Sunday, May 09, 2010

My Testimony, For Now

I've never really thought of writing out my testimony, which is strange. I fancy myself a writer and I know the power of stories to convey God's work in the lives of individuals. After all, the Bible is in narrative form for a reason, is it not? Stories have power. But stories can also be intimidating to write, especially when they are your own. Lives rarely move in a completely clean and clear linear fashion. They sprawl, and events repeat themselves over and over again, and memories are often tainted by our present realities, not to mention the fog of time. So when writing my testimony, I have to realize that I'm looking back over God's work in my life for the past 21 years. And really, that's only the beginning. Sometimes a story's beginning doesn't really make full sense until you reach the end, and since I haven't reached the end of mine yet, I'm not quite sure what aspects of my past are the most significant to tell.

I'll start with the fact that I was raised in a Christian home. Of course, that can mean anything these days. I'll say that my parents were Methodists, and they took my siblings and I to church, and that we went to Sunday school, youth trips, and pool parties. I'm from a really small southern farm town, not too far from the Carolina coast. The life of the church and the social life of the town were practically identical, and despite all the positives to this, I can't recall a clear presentation of the gospel while growing up. God was the Santa in the sky described in movies and country music songs -- a kindly old guy with a beard who chuckled at humanity's shenanigans and helped us out every now and again. Sadly, I have a feeling that this is how most churchgoing Americans, even if they are in Bible-believing and Bible-preaching churches, see God.

My family life growing up was pretty good. My father was a craftsman and I would work in his shop every day after school, and he taught me a lot about art, music, and the usual "dad" things like how to catch a ball or fix a car. My brother and I were very close, and together we did all the normal kid stuff: building tree houses, fishing, playing ball, riding our bikes, pulling pranks on our sister, etc. I even got along with my male peers very well growing up. And yet, I was "different." I didn't really notice my differences until puberty or so, but when I did notice them, I did everything in my power to hide them from others. That main difference was simple: while my male peers were beginning to notice and think about girls, I was beginning to notice and think about my male peers.

I actually remember the first time I really recognized I was attracted to men. I was watching a television show, and some male actor -- I forget who, exactly -- came on the screen. My first thought was, "Wow, he is beautiful!" My next thought was, "No! He's a guy, and guys aren't allowed to think that about other guys." And thus began a cycle of denying the fact that I was, indeed, attracted to men. I began to stumble with homosexual pornography, but even so, I did not view myself as anything other than heterosexual. Such a thing simply wasn't spoken about outside of the bullying and taunts that I heard at school, especially since I was involved in sports and hung around the more athletic and "macho" students and teachers.

And so I just buried it. I had girlfriends, I acted the part of the normal straight guy, while every night I would look at images of nude men on the Internet, and every day I would feel intense feelings of shame and guilt when I realized that I simply didn't find women attractive, but instead had to do everything to avoid conspicuous arousal as my teammates and I got changed in the locker room. I had no idea how I was going to deal with this issue once I got to college, but I knew it had to be dealt with. As many people do in times of crisis, I turned to faith, and I began to read my Bible and study Christianity seriously for the first time. What I found was that God didn't care about the fact that I liked dudes. I had so many other sins that were just as damning, mostly my pride, and my ignorance of him and his word. I didn't need to be worried about my sexuality at that time, because like most Christians, I hadn't even understood the basics of the faith. Without genuine belief in Christ, and understanding of the gospel, whether I was straight or not would not matter in an eternal sense.

So I made the decision to put my trust in God, and to mean it this time. I think I expected my homosexuality to go away instantly at that time, but obviously it didn't happen. Instead, I have grown in my faith in so many incredible ways in the following four years. I've learned more about grace, sanctification, theology, and true, radical, Biblical love. My understanding of God's holiness and my constant need for repentance has continued to grow, and I am learning new things daily, despite my weakness and brokenness. My sexual struggles are, to me, pretty parallel to the struggles that straight men. Yes, they are present, and I struggle with lust and pornography.

If there is any unique struggle, it is that I am not sure I will ever be able to marry a woman. Personally, I have found quite a bit of fulfillment in singleness, and have been assured that singles are just as commended by God if they serve the kingdom with their whole hearts, which is what I intend to do. It's a daily struggle, and I know I need other Christians around who can stand with me in my loneliness and despair -- when those moments come -- and remind me of God's grace. Hopefully, I can do the same for them when they struggle.

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