going to die, but I felt I had tried everything and nothing worked. I called a friend who was a recovering alcoholic and bulimic to get advice, and she asked if I had ever tried praying for help to overcome my eating disorder. I thought, “That’s the one thing I haven’t tried!”—so I started praying.
Around this time, a friend gave me a music CD by a passionate Christian artist. One night while listening, the words of a song gripped my heart. I felt all alone, and my heart was so hard. The voice sang of a friend who was always there, with every tear cried, a friend who would give everything for him. That friend was Jesus ? the son of God, who died on the cross to take away my sin, my pain, and to give me worth. He died so that I wouldn’t have to carry the burden of my shame anymore. The words of the song cut me to the heart; I knew it was the truth. I couldn’t believe that such a love was possible, that someone could love me so much as to make that great of a sacrifice. All my life, I never felt loved, no matter what I did. As a singer, even when I was praised for a performance, I still felt empty. Even when I was loved by a friend or lover, I was still empty. No one could have possibly loved me enough. I had a bottomless well – a never-ending ache inside of me that I tried to fill with love, people, things, goals, thinness – but nothing dulled the pain for long. I remember falling forward, sobbing uncontrollably because the pain in my heart was so great. It wasn’t a typical kind of pain; I was being filled with love, and it hurt. It tore me apart to release all of my “self-control”, everything that I gripped so tightly, that I held on to for dear life, to Jesus. In the midst of that song, I cried out to God saying, “I want what he has!” God, in His great mercy, met me on that day in January of 1999.
Though I was not in a relationship at that time, I was immediately convicted that being in a lesbian relationship was not compatible with being a follower of Christ. I asked a Christian woman to show me Scriptures on the topic. What I read in the Bible only strengthened my resolve.
This was easy at first; I was so in love with God that I didn’t want anything else. However, about nine months after becoming a Christian, I met a girl who had been raised in a Christian home but whose family had walked away from God. I couldn’t fathom how anyone could do that, and I desperately wanted to help her. My intentions were pure; however, my resolve for purity quickly faded, and we entered into a physical relationship.
During the 3 months we were together, I knew I shouldn?t be doing what we were doing. In fact, every time we?d try to do something physical, my entire body would literally shake. I can now recognize that this was the Holy Spirit inside of me warring against my “flesh” – my sinful nature and desire to sin. I also started having severe stomach problems during this time – another sign of the anxious fight going on within me. But I didn’t feel that I could end it. It was my “last chance”, my last fling before I would begin what could very well be a celibate life. Even the girl I was with knew I shouldn’t be living this way. After 3 months, she said to me, “Listen – you can’t be a Christian and be gay. The Bible says you must either be hot or cold – one or the other, but not both.” She was quoting Scripture to me! And with that, she ended our relationship.
I threw up my arms saying, “Fine, God! I don’t want to live like this. Please take this away from me.” In many ways, He did. My attraction to women greatly lessened, but the circumstances of my life that led me in the direction of lesbianism had not changed. I was wise enough to know that although I had surrendered my desire to live as a lesbian to God, that didn’t mean the road ahead would be paved with gold.
There were a few things I found to be invaluable as I struggled to sort out the various issues in my life. I didn’t know that groups like Alive in Christ existed when I was struggling. I opened up to my Christian friends about my struggle and asked for accountability. I went through three years of counseling to deal with the roots of my same-sex attraction, as well as my eating disorder, depression and self-injury. Romans 12:2 (NLT) says, “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” I truly needed my entire thought life to be transformed. It wasn’t that I had moments of feeling worthless and unlovable; In the core of my being, I was sure it was true. My counselor helped me to recognize these faulty thought patterns and showed me how to make them line up with what God’s Word has to say about me (2 Corinthians 10:5). And most importantly, I wrestled with God. A lot. In all honesty, I suppose, it was more like I wrestled and He waited patiently for me to realize that He is who He says He is and He will do what He has said He will do. When all that we’ve relied on for so long is ripped out from under us, it’s a natural reaction to question God — to question His goodness, His faithfulness, His reliability and trustworthiness — because we’ve been relying on our own faulty coping mechanisms and limited understanding for so long. Whether healthy or unhealthy, reliable or unreliable, the chaos becomes predictable, almost like an unhealthy friendship that you wish you could get rid of … but are glad it’s always there. There were times when I was so angry and bitter at God because He could have made my life — past and present — easier if He wanted to, but He didn’t. He wasn’t working according to my timing, and that wasn’t easy for me. I’m reminded of something from John 6. Jesus had just given the disciples a particularly difficult command. Rather than trusting in God’s goodness, His overall trustworthiness, as well as taking into account their limited understanding, quite a few of the disciples decided it was too tough a command and stopped following Christ. When Jesus turned to the Twelve to ask if they would leave too, Peter responded, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God.” That’s how I feel. In the midst of all the questions and doubts, I already knew that I had tasted and seen that the Lord is indeed good, and that I had no other choice but to take refuge in Him (Psalm 34:8), to take my questions and hurts, rest in the shadow of His wing, and trust that He’s always been faithful. And that this time will be no exception. Homosexual behavior is one sin that seems especially hard to grapple with because on the surface, it appears that it’s not hurting anyone. I often hear about how unfair it is for God to forbid the expression of “genuine love” between two people. The reality of it is that there are a lot of things that don’t seem fair in God’s economy, at least to us. To me, it wasn’t fair to be labeled gay just because I had same-sex attractions. It wasn’t fair that the only choice I felt I was given was to embrace homosexuality. I don’t know where I would be today if I had believed those who told me that my only choice was to be gay.
A few months after surrendering my sexuality to God, I met a man named Roy through the campus ministry we both attended. One night on the phone, I let it slip that I used to be a lesbian. I was so mad at myself for not being more careful, sure that I had pushed Roy away. In reality, Roy didn’t seem fazed by it. That summer, I wrote this entry in my journal: “God, I look up at the dark night sky, and think I can actually see You to talk to You. I believe You’re there, and I feel You so close. I look up, and I want to share it with someone. I want to sit on my back porch and cry with my husband about how beautiful You are. I think I know who that person is. Maybe I’m way off-base, but I feel like I met him already.”
Roy & I continued to be friends for 5 months, at which time we began dating. It wasn’t always an easy relationship. Beside the fact that I had been a lesbian, I had never dated anyone I wasn’t also having sex with. I didn’t know how to have a healthy relationship, much less a non-physical one. Through those difficult times, I held on to what I believed I had heard from God: that I was meant to marry Roy.
When we first became friends, I was instantly drawn to his strong faith, his spontaneity, his free spirit and love for life. I thought he was cute enough, but I had never had a strong attraction to a man before. As we grew to know each other, I became more and more aware of my physical attraction to him. I can see that my lack of physical attraction to men in general was due to a fear of men that I had. I was repeatedly sexually abused as an adult by a man, and I believe I was protecting myself from future abuse by suppressing any physical attraction I might have. As I learned more about Roy, as I grew to trust him, and as I recognized that he wouldn’t hurt me, my natural physical attraction was allowed to surface without fear.
On December 14th, 2002, Roy & I became man and wife. And what a glorious ride it’s been since then!
Marriage is not a cure for homosexuality, or even a guarantee of happiness, but simply another part of God’s healing process in my life. That said, I never imagined that I’d have this much joy and feel so loved and fulfilled. I thank God that I came to a point where in my heart of hearts, I felt I had no choice but to embrace Christ and all that He required of me. But what I got in return for my obedience and hard work is an amazing godly man who loves me, unconditionally, like no woman ever did. What I have today is a solid relationship with a trustworthy God who constantly reminds me of His love and faithfulness, a God who I can now worship for who He is, rather than just for what He’s done in my life. He’s shown Himself to be true in my life. And in those times when I feel He hasn’t, I remind myself that it has more to do with my limited viewpoint and short-sightedness than it has to do with the reality of who God is. God never changes, but I do, and my love for Him and understanding of all that He is grows each day. And for that, I’m grateful.
Brenna is the Director of Alive In Christ.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)
I remember watching a news segment that showed two guys kissing each other. I don’t remember what the news report was about, but I do remember saying to myself, “That’s what I am … gay.” Ever since I could remember, I have liked guys. Sure, I tried dating girls and I even tried having sex with girls; but for the most part, those physical things never went to the heart, as my attractions for guys did.
I remember acting more “feminine” while growing up than “being a man.” I did not hunt, play football, or work on cars. I did not follow sports religiously. I hated gym class. I had more girls that were friends than I did boys. I loved art class, theatre, music, writing poetry, shopping, and talking on the phone (though now I hate to shop and talk on the phone, which I think is a good thing).
I moved a lot when I was kid, and my parents were divorced, so while I had two homes I never really felt at home anywhere. Growing up I always felt that I was living two lives: one at my mom’s house and one at my dad’s house. It is not that it was a bad thing, to have two homes; I am just saying it was hard to connect with those around my house – so naturally I kept to myself a lot.
My parents tried their best to give me a good life. Looking back, I know they loved me and wanted the best for me. At the time, though, I thought that my parents were against me and did not care much what I did as long as I did not embarrass them. (It is amazing the perspectives on life a child has compared to an adult!)
I grew up in an Irish Catholic family, though we mostly only went to church for two reasons: holidays and whenever I served as an altar boy (though during those times, it was mostly my step-dad and I who would go). He would sit in the back on the church when I was “doing Mass” and try to make me laugh during the service. Laughing – distracting the congregation – was forbidden when serving as an altar boy. I used to laugh a lot when I did Mass, so my altar boy days were short-lived.
Even with going to Catholic school for 8 years, I never really had a relationship with God, let alone knowledge of Him wanting to be “personal” with me. I was always under the impression – which was never really disputed by my teachers – that unless I was perfect then God would not interact with me. After all, in Catholic history, only the “Saints of Old” had one-on-one connections with God; everyone else had no such luck. After moving to a new Catholic school, and failing through it, my parents thought it would be good for me to attend public school.
In light of this move, I had no problem leaving behind my so-called-shallow-faith in order to embrace a world of agnosticism. Besides, I was determined to make a difference within myself in this new school. As the school year drew on, I tried to define myself in many ways, but nothing seemed to work. In the summer before ninth grade, a friend from school and I started to become closer. I finally had what I considered a best-friend relationship. It was sweet. At first, our friendship was normal; but then we started to “play card games” and my world would never be the same again.
This was not my first “experience” with a guy. The summer before, a neighborhood boy and I did some things. Although this new encounter I had with my friend more or less closed the deal on my sexuality: I was definitely gay. My attractions for guys had always been a pondering question in my mind; but when my friend and I “hooked up”, it was like everything became clear and I “knew” this was who I was. I cannot explain it, other than I just knew what I felt to be true. I remember we both came out to each other at the same time. It was a causal conversation, nothing big and dramatic (I was doing dishes at the time). We determined, though, to keep our gayness a secret; we were not sure how people would take our new found identity, especially our parents.
Down the Road
My four years of high school were hell. Though I have some good experiences from it, for the most part I hated every day of those four years. I came out to my friends in the middle of ninth grade. Although my friends accepted me for me, I faced hate, ignorance, death threats, name calling, and the like from peers. Some things came from the jocks of the school, but most of the things came from Christians. In fact, more than anyone else, the Christians referred to me as “faggot” or damned me to hell. Their hate towards me only fueled my response to flaunt my sexuality even more. If their God hated me, which is how they put it, then I hated Him too … the more they yelled at me and condemned me, the more I built a wall of resistance against anything dealing with God and His followers.
I learned to disregard my pain and rejection, and focus on helping other people. Sure, it was a defense mechanism, but it got me through the turmoil of school, and besides, I was not strong enough to deal with everything that lay underneath – waiting to erupt forth. So, I helped raise awareness for AIDS education and helped many other gay teens accept their sexuality as being normal. I was vocal about the discrimination I faced, and I made sure my “oppressors” knew I was not going to go away quietly. My thought was if I could help someone not go through what I went through, then my battle scars were not in vain. For the most part, it worked.
However, there was a big difference between my being out and open at school, then at home. I had waited about a year from coming out before I told my parents anything about my sexuality. I was sure they would have confronted me by then, but they had not, so I finally told them. By this point, my mom and step-dad were divorced, and so I was living with my mom and younger brother.
I remember the day I came out, as if it was yesterday. I had stayed home “sick” from school. I knew I had to tell my parents about what I was going through, especially since it was eating me up inside every day I did not say anything. I phoned my step-mom and through stutters and stammers told her, I am gay. I asked her to tell my dad – I had no clue what to even say to him. Then I wrote a letter, to my mom, which I would place in her car the next morning – so she could read it while at work (I know, nice, huh?!). I could not tell my step-dad … which to this day I still do not know why. In fact, he would not find out about my “gay life” until years later.
My parents reacted differently about me coming out, but they all had one reaction in common: no one talked to me about it. My dad (from what I have heard) called people and said that if anyone had a problem with me being gay they can just talk to him about it. My step-mom really did not express approval or disapproval over the fact. My mom took it the hardest, from what I saw anyways. She came into my room that night, kissed me, and said that she loved me regardless. That was really the last time we ever talked about me being gay.
While I was glad to not be rejected “physically” by my parents, their silence about the issue was deafening, and in that silence, I felt rejected “emotionally.” My best friends mom, who by now was my boyfriend, took him and I to a support group for gay teens. Finally, I saw that I was not alone; others had experiences like my best friend and I. It was a great feeling. Looking back, I wished my parents had also taken the time to find me help and support – I think that would have helped both of us through everything.
Being “out and about,” I was happy. However, inwardly, I struggled to find true peace with my life and myself. I spent many days depressed, struggling to even get out of bed. I tried to kill myself a few times, I tried pot, I flung myself into relationship after relationship (all being sexual), and I even tried running away from home. Except for the relationships, I did not follow through on anything, because I knew that was not the answer for me either. I was confused, because in one sense I knew who I was, and yet, I felt extremely lost. Except for a few friends knowing everything, I struggled internally alone and afraid.
While in eleventh grade, I met a Christian named Yvonne, who wanted to befriend me. She was already in the “in-crowd” with other friends of mine, but to me I wanted proof that she was not going to bash me like the other Christians. To my surprise, she was not like that at all. Yvonne was not perfect by any means (she was a normal teenage girl with problem) but what she possessed was something I was highly interested in, I just did not know what that “something” was exactly.
I remember Yvonne coming up to me and saying such healing words: “I don’t agree with what you do, Shawn. But I like you. I want to be your friend.” She did not force Christianity on me, she did not force the Bible down my throat, and she did not damn me to hell. Instead, she loved on my and my friends, which meant the world to me. In eleventh grade, my friends meant a lot to me, especially since my home life felt unstable. My best friend, Yvonne, and I would become very close that year and the next. Looking back, I could see God’s hand in it all.
A couple of months before graduation, I really thought that my life was starting to come together. My friendships were secure, and I was in a “loving” relationship with a guy. My depression started to ease up. Things with my mom were getting better. High School was ending, and I was thinking about going to school to teach art. Things seemed good. Graduation quickly came and went; another chapter of my life had closed, and the summer was shaping up to offer a promising new chapter.
Then Jesus came into my life and wrecked everything!
A New Direction
July 14, 1996. I had just moved up to a motel room with my boyfriend. No one knew where I was (including my family and friends). I had all my graduation money in my pocket, and a trash bag full of clothes. We were supposed to move into an apartment together, but things suddenly (and mysteriously) fell through. So, down the street from my boyfriend’s job, we found a cheap motel to stay in until we figured out what we were going to do.
As I lay in bed, watching T.V., I suddenly became ill. I was sweating and yet cold all at once. I could not move anything. I started to feel scared. What was happening to me? I was alone in the room with no way to reach out for help. After a few minutes of feeling paralyzed, I managed to get up and walk towards the door. I remember looking around the room and wondering, What am I doing here? I opened the door and stepped out into the rain. I remember looking up and feeling the rain beat against my skin – it felt good. I faced heaven and spoke up: God, if you are real then I need You to help me out of this.
I stepped back inside, took a bath, wrote my boyfriend a “Dear John” letter, packed my things, and phoned a friend to come pick me up. I walked out of the room an hour later, without thinking twice about my decision. For the first time in my life, I had honestly felt true happiness, deep within, starting to push through the uncertainty.
After spending some time down at the Shore with some friends, I returned home and phoned Yvonne and my best friend. I excitedly told them what happened and that I had become a “Christian” but I was not sure. Yvonne assured me that I had in fact accepted God into my life; in which she was happy to hear, but my best friend was not. I could not explain my “change” to my friend other than I was happy with whatever I decided to change about myself.
I did not accept Jesus the week before because I was scared of going to hell. I did not accept Him because I wanted to be a Christian. I certainly did not accept Him so that I could be straight. Rather, I accepted Jesus because of His love and peace. I was at a desperate point in my life where I needed something real to hold on to, because although things looked at peace, they were not. Simply put, I took a gamble on God and His love.
I had no clue what I was doing, much less even how to start being a Christian. I did not even have a Bible to read! Although, through some weird “religious experiences,” some mentoring-relationships, and Bible study, I began to understand the point of Christianity. What I lagged in was a deep understanding of God’s love, especially in regards to His views about me.
I quickly became attuned to the fact that I could not live a Christian life and be gay. There was too much guilt attached to what I wanted to do and how I wanted to grow in my relationship with Jesus. For me, there was too much to compromise if I choose to live both lives out fully. So, I choose to start suppressing my gay feelings in order to grow closer to Christ. In this light, I started dating a girl, and I even became somewhat sexual in my relationships with her; but I still was tempted to fool around with guys (which I did, unfortunately).
In March of 1998, my brother committed suicide, and once again, I told God to take a hike. With the pressures of my inward struggles (with being gay), my depression coming back, my brother’s death, and other things, I figured that this “God-thing” was not really worth the battle it was shaping up to be. Everything that I was trying to suppress and forget was coming to head. Through some events, I came crawling back to God … again, not knowing what I was doing or what I was after, but I knew this: I needed Him. This season of my life would prove to be the “beginning-of-the-end” for me. My faith was shattered at my brother’s death, and it would take another major turning point in my life to turn me back around.
Because of my inward struggles, I submersed myself in more bible studies, more prayer groups, more retreats, more events, and more times of spiritual cleansing. All the while dealing with two natures: a Christian one and a gay one. How could I join the two together? Could I really be gay and a Christian? What did God’s Word really say about being gay? These were all questions I faced inwardly, as I went about life, not allowing any of my friends in on my crippling struggles. During this time, I had befriended an old classmate, Pete, and we soon became very close. It was the first “safe-Godly” male friendship that I ever had. We did everything together. Pete really helped me grow in my relationship with Christ, and really helped to affirm in me what God was doing. Although, I could not bring myself to tell him who I really was or what I was dealing with, I did not want to ruin what we had: a pure friendship.
I knew having gay feelings was wrong, but I also knew that I could not help having them. I prayed to be straight. I prayed that these “wrong” feelings would pass away. I even tried looking at straight porn to “fix” myself, but nothing I tried seemed to work. I was in counseling and had a great support of friends (who struggled like me) in Philly, near where I lived, but even all of these things still didn’t help me overcome my struggles of sexual identity. I began to think that I was a hopeless cause and that I would be gay for the rest of my life. I determined I was not going to marry or have kids. My church friends thought I was just messing around, but truly I thought: who would want to marry a guy like me anyways? In my eyes, despite what scripture said and what people prayed over me (even what I sang during worship times), I believed I was unlovable and unwanted.
Finally, I secretly accepted my gayness and reconciled it to my faith. I would strive to believe what scripture taught, about living a life for God, but I would skip over the verses that talked about “homosexuals.” In May of 2000, I went to One Day and felt my relationship with God had taken a new level. I was on fire. That June I would work at a Christian camp, as a counselor to campers. Using the basis of Romans 12:1-2 (which was the Camp’s Theme verse), God challenged me through deep refinement in ridding myself of my past and drawing closer to Him.
I would go home during the weekends, head to the gay bars, hit church on Sunday, and be back at Camp for Sunday night’s gathering. I did this throughout the summer, thinking to myself, Yes, I can do this! I was growing in the Lord, and many considered me a “fearless leader for Jesus.” Little did I know that I was setting myself up to being exposed – completely!
At the time, I was living with a gay friend (who was a Pastor), and he helped me fully embrace who God truly made me to be – gay. I did not understand it all, but it made more sense to me than trying to deny something that seemed so “inborn.” About two weeks after camp ended, I remember sitting at the computer and seeing visions of myself.
I saw a huge hand holding me, and then dropping me. I saw myself falling down a deep pit, with no bottom. I could not reach out to stop myself; I just fell, as the Person who once held me watched. One can easily understand, I was falling away from God, who’s grip on my was being loosened because I needed to fall in order to rise up. I accepted my vision as truth, and continued to “fall” day after day, until I hit the bottom. I was finally broken.
I was ready to leave my gay identity. I was tired of living a life of compromise – between what I wanted to be true (I’m gay and can’t change) and what I knew was true (I’m gay and can change). I was tired of living in secret. I was tired of pretending. I was tired of the one-night stands. I was tired of drinking away my problems. I was tired of abusing my body (and allowing it to be abused by others). I was tired …
In the days that followed I would come clean about my situation and struggles with my friends and move in with my step-dad and his family. Once again, I did not know exactly what I was after, but I wanted whatever God had for me. I did not care if I ever stopped liking guys, or if I became straight; I did not care if I ever got married, or had kids. All I wanted in my life at this time was God. I wanted Him to wrap His arms around me, and hold me. I wanted Him to speak into my life and affirm me. I wanted Him to wash away my pain, scars, and insecurities. I wanted to be His and His alone.
This new focus, though sounding simple, was very freeing to me because I realized my focus before was so self-centered, instead of Christ-centered. I had asked God to change me, but I wanted Him to change me into what I wanted to be. I had asked Him to grow me, but I wanted Him to grow me in my timing and standards. When I began to let go of what I wanted and grasp hold of what He wanted for me, I began to feel the chains I had placed around my neck begin to fall off.
I stepped out in faith, and landed in His wholeness.
A Journey Without Chains
The strange thing about God’s Wholeness is that it is a two-part process. I believe it comes down upon us, to start our journey, but then it continues to fall on us and refine us through the days we choose to walk in it.
I was clearly in a new position with Christ. Not only did I feel free, I knew I was free. I quickly began reading Acts, and started to pray for God’s Spirit and healing to fall upon me just as it did back then. I wanted whatever God had for me, and I was ready for whatever He was calling me to. I began having dreams about Him and I – dreams that I believe He spoke to me through. I was content with where I was in life, and once again, I felt true happiness.
Then I met a girl and fell in love.
I had no clue what was going on. I had accepted the fact that I most likely was not going to get married. I had accepted the fact that I would never have affections for women. I was fine with all of that, really. I had met Emily through working at the Camp, and when I had visited some friends one day who were still working there, I saw her again … and my heart jumped.
I remember asking her out, thinking to myself, What are you doing! I remember telling my friends that we were going out, and them saying, What are you doing! (Pete was over in Africa in missions by this time, so he really did not give me his opinion, though I am sure he thought the same.) Still, I felt that my dating Emily was a good thing. I soon told her me entire story and at the end, she still expressed hstruggeer love and support for me. As three months passed, I proposed. She accepted.
While I was truly in love – for the first time in my entire life – I was hesitant about getting married, not on her part but on mine. Could I really do this? Could I really be a faithful husband? Could I trust God in all of this? Could I trust myself? I was torn between what my “flesh” wanted and what my “spirit” wanted.
All my old feelings and “temptations” of what I had walked away from started rushing back. While it was very tempting at times to just give up and go back to the way I used to live, I was determined to stay the course. After a long battle with myself, a break-up with Emily, and lots of affirming counseling from friends and the Spirit of God, I married my true love on May 27, 2001.
I had (foolishly) hoped my temptations would disappear after that day, but they did not. I learned (through mistakes and triumphs) that it is a daily process to not give in to what your body “longs for” at times. I had to refocus my desires … renew my mind (Romans 12:1-2) … rely on God’s grace to get me through the days and nights (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, which by the way is my life verse). It has not been easy, and it has taken many years to comprehend and put into daily practice these truths from God, but the journey has been worth every step.
Do I still struggle? Yes. Do my struggles get easier, over time? Yes! However, just as I do not allow my past to define me, I also do not allow my struggles to define me. As I will talk about in later chapters*, I see myself as God’s child … I seek His identity, over my own. In this (His identity), I find my reason and strength to press on towards the goal, forgetting what is behind me, and striving for what lies ahead (Philippians 3:7-14).
God has used my wife in amazing ways in my journey of healing and restoration. I stand amazed by her love and grace for me; knowing full well, that it is God’s love and grace working through her. She is my best friend. She is the mother of my two kids. She is my companion in this journey of life. She is my biggest cheerleader in all of this.
Do I think that this same outcome can be true for others? Absolutely! I believe in the power of God’s Word, the saving work of Christ’s cross, and the transforming presence of the Holy Spirit. Though I believe that we each have a different calling in life, I believe that our focus in life is the same: God’s Identity and Wholeness. It is through this lens that I write the following posts of encouragement and challenge.
We may be the only Jesus our child’s partner ever sees.
Thirty-three years ago I asked my daughter a question and her answer would change our relationship for years to come. I asked her if she was a lesbian. She said she was and “Did I hate her?” I told her I didn’t hate her I loved her, but I hated the life she was choosing to live. She told me she could tell me where I could go for help (PFLAG) and I told her I didn’t need help. She was the one that needed the help. How little did I know how much help I was going to need. I didn’t want anybody to know she was a lesbian. She was my daughter and I loved her and I didn’t want anyone talking about her. I didn’t want to tell my pastor; “What would he think of Debbie?” I hadn’t heard of Exodus and I had no idea of where to go for help. I knew for sure it wasn’t PFLAG. When I first found out about Debbie I told her she could never bring anyone home. Our relationship was very strained. I felt like I was losing her and I didn’t want that. In the mean time I read a book by Anita Worthen and Bob Davies called, Someone I Love is Gay. In the book Anita said, “We may be the only Jesus our child’s partner ever sees.” She also said that partner may accept Jesus as their Savior and lead our child back to Him. That really opened my eyes. Debbie’s partner sure wasn’t seeing Jesus in me. Even though it was still hard for me I did let her bring her partner home. I kept praying that God would remove Debbie from the lifestyle, and then the Holy Spirit asked me where her relationship was with Him. I knew I needed to be praying about her relationship with God and not about her lifestyle. When I started praying about Debbie’s relationship with God our relationship started to change little by little. Debbie and her partner at that time were fostering children. They had a little 8-year-old foster girl who told them if they didn’t start taking her to church then she was going to the Jewish synagogue next door. This little girl was not raised in church, but really wanted to go. They decided they better get her in church so off they went. The church God sent them to was wonderful. The pastor and congregation reached out to them with so much love. After they had gone there a few weeks the pastor and his wife met with them. He told them that they taught homosexuality was a sin because that’s what the word of God says, but they were welcome to worship at their church. After about three or four years of going to church there Debbie gave her life back to Jesus. About 6 or 8 months later her ex-partner gave her life to Jesus. Four years ago Debbie attended her first Exodus conference. During praise and worship she took my hand and asked, “Did you ever think we’d be at an Exodus conference together?” Three years ago her ex-partner attended her first conference. I will forever be grateful for that little 8-year-old foster girl and a pastor that didn’t compromise the word of God. What a might God we serve.
I was raised in a Christian home, believing that all I needed to do was be baptized; and at age 12 I did just that. I was involved in everything going on at church. Church had become a ritual, a habit. All of these activities were right, but something was not right in my heart. I had not surrendered my whole life and will to the Lord.
In the ninth grade I was dating a girl. Having a girlfriend seemed to give me the confidence that I craved. Her ex-boyfriend found me an easy target and started calling me gay nearly every day. The words went deep into my heart and mind. I daily struggled with strong attractions to guys, but I didn’t want to be gay. I didn’t know how to stop the name calling without a confrontation. My mom told me to turn the other cheek. This was the most difficult thing for me, and I could never shrug it off. By then, my struggle with homosexuality became a reality. My mind became a battlefield. I didn’t understand why God was allowing me to be hurt so deeply. Nothing I did helped.
I never could get along with guys or feel a part of their circle. I always felt different. Instead, I always hung out with girls.
While in twelfth grade, I strayed from the Lord. I was tired of fighting the battle, and I gave in. I decided to be gay and embrace the lifestyle. I started to see a secular psychologist, which only helped fuel my confusion. One day he explained sexuality to me and talked about people “riding the fence.” I felt pushed to make a commitment as to where I was going to be with my sexual orientation.
One day, while working at a gay-friendly job I had taken, a man who seemed interested in me approached me. I helped him and before I knew it, the cashier was bringing me his phone number. I remember looking at the number and seeing it as my ticket into homosexuality. I was hesitant to call, but I did. I met him that night at a hotel. I was terrified. Afterwards, I felt dirty. I felt as if I had gone too far. I thought that I was now officially gay and there was no turning back.
When I turned eighteen, I went to a gay bar for the first time. There was something about it that made me feel wanted. I craved the attention. From there I went into a series of relationships. Each one ended in some type of frustration or fight. One of the men ended up calling my parents and telling them I was gay. My world was turned upside down. I told my parents it was a lie, and they settled down. But, I kept meeting men while hoping that my parents wouldn’t find out.
I decided to attend Charleston Southern University (in the Fall of 2003), wanting to go to a more liberal part of the state. College became a life of drugs, parties, going to gay bars, and meeting guys on the Internet. I got heavily involved with internet pornography and became consumed with masturbation. Out of fear, having not practiced “safe-sex”, I was constantly getting tested for HIV. My college life was being thrown away through risky sexual behavior, alcohol, drugs, parties, bars, cigarettes, and HIV scares. I was making A’s and seemed happy, but I wasn’t at all.
I surrounded myself with people that would accept me. Hatred, rage, and anger were building in my heart, and I didn’t even know it. My heart was becoming harder and darker, and my thinking was becoming less clear.
In my second semester (Spring of 2004) at Charleston Southern University, I was hospitalized on several occasions for four to five days at a time. I was trying to accept my lifestyle, but I was in complete misery. After this, I dropped out of school and came home.
In the Fall of 2004, I enrolled at Spartanburg Technical College and started working. I knew I was getting into trouble when I applied for the job. My manager was gay, and very quickly that relationship became sexual.
The battle inside me was dark and raging. Once, I picked up a lighter and held the flame to my skin, burning myself badly. I can’t tell you why I did this, but it felt good. It was euphoric, and as if I wasn’t doing it.
After pursuing the relationship with my manager (in 2004), I was in the hospital again, this time for depression, suicidal thoughts, and abusing prescription drugs. I was addicted to sex and everything else I was involved in. I was gratifying myself, stuck in self-pity and self-hatred, and wanted others to constantly build me up. I got deeper into drugs, now using cocaine. I started getting piercings, ending up with 26 in all, as well as 14 tattoos. The pain was an escape for me.
After the summer of ‘05, I started back to Spartanburg Tech. I got through the semester and at the end I decided to apply to Clemson University, to get away from home. I knew I wasn’t ready for such a big school. I was moving into a room with three guys and I was terrified. One day I heard them laughing and thought they were making fun of me. I was upset and left Clemson early that morning. That same day my dad helped me move everything out, and I came home.
For two weeks, I just hung around the house trying to figure out what to do. My dad mentioned the University of South Carolina Upstate (Spring 2006). I didn’t want to go because I would have to live at home, but registered anyway. I wondered when I would have the chance to escape from home. I attended my first semester and made no friends. I was lonely and wanted someone to talk to. I got involved with a counselor at Upstate. She introduced me to some new books and to the Unitarian Church, where I attended a few times. I was involved in a number of relationships. I ended up meeting a guy I really cared for named “Michael.” I became more serious about him than any of the others. We were inseparable. We fought a lot, got drunk a lot, and used drugs together. All of my heart was for him.
We bought rings and got tattoos to show our love for each other. We planned on getting engaged, but ended up in a big fight and took off our rings. We soon got back together. I was very indecisive about committing to our relationship. In the back of my mind, I knew homosexuality was wrong.
One day I got a call saying that “Michael” was in the hospital in very bad condition. I thought he would be okay, get out, and we would get back together. Two friends went with me to the hospital where we found out that he had died. I fell apart. I left the room and cried. I remember standing in line to go back to see him and having no idea what to think. I gave him a kiss on his forehead and looked at the tattoo that we had gotten together. I wanted to die. I dropped out of school the next day. I sank into a deep depression and was completely lost without him. Alcohol abuse and depression landed me in the hospital again for five days. Soon afterwards, I started drinking again.
I got deeper into pornography, and wasn’t improving at all. I was lost in life and stayed drunk all summer. After “Michael’s” death, I lived with two friends before moving back home with my parents thinking, “What now?” I had no idea what to do with my life or with myself.
I went to my mom in late September of ‘07 and told her I needed help. She had been praying for me every day. She told me about Truth Ministry (now Hope for Wholeness) and Bill Creech. He had been helping my parents through counsel, prayer, and Truth’s family support group. Bill and I started meeting regularly and continued for seven months. I was also meeting with Scott Wolfe and Dr. Cox in order to get all the godly counsel I could.
One day, my mom told me about a place called Pure Life Ministries that Dr. Cox had told her about. I looked it up and decided to apply. Two weeks later I headed to Kentucky. Before I left, I felt led to read Jeremiah 29:11. God was assuring me of His direction for my life.
I got on campus and went to the service that morning. After the service I smoked my last cigarette. I was so anxious. I had no clue what to expect from the Live-In Program at Pure Life; and I had to live in a dorm room with men I didn’t even know. I was scared and uncomfortable around the men. The first few days I sat around the dorm, did homework, and didn’t talk to anyone.
Spiritual experiences became more real to me at Pure Life. I struggled with thoughts of my past, “Michael’s” death, and missing my friends. The spiritual battles never slacked off; they got worse the closer I got to God. My counselor initiated people praying for me. It helped a lot, but no matter what, I was always in a battle.
When I went to Pure Life, I thought I would be there until December and graduate. However, the spiritual warfare got so bad that I was placed in a local hospital. I called my dad, and they were on the way to pick me up. I ended up leaving early in September (2008). We got home that night, but I was still under spiritual attack. I was upset because I hadn’t finished the program. I started getting better, but encountered another spiritual attack in November. I never gave up on God, but I did wonder why he was letting me go through all of this. It was like the devil wanted to see if I would give up or deny Jesus.
After all of this took place, I began to finish Pure Life over the phone. I started in January of 09’ and finished in April. At the same time I went through another program entitled, Cleansing Streams.
I gave my testimony at Cleansing Streams and told them it could be one sentence, “I am free.” Jesus is now my best friend. He’s my Deliverer, Redeemer, Healer, Purifier, and much more. He’s absolutely all I need in this world.
I thank God today that he didn’t let me die. His grace and mercy followed me throughout the darkness and the pits I put myself into. I am continuing to grow each day, but my story will never change.
I struggled with some ssa feelings in my late adolescence but never acted out on them. Nor did I ever get into any porn. The feelings however were very scary to me and I was confused even more when certain men “hit” on me.
In my 20’s I got involved in a great group of Christian men who literally mentored me into mature masculinity.
I got married at age 26 and have 6 most awesome children and now 7 grandchildren.
When I went back to school at age 40 to get my masters in counseling at a public college, I was bombard with facts about homosexuality that I knew weren’t true. My professors were trying to convince me that homosexuality was perfectly in line with my Christian beliefs. This started me on a course of doing more research to argue what I knew was the truth about homosexuality. I started reading whatever books I could find and got involved in NARTH.
Eventually, I ventured into doing actual counseling in this area. When I hung out my shingle to do this about 10 years ago, the first client I got, had such dramatic improvement over a period of months, that I was convinced I was on the right track. Since then, I have seen scores of teens and young men who struggle with homosexuality. A number of them have made progress in decreasing their homosexual behavior and/or same sex attraction.”
When I was about 14, I remember watching a PBS news segment on gays & lesbians. They showed two guys kissing, and something clicked within my head, “That’s who I am! I’m gay.”
Though I was a typical boy in grade school who chased the girls, I also knew I was different than my male peers. This feeling of difference carried into my middle school years. I had girls that were friends, I even tried dating some of these girls, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was still different. It didn’t help that others labeled me by my difference, openly declaring this to myself and others. It seemed that my peers knew I was gay before I did.
Knowing that I was gay, and being comfortable with myself, I wanted to express who I was, just as others expressed themselves. I knew being gay was seen as weird and confusing, but I didn’t see my sexuality as a threat to society. I wanted to embrace my sexuality, and all things gay, and I wanted others to see things my way – without question. The problem I faced, though, was that others didn’t want to see things my way; rather, they avoided the conversation and topic altogether, surmising that ignorance, jokes, and chastisement were better ways to deal with “my gayness.”
My high school years were hell. I hated every minute of those four years. Still, when I reflect upon my high school years, my stomach turns in knots and anger-pain begins to well up inside. I wasn’t too much into sports, though I played baseball, soccer, and swimming. I didn’t know a thing about trucks, cars, or any other mechanical thing, but I could tell you a lot about painters and musicians. I didn’t hang with the popular crowd, nor was I accepted by them, but my band of friends were trustworthy people who accepted me as I was. The majority of my high school wished my gay friends and I would leave and disappear. I wanted to leave and disappear – though my attempts failed.
With my headphones on blaring Queen, most days I would walk to school in a complete depressed daze. I would walk the halls as quick as I could, trying to avoid the names (faggot), the threats (“Gonna beat you, faggot”), guys mimicking someone gay, the stares, the rumors, etc. Besides my friends, I immersed myself into painting and writing. Though I rarely was honest with others about how I was, I could always express my true emotions inside the arts. This was my escape. However, I longed for a real escape – from everything and everyone.
I hated God and Christians. They seemed to be my biggest enemies during my school years. My Christian peers would offer grace and Jesus to everyone but my gay friends and I. We were the ones totally lost and damned to hell. We were the ones God didn’t love because we were the ultimate sinners. In 11th grade, however, I became friends with a Christian girl who was different. We all knew that Yvonne was a Christian, but she didn’t shove the Bible down our throats, nor did she sit there and condemn us to hell every minute. Yvonne befriended us and showed us who Jesus was by the way she lived and interacted with us. Sure, she messed up at times, but she was genuine in her faith and friendship.
In July of 1996, after graduating high school, I ran away with my boyfriend. We checked into a hotel room until we could find a permanent place to live. That night I experienced a strange occurrence, which could only be explained as an encounter with God. I left the hotel room that night with a bag of clothes, my savings, and having asked Jesus to help me “get out of everything,” if He was real. Though I didn’t “pray the sinner’s prayer,” I mark this day as my spiritual birthday, for this was the day I began my journey from darkness to light.
For the next fours years, I struggled to connect and reconcile my faith and sexuality. I threw myself into ex-gay groups, prayer meetings, men’s retreats, books, revivals, worship, bible studies, etc; I wanted to be 100% straight; I wanted to be normal, just like every other man. At times I even prayed that God would give me straight lusts and temptations – anything, just to feel normal. But all my prayers went unanswered. The promises of my ex-gay groups proved to be lies, or at least promises I wasn’t allowed to receive. I determined in my mind that I had to live a double-life, and that if I tried hard enough, I could pull everything off.
I didn’t accept Jesus because I didn’t want to go to hell. I accepted Him because I wanted the love, hope, and life He offered. I also didn’t accept Him in order to be straight and accepted; however, if He was offering this to others like me, than I wanted it, too. Because I didn’t receive my straightness and acceptance, though, I concluded I had done too much evil and this was punishment. Therefore, I had to live with being attracted to men – forever. So I lived a double-life, in that I was a good Christian man by day, and I went to gay bars, hooked up with guys, and consumed gay porn by night.
My Christian accountability partners knew I “struggled with sexual things,” but I never offered more info than that – nor did they ask. I stayed away from dating, using the book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” as a cover-up. I had some good friends that were girls, and two of them I tried to date, but I came back to homosexuality every time. I was gay, and there was nothing anyone or I could do; this is who I was. Naturally, then, I quickly started to embrace pro-gay Christian theology: God made me this way, because God doesn’t think being gay is wrong. In fact, God blesses those who are gay in unique ways.
At the end of August in 2000, after some amazing encounters with God and after a hard-pressed summer of personal battles, God sat me down to talk. As I sat at a computer, staring off into the corner of my room, I saw a hand extend from the wall and a person falling. God had told me that the arm was His and I was the one falling. He said I was going to continue to fall until I was ready to surrender everything. I saw the hand disappear and I saw myself falling deep into an unknown. I was left with the word “decide.” The next day, my three best friends “kidnapped” me, took me to a park, and told me to spill my guts on everything. And I did.
Afterwards, with the full support of my friends, I moved out of my apartment and back into my step-dads house. For the next few weeks, God and I began to talk in-depth. I had stopped going to church, praying, and reading my Bible. Picking up where I abruptly shut Him off, God began speaking loud and clear. One thing He said very clearly was this question, “Shawn, would you still worship and follow Me if I never take away your same-sex attractions?” A serious question which definitely needed an answer. With a heartfelt “yes,” God began restoring things in my life and moving me into uncomfortable directions.
For the first time I met a woman and fell in love with her. After telling Emily everything about me, we started dating seriously. In May 2001, we were married. And though these past 12.5 years have had huge ups and downs, God has kept us together on the path He laid before us. Our marriage is healthier now than when we were first married, and we deal with different issues now than we did before. Each step taken has been a blessing, though, because within each step we’ve grown as individuals, spouses, parents, and as children of God. I wouldn’t trade this journey for anything.
Though I still deal with same-sex attractions, I am ever committed to my family and my Savior. I still don’t like girls, accept for my wife, but I don’t have a desire to live as an openly gay man either. Over the years, I have discovered that Jesus is it – He is the fulfillment of all desires, and nothing can sustain me as He can. Together, my wife and I run Six:11 Ministries in order to help others who are walking a similar journey experience God’s identity and wholeness for them. Our heart is to tell God’s story and “be Jesus” to those who need to experience Jesus. As Christ and others met me where I was, so I want to meet others where they are, pointing them to a Savior who died for them out of sincere and unconditional love.
Shawn Harrison is the director of Six:11 Ministries in Saint Marys, OH.