Twenty-one years ago this month I walked into a local Exodus Member Ministry for help. I was 19 years old and a church kid—a believer in the one, true Christ. I was also 8 or 9 years into my struggle with same-sex attraction. SSA was, at that time, all consuming; likely because I was 19 and my young body raged with hormones I constantly gave into my sexual thoughts. In my teenage years, I gave into a few sexual relationships with guys my age. My daily life was full of fearing God, praying for relief and giving in to overwhelming temptations that I thought I had no power over.
So, when I found out about Exodus I knew I had to check it out. I’ll never forget that fall-like day on September 12, 1991. I remember what I was wearing as I walked through the parking lot of that ministry–a building I’d driven by numerous times in my life with no clue that inside was an answer to a nearly decade old prayer.
The big and burly director of the ministry eventually came out into the lobby and greeted me. A good ole boy of sorts. Corduroy pants, flannel type shirt, suspenders. Certainly no connection to “the issue”, I concluded. Never judge a book by its cover. Sitting in his office a few minutes later, I was scared. However, that day was pivotal for me. I began a real healing journey that wasn’t at all what I’d hoped for or considered.
Ending up at a place that offered freedom from homosexualty was a lot to take after years of hearing it was a sin and struggling with it. I assumed there would be a magical cure, that God would, as Sy Rogers has said, would wave a magic wand over me and say, “One, two, three, now be free. Go be straight, date and mate. Bing!” I was Southern Baptist, but I was ready for the exorcism. By the end of my 60 minute meeting with this man I hadn’t experienced any promises for heterosexuality, just comfort, encouragement and a feeling that, for the first time in years, I wasn’t alone.
I quickly got involved in the groups the local ministry offered. One was just a support group much like AA. The people I met there were different than any I’d ever encountered. Up until this point I’d never met someone who was really gay. And, I had certainly never told anyone that I was gay. Now there was talk of being ex-gay. Again, a lot to take in. I was simply grateful for the refuge. I was grateful for the transparent fellowship. The worship amongst a group of honest men and women who just wanted to serve the Lord. It was “Church”. Real Church. I loved it.
While my journey was full of pot holes and cavernous pits, I came to understand deeply that my pursuit must be one of holiness alone. As I pursued Christ alone my life did change. My heart changed and everything else began to, as well. At that time in my life one of the most pronounced battles I faced related to SSA was an emotional and sexualized addiction to men that we call Emotional Dependency. Long story short, Emotional Dependency is when one person latches on to another and becomes consumed with that person. The obsession, jealousy, and wanting to be a part of their entire world is excruciating.
In my life I have had two lengthy relationships of this nature. The first was in high school and the second in my early 20′s. The first ended very badly. The second ended divinely.
In 1996, 5 years after starting my journey, and into the early days of my leadership on the local and national level, I went to a gathering of Christian leaders from a local Christian TV station in town. At that meeting there was a special speaker. At the end of her talk she prayed for people. She called me out of the crowd and asked if she could pray for me specifically. She did not know me or anything about me. She seemed to foreshadow the life that I am living today. And then she said, “You are struggling with something that is burdensome to you and that you’ve struggled with for many years. You know what I am talking about. After today you won’t struggle with it any more. The power is broken and you are free.” I knew she was talking about Emotional Dependency. I had been suffering in just such a relationship, at that point, for 4 years. I was exhausted and never thought I’d be free.
That day I left the meeting encouraged. It wasn’t until I got home, though, that I realized any and all emotional and sexual feelings I’d had for this other man were completely and inexplicably gone. Where I once would have spent my afternoon and evening waiting for “him” to call me and make plans or simply let me know he was thinking of me, I spent it feeling like I’d been released from an overwhelming debt. It was unbelievable.
Fast forward to today. I have never struggled with Emotional Dependency again. The deep unhealthy longing for male relationship that I once had has never returned. While I do experience visual attraction, it is just that. There is no draw for me.
Recently, as I have heard from people who have questioned me about “still struggling” or wondering what “change” looks like I have felt compelled to share this story. It isn’t one I’ve talked much about, but the Lord reminded me of its significance in my life. I hope it encourages you.
John 16:33 is a constant source of comfort to me. The NAS version says:
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (emphasis mine)
There is no doubt that this world will bring its fair share of struggles, trials and temptations. But, seeking the Prince of Peace and pursuing a life of holiness, in every regard, is well worth it. I would not trade any part of the last 21 years for all the money in the world. I love every aspect of my story and struggle as it has constantly pointed me to a loving, faithful, gracious Father and Savior. While in this world I do have trouble, I live in the Promise Land of peace, rest, milk and honey. And, it is very good!