My Journey to Hope

I am pleased to say that for the next 2-3 weeks I will have my first guest blogger! Gary has been a friend for over 20 years and he brings a real and personal perspective to our recent dialogue about homosexuality and the Christian faith.

Photo by davedehetre - CC By 2.0

I am a retired college professor. I have always been single. I am a committed Christian, having been raised in a Christian home and accepting the Lord as my Savior at a young age. My relationship with the Lord Jesus is the most important thing in my life.

God provided a great Christian family, but when I was young my Dad worked in the evenings. Combined with the fact that I am both athletically and mechanically challenged, I became closer to my Mom than to my Dad.

I grew up in a small community with four or five other boys about my age. At a young age we began to explore sexual things. The others began in their pre-teen and teen years to do things with girls, but I did not – I think I felt spiritual pride in not being heterosexually active.

Throughout high school, I did occasional sexual exploration with my (heterosexual) friends, but during my college years I began to do sexual things anonymously. This set the agenda for my sexual encounters over the next forty plus years. I looked for anonymous sexual encounters in places where guys struggling with same sex attraction and homosexuality look for such things. My sexual activity became more and more risky as I attempted to satisfy my sexual appetite. Several years ago, I began to find encounters through the internet using mainly gay internet sites.

I saw my sexual activity as sin and longed to be set free. I looked for accountable relationships to give me the help I needed, but found none. I confided my struggles with a few close friends and my pastors, but no one seemed to know how to help me. I so wanted to be free from the inner conflict that waged within, but had no hope of change.

Things came to a head in the summer of 2006 when I was arrested for invasion of privacy. The story got wide media coverage as I held a high profile on my campus and in the community. Although extremely difficult, this turned out to be my turning point.

For a couple of days, I felt distant from God, but soon discovered His forgiveness and strength. In late September I spent two weeks in a recovery program with Love In Action. Though group interaction, various exercises and great teaching I discovered so much about homosexuality (and same sex attraction)—and about myself. I finally saw that my sin did not define who I am – it’s my relationship with Christ that defines me. What hope! While I was at Love In Action I made a commitment to be celibate. With God’s help I have kept that commitment, having had victory for the most part in my thought life, and freedom from my negative feelings about myself.

Photo by Franco Folini - CC BY-SA 2.0

In January of 2007, I began a sixty-day study, called Door of Hope, through the website settingcaptivesfree.com. Door of Hope was instructive and a real encouragement that I was on the right path.

I then felt God put it on my heart to attend the Exodus International conference the following June. Exodus is an organization that proclaims the message of hope in Christ for change to the world, and to those struggling with homosexuality. Perhaps, Exodus’ most consistent message is that the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality, but holiness.

In the summer of 2008, I again attended an Exodus conference – another great experience of learning and worship! The highlight was my introduction to the ministry of Healing for the Soul, and its founder and Director, Jayson Graves. Through this contact, I began telephonic counseling with Jayson and joined a telephonic sexual addiction recovery group shortly thereafter. We met once a week by phone with a counselor from Healing for the Soul and we each called the other members of the group during the week. We also worked through The Twelve Steps – A Spiritual Journey. How pleased I am to have developed such strong and close relationships with the guys in the group! Over a year ago I joined a Healing for the Soul graduate group that provides the same telephonic support and accountability my recovery group did.

Photo by arwilliams - morgueFile

I wish I had before and after pictures of my heart to show everyone. I feel like I am a living example of Romans 12:1-2, having submitted my body and mind to the Lord, He has transformed me. In Jeremiah 29:11, God tells His people He has plans to prosper them and to give them hope. I know He has both prospered me and given me hope. I marvel at what the Lord has done (and is doing) in my life to provide victory and healing. I pray that my personal story of God’s redeeming love and power will bring encouragement to areas of your life in which you may feel hopeless.

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14 thoughts on “My Journey to Hope

  1. wow. thank you so much gary for sharing your story with us. the good, the bad and the ugly. in this world, talking about these struggles is never easy and i appreciate your courage and love for people in sharing so openly!! exodus Internationalwas a tremendous help and encouragement t me during my own silent snd shameful strugl. how freeing for metosee your selfless faith! motivated by love. thank you! i look forward to reading more of your posts to come!

  2. Gary,
    Thanks for sharing and being candid. I have some questions, but I suspect they may be answered in the next blog or two.

  3. First, Gary, thanks for sharing your story and I wish you luck in continuing to lead a more holy life – being open, honest, apologetic, and immersing yourself in Christ is the only route out, as it seems you have seen. I pray that you continue on your journey.

    I have indirectly known one of the victims of this tragedy and ask for all that read this blog to keep them in your prayers as well – as events like this can forever change lives on both sides and the other side had less control of the situation. Second, I have a clarification question – that probably could best be answered by Bob, but Gary feel free to chime in on as well:

    Bob wrote that this post is in connection to our recent discussion on homosexuality. From what I read here, it seems like a complete non-sequitur and not having anything to do with our previous discussion. What the issue seems to be here is promiscuity and sexual acts that are deemed illegal by our society. This entry could have easily been written by the millions of heterosexual men in America that have been arrested for rape, molestation, or situations like the one Gary was involved in. The only connection seems to be that Gary has struggled with his sexual identity at different points in his life.

    So, my question is: What does this entry have to do with our discussion of committed homosexual relationships that are neither promiscuous nor illegal? I hope that I am wrong, but it seems as if you are coupling homosexuality together with illegal acts and promiscuity. If so, (please tell me if I am wrong), then you can understand why anyone that is LGBT or cares for someone that is LGBT could easily be offended. The people that I deeply care for are doing something completely legal and there is not a victim of their actions – just a deep, loving relationship.

    I look forward to your response.

  4. Jeff, Gary can correct me if needed, but he is operating with the premise that homosexuality in general is in violation of God’s design as understood through the Bible. His arrest was included because it was an important turning point his life. The primary focus of his testimony is his struggle with same sex attraction and the work that God has done in his life through the process. One of my primary reasons for this series is to help the average Christian see a different perspective on this issue–something which Gary does indeed provide.

    1. Hmm, honestly, I am not sure where the discussion can go after this phrase: “homosexuality in general is in violation of God’s design as understood through the Bible” – that seems to me like an insurmountable chasm is our beliefs.

      However, I will attempt to keep the discussion going because I think it is one of the most important issues in the Church today that is turning millions of people away from the Church (Not Christianity, but the Church in general – there are millions, like me that love Christ with my entire soul, but am disgusted by the way the Church is turning away our LGBT brothers and sisters). I argue that the Church (as an institution, not individual Churches) has consistently castigated and ostracized whatever group is currently demonized in society and used scripture to back up that demonization, only to admit decades or centuries later that they were wrong. Some examples:

      1. Inter-racial marriage – If you spend some time reading the sermons from Churches preaching against inter-racial marriage, the messages and often scripture that they point to is eerily similar to the current sermons against gay marriage. One of the main arguments was that the Bible in no way endorses people of different races being married and then they used many verses from the Bible to show how “destructive” interracial marriage was, including:

      Numbers 25:6-11 “One of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman…. And Phinehas took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So, the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.” Note, it was a plague of different-people marriage.

      Deuteronomy 7:3 After taking the land God has given thee: “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shall not give unto his son, nor his daughter shall thou take unto thy son.” (God forbidding inter-racial marriage)

      Ezra 9:2,12 “For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons; so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands.” (God forbidding interracial marriage)

      Joshua 23:12-13 “Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you: Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you.” – If you marry inter-racially, your marriage will be a scourge

      Matter of fact, here is a supposed theologian still making these arguments – that interracial marriage is a sin: http://www.crutchercpa.com/interracialmarriage.htm

      **30 to 40 years later, most Christian Churches think this type of teaching is insane, yet it was the dominant teaching in our country for hundreds of years and pushed from nearly every pulpit. The fact that the Church as an institution was the biggest force pushing against interracial marriage shows how man’s sin can invade and become dominant in the Churches, just as I argue it has now against our LGBT family.

  5. 2. Women’s Rights: The Church was the biggest force against women gaining equal rights for most of our country’s history. Not every church, but the vast majority. This was not just accepted, it was pushed from the vast majority of churches with vigor and held up women’s rights for half a century needlessly. Once again, i would argue this is human sin invading our Churches to justify demonization of a group seeking equality. A few decades later most Churches would be embarrassed to listen to the same sermons dominant in those Churches just a few decades ago. While this is a bit longer ago – I often teach a sermon that was commonly taught in Churches across the country called “Ought Women to Learn the Alphabet?” There was such fear in Churches across the country about women gaining equal rights, that they started questioning whether their daughters should be educated at all. This was not God’s law, yet it was the dominant teaching in Churches for most of America’s history. Here are just a few of the verses used to justify this discrimination:

    “Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (I Timothy 2:11-14)

    “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” (I Corinthians 14:34-35)

    “Give me any plague, but the plague of the heart: and any wickedness, but the wickedness of a woman.” (Eccles. 25:13)

    “Of the woman came the beginning of sin, and through her we all die.” (Eccles. 25:22)

    “For from garments cometh a moth, and from women wickedness. Better is the churlishness of a man than a courteous woman, a woman, I say, which bringeth shame and reproach.” (Eccles. 42:13-14)

    All of these verses and many more were used to persecute women, prevent them from gaining equal rights, and the right to vote. They were regularly preached from pulpits all across the country and now the vast majority of Churches realize that this was folly – and would be embarrassed by those same sermons today.

  6. 3. Slavery and the mistreatment of African Americans: I think we all know that for the first 175 years of our country the vast majority of our churches taught that African Americans were sub-human and used dozens of Bible verses to support that discrimination and the many horrors perpetrated on their community. Again, the contemporary church would be embarrassed by these sermons, but they were dominant in that day to limit the rights of a group that was ostracized.

    Just as one day, a few decades from now the Church will be embarrassed at how they used the Bible to ostracize LGBT Americans.

  7. Jeff, I agree with you to a certain point, which is why I find the “propaganda wars” that I mentioned in an earlier post to be counterproductive. I think it is absolutely critical for us to understand the Bible correctly and hold true to the integrity of what it actually teaches no matter how popular opinion trends.

    1. Yes, I think that is where the crux of our disagreement is – I think that the popular opinion within churches is to bash LGBT and I see it as the same popular sentiment within churches that were against women’s rights, for slavery, against interracial marriage, against science to the point that they would hang scientists, etc. Where I think you are worried that the acceptance of the LGBT community among young people is going to spill over into the Church. That seems to me the crux.

  8. Jeff, I’d also add that “church” is a very broad word. In my teaching efforts I prefer to distinguish between the institutional church, which I see being build on human foundations, as opposed to the true or living church, which I believe is more representative of Christ. Historically speaking, the institutional church has at times oppressed and persecuted Christians who disagree with their doctrines or methods. I know we’re all imperfect, but my heart is to see a living church that is truly representative of Christ.

  9. Bob, I completely agree – I wanted to put the word “Institutional” before every time I used the word church, but it would have been too tedious. The living Church is definitely more representative of Christ and also, there have always been physical churches (congregations) on the opposite sides of those issues. But, on most major issues, there is a large agreement among institutional Churches (for instance on LGBT issues, against women’s rights, for slavery, and against interracial marriage) and then there are a minority of churches that fight on the other side of those issues that get ostracized until the wider culture finally comes around to acceptance. The institutional Church has a long history of being on the wrong side of human rights issues until decades after the rest of society has accepted them, then they finally come around and many act like they were never on the wrong side of those issues.

    Luckily, I am a firm believer in the living Church being the true Church, because there is a whole generation of people like me that do not like what they are seeing at institutional Churches on the LGBT issue, so we are stuck without a Church home in the traditional sense.

  10. Jeff, this is why I am so strong on the importance of proper Biblical interpretation. Historically speaking, the institutional church has practiced a humanistic form of religion, while lacking the power of the true Gospel to transform lives. Each of the injustices you mentioned was the result of an attempt to use the Bible to justify personal agendas and prejudices. Manipulative propaganda was then used to prey upon people’s fears and emotions.

    I strongly believe that God is calling His church to rightly divide the Word of God and to lovingly stand for the truth therein.

    1. I completely agree with your statement: “Each of the injustices you mentioned was the result of an attempt to use the Bible to justify personal agendas and prejudices. Manipulative propaganda was then used to prey upon people’s fears and emotions.”

      Where we diverge (I think) is that I think that the institutional church is now doing the same thing with LGBT Christians – using personal agendas and prejudices to prey up people’s fears about homosexuality.

  11. A friend of mine just wrote this on Facebook and I think it fits well in our discussion:

    “I came out as gay one year ago. Though it’s proven to be a difficult year in many ways, I am glad that God created me in the way He did. I’m gay and I love Jesus as much as I ever have. Truth does set you free.”

    She lived her whole life in the closet and has never felt more free and never loved Jesus as much as she does now, yet the majority of American churches would not even let her worship with them.

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