by Brandon , Men’s Group
I struggle with same sex attraction. We all have many triggers, but in the last five years I have learned that fear is one of my biggest ones. I did not understand the significance of fear until 2004 when I shared my struggle with my best friend. He shared a scripture with me and encouraged me that I could stop being afraid because God’s love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18 says: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
As a child, I was afraid of everything: being home alone, animals, roller coasters, getting hurt, getting into trouble. There was even fear in my salvation experience. I remember as a small child telling my parents, “The devil won’t leave me alone.” This fear that reached into all areas of my young life soon developed into low self esteem.
As early as fourth grade, I remember feeling like I was a total failure. I was consumed with self-condemnation. This continued through my adolescent and teenage years. I hated the fact that I sang—I thought because I was not an athlete, I was less than a boy. I was afraid I didn’t fit in, I was afraid of the guys from whom I felt so different. I longed to be like them, but in the tumult of puberty I began to long for them. At the same time I had a strong attraction to girls. I had a huge crush on a particular girl all the way through middle school. But my fear had already convinced me that I wasn’t a boy that girls would be interested in. It also blinded me to the similarities I had with boys I knew, who had many of the same insecurities I did. I chose to believe the lies and the insults. I chose to tuck away and enjoy the new feelings I had. The fear I had of getting into trouble as a child had now grown into a fear of being found out. I knew I had same gender attractions and along with it, a new habit as of the 7th grade. These “new” discoveries only layered on more condemnation and self loathing. I remember at one particular wedding in either ‘91 or ‘92, I distinctly heard a voice say, “Too bad this will never happen for you—you could never get married!” All I had were thoughts in my head at that point—and I was already convinced of my doom.
All of the secrecy and internal conflicts led me to share with my family in 1994. They received me, encouraged me, and loved me. The most poignant thing I remember is that one of my sisters shared Romans 8:1-2 with me, which says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
Though a certain amount of freedom came from sharing with my family, I still lived in the bondage. During this time I pursued ministry and had dating relationships with girls. I lived a double-life. From college on, I looked for the “switch” that would fix me. I thought if I could be discipled by the right person, or fall in love with the right girl, or even have the right emotional revelation, then I would be healed. To put it more simply: I thought I could earn freedom from this struggle. As my disciplines came and went, the failures grew more regular and serious, and the fear I would never be whole grew exponentially.
The fear of being caught in my double life continued to mount during those 9 years after college. In 2006, I was at the end of my rope. God really began to speak to me very specifically about my struggle. I was so overwhelmed with His grace, mercy and love; all I could hear Him say was, “Give up! It’s over! I’m not going to let you continue down this road.” So finally, I shared with my pastor. This was the biggest step in overcoming fear so far. We immediately started meeting with the chairman of deacons and the chairman of personnel (thankfully, godly men who kept my issue to themselves and encouraged me).
I slowly began to experience freedom. Ironically, in the months to follow, I chose to be “set free” from my position as minister of music due to some decisions I was still making. That was the most difficult part of this journey, and I really knew (perhaps for the first time) that all I had was God. By His grace I was able to resign for “personal reasons,” and the church was very gracious to me as I left. During this time, I really was free to be alone with God, to experience Him as everything in my life. I also did a brief time of counseling, kept meeting with men from the church, and my pastor and I had lunch with Darrel to talk about Living Hope.
I did my intake with Brady, the interim Executive Director at the time, on the first meeting of the year in 2007. Still afraid of being found out, I felt paranoid and walked with my head down. I was not prepared for the overwhelming blessings ahead. What was truly revolutionary and fear-breaking was having fellowship with men who struggled with the same thing I did! There is no fear of rejection at Living Hope. I quickly began to learn I could not rescue myself or “behave myself” out of this. God would be the one to set me free and heal me from the inside out. I began to see myself as the man God created me to be. I also began to see it is through the process, the struggle, the victories, and failures that I am transformed from glory to glory. God is continuing to teach me that everything in my life is to be for His glory, and that is more powerful than any fear.
God has given me what I have always wanted but never thought I would have: a loving, beautiful wife and a son. As God accomplishes these things in me, 1 John 4:18 continues to be significant. We had a reading in our wedding that highlighted this scripture and it is engraved on the inside of my wedding ring. What is so interesting is that while preparing this testimony, I realize my role as a husband, father and spiritual leader is to model love that is being perfected, and to “cast out fear.” Every time I go back to my old fears and my old way of dealing with them, I am bringing fear into our home rather than casting it out. That will only build up walls between us all.
I’m not finished yet. I have not arrived, but I am striving for God’s glory in my life. Fear still plagues me from time to time. Even this past week I have feared the past coming back to haunt me, the present decisions I am making, and the unknown future. But I am not who I once was. God is with me. I conclude with Hebrews 10:35-39: “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while, ‘He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.’ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.”