I was fortunate to be able to give my testimony last night as well as at 3 services today at my church. It was a wonderful opportunity to share with others the things that God has done in my life. I posted an earlier version yesterday, but since a few people asked me if they could have a copy of it, I thought I would post the final revision that I did on Sunday.
I just want to thank everyone at Chain of Lakes Community Bible Church for being so loving and encouraging toward me. I was confident in the message that I spoke, however I was not real sure of the reaction I would get. Everyone was wonderful to me! I just want to thank Pastor Kerry for this wonderful opportunity to talk about the things that God is doing in my life!
Here is the copy of what I read:
I had an idea since I was around 12 that things were different with me. The strengthening same sex attractions I experienced as a teenager were frightening and produced overwhelming feelings of shame. I spent many years trying to suppress my attractions and held out hope that these feelings were just some kind of phase I was going through. My prayers that God would “cure” me of this never materialized. Angry with God and seeing no alternative, I started to act out on my homosexual desires. I reasoned that if God had created me as a gay man then it was simply cruel and unreasonable for Him to expect me to deny who I was and pretend to be something that I wasn't. I'd asked Him repeatedly to take these desires away from me and He didn't, and so I rationalized that the problem was with Him – not with me. It took many years for me to openly embrace homosexuality. After years of secrecy; in my late 20’s I came out as gay to pretty much everyone I knew and really emerged myself in the gay community. My new-found community offered me something that I had been seeking for years; a feeling of love and acceptance.
As I continued down this path, God became increasingly more distant in my mind. Feelings of anxiety had always been a part of my life, but in my 30’s it was growing noticeably stronger and for the first time I started having panic attacks. In early January of 2010, I was experiencing a rapid heartbeat and light headedness for hours. I drove to the emergency room; and largely out of fear I felt the urge to talk to God. Selfishness pretty much characterized my life during this period of time, and rather than simply praying to Him for guidance, I tried to make a deal with Him. I told Him that if He just allowed this episode to pass, I would work on eating better, drinking less, and cutting down on drugs...and I might even start exercising. Well, as I should have known, I don't get to set the terms of a deal with God. This was the point in time God began to change my life in ways that were unlike anything I had ever experienced or believed possible...
After a couple of hours in the emergency room, the diagnosis was once again a panic attack. I felt relieved and went back home. I didn't give any thought to the bargain I had made with Him, but I did search online for a personal trainer or some type of gym to possibly start working out. I didn't really do this out of any sense of obligation to God because of my “bargain”. I simply felt like I wanted to take some steps to be healthier. I stumbled across a website, contacted them, and I soon got a call from one of their trainers and started exercising. Everything was going along fine but I was becoming aware of changes in my thoughts, which seemed to be more drawn toward spirituality. I soon found out that the step-father of my trainer was a Christian pastor. My attitude was pretty negative toward Christians at this point, largely because it seemed that the only message Christians offered was one of condemning gay people – with no offer of hope. After a relatively short amount of time, the conversations that I was having with my trainer turned toward God, spirituality, and religion and he invited me to attend his church. Despite my preconceptions of Christians, I found myself being somehow drawn to my trainer, his family, and the church. As you may have figured out, my trainer’s step-father, the pastor, is Pastor Kerry; and the personal trainer, and now good friend who had the courage to witness to me is his son Tim.
I never did find whatever it was that I was seeking from the “gay community”. Since coming here and seeking a deeper relationship with Christ, my life has changed in so many profound ways. When I came to this church, I struggled with the issue of homosexuality and how it fit into God's plan for me. Romans 2:15 says that the requirements of God’s law are written on our hearts; and in my case, God immediately impressed on me that the sexual behavior that I had been indulging in had to stop. I had strong doubts about accomplishing this, but by God’s grace, it has been one of the least burdensome aspects of my journey. But reality very quickly struck me again when I realized that simply stopping my promiscuous behavior was not the only work that God would be doing in me; but rather it was a necessary step which enabled Him to expose those deeper areas where change needed to occur.
What I was left with at this point were thoughts of being alone for the rest of my life and never having that “significant” person like a spouse who you could rely on to be there for you through hardships or in old age, or even simply for companionship. I frequently burdened my new Christian brothers with unrealistic and selfish demands, expecting them to fill emotional needs that no one person could ever fill. God used my struggles in looking for comfort from others to bring me much closer to Him. In those frequent times of isolation and intense feelings of being alone, He faithfully revealed Himself to me. Although my prayers to Him were geared toward taking away my feelings of isolation and loneliness, He always chose to do something even better than that. He would come to me right in the very worst moments of my loneliness. In those times I felt I could get no lower, no more pitiful or depressed; when I felt completely unloved and abandoned by everyone; when I felt I didn’t fit in with this new family of believers, He constantly whispered to me; “I'm still here and I always will be”. I'm a pretty stubborn person and so it took quite a few repetitions of these periods of depression, and He was faithful in reinforcing to me the promise He makes to believers in Hebrews 13:5 “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So while up to this point I had believed that I would get closer to God through Him rescuing me from all of my emotional struggles, I came to realize that it was in finding Him right there with me in the worst of my struggles that most powerfully demonstrated His love and compassion. I had spent years avoiding my struggles through secrecy and pursuing selfish interests and now God seemed to be demonstrating to me that my path to healing had to include facing struggles head on and being transparent with some good brothers. He showed me that no matter what situation I faced, what needs I had, or what I thought wasn't going my way, He never leaves me. He would be with me through every moment of the rest of my life. While my order of things was to first find friends who could meet my needs, His order for me was to find Him first, to cast my needs upon Him, and only then could healthy relationships begin to develop.
Change for me has not meant that my attractions have shifted from men to women. I still struggle with same sex temptations. While the temptations I face in this area have lessened over the past couple of years, the real change that He has worked in me has been in giving me the freedom to make different choices in the midst of those temptations; to choose His way, not mine. My struggle with homosexuality allows me to feel the depths of God’s love for me like nothing else I can imagine would. He took an area of my life that I felt I had no control over and turned it into one where I have the freedom to choose holiness over sexual sin. This continued struggle is a powerful reminder to me every single day that I am completely unable to live up to God's standards on my own, and that it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit and the death and resurrection of Christ that I am able to claim any sort of victory in this area of my life. By making me aware my weaknesses, He allows me to surrender them to Him relying on His strength to keep me in a place of obedience. Apart from God, I have no victory in this area of my life.