A stronghold exists in the dark recesses of a growing shadow. Veiled from light and truth, this fortress of a tireless and powerful enemy has entrenched itself, extending a foul reach that chokes out life and consumes all within the wake of it’s insatiable appetite. As a battle is waged before me, I stand paralyzed watching the destruction, wondering how it ever came to this. Hope has long since left my side, as for quite some time I realized that I was alone to defend that hill. On the battlefield of my heart, I bear witness to a slow and imminent defeat.
Same sex attraction (SSA) is not something Christians deal with. Growing up in the care of loving and Christian parents, this was the only thing I ever heard about these people called ‘homosexuals.’ They were not strugglers of any kind; there immoral and deviant behavior had so far separated them from the community in which I belonged, that the two seemed irreconcilable. It simply was not possible to be a Christian and be drawn toward such sin.
As SSA began to take shape in my own life, these realizations became terrifying. As a young child, I had always felt a distance between myself and those I longed to be connected with: other guys. My father, my classmates, Church friends – they all seemed so elusive, and I began to feel isolated. I didn’t enjoy the same things they did, and there always seemed to be something missing from the comradery in these groups. My mother, I had learned from a very early age, was the leader of our household. Her discipline seemed to apply almost as much to my father as it did to me and my younger siblings. She called the shots, and it was by her prompting that my father acted. I began to very much see my Father as weak and passive, my mother as powerful. I knew that of the two, she was the one I had to win over and impress. In doing so, my father would also grant approval. Sensing this disconnect with other men and recognizing to some extent that something was not quite right, it was my mother who pushed me in to activities that would ‘normalize’ me. I was pressured in to playing sports, even though it was known I really didn’t care for them. I was frowned upon for my choices in friends, often being female starting at around junior high. I was watched and criticized closely for the ways I chose to express myself or the manner in which I enjoyed leisure. None of these areas of disapproval had been clarified for me, and my parents never expressed a hope that these things would provide growth, support, or healthy development. I was simply left to think that at the end of the day, I was abnormal. My parents saw it, and their reaction was one that sought to make me fit better in the crowd of other young boys. It became very much about how I was perceived relative to others, and consequently how they were perceived as parents in determining that. My life became a game of seeking constant approval, most often through academic perfection. No amount of excellence proved sufficient however, and the feelings of isolation became more prevalent.
Feelings of attraction to the same gender began to materialize in high school. I was fixated on other guys, usually classmates, and their seemingly effortless ability to be at ease and accepted in the company of each other. I longed for that approval and inclusion, and this envy took hold of my heart in powerful ways. When this fixation became sexualized, I didn’t know what to do about it. The very presence of these feelings and temptations called into question the core of my identity – was I a Christian, and did I belong in this community of other followers of Christ? I feared the reaction of others to my problem, so I buried it. Nobody would ever know about this part of me. I didn’t want it, and asked countless times for it’s removal from my heart, but the Lord never brought the immediate relief I sought. In isolating myself and trying to control the problem myself, my situation had actually grown worse. I began seeking illicit online material that would satisfy the cravings of my flesh, and finding pleasure in gratifying myself. A cycle was born – one that continued for years in the pattern of buckling under temptation, becoming overwhelmed by guilt and shame, before rallying myself to a resolution to not repeat my habit. Like many destructive cycles, however, this one continued to be fed as I remained isolated. For every extended period of relief and freedom, there would return a dark season of temptation and yielding.
My parents first, and later a very close friend, both discovered my problem during high school. Both reactions were equally devastating. My parents could only see themselves in my problem, and were tormented with thoughts of what they did to create the problem, what the problem said about them, how they were going to make it better, and how I could be made normal. My father confirmed my worst fear in one of the very few times we’ve ever spoken intimately on issues of the heart. This issue, for him, was the worst one out there for a Christian to have invited into his life. Most crippling however, was the feeling that at the end of the day, they had nothing to offer in the way of support or help. I was still alone. After all, it was me who had invited this sin into my life. It would be up to me to figure out how to remove it. Months would pass as a haze of awkwardness clouded the relationship with my parents. It wasn’t long, however, before things were seemingly back to normal. Aside from a passing question or two, the issue has not been raised in the ten years since then.
The cycle was broken briefly, but returned in time. The Lord began to really stir in my heart and make it clear that I needed to reveal myself to others that could help me. I came close to doing so during my final year in high school, but lacked the faith to follow through. College years brought a crisis of their own, as the Lord removed my crutch of academic strength and forced me to face my depravity. I lost a sense of who I was, and stumbled in darkness trying to find where I fit now. My faith was pushed far from sight, and spent most of my time seeking selfish goals or friendships. I surrounded myself with people I thought I wanted to be, and sought without relief to find a place where I felt I belonged – an identity I could be secure in. I invited sin into my life, hoping it would mask my real problem at heart and build up an image of the person I preferred to be. All the while, I felt alone still. Years passed, friendships came and went, relationships were forged and broken, facades were raised, and all the while I continued to wrestle in my heart with an affliction I was coming to realize may never be taken from me. I grew depressed and fearful. In the midst of my rebellion, the Lord had never left my side and had proven faithful to convict me of my sin and slowly remove the negative influences I had invited into my life. I had been protected from acting on the feelings of my heart, and still nobody knew of my struggle. I had never shared it, neither in acting upon the desires of my flesh or in seeking refuge in the body of Christ. For years I had taken small relief in my youth and the boundaries I had set. I was comforted by the fact I was young and had years to figure this out – there was no hurry. I also took pride in the fact that I had never acted out in sin with another, and grew content wallowing in the sinful habits within my contained and secret life. Both of these securities had begun to falter. Years had passed since first struggling with the issue, far more than I had expected, and yet I was still just as hopelessly caught as I was in the start. Even more frightening, the cries of my flesh began to seek even more dangerous means for satisfaction. I knew it would not be long on this path before I did something I would forever regret, and possibly never be able to turn from. For a long time, I wondered if my only freedom from SSA would come after some great and terrible fall.
Thankfully, the Lord showed Himself in a big way to me just a few months ago, and my struggle took a radical shift. In an otherwise typical Sunday sermon, I was caught by the teaching my pastor gave through I Corinthians 6. In his writing to the church in Corinth, Paul brought truth and light to the unending doubt and confusion that comes with living for Christ and yet burdened with same sex attractions. Paul and my pastor were the first I had ever heard proclaim this truth. Soon after, the Lord began tearing down some huge lies that had gripped my life. I was given a peace and assurance about approaching my pastor and revealing my struggle. The Lord showed up, and I was supported and loved on a deep level that I had never before experienced. Christ was showing me that there existed those in His body that could know the depravity of my heart and yet not reject me.
Since that life-changing week, I have been actively involved with a counselor who assists me as I navigate through trials that remain and heal emotional/spiritual scars from a long battle with SSA. I encountered Living Hope through the Exodus Ministries online resources. Active involvement in the online forums and the experience of intimate small group study and teaching at the annual Living Hope Youth Retreat has proven monumental in my continued growth. The wealth of teaching resources and support within the safe environment at Living Hope has built me up and prepared me for seeking out those same reflections of Christ in my own life. Already, I have begun to share the struggle with those closest to me, and have just started to attend a local small group aimed at assisting strugglers.
The Lord is truly amazing, and is opening my eyes daily to His Truth – the Truth that I can and will be a light for Him in the midst of this wretched flesh, the Truth that His love is poured out daily through His body of believers, and the Truth that above all else, I have a Father who loves me so deeply and so personally that no failure could interfere with the perfect, complete sacrifice He made to draw me eternally close. In Truth, I never was alone on that hill.