Saturday, October 9, 2010

My Story - God's help and gay desires

I am a Christian man, over 40 years old, and single. God has given me great joy in Him and I would not trade my life for anyone else’s. I became a Christian as a child and have sought to follow Jesus since then. I have never been married and I have experienced same-sex attraction (SSA), otherwise known as homosexual desire, since I was 12. By God’s grace I have never acted on it with anyone else. I can’t take any credit for the limits to my sin, though. I don’t have a strong will, I have a strong God! Also, thankfully I have had the compassionate help of Christian straight male friends.

My parents, especially my father, were Christians before I was born and raised me in a Christian environment. We went to a Bible-believing church in Orlando, Florida. Yes, I grew up in the “Bible belt”. I was about nine years old when I understood the Good News of Jesus Christ for the first time. I knew I was a sinner destined for hell and my only hope was what Jesus did on the cross to pay for my sin. By God’s grace I believed and prayed for God to save me. I was motivated to pray, read the Bible, and learn all I could about Christianity. I could see that my father had a living, joyful relationship with God. He would often sing songs of worship out loud to God when he was driving or working around the house. When things went wrong, Dad prayed. Seeing God answer his prayers left a very deep impression on me. If he turned to God for his help, so would I!

Things went well until our family left our church after an argument with the leaders. We were not in any church for several years, my father worked long hours, and I became emotionally isolated from my mother. I was in a public school and had little Christian fellowship. Then came the darkest years of my life. I was 12 years old, in 7th grade, and entering puberty. To my absolute horror, I found myself attracted to guys. I knew about homosexuality from the typical pre-teen boys’ taunts aimed at effeminate guys. I knew I did NOT want those taunts aimed at me, so I kept my mouth shut. Even though I was a Christian, I turned away from God, deciding I was gay and wanting to act on it some day.

In 8th grade I shared several classes with a guy who befriended me. We hung out often at lunch and talked a lot after school waiting for the bus. He talked about sex, complimented me on my appearance, and dropped hints on being gay. I never admitted my desires for guys and I did not get his hints at the time. Looking back, I believe God kept me from understanding his hints and flirting. You see, that guy was then actively gay and has now become a famous gay activist / blogger!

That same year I had a Christian teacher who called me to repentance, seeing that I was not walking with God and was deeply troubled. I do not believe she ever knew about my struggles with same-sex attraction, but she prayed for me and kept encouraging me to turn to God. I did start praying again and listening to recordings of Christian messages my father had around the house. I praise God that He brought me to repentance and renewed faith. I turned away from my decision to act on my SSA, and even felt a lessening of the desire.

In high school I sought out God and Christian fellowship. I joined a church with a huge (300+) youth group, which was helpful, but I still could not regularly talk to anyone about my SSA. In college, I roomed with my brother and discovered that he was having sex with guys. He wouldn’t do it when I was there, but I definitely had to answer my share of late-night phone calls from guys asking for sex. I moved out of there and lived with Christian guys. A few years later my brother moved in with me after he was sick with HIV / AIDS. I took care of him and actually saw him take his last breath as he was dying…..

Soon after college I moved to the suburbs of Washington, DC. I joined Covenant Life Church, where I have been for over 20 years, except for 2 years I lived in San Diego. God has given me friends in the church who have helped me through my temptations and made life so fulfilling.

Lately I have been seeing something of the beauty of who God is and I know I want to give everything I possibly can to pursue Him. I want no more of my former half-hearted cautious approach to life! By His grace I have repented and instead have given of my time, money, and energy like never before. To the glory of God I want as much eternal fruit and treasure in heaven as possible. I have taken risks, befriending people with serious problems of drug addiction and sexual sin. I have prayed for them, shared with them what God had done for me, and served them. Some of them have repented and believed, and God has given me the privilege of seeing the beauty of His work in changing their hearts! It really is “breathtaking” to use John Piper’s words. I know and deeply feel that God really is worth far more than whatever pain or loss I have in this life. He really is like the treasure in the field in Matt 13:44 that is worth gladly giving EVERYTHING for. I want to continue to devote my life to pursuing God and helping others do the same!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

When Same-Sex Attraction does not Change

Karen, on her blog Pursue God asked several questions about same sex attraction (SSA) and change. I thought you would appreciate some of my answers.

How do you feel about the fact that your same-sex attraction may not change? I have accepted the idea that I will probably be tempted by SSA for the rest of my life. I feel a definite pain at times, since I know that the Bible and the perfectly loving God (!) who is behind the Bible clearly command me to abstain from the gay sex I crave.

How does that affect the decisions you make for your life? I treat the pain as an opportunity to demonstrate by my obedience in abstaining from gay sex that God is absolutely worth it all!

If you do not affirm homosexuality, what would you say to these ex-ex-gays who have clearly put blood, sweat and tears into trying to do what they believed was right? I certainly feel the pain of the same struggle! Instead of focusing on sex, who you are attracted to, and the pain of saying no, think about God and about how good, loving, full of joy, powerful, and eternal He is. Consider that He is worth more than anything we can ever sacrifice!

If you do affirm homosexuality, what is it about the lack of change in sexual orientation that made you believe homosexuality is okay? I do NOT affirm it.

How does change or lack of change in our life circumstances relate to Christian theology and the Christian life? The lack of change which I have experienced is painful at times. Pursuing joy in God through suffering is a very important part of Christianity. The more I have experienced of how good and completely worthwhile God is, the more I have had the grace to say no to homosexuality and to seek joy in God instead. It has not been a matter of forcing myself to stop sinning, but rather I am so affected by the beauty and joy in God, that I see everything else, including sex, as something far less that I can drop for Him. I can gladly demonstrate by my very life and obedience that he is worth far more than a lifetime of gay sex. He is that good!

“In the pursuit of joy through suffering, we magnify the all-satisfying worth of the Source of our joy. God himself shines as the brightness at the end of our tunnel of pain. If we do not communicate that he is the goal and the ground of our joy in suffering, then the very meaning of our suffering will be lost. The meaning is this: God is gain. God is gain. God is gain.” – John Piper

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Jesus Paid it All !

Here is a video of Kristian Stanfill leading in worship with the hymn "Jesus Paid it All". This is a song I often sing to God as I worship in my times alone with Him. Kristian Stanfill demonstrates an intensity of devotion to God that is very evident in in this particular video.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Same Sex Attraction, Silence, and Suicide

Recently I have been meeting weekly with a group of Christian guys who also struggle with same sex attraction (SSA). This has been a great blessing to me. I already have straight Christian friends I talk to about this, but in this group there is a type of uniquely effective encouragement and helpful correction. I believe we need to talk to others about our struggles. Silence only causes more problems!

I was raised in the "Bible Belt" and kept silent about my SSA due to cultural pressure. My family mostly would not talk out loud about this subject and we even developed a system of hints and non-verbal communication concerning SSA that offered "plausible deniability". That way, we could all claim we did not know that I or my brother liked other guys. Anyway, I eventually did find Christian friends I could talk with, but I miss the help that might have been if there had not been that culturally imposed silence.

Two of my friends who struggle with SSA related troubles have been very depressed and nearly suicidal lately. By the way, they are the same guys I called “Tom” and “Austin” earlier in this blog. They are both in family/church/cultural situations that impose silence on them and I suspect that adds to their depression. I have known two suicide victims who I strongly suspect were depressed due to silence about the emotional pain connected to SSA. Here is a link to a blog where the author talks about silence and SSA-related suicides:
I Like Guys. There. I said it.

We need to do all we can to encourage especially Evangelical Christians to stop culturally imposing silence on those that struggle with same sex attraction. Silence can be deadly !

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Solid Joys and Lasting Treasure

Today I was moved by some verses that John Newton wrote. He is probably most famous for writing the words to the hymn “Amazing Grace”. Newton lived an immoral and ungodly life in the 1700s on the crew of several ships, and at one point was the captain of a ship carrying slaves away from Africa. His life was so completely changed when he believed the Good News of Jesus Christ, that he became a pastor in England. As a pastor Newton had great influence in the life of William Wilberforce, the Member of Parliament known for driving slavery out of the British empire. Here is what Newton wrote to be inscribed on his gravestone:

Once an infidel and libertine
A servant of slaves in Africa,
Was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour
restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach
the Gospel which he had long laboured to destroy.”

That struck me with the beauty of what God does – taking something totally evil and transforming it into great good! I cried many tears of joy over these words. Here are some verses to another hymn Newton wrote in 1779:

“See! the streams of living waters,
Springing from eternal love;
Well supply thy sons and daughters,
And all fear of want remove:
Who can faint while such a river
Ever flows their thirst t’assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the Giver,
Never fails from age to age.

Savior, if of Zion’s city,
I through grace a member am,
Let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in Thy Name.
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasure
None but Zion’s children know.”

What can I say?

Solid joys and lasting treasure none but Zion’s (heaven’s) children know !!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

My Friendship with my Brother – Part 5

I remember telling my brother “Brad” I wanted to make sure his life and suffering were not wasted. I asked him if he had anything he learned that he wanted to communicate to others to help them. He said to tell anyone who is thinking of playing just a little with sexual sin this scripture:

“Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” - Proverbs 6:27-28

Brad and I had talked when we were children about what would happen if we were sick and could not speak. We agreed that if that ever happened, we could communicate by a hand signal. Grabbing tighter meant yes and letting go meant no. The night before he died, Brad’s breathing changed. I asked him if he wanted me to pray and he could not speak, so he grabbed my hand, then my wrist, then up the arm to my elbow. I remembered our childhood conversation. I understood perfectly. He was saying yes, YES, YES!! I prayed that God would be with him and help him through this. Brad grabbed my arm again in agreement. I cried. I knew God would go with him in death, helping him where I couldn’t help right now. The following day I was helping a nurse turn him over and he moaned in pain and took his last breath. His heart stopped. It was over....

A few days after Brad’s funeral my parents got a call from Tiffany, Brad’s high school “girlfriend”. She said she was recently divorced and wanted to know how Brad was doing. They told her he had just died. She burst into tears and hung up. She had NO idea that he was gay and sick from an HIV infection. We never heard from her again.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My Friendship with my Brother – Part 4

A few years after college my brother "Brad" (not his real name) found out that not only was he infected with HIV, but also it was an extremely aggressive form that did not respond well to treatment. He was an assistant manager of a retail store and his doctor called him at work to tell him. Knowing he was dying soon, Brad closed the office door and cried for about one minute, until store employees kept banging on the door demanding his attention. He told himself, “I’ll think about that later” and calmly went back to work. Can you imagine his pain? The next year Brad was in and out of the hospital with one nasty infection after another. He was living in an apartment with a male prostitute who would even bring guys into the bedroom while I was there visiting Brad in the living room. There were condom wrappers on the floor. Not exactly a healthy Christian environment.

I invited Brad to move in with me, and he accepted. Many people from my church came to the house and helped him out when he was sick. After one near death experience in the hospital, Brad turned to God. God changed his heart so he turned away from his sin and believed. He told all his gay friends that he was a Christian now, and they promptly abandoned him. I remember sitting next to him, hugging him and asking him if he knew that I loved him now. He said yes! That meant a lot. I couldn’t help but see the change from his previous “unloving Christians” comment. I thanked God.

To be continued...