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.

24 comments:

naturgesetz said...

Thanks and praise to God for showing you his mercy.

Being single can be the state in life to which one is called by God. And I think that is usually what homosexual men are called to (although it is possible that some are called to marry women). I also think that well-lived, it can feel personally fulfilling as well.

AJ said...

Thanks for sharing this Jay. Really great to learn about your history and see how God has brought you to this point. I definitely know what its like to bury these attractions and pretend to be "normal" for the sake of others. I buried them so far I feel like I am stuck in the hole sometimes. God is starting to help me to dig my way out though and showing me how much He loves me and that my sin is not somehow worse than others!

I just really respect the way you view your sexuality and I hope and pray that someday I can come to that point of being honest about my struggle with others and with myself too.

Anyways thanks for posting this!

Daemon Ἴκαρος said...

Jay,

Thank your for sharing the beginning of your story with us. It looks like this is going to be a good read! :)

The one thing that I learned from the words you placed here is the fact that this is all about Him, NOT about me and all the circumstances and issues I find myself mired in at times.

Thank you for pointing back to God and reminding me that this life, this surrender, this mission, is about sharing His story with the world and living out His love to others.

All to often that guy I see in the mirror takes up way to much of my time. I need to start concentrating on more important things in my life and realize that my struggle is but one obstacle and opportunity for His grace.

Daemon

Anonymous said...

Jay,

I continue to enjoy your blog. I love to hear other peoples stories, especially those in a similar struggle. I was off of work today and I thought about what you had written often. Sometime I think we feel alone in this struggle with our brokeness.

I need your help on one part of what you wrote though, You said, "What I found was that God didn't care about the fact that I liked dudes." I struggle with that statement. I realize in the context of what you wrote about our other sins but somehow for me personally I am trying to get beyond the fact that God does care about my sin, even my struggle with same sex attraction. It seems from what I read in the Bible that it is not in keeping with God's plan for me. On the other hand it becomes somewhat mysterious to me when I realize (and believe) that God is completely sovereign and has a purpose in each of my struggles. I am just wondering if you could expound on what you wrote a little.

A little off topic.... Daemon, thanks for commenting. I enjoy your blog also and am encouraged by your continued pursuit of God despite the times you fall. What you have written in the comments here today encouraged me. Thank you.

Thanks again Jay!

Steve

Erik said...

One of the things I have appreciated about your blog, your testimomny as well as our other interactions is that, while I may have had a dramatic childhood and a poor relationship with my father, not everybody with SSA was abused or has "daddy issues."

There is a stereotype of guys with SSA in which (especially those influenced by Reparative Therapy) that SSA = weak father, dominant mother + poor body image and possibly sexual abuse.

But that isn't always the case and there is a temptation to think that just because I went through such things, that therefore everybody with SSA must have as well especially when all the NARTH literature makes such claims.

Erik

donsands said...

The truth of Scripture is where we must go. And by God's great love, and His grace, he brought you to His Word; His truth.

The truth convicts. The truth encourages. The truth edifies. The truth is a treasure; a precious gift from our Lord to rebels, who don't deserve His truth in our hearts, and in our minds.

The other side of the truth coin is truth, with a capital "T".

Jesus is the Truth. He is Lord and God of the universe. And those of us who have come to Him, have now no fear of condemnation (Romans 8:28).
He is our Savior and Friend.

Thanks for sharing your testimony bro.

Hope all is going well with your move to Hopkins. I love the Blue Jays during the Lacrosse season. But, I think this will be a disappointing year for them.

"But God, (two wonderful words of truth)
being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved..."

Norm! said...

Hi Jay,

Thank you for sharing your testimony. I love the "...For Now" in your title.

I was surprised your testimony wasn't more traditional -- at least in the describing how you became a Christian.

I don't know why I was surprised. Having also been raised into Christianity, I can say my testimony isn't very interesting beyond 'I was raised into it.' And I certainly empathize that the struggle to reconcile my faith and sexuality is the major defining part of my testimony (for now).

I would be interested to hear (if you're willing) the basic part of your testimony of how you became a Christian. Was there ever a time you didn't consider yourself a Christian? Also, do you think your faith is different today than if you had been blessed/cursed with SSA. :)

College Jay said...

Thank you for the support, everyone! Anonymous, that quote really has to be taken in the context with which it was written.

Norm, I can say that if I was not gay, I would probably remain the same kind of thoughtless, watered down, anemic Christian that I was before I started taking my faith seriously. I can't really describe a moment in which I became a true Christian. I was raised as one, and I had all the right backdrop to take it seriously, but I can't point to a certain "Aha!" moment, really.

Norm! said...

Jay, thanks for the response. I also can't remember a moment when I became a Christian. Christianity was just always there.

Growing-up in a wide-variety of church youth groups, I have to admit that I was a little envious of guest speakers who had spectacular testimonies of how they became Christian after leading wildly sinful, non-Christian lives. The quiet struggle to deal with SSA as life-long Christians is a little more nuanced and harder (and even embarrassing) to explain as a testimony. Thanks again for sharing your testimony.

Brandon said...

I think you're a remarkable person, Jay. While our stories are not completely alike, I do see several similarities. I'd be surprised if a great number of people who have struggled with homosexuality haven't felt and gone through a lot of the same things. You always seem so positive though. I like that about you. Your outlook and response has always inspired me. You're not much of a "glass is half empty" sort of guy.

Your testimony is more than appreciated. And I have no doubt God will be able to use you and shape your life in many great ways. And when that story is fully told, yours will be a life worth having lived, of more worth than can be measured.

God bless you!

Jeff S. said...

Love you, brother. Thanks for posting this. You are touching many lives, including mine.

U.T. said...

You are not alone in your struggles.

God bless!

Daniel M said...

Jay,

This is a great testimony and a beginning of a good book :) may be we should compile a book of SSA testimonies that don't fit the Reparative Therapy angle...? Each of our stories can be a chapter. With may be some ending chapters that we all write together?

Love,
daniel

Anonymous said...

This is for College Jay. I sure do admire your love for the Lord and desire to serve and please him. I can tell you that many if not most people feel arousal by just looking at a nude body of either sex. I am definitely a heterosexual female but I think women's bodies are beautiful and feel aroused by nudity period, men or women. I don't think your feelings of arousal when seeing a nude male body means you are gay any more than I am when I feel aroused seeing a nude female. I believe your thinking about what's happening to you at those times is flawed. Jay trust me on this, I am a senior citizen and I know many many lonely unhappy married people, men and women. If you don't marry you can absolutely be happy and fulfulled. On the other hand, you don't have to fall in love with every female on the planet. You only have to love one woman to get married. :o) Love and Prayers. Linda

Anonymous said...

Jay, I am also a guy who struggles with same-sex attraction, although my childhood and adolescent story is much more similar to what exodus or other change organizations would consider a typical story. Recently, I started finding myself spontaneously attracted to women (although not as strongly as I was once attracted to men), even as my immediate uncontrolled attraction to men began to dissipate. There are a lot of reasons why that happened, but I am quite certain that one of the things which allowed my attractions to somewhat rewire was that I managed to almost completely stop looking at pornography for a year and a half. During that period, I only looked at pornography on two days. This wasn't really due to me. It was more going to a Christian college that made looking at pornography very difficult, so that I only had to be disciplined in the summer. What I learned was that pornography was very strongly reinforcing the strongest attractions that I had and that I was using it to cover over emotions of depression and inferiority which immediately became more intense once I stopped. By a year into stopping looking at pornography, my struggles with homosexual lust had noticeably weakened. I still noticed attractive guys, but I wasn't fixating on them or undressing them with my eyes. I'd just glance away and focus on something else. Six months later, I realized how much of my attractions were tied to envy of other guys' looks and/or personalities, and the attractions became even weaker and easy to stop thinking about. Three months later, I started spontaneously noticing women. I certainly think that stopping pornography usage and learning to not worry about being attracted to guys (which kept me focused on it) but to just acknowledge it and move on were major contributing factors in reducing the intensity of my same-sex attractions. I had a lot of emotional fears and needs that I had to work through too, but it doesn't sound like those are necessarily as much of an issue for you. Anyway, I encourage you to do whatever it takes to get yourself out of pornography. I know that you want to, and I know how difficult it is. However, I also know that it is almost impossible to overcome lust unless you stop feeding it. It may be a normal guy thing, but heterosexual lust is just as powerful and unhealthy, something which I have recently begun to discover after watching very sexualized movies and then finding myself noticing breasts everywhere afterwards. Anyway, I hope this will encourage you to take whatever steps to completely eliminate that junk from your life.

College Jay said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. To the last anonymous commenter, thank you for the concern, and of course I am working to eliminate pornography from my life. However, I am not doing it to be straight. I am doing it strictly for holiness reasons. Despite your testimony, I doubt that stopping pornography will cause heterosexual feelings, and like I said, I have no desire to have heterosexual feelings, anyway.

I am secure and happy as a gay celibate man, and I don't really desire to live a life where I have to look away every time I see an attractive person. Noticing a guy is attractive is not a sin. I'm an artist, and God's beautiful creation represented in the human form (male and female) is something I plan to continue to appreciate. Lust, of course, is wicked. To create an analogy using the observation of nature, lust is not the mere appreciation of beauty. It's the desire to plunder and take advantage of that beauty for one's own personal gain. Like blowing up a pristine mountainside in order to obtain coal and become wealthy.

I realize the sin in it, and trust me, it's for that reason that I want it removed for my life, not because there could be a possible carrot dangled in front of me in terms of future heterosexual attractions, of which I have little interest.

Rose said...

"like I said, I have no desire to have heterosexual feelings, anyway. "


Dang, Jay! Guess I'm not in with a chance after all!

Caleb M said...

Jay,

I found your blog through another friend's blog. Thanks for sharing this. Its weird that your story has so many parallels to mine: grown up in the church, no really traumatic events, same-sex attraction, and we both recognize that this will probably never change. Holiness is a war. Keep up the fight.

Blessings,
Caleb

College Jay said...

Thanks, Caleb!

donsands said...

My Pastor worked with the homosexual community in Indianapolis. He helped some to come to Christ, and they have since married, and have children.

So, God can do this as well.

Could I throw out a different subject to you, because I'm not sure about it?
The whole "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Law for the military.

Are you familiar with this Jay? If so, what do you think?

I guess the military is a whole different game then basic society. But then again, maybe not.

Hope to see you you sometime in Baltimore.

Have a blessed evening within our Savior's presence of peace and joy. Because He died for our sins, and "has removed them as far as the East is from the West" (Psalm 103).

Pianoman Kugie said...

Jay, thank you for sharing your story! God is so good!

Anonymous said...

After reading all these comments, the following sentence struck me

Jay, you write, "I realize the sin in [pornography], and trust me, it's for that reason that I want it removed for my life, not because there could be a possible carrot dangled in front of me in terms of future heterosexual attractions, of which I have little interest."

I may be completely wrong in my analysis here, but it seems to me Jay, that you're on a mission to prove to God and yourself that you will defy the right and the left, that you will resist good and evil.

Let me explain: I completely understand and admire you're PRESENT decision to be a gay, celibate Christian. BUT, Christianity is about growing in the image of God. It's a journey, as I believe you'd agree. But don't set up fences where God has not placed them. If you decree straight up that being married to a woman is an impossible, or an undesirable thing for someone with SAA, then in a very real since you are contradicting God's limitless power and authority. You in essence are saying, Ok God, I like guys, I'm cool with that, I'm gonna stay single all my life so I can respect your law against active homosexuality, but if that suits you, then that's exactly what I'll do, so leave me alone and let me be, because I don't want to have any feelings for women, even if there were on your agenda on down the road. I'll stick to the plan, and this way, I can prove to you and everybody else that Jay is strongest-willed lone wolf in the forest, and he likes it that way."

Sorry if that's a bit long-winded, but that's how it came out.

All I'm trying to say, is don't be closed to what God can do. If you make up your mind ahead of time what is and isn't possible, then you will effectively limit God's ppotential for making your life what he wants it to me. Don't be pretentious and think you know better than he does what that life would look like! Because it might include a wife at some point. You never know.

And this is coming from a person who shares your perspective and experiences in a whole lot of ways, so I'm writing to myself as much as I am to you!

Thanks man! God Bless!

Jacob Swanson said...

Jay,

I just found your blog, and I know you haven't posted in two years, but holy cow. There are so many similarities between your story and mine.

I've struggled with homosexuality (or SSA or whatever you want to call it... I find labels to be misleading and not entirely accurate) since puberty hit, too, really realizing it first while watching a movie and being attracted to the guy lead. As a college freshman I finally began telling people and dealing with it publicly. Now I'm a 5th-year (in English secondary education, go figure) and I've come to some sort of understanding of what my sexuality means and how it will work in my life, a peace about "the hand that God dealt me," as you quoted in another post, and that since I can't play it well, I better be able to let God. I have come recently to an expectation of celibacy, too, but one that acknowledges that God can and do whatever he sees fit in my life, and that might someday include heterosexual marriage. I learned much about myself while working as a counselor at a Christian summer camp. These past two years I've been wrestling with Calvinistic doctrine and find myself leaning that way. Of course there is more to learn, and I still struggle in many of the same ways that you do (or did) with pornography and lust, though the struggle has been lesser in recent months. I'm a little blown away at the similarities, and I'll be reading a lot more of your blog in the coming weeks.

I just wanted to say thank you. That you for sharing and for fighting the fight that you have. While I'm overall in a much better place now than a year or two ago, the last few days have been a low point, and it's so encouraging to read about someone who has decided to do the hard thing and to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Jesus. You and I (and so many others here!) know how difficult that can be, and your blog is an encouragement to continue to do that in my own life. It's time to stop settling with mediocrity and let my life matter again. There is so much more to live for than destructive sin. There's a God that deserves our devotion, and who are we to deny it, regardless of our personal struggles? This blog is a blessing. Thank you.

College Jay said...

Thanks, Jacob. And Happy New Year! I may not be blogging anymore, but I'm still adventuring, and I'm glad to know that this blog can still be an encouragement for people. That's why I've left it up. I hope you're doing well, and please feel free to email me if you want to be pointed to any other resources or bloggers who are currently writing about the same struggle, even if I happen to have "retired."