Facts vs. Truth – my story

The following testimony was written by Duane, a participant in our men’s in house ministry at Living Hope.  Duane was to be one of the individuals sharing his testimony at our Celebration Fundraising Banquet for LHM on Oct. 20.  Three months prior, Duane discovered he had a rare form of lung cancer.  On Oct. 15, 2012, our dear brother Duane, went home to be with the Lord.  He was insistent that his story be told and his life demonstrate the power of the Gospel to change and transform a person’s heart.  Duane’s story was shared at the banquet and now, here on our website.  Duane was a mighty man of God who served in his life and even in his death, as example of Christian devotion and submission to the Father.

In memory of our beloved friend and brother, Duane, (1961-2012)

Where does one start? I was born at a very young age. The first words I heard (so I am told) were from my Mom, “Oh, Jim, look at his nose.” I’m not going to suggest that that made any impact on me, but it exemplifies the struggle I had all my life with feeling I was just not good enough;  that  I was flawed, from the tip of my nose to the bottoms of my feet.

My parents were very young when they had my older sister and me. They missed out on being “single” or “married without kids”. So, most of my nights were spent with the babysitter while Dad and Mom went bowling or to the movies or partied with their friends. But while they were away and my sister was in bed, the babysitter took liberties with my body and made me do things to please her sexually. This was, at age 4, the beginning of 12 years of off and on sexual abuse from 3 different women and 2 men; three of those relationships being incestuous. During my preschool nights I would be molested and during the day, because I had no vocabulary to express what was going on I would spend the day throwing one temper tantrum after another. Because these seemed to be ‘unwarranted’ tantrums, our pastor convinced my Mom that I was controlled by Satan and she needed to “beat the devil” out of me. Every day was a battle of wills between me and the belt. Later, my Mom told me that she wasn’t sure I was going to live to be 5 and much later, before she died, apologized for being so severe. I did live to be 5. She thought she finally beat the devil out of me, but what was beaten out of me was my voice as a person and my right to say ‘no’ to anyone older than me.  My body was no longer my own. I learned that it belonged to everyone but me.  During my childhood was a string of people that took advantage of my total passivity and that led to an eagerness to be abused. Because the very first signs of puberty didn’t happen until I was 17 and I had no clue about what sexuality was until I was 16, which allowed the abuse to go on into my teens. I can say, though, that the trauma and rape done by the abuse of the women in my early years was far more devastating than that done by the men in my teens.  But I won’t get in to that.

Leaving home and going to college was like a fresh breath of air. I could finally forget, and I mean literally forget, all of the previous years of chaos and heartache. I went to a Christian College and because I convinced myself that my past didn’t exist, my faith grew by leaps and bounds. This was followed directly by graduate school and at age 23 a ‘call’ to the mission field. How interesting that the field I was called to was on the other side of the planet, Irian Jaya, Indonesia.  If I had tried to get any further away from home I would have been getting closer. I had escaped my home, but I didn’t realize that I hadn’t escaped my past.  The adage, whatever gets buried tends to grow, is true. My forgotten and buried past tagged along and started expressing itself in a perverted form of same-sex attraction; a desire for my body to be hurt and defiled sexually which conflicted with my desire to serve God. For over 20 years I lived a double life as a successful missionary and a willing slave.  I knew I had a very serious problem but not a clue what to do, except keep it secret. At that time I thought it was only a spiritual problem. But there was no one, literally no one I could confide in or any place to find help while living in a mission community in the middle of New Guinea. Once I had the chance to talk to one visiting counselor and he said that all I needed to do was get married and all the SSA would just melt away. I took his advice and married the dearest friend I had ever had. If it was possible for me to ever love a woman, this would be the one. And despite me being the most unromantic person on the planet, she accepted my most strange proposal, and personal struggles. Getting married didn’t melt away the SSA, but I did end up with a very loving, caring and understanding wife that has stuck with me and without her I’m sure I would be dead by now.  The battle with SSA and destructive behavior finally came to a head when, at age 45, I had a breakdown. I was reading a book and it mentioned an incident of childhood sexual abuse and how it contributed to being same-sex attracted and all of a sudden, all of those carefully locked away and totally forgotten memories of my own childhood came bursting out in an overwhelming flood. By then I had already climbed the ‘corporate ladder’ of the mission organization and had a great many responsibilities. Suddenly I was helpless, I couldn’t function, I couldn’t think. This book I had read also had, in the reference, the website of Exodus International.  I contacted Exodus and asked if there was anyone in Indonesia that could help me. There was one man in Bali (from my alma mater) and I was just happening to be going there for some meetings the next week. I clandestinely met with the man and told him my whole SSA struggle. I felt 1000 pounds lighter after I confessed 40 years of chaos, perversion, pain, anger, and overwhelming shame. He insisted that I return to the States immediately and get help; for both the SSA and dealing with my childhood past. But where in the US? He said the best program was in Fort Worth.

Well, he was wrong about Fort Worth, but he wasn’t far off. Soon after arriving here I learned of Living Hope in Arlington. After my very first very scary night back in August of 2006 I felt like I was floating on air. Here I didn’t have to be two or three people. Here I could be a Christian who has serious problems with same-sex attraction and who had a really messed up childhood. And there was no shame; because at Living Hope everyone was as screwed up as I was. What a relief!

For six years, almost without a miss, I attended Living Hope. I learned all about the factors that contributed to these, what had become for me, wanted attractions; the desire to be hurt and used.  But the focus of LH was not on what got me to where I was. It was always first and foremost about becoming more like how Jesus created me: trading in lies for truth. Unfortunately most of the truth of those messages got lost to the fascinating and seemingly concreteness of the facts I was learning, both at Living Hope and the dozens of books I read about sexual abuse, reparative therapy, the roots of homosexuality, my poor relationship with my father, my too close and sexualized relationship with my mother, my tender and artistic nature. I thought, surely if I just knew all of the facts of my SSA, abuse and psychotic behavior, these facts would set me free from SSA! But for 6 years they never did.

I began to be truly set free on June 29th of this year. That’s when I learned I had stage 4 lung cancer that had metastasized to my brain. I had never smoked a cigarette in my life and I was jogging three miles a day just a few days earlier but I had final stage lung cancer. The cancer was a stark reminder of the condition of my spiritual life. And in what seemed like an instant, God transposed my spiritual and physical lives. As my physical life quickly disintegrated, He began to fill my spiritual life with health. It’s sometimes hard to understand, but allowing me to have lung cancer was the most loving thing and most difficult thing God could do. Cancer cut away every distraction in my life (including the SSA) and made me focus, like a laser beam, on the important things in life; mainly my relationship with Him.

My decades of spiritual existence was so much like this cancer. I thought I was doing okay spiritually, compensating for my lack of true commitment through Godly activities (like serving 25 years on the mission field), but all the while holding onto ideas/pleasures/idols/lies that seem just too good to let go of. Like the cancer, it was slow and insidious and I didn’t even know I was spiritually dying until it was stage 4 and had metastasized to my relationships with family, church, work, friends and Christ himself.

In those first few days of looking death squarely in the face Jesus showed me that facts and truth actually have almost nothing in common. We may live in a world of facts, but God is truth.  And nothing could be more dubious than facts. Coffee is good for you, oh no, it’s not. Pluto is a planet, or not. The speed of light is constant and has to always be constant. But that was before they discovered it is not. And all the facts we think are facts are only so because they rely on other just as dubious facts to “prove” them. What we believe about facts; about time, mass, gravity, genetics, medicine, you name it, depend on believing what we THINK are facts about physics, and biology and medicine. But just because something is a FACT or a ‘law’ doesn’t make it TRUE. Only Jesus holds all of the Truth cards and they are in the Bible. Is it any wonder His Word, which is Truth, has so little to say about what we think are facts in science and nature? (The age of the earth, how it came to be, the role of evolution.) God knows just how dubious facts are for guiding our lives. So, what if the world says it IS a fact that homosexuality is genetic, or that someone “can’t change their orientation”, or were “born that way” (not that they even have much support as facts). It still doesn’t make them TRUE. The truth is what God says about it in His Word. He says that homosexual behavior is wrong, that my orientation is toward sin, and also that I have been born into His family that frees me from both my sin and my orientation to be what He created me to be. And God proves over and over in the lives of His children that facts can never stand in the way of truth IF we believe truth over facts.  “You will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.” Amen?

With cancer the last of my world built on facts came crashing down; my world of deception, multiple lives, mistaken identity. And God started to rebuild this soul. Whereas the cornerstone used to be FACTS, it is now being built on TRUTH. It’s a FACT that I have lung cancer, but the TRUTH is with His stripes I have been healed and I can live in that healing no matter what the FACTS do to destroy my body. It’s a FACT that I felt compelled to give my body over to men to do with as they will, but the TRUTH is that my body belongs to Jesus now to do with as He would will and His will is to always do what is most loving and kind.

This is what is SO different and unique about Living Hope, compared to other ‘ex-gay’ ministries, and I really didn’t get it until a few months ago. Although Living Hope begins helping people walk out of homosexuality by starting where they are at; that is, in the world of facts where they mistakenly believe that something that is a fact is inherently true, LH doesn’t keep them there. Facts are important, don’t get me wrong. They helped explain and make sense out of what seems to be the total senselessness of my past. But facts only take you so far. To make real change possible, to move from living in the world of facts (especially when the facts we hear at LH compete with the facts we are bombarded with by the secular world) to living in the world of truth, you have to hear truth. Every week Living Hope brought me to the edge of my world of facts and opened up the world of truth to peer in to.  I found that Ricky and D’Ann’s messages have less to do about battling the facts of dealing with homosexual feelings and more to do with applying truth, living in the truth, and let God do the battling for you.  I don’t think that LH is an ex-gay ministry at all, it is a pro-truth ministry; like every ministry God ever intended to set up in His church. I sat in my fact world for 6 years looking into the world of truth. But on that June night, God moved me from looking at truth from within the world of facts into the world of truth where I could peer back into the dark and nebulous world of facts. That is what produces transformation.

I’ve watched many, many guys come through LH and other so-called ministries and I’m sorry to say that many leave unchanged. I think the reason comes down to this. They expected that the facts would change them, that knowing the facts would set them free. And after getting those facts they found that they were still just as enslaved as before and they gave up. We start out with factual transformation; I don’t go here anymore, I don’t do this anymore, I now do this. But the change doesn’t last long and can produce profound disappointment.  Those who have found true transformation and lasting change are the ones that not only hear and see the truth but live in the world of truth. John 14:6 says that Jesus is the Way (not to God, but FROM God), the Truth, and it’s THAT Truth, Jesus, that sets us free, not facts. Me in the Truth, the Truth in me. And Jesus is the Life. Hard to believe when the facts try to convince me otherwise. Fact: My body is presumably filled with cancer, Truth: my life is really filled with Jesus. Fact: My body is attracted to perversion, death and destruction, Truth: my life is sealed with the TRUTH that I belong to Jesus; now and after my last breath.