In My Father's Arms By Tom Vinegar

I longed for affection, nurturing, and care from men but never received it. I interpreted these needs as being gay and suffered in silence out of fear of what this meant and what others may have thought.

Tom Vinegar | Hope for Wholeness | Director, GreenvilleTom’s Story

In my mind, I can still picture him standing at the bus stop: a man that I perceived as gay.  The thought came to me that I was like him, and I accepted that thought as the truth.  I had been molested by an older man on several occasions and now as a preteen, those memories disgusted me.  I never told my parents or anyone about the abuse because of the trouble I thought it would cause.  Later, it was discovered that this man had molested other children, and this added to my disgust.

I don’t remember ever receiving any information on the issue of homosexuality in school or church.  We also never talked about it at home where I lived in the 60’s and 70’s with my parents and two sisters.  Both of my parents were hard workers and provided for us the things we needed and even some things we just wanted.  My dad worked second and third shifts, so I did not see him much.  However, when I started playing basketball, both of my parents attended many games.

That was the first activity in which I experienced success.  My previous attempt to play baseball had been a disaster.  I didn’t understand how to throw a ball correctly, so the guys made fun of me and often yelled at me.  Fortunately, I grew tall and also developed skills needed for basketball.  This helped me overcome some of the pain I felt from the ridicule of my baseball throwing style.

Around age 14, as I was riding a public bus home from my summer job a man sat next to me.  We happened to get off the bus at the same time, and he gave me his phone number and invited me to come up to his apartment.  I ended up returning to his apartment regularly for sexual encounters.  A few years later, this man moved away.  It was rough to lose him, but I coped with it by playing basketball and participating in other activities.  But, my secret remained intact.  I still felt isolated emotionally from others, and this created even more pain.  I longed for affection, nurturing, and care from men but never received it.  I interpreted these needs as being gay and suffered in silence out of fear of what this meant and what others may have thought.

I wanted to get as far away from home as possible, so I left Cincinnati to attend college in South Carolina.  College life was fun, and I was involved with many activities including playing on the college basketball team.  Through this, however, several guys came on to me with sexual advances.  My desire to keep my attraction to men a secret was strong enough to keep me from responding to their advances.  However, when I would go back home for holidays or summer vacations I would go to bars to find sexual encounters.

When the AIDS scare came it really scared me, but it took me many years to get up the nerve to be tested.  I was so relieved when the results came back negative.  Something broke in me when I heard the results, and I cried the entire hour long trip home, thankful for God’s protection.  I knew that it was because of God’s mercy that I was not infected, and I realized that I could not continue to live in rebellion.  I gradually stopped the sexual encounters and began living for my Savior, Jesus Christ.

I recognized my unworthiness but was so grateful when the Lord called me into the ministry.  This was a call I could not resist.  Later though, as a minister and counselor, I continued to hold onto the secret of my past homosexual activity.  My lifelong fear of being rejected and my lack of faith in God led me to continue this life of silence.  I was determined to go to my grave with my secret. This changed when once, as I was preparing a sermon, I realized that in order to share the Gospel in all its glory, wonder, redemptive power, and forgiveness I would have to share my secret.  I would have to declare that the Gospel applied to even a sinner such as I.

On that Sunday morning in November 2005, I jumped into my Heavenly Father’s loving arms as I shared the story of my past with the congregation.  I gained so much freedom from that experience.  My faith has increased in my Savior, and I have a freedom of expression that I never knew before.  Now, I am so excited to have an opportunity to share the truth that we can all be set free from whatever holds us in bondage.  And the best news: our Heavenly Father loves, forgives, lifts, and really wants to be our burden bearer as He calls us to live in victory for His glory.

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