Life with Same Sex Attraction. Part 21
The Worse Years
Opening up to another person when I was 18 brought such a flood of relief to all that I had been carrying for so many years. I started college so excited about this new lease I felt like I had on life, having confessed so many things. The problem was, though, that it was only one conversation, with some very bad advice, that was never re-addressed. And I still had such a terrible and small view of the gospel. So naturally, after a couple of years, not only was I right back to the confusion, anger, and depression I had in my struggles before, but I was much worse off. To make matters worse, I got involved in a student ministry that I was convinced would be THE answer to all my issues. I started “climbing the ranks” in this student ministry and began to really dive headlong into an extreme form of legalism that I just knew would fix me. I thought that if I could just memorize enough scripture, if I could just share the “gospel” (a version of it anyway) enough, and attend and lead enough bible studies and pray hard enough and the right amount that I wouldn’t be this way anymore. I thought I magically wouldn’t be attracted to other guys and would instead be attracted to women, and I wouldn’t be so hopelessly sinful and so miserably depressed and isolated.
The harder I worked, though, the worse and worse my situation became. This reached a fever pitch my senior year when I met and became best friends with a guy who I saw as my “salvation project” (both for him and me), as well as the man I wished I was. He was manly and knew how to fix things and was good at sports and pretty much everything I had never been good at, but wanted to be so badly. At the same time, he was so very broken and lost and had lived a very hard life. Somehow in my head I thought that if I spent enough time with him I could save him, which would earn me major points with the Lord, and he could, in turn, impart his masculinity to me in a way that would make me the man I wanted to be. I was so wrong. Along the way, I learned that my friend had also had an experience similar to mine with another boy when he was young, only his was a mutual and invited experience, and it never ended, ultimately leading to a full-blown sexual relationship that lasted into his early twenties. How broken we are. When I learned this, I was overwhelmed with both a lust that I had never known and a devastation that I had never felt because I knew that something had to give. Ultimately my will is what gave in, and one day I found myself asking my friend to have sex with me. Thankfully, and by the grace of God, he said no.
I immediately went to my campus leaders and told them what had happened, and then I called my dad and told him. Again, at this crucial point in my life, instead of being met with love and counsel and help, I was met with shock and disappointment. I was slated to be the leader of our ministry’s summer project, and was promptly fired from that post, being told that I had “disqualified” myself from the ministry. I was also made to go to multiple people in the ministry and re-confess what I had done, which was so humiliating. I was told numerous times that they had never known anyone like me, a homosexual (I’m positive they had, they just didn’t know it), and that they didn’t know how to help me. My dad told me he hoped I knew how lucky I was and that I had almost ruined my life. It was all so hurtful and shameful and scary.
The Gospel, Hope and Marriage (not necessarily in that order)
A lot of things happened over the next 8 years. I was fired a second time from this ministry I had been a part of for confiding in them about my struggle with depression, and I moved back home after college as I worked through so much in my heart and my head. At the same time, for the first time ever, I began to get glimpses of what I call “the real gospel,” this idea that Jesus has done it all for us, won our salvation, and that my role in my salvation and justification is a passive one. This idea was, and still is, absolutely revolutionary to me, and began to slowly (painfully slowly) chip away at the legalistic structure I had built my life on. For the first time ever I was thinking and believing that it was Christ’s grace only, and not my perfect adherence to rules, that not only saved me for eternity, but gave me hope and life right now.
Note that this change in mindset and in my heart happened over a period of about 5 years, and is still something I work through daily. I could probably just stop the story here and let it be enough to say that God brought me out of legalism, depression, and depravity into wonderful grace, love, and acceptance. I want to include, though, what I think is one of the most wonderful parts of my story, and that is how I came to be happily and wonderfully married to a woman.
One of the things about struggling with same sex attraction my whole life that had been so hard and so defeating was that I had a deep desire my entire life to be married- to a woman. I wanted to have children, to be a father and husband, and I had begged God for that. There were a couple of times in college where I had these little glimmers of light where I felt like God was saying yes to this, saying that this could be possible for me, that I could have this life that I always wanted. In the background of all of this was a friendship that I had started with my now wife, and there were many times where she was just there in my conversation and in my prayers and in my journaling. I struggled so much because, on the one hand, I still struggled with same sex attraction, and on the other hand, I had fallen so in love with this woman, and there was just so much fear around how this works. How do you get married, and what happens, once you’re married, if the other attraction doesn’t go away?
I had asked God to make what was once an initial small attraction and care for this girl grow, and to let me be convinced that this was who he had for me and that this could work out. So, when I finally got home, after being fired a second time from this ministry and working through what the real gospel is finding my way out of legalism, I came to this very real and clear place of knowing that she was the one for me and that this was what God had been leading me to. I know that it might be impossible for some to read this story and not go “Wait, what?” I get it. While it is by no means the rule nor should it even be a goal for everyone, God has graciously allowed me, a man who struggles with same sex attraction/ homosexuality, to love, be married to, and attracted to, a woman. So wonderful!
I have always put myself and God in this box and said things are black or white, right or wrong, gay or straight, and one of the things that I believe God has been consistently leading me to, is that they absolutely are not always so cut and dry. Let me be clear, I’m not talking about sin. Acting out on homosexuality is a sin, I absolutely believe that. What I’m talking about is making things mutually exclusive that aren’t. Making things black and white that really are gray. My works could never make me “good enough” to be married, nor could I ever “will” myself into being attracted to the opposite sex. But when I stopped working and began believing that grace alone was what I needed, while earnestly asking God for marriage, he granted that to me.
Today, my life is pretty normal. I’m a sinner. I’m attracted to the same sex, and I’m attracted to my wife. I’m prideful and covetous and not nearly grateful enough for what God has given me. I read the Bible for the right reasons now (sometimes), and I really believe (most of the time) that Jesus is enough. God is good, and I will continue to trust him, wherever my attractions are, knowing that he created me and loves me. I would love for those reading this post who struggle with same sex attraction, married or single, young or old, to feel so much encouragement knowing that you’re not alone. I was a hurt, scared little boy for much of my life, and today I feel so loved. I hope you can know the gospel and feel loved too, even in the worst of years, knowing that it won’t always be this way, and there’s hope for you, too. I learned over the years that same sex attraction wasn’t even my biggest issue or the issue. I’m a sinner, with a sinful heart, and there are so many ways this plays out, but I’m not just the sum of all my sin and brokenness. I’m more sinful and broken than I could have ever imagined, but in Christ more loved and accepted than I could have ever dared to dream.
What I Want You to Know
- Someone’s sexual orientation is, for most people, completely and inseparably a part of who they are as a person. So it’s so important that when you’re talking about sin, you try and separate a sin act from a human being. The church as a whole is so not gentle in handling people’s lives and struggles, and we need to be so careful when we’re ministering to people struggling or living in homosexuality, that what we’re saying about their sin we aren’t assigning to their whole lives.
- It’s also important to note that if someone has been living for an extended period of time in homosexuality and/or in a community of homosexuals, there is a lot that they will have to die to and give up to follow Jesus. Try to see the weight of this and what that means for their lives. Just as missionaries have learned over the years that the goal in their ministry is true salvation, not cultural conformity or westernization, the same is so true when loving and ministering to homosexuals. I’ve had friends who wanted to “help” me become more masculine, and while I get their thinking, that is so not helpful or necessary. I need to learn to love and follow Jesus, not learn to love football and sound less effeminate.
- Homosexuality is not one-size-fits-all. I think sexuality exists on a spectrum and while there may be people who are only 100% attracted to the opposite sex or the same sex, I think there are a large number of us who are somewhere in the middle. I’m certainly much more attracted to the same sex, but that doesn’t mean I’m never or can’t be attracted to the opposite sex.
- There isn’t a reason why everyone is a homosexual or a heterosexual. For some there are contributing factors, and for others none at all. If you struggle, I hope you can rest in knowing that God is sovereign and he loves you, and that is enough. If you don’t, please stop asking why and how homosexuality is a thing. It is, and I hope you can be ok with that.
- Attraction is different than lust, and therefore is not a sin. To be attracted to the same sex and to be living in, and acting on, homosexuality are two very different things. So, just because someone is attracted to the same sex does not mean they are living in a constant state of sinfulness.
- You can struggle with same sex attraction and still get married and have a wonderful, healthy, fulfilling life and marriage with the opposite sex. But, this should by no means be the rule, nor should it be the goal for everyone struggling with their sexuality. It is a spectrum, and if you have no attraction or ability to be attracted to the opposite sex, there’s a good chance marriage isn’t for you. Also, marriage is important in my story because it is something I asked God for and believe he granted to me, but I don’t at all want it to sound like there’s anything wrong with being single in same sex attraction. If that’s where you’re at, that is a wonderful thing that God can bless in huge ways.
- Being attracted to the same sex does not make a person any different than every other broken sinner on the planet. It does not “disqualify” you from having a full and wonderful life and ministry. It doesn’t mean you can’t have deep and meaningful relationships with the same sex or that you can’t live in genuine and true community with other believers. I am happily married to the love of my life, I’m in a wonderful church and community group, and I have friends who really know me and love me. I never thought any of that would be possible, but Thanks Be to God, it is.
- Orthodoxy and belief in the inerrancy of scripture is the backdrop of me referring to homosexuality as sin. The world, even many who call themselves Christians, does not believe this. It is very popular right now to preach that you can be both actively acting on homosexual desires and orientation while following Christ. I don’t think this lines up with scripture, and that is the backdrop of why I’ve written what I have, and why I believe what I do about same sex attraction and homosexuality.
NOTE: After much thought and talking with family and friends I’ve decided that I will be posting this anonymously. I want to clarify why though, and whole heartedly encourage anyone who is struggling to find community and reach out and talk through your struggle. There should be no shame in confessing sin and seeking help and love and acceptance, and the last thing I want to do by writing anonymously is to add to anyone’s shame storm. The reason I’ve decided to stay anonymous in this setting is because I have been very open with both our church, starting with Ricky, the deacons, and also my entire family and closest friends. There isn’t shame for me anymore and I’m not hiding, I just also want for the important and sacred parts of my life to stay important and sacred, and that gets really tricky when you’re posting your life story online. I hope that makes sense.