This year I turned 50 years old, certainly a milestone in my life, as it is for anyone. It has taken me a long time to share my story; this testimony comes with great trepidation and leaning on God. Though I have been on the leadership team with Hope for Wholeness now for over two years, I have waited until now to publicly share my story. Fears of rejection and pain have plagued my life for far too long, including the scars from early childhood. Now, I finally believe that this is God’s timing and plan that I step forward in this way.
I was born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1958, into a Christian home with an older brother and three younger sisters. Though there were hard times growing up, my father and mother did their best to provide and care for us very well during those years. My father was what I would call an authoritarian. It was his anger that he showed when disciplining me that caused me to fear him and draw back from him. In distancing myself from him, I felt very different from him and could not understand him. This situation left an emptiness inside of me. Through this, I was unsure how to connect with my own gender; without realizing it, I was seeking male affirmation. Due to this lack of understanding, I was fearful and thus shied away from involvement with sports and normal relationships with other boys. Instead, I spent more time with my sisters than with my brother and his friends.
Around the age of twelve, I joined the Boy Scouts, which ended very badly. On one of our camping trips, our assistant scoutmaster took us to his house. That weekend there was, among other things, heavy drinking with black lights and strobe lights and loud music. As a part of this “camping trip,” I ended up being molested by several of my troop members including my assistant scoutmaster. It was many years later, during counseling, that I realized that it was my lack of male affirmation and my deep hunger for male attention that left me very vulnerable to such an attack, especially in how I later responded. It was the type of attention that I began to seek and hold onto while attempting to connect in any way with other males. The way I chose to connect was destructive, and I knew it was wrong. This behavior continued through all of my teen-age years.
During this time, my parents were oblivious to the events of that night and my sexual acting out. Each week, living this now secret double life, I attended church with my parents as if nothing were wrong. Even though I was in church each week, I had not grasped the concept of salvation and thus had not accepted the Lord as my Savior. I did not consider myself “gay,” and tried to keep up the front of being like all the other guys, though I ended up being taunted by male peers. Towards the end of my teen-age years, my secret was found out, which ended in my being abandoned by all of my friends. This deep hurt left me empty and alone.
Fortunately though, at the age of twenty-one, an African-American woman at my job reached out to me and invited me to a revival going on at her church in downtown Charleston. It was at this revival that I asked Jesus to come into my heart. Though excited and most certainly transformed, becoming a Christian did not immediately fix my problem. My sins were forgiven, but I was still drawn towards the same sex as I was in my past. Out of a fear of losing others in my life, I would confide in few sharing little if anything about my struggle.
Later I attended the College of Charleston, where I was a member of Campus Crusade for Christ. Through Campus Crusade, I met and befriended many great Christian guys. Things were starting to look better for me. However, I still did not want to share my past for fear of losing my new found friends.
In 1984, I graduated with a degree in French with a desire to teach. A year later, I moved to Aiken, SC, to take a teaching position at a local high school. A year after moving to Aiken, I joined North Aiken Baptist Church where I met Sandra; one year later, we were married (1987). Before asking Sandra to marry me, I did what I felt was right and confessed my past failings with homosexuality; fortunately, she did not reject me. My confession to Sandra actually drew us closer to one another. She and I felt, and certainly hoped, that my struggle was behind me and that marriage would take care of the rest. Unfortunately we were both wrong.
A year after being married, I was studying abroad in France to further my education. One afternoon, I stopped in a side-street bookstore where I noticed gay pornography. As I began to look, a man came up close to me. Out of fear, I immediately left. He followed me from the store, catching up with me. Unfortunately, I wound up committing adultery against my wife that day. The next day, I called Sandra back home and confessed everything. She was deeply hurt, angered, and saddened by my fall. By God’s grace, she forgave me. Though difficult and time consuming, we worked to rebuild and restore trust in our marriage. As a part of this effort, I began the difficult and shameful process of opening up to Sandra about my struggle with same sex attractions.
Though I was sharing more with my wife, I was sharing with no one else. How could anyone understand? They would most certainly reject me as everyone had in the past. I believed that I could overcome this attraction all by myself, telling my wife as little as was necessary to keep our relationship intact. In 1996, our Church got a new pastor—Pastor John from Minnesota. This is an important part of my story because John was close to my age—only three years younger than me—and shared many of the same interests. Sandra and I hosted John and his wife at our home during their candidacy weekend. John quickly became a good friend, one that I could relate to as a guy. He was more than just a pastor, but a real friend. There was no way, though, that I was going to risk losing him as a friend for fear of being rejected. I would make sure that he would never find out. I had found a friend that I was determined to keep and not disappoint with my past.
The years continued and so did the secret battles. Finally, in 2002, my secret came out, which forced me to confess everything to John. I felt that I was going to lose him, but the opposite could not have been more true! He met me with incredible love and grace. He showed me what true Christian love was all about! Next, John and I had to meet with the Elders of our church. There, I was again met with incredible love and grace. Their desire for me was to get help so that I could be healed and freed from my past. One Elder, Pastor Blain, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Michael, I love you!” The others did as well. That is what I had been looking for all those years: to hear someone tell me that he loved me and that I was of value and of worth. Those words began to change my heart, making me realize that I was not alone and that I could trust others with my secrets.
The Elders recommended that I seek out an area Christian counselor for help, to which I agreed. During this time of confronting and dealing with the deep wounds of my past, my battle became more intense. There was a series of events that almost caused me to lose everything. I was desperate at that moment in time and cried out to the Lord to do whatever he had to do even if it meant exposing my past shame openly. I did end up going through a crushing time of being exposed that, praise God, allowed me to become even more open and honest about my past. For the first time, I was being real about my past struggles with homosexuality and my secret battles with those around me. I was finally becoming free.
It was a slow process and after a year of counseling, I felt that I still needed to go deeper. Sandra and my counselor encouraged me to call Focus on the Family to find a support group. I did and found Hope for Wholeness in Spartanburg, SC. In March of 2003, I met with the Executive Director of Hope for Wholeness, McKrae Game. I learned more about myself in that first three hour appointment than I had ever known before. Later, I learned that McKrae had noted in my file: “Lives 2 hours away—Travel may be difficult / unrealistic.” Thankfully, he was wrong! I made the commitment to drive the necessary miles and spend the necessary time to be involved. Finally, I met guys just like me that had similar stories and similar struggles that I could relate to; they soon became good friends. For the last five years, I have been making the drive up to the Upstate, the first two years as a participant and the second half as a leader of the men’s ministry for Hope for Wholeness.
These years have taught me that I could not fight this battle alone. Through this whole time I was in church, in prayer, and in God’s word, but I was trying to do it all by myself. I needed help that I was not getting, even with going to a local counselor. I needed help, so the Lord brought me to Hope for Wholeness and I became truly honest about my struggle. McKrae and Hope for Wholeness have taught me that it is through being open about my failings and temptations that I am able to receive the support and friendship, genuine prayer, and freedom which are impossible to find inside the darkness of secrecy. There is hope and help for those who struggle with homosexuality or any other temptation, whatever it might be, if we are willing to come out of the darkness. I no longer fear rejection, or being alone, for I know that I have true and everlasting friends. My wife and I could not be happier with the progress that we have made in our relationship. We continue to grow together and are strengthened as husband and wife. We have now been married over twenty years! I now have greater and deeper relationships with the Lord, with my wife, and with the men the Lord thankfully has brought into my life.
As for the future, I will continue to be connected with Truth in some way to remain open and honest. I now spend a great deal of my time volunteering with Truth helping men, just like I was, that are too far for help or are in prison and wanting help.
God’s amazing grace has given me victory over darkness. He saved a wretch like me and to that end, I tell my song and my story!
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.
This is my song and my story of how God’s grace saved me from the grips of homosexuality!