I grew up in church. In fact, I have a Sunday school pin that reads 13 years of perfect attendance. Think about it -- K-12, I never missed a Sunday unless I was deathly sick. In 2nd grade we learned the ten commandments. I got stuck on one of them. You guessed it -- Thou shalt not commit adultery. I had no idea what that meant, and was to ashamed to ask -- I figured I should know already, and there must be something really bad about it because nobody talked about it. So ... I came up with my own definition. Something that boys and girls did with no clothes on. This is partly true, of course, but not completely. And, judging by my context, it was dreadfully wrong. How many of you played doctor when you were little? I had been playing doctor. A lot. And I liked it. But, I didn't want to break the commandment. So ... I excluded the girls because we were naked during parts of this game. I figured that if I were to do this only with other boys, then it would be OK. This progressed -- I now had an “early theological precedent” for going towards what I now know is homosexuality.
Jeremiah 13:22-25 -- This is God speaking to Jeremiah, who is pleading with God on behalf of the people of Israel [God wants to destroy them -- to send them away to captivity because they were not being faithful to him -- even in a sexual context].
READ TEXT: And if you ask yourself, "Why has this happened to me?" -- it is because of your many sins that your skirts have been torn off and your body mistreated. Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil. "I will scatter you like chaff driven by the desert wind. This is you lot, the portion I have decreed for you," declares the LORD, "because you have forgotten me and trusted in false gods.
Jesse Ventura, as a talk show host in the early 90's said, “Can A Leopard Change Spots?” in reference to the rehabilitation of convicted felons in prison -- specifically of Chuck Colson, President Nixon's "hatchet man." Notice the part about you having the ability to do GOOD, because you are so used to doing evil -- you're addicted to it! It is impossible to change.
This is how I felt in Junior High. I hated the way I was -- the way I talked and laughed, my voice kept cracking. I hated the way I walked -- did you know that massive changes are taking place in your body during these years, and sometimes the body looks awkward and feels awkward doing so many very ordinary things? Kids made fun of me during this time, and I desperately wanted to change. I couldn't, and the world kept quoting this verse to me. Then they said, that because of the things I was doing, and the way I was doing them, I must be a 'homo.' That hurt. Hearing that made me hate myself. Why? Because I believed what people told me. It's hard not to, isn't it? I became a Christian between 7th and 8th grades, at Bible Camp. I decided I needed to change some things about myself. Especially about where I might end up in eternity. I asked God to change this "sex thing" about me -- I just was uncomfortable about it, and I hated kids teasing me about it.
EZEKIEL 11:17-19 READ TEXT: Therefore say “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.” They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
Notice what God says about his children. They were focused on the wrong things, they had been scattered to other countries/ to other sovereignties. They gave other things charge of their lives. And, God now promises to bring them back to His kingdom, to the place where he rules in their lives.
This is what I wanted for myself back in Jr High. But, I was still very intrigued about sex and sexual things. I kept doing the things I felt guilty about doing. Finally in about 10th or 11th grade, something happened to me that drastically took me by surprise. I was fooling around with another boy in the neighborhood and my body kicked in to action. I had my first orgasm, my first ejaculation. Uh , ... , Puberty HIT and I had no idea what was happening, I was extremely frightened and scared. I couldn't figure it out! I thought that I had broken something inside of me! I told the other kid something was wrong, very wrong and we should never, ever do this again. And, please leave!
Later, I remember how good the sensation felt, and learned about masturbation. This became my best friend. I no longer had God as my best friend, and the heart of flesh that Jesus gave me, slowly hardened into stone. I couldn't talk to anyone about this -- after all, I had confessed this in 7th grade!
I decided to go to college after high school, and I decided the best place for me would be a Christian college. There nobody would make fun of me, there no one would tease me about the way I talked or walked. There, NO ONE would deal with the awful, dirty, lustful sins of the flesh that I did. Maybe some of that purity will rub off on me. During my second year there, I was approached by a fellow student for sex. I consented. I thought no one would ever find out, so we won't have to worry about getting kicked out of school or anything like that. We had a 2 and 1/2 year secret sexual relationship. And, there would be other men on campus with whom I would behave sexually during the time before graduation.
During the next 8 years after graduation, there would be 5 or 6 other sexual partners for me -- some for one night, some for several encounters. I was a minister during this time -- a youth pastor, trying to become the man of God I thought I should be. I could hardly look at myself in the mirror, knowing I was sinning against God -- playing church on the outside and having homosexual thoughts, temptations and actions in secret. I couldn't face it. It was too hard. I heard every gay joke, every homosexual put-down that the pastor and my ministry friends said. I heard it from church people, I heard it from secular people, people on the street and people in the pew. I suffered in silence.
During this period, I was dating and even engaged to be married to a wonderful Christian woman, Katie. She accepted me for all I was and would become. We were going to be missionaries in Spain. It was all set. I thought, No more struggles, no more pain. People would see I was married and not bother me about suspected homosexuality anymore.
Well, in the spring of 1987 (14 years ago now) Katie broke off our relationship -- for reasons that I still do not fully understand. The pastor I was working with in a church out East felt he no longer needed my assistance, so I resigned. I came back home to find a situation where I was talking to a man about masturbation and homosexuality. We became sexually active. He told the pastor of our church. This was probably the worst period of my life. Here I had a master's degree, but I was packing fruits and nuts in a dingey factory, barely making enough money to live -- even while staying with my parents. I had no wife, I had no job, I had no career. In short -- I had no hope.
I went to talk to my pastor. He assured me that he would assist me in anyway he could, if my desire was to change. I thought, if my desire was to CHANGE?! Of course that was my desire, I never wanted anything less than to change -- from the inside out. I didn't want to have to deal with homosexual temptations and behaviors! I never wanted that! I jumped at the chance to change.
But, there in the back of my mind was this thought, CAN A LEOPARD CHANGE ITS SPOTS, CAN YOU DO GOOD WHO IS ACCUSTOMED TO DOING EVIL? I felt discouraged. But then I read this:
2 CORINTHIANS 5:16-17 READ TEXT: So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
Look at this fact: In Christ we are something new -- totally different than what we once were. READ v. 17: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" Notice also, v.16 -- to be regarded by a worldly point of view ... what did the talk show host say and what does the rest of the world say in regards to anyone changing anything about themselves? -- That you cannot change!
BUT, look at this: 1 CORINTHIANS 6:9-11 READ TEXT: Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (NIV)
What happens to the wicked in v.9? Not inherit the kingdom of God. But look at what happens in v.11: READ: "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
NO! We are not regarded as from a worldly point of view -- but a godly point of new. Why? Just because the leopard can't change its spots does not mean that the spots cannot be changed ... by someone else. Who put those spots there? GOD! And, HE CAN CHANGE THE LEOPARD'S SPOTS!
I started to realize that if I would bring all of this homosexuality to God, he just might change my spots! Look at v,11!
So, I went to a Christian counselor, who also believed that God might change my spots. Then I started talking about my spots with other Christian men, who also believed that God could change my spots. We started a support group in our church -- all so that we could together remind ourselves and each other that GOD IS CHANGING OUR SPOTS. In all this, I started to realize that, though I struggled homosexually, not all of my new friends did. But I related to them. And, though some of my new friends struggled with things I had no problem with, I learned that I was just like them. We were all alike! I found my niche! I was a real man. Just like other men. As I grew in my understanding of my own identity in Christ, my own identity as a man, I saw my spots changing. Not literally, but spiritually, I could tell something was happening.
In 1996 I met with a colleague in the ministry. He said, “Dan, you’re too afraid of making a mistake and getting hurt in relationships with women. You have to step out and get into relationships with women. You have to be OK with being a guy who makes mistakes. So, I did just that -- I started dating. First mistake? Dating 3 women all at the same time! But by the summer of 1997, the woman I finally chose, took me out for my birthday dinner. No surprises, no presents, just the two of us and dinner. At the end of the evening, as we walked along the river bank overlooking the city lights of downtown, I got enough courage to ask this woman for a kiss. (Well, actually, she’d been begging me to kiss her for weeks and I was too afraid of what might [or might not] happen.) Suddenly, fireworks started going off, then we were in a field of daisies in bright sunshine, with violins playing and then it hit me -- Omigosh! I’m normal! I’m being attracted to this woman and it is a good thing.
Unfortunately, while most boys go through this kind of thing in about 7th grade, I was going through it at age 39. And, as with most 7th grade relationships, this relationship broke off in about 3 months. But I would never be the same again.
Since then, there have been a few other women I have dated, and though I am not married, I know that something is completely different about me. I even moved to Florida a couple years back to pursue a relationship with a woman there. Things didn’t work out there as well as I hoped they might, and when my father died in 1999, I came home to be with family.
My father’s death, I now call “the Best Death,” because God showed his great love and grace to me in it, more powerfully than perhaps in any other even in my life. For instance, in my last face to face conversation with my Dad (before I moved to Florida) he told me he loved me. I was 41 years old and could not recall him ever telling me that. At his funeral, I was moved beyond tears as I recalled that healing event. God worked out that whole relationship for my good, because we were both committed to, loving and obeying Christ.
Now, it’s been over 13 years since I have been sexual with another man. I have started and stopped and started dating women. My understanding of God is changing and growing. He is not just some kind of wicked ogre out there, who wants to nail me every time I step out of line. NO! He loves me, he accepts me. And, he sends other people into my life who remind me of that -- almost every day!
And if he can do that for me, he can do anything. He can even do it for you, too, no matter if you struggle with homosexuality or heterosexuality or whatever ... it doesn't matter!