Leaving the gay lifestyle is not easy. But Christians who have struggled with same-sex attraction are not without hope.
There are many powerful stories out there about men and women whom God has delivered from the gay lifestyle. It touches the heart and certainly glorifies God when we see these people getting married and leading godly lives free of homosexuality.
But in all honesty, what about the rest of us who deal with this issue and haven't come to our "happy ending" yet? What about those of us who continue to struggle with same-sex attraction (SSA), even after choosing to follow Christ? We're caught in a sort of identity limbo, unsure whether we can or even should hope to experience heterosexual desire, get married and start a family someday.
If you're like me, all those testimonies from now-married "ex-gays" and those who have been "supernaturally delivered" from their struggle can be more of a frustration than an encouragement. Who can give men like us practical, understanding guidance? In the midst of an ongoing battle, how ought we to think about ourselves, our struggles, our future and our God?
As a single guy who continues to experience same-sex attractions, these questions matter a heck of a lot to me. The world around me would say, "You're still gay and nothing can change it! Accepting it is the only thing that will make you happy." But my faith in God's Word — as well as my conviction and my personal experience — tell me otherwise.
The transformation many of us desire is a complete 180-degree turnaround of our sexual attractions; a transformation of our feelings. And let's be honest, we often hope or expect that this change should occur without much of our own effort or sacrifice. But the Bible tells us that our metamorphosis as Christians happens a different way:
Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2, NLT)
God wants to change the way we think about everything, including this issue. We can't adopt the world's point of view and just obey our urges. So how can we transform our thinking in order to gain more freedom? Here are some areas I'm personally growing in that I hope will be an encouragement to you.
Stop making unfair comparisons.
I've noticed something interesting among those of us on this journey. It's the way we label; not how we label people who struggle with SSA, but those who don't. Sometimes we call them "ever-straights." Sometimes we just shorten "he doesn't struggle with homosexuality" down to "he doesn't struggle."
"He doesn't struggle." Although we say that for the sake of abbreviation, I think it's literally our attitude sometimes. Those of us with SSA tend to look at people without it as the favored ones — like they're breezing through life, easily attaining maturity and enjoying blissful intimacy while we're struggling to hold our fragile pieces together.
Sure, our struggle is a little bit different, but everybody's broken and everyone has a hard time living in purity and authentic intimacy — especially when it comes to marriage. Many of Exodus's Member Ministries serve people with all kinds of sexual brokenness issues, including heterosexuals. What I've learned from years of growing alongside these men is that we are so much alike. This woe-is-me mindset frustrates us and kills our hope. And it's a lie.
"But, Mike," you might say, "they're allowed to follow their feelings and urges, and marry whoever they want."
Um, no they're not. Every man deals with feelings and urges that pull him away from God's explicit will for our sexuality. Or did you think other Christian men's sex drives always cooperate with them in abstaining until marriage, and then staying faithful? They too struggle with wandering and lustful eyes, curiosity about other people, the fleeting infatuations. They have to crucify the flesh daily, just like you and me.
"Ever-straights" may even face a few hazards that you and I don't. Our battle with homosexuality is much more apparent, and the spiritual leaders in our lives have an easy time spotting unhealthy relationships we may get into. But, for the opposite-sex struggler, relationships based on lust and/or unhealthy dependencies can sometimes slip under the radar, masking as romance. They may be able to pursue their flesh with more leniency, but don't think they don't pay for it! I consider myself lucky to have begun dealing with my intimacy and identity issues before jumping into the most important relationship of my life.
And they can't marry whomever they want; "ever-straights" still face rejection, disappointments, and the melancholy longing after someone they can never have. They also have to grow and get over it. We are all called to love and pursue godly intimacy in a world that is decidedly ungodly. Everyone struggles.
Stop obsessing about how much you will (or won't) enjoy heterosexual sex.
You've thought about it, and so have I. What if I don't enjoy sex with my spouse? What if I still want to have sex with other men (or women, if you're a woman)? The skeptics certainly say all the time that we "ex-gays" only have sexually frustrated lives ahead of us.
We often say the opposite of homosexuality isn't heterosexuality, it's holiness. That means God is calling us away from a me-centered life, including a me-centered sexuality. We've spent a lot of time programming ourselves through fantasy, masturbation, pornography and encounters to be utterly selfish with our sexuality. Marriage is the absolute antithesis of that.
The Bible tells us that once we are married our body actually belongs to our spouse. If you haven't lived with that attitude in singleness, it's not going to come naturally once you say your vows. The best way to be ready is by following this other Biblical command: to offer your body as a living sacrifice to God, because it ultimately belongs to Him.
People often ask me if I have sexual fantasies about women now, because that's what the world would consider change. But God wants me to change not into a man who still wraps himself up in self-absorbed fantasy, but one who's ready to put my wife before myself — and put Him first.
Afraid you won't enjoy the sex? Well, if your priority is your own satisfaction and the living out of your overly-developed obsessions, no, you won't enjoy the intimacy of sex within marriage. You know what? Neither would an "ever-straight" with the same mindset. They might be able to marry according to their worldly desires, but it will never fulfill the endless hunger of selfishness. Real closeness grows out of commitment to a person, and following God's will.
Don't worry; sex God's way will be the best.
Quit letting your temptations dictate your identity.
Ongoing temptation makes it so difficult to see ourselves for who we are, growing in Christ. We've started to recognize our convictions and the truth of Scripture, and to obey it, but then we see something that triggers our fleshly desires and we feel swept away. Sometimes it feels like picking up that card in a board game that says, "Go Back to Start."
So the world laughs at us for still seeking healing in change, in spite of the struggle it is. Sometimes even our fellow Christians look down on us, or doubt there really is any hope for change. All of it can make those voices from eons ago come rushing back, calling us fag, queer, dyke. How can I escape this identity? At times it would seem to make more sense to just give in to the idea that this is who I really am.
But God has put this truth in my heart that keeps repeating itself to me: Homosexuality is an experience you have, it's not a thing that you are. I know my SSA developed out of a deficit of male love growing up, and my insecurity in my own masculinity. It's not a legitimate way to experience intimacy, or fulfill the desire for oneness with another that God has placed in all of us.
I also am confident that when God said, "Do not practice homosexuality," he wasn't switching gears from "Loving God" to "Rule-Making, Fun-Hating God." His commands come from his loving heart, the same heart that sent his Son to save me.
The fact that temptation remains is only to be expected, for many reasons. First of all because while my sinful nature is fading away to make room for Christ's new life — and it is — I will not be fully free of it until Heaven.
Secondly, I certainly spent a lot of time indulging my homosexual desire — and using it as a defense mechanism. For several of the most formative years of my life, I drowned every disappointment, sorrow and insecurity in pornography, fantasy and sexual partners. Jesus' forgiveness erases my guilt, but not my memory. When hard times come, some part of me will always remember that that stuff once numbed my pain.
The good news is, that's all it ever was: an illusion I used to protect myself. Now, armed with the truth and with a God who loves me cares about my problems, I can choose to deal with my pain rightly.
Do what you know you should be doing.
Like you, I can't stand preachers who self-righteously blast us from the pulpit, as though we could just flip a switch and make our struggle go away. Even the temptations that fall into our path are not so easily avoided.
But you know what? God's made me realize that I haven't been willing to admit it when it is that easy. Let's face it: We like our sin. That doesn't mean we're truly gay inside. That means we are people who continue to struggle with our sinfulness, just like everyone (can I make this point enough?).
Is the Internet a temptation? Why do you still have access to it when you don't have to? Get accountability software. Give your wireless card to a friend so you can only go online when they're around. Have a friend, parent or mentor install a blocker and set the password. Get that DSL connection out of your bedroom. Whatever excuse you're using to keep that temptation there — need it for work, personal Web page, etc. — it's not worth it.
Do you really have to hang out with your gay friends? You know what it does to you, and you know you're not "being a light" to them. You will feel the loss of that acceptance, and you may face the heat of their anger. Deal with it. God will provide healthy, godly new friendships for you in time. You're hanging onto the old ones for the sake of your flesh, and you have to let go.
Feeling convicted about an unhealthy relationship? Tell a mentor or counselor, or a trustworthy and mature friend. Figure out what boundaries you need to set up, or whether you need to cut it off completely, and take care of it.
Having trouble finding a mentor, or relationships that provide encouragement and accountability? Show some initiative! Offer encouragement and accountability to others, and see if it doesn't come back to you. If you hit brick walls, don't give up and whine. Keep asking, keep looking. If you have to move on to another church, then move on.
So if your eye — even your good eye — causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (Matthew 5:29, NLT)
There's nothing worth missing our abundant life in Christ for. And there's too much we don't know to waste time neglecting what we do know. Start being the person you want to be, and making the choices you've always wished you would make. You know what you should be doing. Do it.
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For more information about recovery from same-sex attraction, visit Exodus International. There you'll find resources helpful to you or a loved one. Founded in 1976, Exodus International is the largest resource and referral organization dealing with homosexual issues in the U.S. and throughout the world. With over 150 ministries across North America, Exodus is a growing network of former homosexuals dedicated to sharing the transforming power of Jesus Christ.
Copyright 2007 Exodus International. All rights reserved.