Finding the Gospel at Living Hope

By Jameson, 25

cross-church

I grew up in Dallas and went to private school most of my life. My parents desired to give me and my siblings opportunities better than what they had growing up. My parents went to church, but it felt like it was just part of the routine. I went to school and tried to develop friendships. I always felt like something was different about me, but I couldn’t put my figure on it. Since I was a good kid in school and worked hard, I was called unkind names about the color of my skin and my perceived sexuality. I tried to ignore the comments, but I often fixated on what others said. I worked hard in school not to just keep my name from being pulled down, but also because I have a disability. I was already in a place where I didn’t feel like I measured up to others, and bullying just made me want to keep it all inside. After hearing these names so often I started to believe them.

I participated in sports growing up because my parents, mainly my dad, urged me to do something. I did soccer, basketball, martial arts, and then cross country in high school. My dad was involved in coaching me for most of those sports, but I didn’t feel like we connected at all. I desperately wanted to please him and make him proud, and I knew he was happy when it came to sports.

I remember my dad working a lot, and that is where I felt he put his focus. I eventually got involved in Boy Scouts at a young age, but I also didn’t connect well with a lot of the other scouts either. I always felt like the odd man out and very “other than” them since I wasn’t as rugged or wild spirited as a lot of boys. While in scouting, I remember there was a kid who was older than me from school.  I was fixated on him. I think I participated in soccer and basketball because he was on the team. I wanted to be like him. I wanted him to like me. I wanted to be popular like him. Our friendship didn’t happen like I desired. My thoughts became self-seeking and I really didn’t understand what “hole” in my soul I was trying to fill. At this time, my family was still going to church, but now it was occasional. If we were up on time or didn’t have plans, we would go. When I got into middle school & high school, I felt this “hole” in my soul was a huge darkness that seemed to consume my thoughts. My desire to be friends with “cool” guys slowly became a desire to be like them in every way. I fixated on certain traits they had that I didn’t have.

Unfortunately, this became more perverted when I started fantasizing about being with a guy instead of just being a friend. I don’t remember the exact moment when that switch happened, but I remember the immense shame and guilt I felt. But I just kept quiet. I didn’t say a word about how I felt or ask for help. I was feeding the fear and shame by giving into sexual acts in secret to the fantasies.

One day, while on a campout with the scouts, those fantasies became a reality with another boy simply out of curiosity. I felt a rush of excitement because it was secretive and in the dead of night. We didn’t know it at the time, but others were listening and told the leaders that next morning. I remember feeling sick to my stomach even before the leaders said anything. I remember after that weekend that my dad asked me if I needed to tell him anything because the Scout leaders had called him to meet. I told him there wasn’t anything. When he got back he was mad and so upset with me. I remember crying and fumbling over my words trying to describe what happened. Dad told my mom and I that I couldn’t go back to Boy Scouts. Then, we found out that the other boy’s family was suing us. I remember going into a conference room with a lawyer who was telling us what our options were to move forward. The key thing she told us was that I needed to tell the truth. This was so hard. My mom made me sit with her to tell her everything that happen. I felt so much shame to have to tell my mom word for word what we said to each other and what we did. We were both in tears the entire time. The blessing from that was I was allowed to come back to my troop after 6 months. As far as I know, it was because I told the truth. I never saw the other kid or his family again after that ordeal.

As I moved into high school I just kept everything to myself. I tried to keep my desires at bay and in secret. My parents and I never talked about my attractions or activity again. I tried to live a normal high school student life and even dated a girl for about a year. Sadly, I started to get these strong attractions to a guy I meet in cross country. This guy and I both were curious about each other and played the stupid game “21 questions.” We flirted with each other and I felt like I genuinely cared about by him. He was younger than me, but he was interesting to me because he seemed so mature. I remember when we first kissed and it quickly became sexual. I was floored by how intense our relationship became. I felt wrapped up in love and didn’t want it to end. I made every effort to see him and sneak around with him by saying I was going to pick him up. This entire relationship blew up in my face and I truly felt like my heart was broken. I remember feeling and knowing that I couldn’t hide this anymore. I called my dad in and told him what I believed about myself and what I had been doing. My mom didn’t respond very well and yelled at me.  What made this moment different was that my dad said he didn’t believe that I was bisexual, as I had claimed, and he was going to help me figure out this confusion. He heard from someone about a ministry called Living Hope. At that moment, I was on my floor crying, broken, bruised, and longing for hope for something better.

I remember that first time I heard Ricky’s explanation about how same sex attractions (SSA) develop. Honestly, this was the first time I heard a different term for my struggle other than gay. When I started attending Living Hope Ministries’ support group, my life started to change.  I attended group for a little while, but soon had to leave for college.  Coming to group and hearing Ricky teach was the first time I really heard the Gospel. One of the beautiful things about Living Hope is that they are about Jesus getting the glory; it’s all about Jesus. I started to understand what it meant to be a part of a body of believers and being a true disciple of Christ. I truly believe God used this ministry to reach me – someone who felt trapped in a pit of shame and secrecy. I was welcomed into a safe place where I learned to be honest about my struggles and was allowed to take off my mask.

My parents were worried about me making good choices when I went off the college and honestly, I was too. I didn’t know what to expect except what I saw in movies or heard from others. I was determined to know who this Jesus was and try to know Him personally as I had heard from the leaders from Living Hope. I joined the online forums and tried to be involved as much as possible, and it kept me connected to the ministry and some of the guys I knew from the group. When I was back for break I would come back to group to see everyone, confess, and repent if I had fallen into sin. I started to build a better relationship with God and was determined to be honest with myself and with God. God brought more people into my life with whom I could share my story and how God was working in my life. When I graduated from school I came back home.

Upon returning to Living Hope after graduation, I started to see more fruit by being honest with my desires and bringing them to Jesus. I started to see myself as God’s adopted son and friend. I believed He is truth. My identity was no longer wrapped up in what others see in me or believe me to be, but who He says I am – a man of God!

I have now been a part of Living Hope for eight years and recently started to lead in small group and serve as a moderator on the online forums. On this side of heaven, I know there are still times when I may struggle. In those moments Jesus’ grace and mercy is so sweet to meet me where I am.  I start to cry thinking how good Jesus was, is, and continues to be to me. My story isn’t over. I’m an instrument in God’s orchestra and I believe He is using me to help others like me at Living Hope and to allow Christ to shine through me to everyone I meet.  I found the Gospel at Living Hope and Jesus has made all the difference!