Having come into this world in 1952, I entertained two ideas about myself from a very early age: the feeling of being “extra,” unnecessary, unwanted, had over-ridden all other emotions since I can remember; the cry of my heart for a man to love me, care about me, accept me … again, ever since I can remember.
Shortly after I turned six, something happened which added to the decimation of my personhood, though as an adult it helped make sense out of my childhood experiences. My younger sister was born about a month-and-a-half after my sixth birthday. One day shortly thereafter I had done something wrong. (Name a six-year-old who hasn’t!) This time my mother’s only response was: “We wanted your older brother, we wanted your little sister. We were stuck with you!” Until then I only thought I had a concept of the meaning of hard times.
For the next several years I was beaten with anything handy (two-by-four, either end of a belt, fist, back of the hand); slapped upside the head; kicked; and force-fed some things a little boy shouldn’t be eating. It took little or no provocation for either of my parents to go into a furious rage and do things to me that one would to a …(I don’t have a word for it). While, honestly–Scout’s honor–I cannot recall once when either my brother or sister was punished for anything…
As a little boy I not only felt unnecessary, but useless and worthless as well. I believed that all these things were happening to me because I existed for these things. This was my purpose. I would have given anything to have been able to do something right, to have been able to please someone, particularly a man.
At age eight my older brother let me know that there were things I could do to please him. So I did my best to [please him] … for several years, until he left home.
At age sixteen I not only believed myself to be totally worthless, but dirty and vulgar; there was a tremendous hole in my soul. I had gone from being pathetically cheap and sub-human, to being a cheap, sub-human homosexual.
While growing up I worked much more and much harder than both my siblings combined. In school I made better grades than they did. In fact I made better grades than most of my classmates. But I could never do anything right. I was anything but smart. Anything but intelligent. Anything but desirable. Anything but loveable.
Famished for things like love and acceptance I grasped at even just the suggestion of them wherever and whenever I could (such as with my older brother). Fortunately, we had a few instructors in high school that seemed to really care about their students. We repeatedly were told, “If you don’t do anything else, finish high school, get your diploma.” Having heeded their advice, after graduating, I moved nine hundred miles away in the fall of 1970.
However, moving did not help. I still believed all those horrible things about myself. Since nobody cared and nobody would, I decided neither would anybody miss me if I simply weren’t around anymore. I developed a fool-proof plan of self-destruction, set the date, and proceeded to live it up for a few days … I had found access to the top of a tall building in the downtown area. One step and the world would no longer be cluttered with Richard.
However, an acquaintance invited me to his church, a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching church. I visited, and the warmth and acceptance I received from those in his Sunday school class persuaded me to postpone my appointment with death. I can’t recall how, but I developed a close relationship with his teacher, Steve (not his real name). Steve and his wife seemed to accept me, and genuinely care about me, and I ate it up! But I quickly discovered that his fondness for an eighteen-year-old child waned any time I behaved like a six-year-old–which happened on a regular basis. I adored brother Steve; I think I just about worshipped him. So, any time he chewed the daylights out of me, I took it in stride. You see, this man seemed to love me, even though I was a total loser, so I gladly accepted regular barrages from him, rather than jeopardize a shaky relationship–a relationship that would have disintegrated had Steve known I was homosexual.
In the fall of 1972 something major happened in my life that eventually (emphasis on that word) would be the catalyst that solved all my problems. I received the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal savior. After I “got saved,” even though nobody in church (or anywhere else, for that matter) discussed it, I knew homosexual behavior was wrong. “But how to perform that which is good I find not,” (Romans 7:18) certainly pertained to me! I could not change on my own!
The next twenty-nine years were a giant emotional merry-go-round: up and down, up and down, round and round. I stayed in church, sang the songs, won folks to Christ, did all the right things. I studied the Bible, prayed, memorized Scripture, got married. Everything looked swell on the outside, but two things were still skewering my life.
I tended to be attracted to jerks. I idolized men–Christians, faithful, straight–who were unable (or unwilling) to give me what I needed back from them: unconditional love. Why, I even married a woman who did an excellent job of taking my mother’s place! Marriage was my leap out of the frying pan into the sauce pan! And there was still struggle with homosexual behavior. Even though I hadn’t been with another guy since I’d been married, my desires had never changed…
At age forty-eight I was still a big dumb kid who had kids of his own. And I still longed for a man to love me. I mean with a clean love. I was still yearning for a dad. And I had given up on ever being “normal.”
However, I came across a book (unintentionally) entitled Beyond Rejection: The Church, Homosexuality, and Hope, written by pastor Don Baker. It is the testimony of a man in his church—–a man whose struggles mirrored mine, except that he had experienced deliverance! I borrowed the book and read it three times in short order. “This is great!” I thought. If this man could be free, then so could I! Just one problem. It involved getting help from another individual. That meant telling someone else things that I really didn’t care to share.
It didn’t take long to decide who to talk with. Roy (not his real name) was a man in our church who was known for caring about others. I went to him and told him everything. He didn’t cringe. He didn’t condemn me; he just loved me. He said, “Richard, I wouldn’t know what to tell you. I’ve never dealt with this before.” We agreed to do what they did in that book. I would fill my mind with appropriate Scripture. He would hold me accountable every week.
As time went by there was a third thing that enabled the accountability and Scripture to be effective. Roy was able to love me the way the Lord loved him–unconditionally. You see, several things happened at about the two-week point. Roy, out-of-the-blue, said, “Richard, I will always be here for you.” Right after that, withdrawal symptoms began to assuage; (yes, I was going through withdrawal!). And I began to look at him as my dad, the one I missed out on as a kid.
This probably won’t sound reasonable, but it is true nonetheless. As I began to develop a relationship with this earthly father, for the first time in twenty-nine years my relationship with my Heavenly Father began to make sense! That summer for the first time in nineteen years of marriage I began to desire my wife sexually, and as I was changing, she started to change. Because Dad was changing, the kids were changing too! What a tremendous summer! The sun was shining! The birds were singing! I was learning to walk with the Lord! Life was finally worth living!
However, at our church, men are men. We are masculine and macho, and as such we just don’t help each other the way Roy was helping me. After four-and-a-half months he let me know very plainly that he was no longer stepping outside his comfort zone, and I was henceforth on my own. Was I scared! I knew I wasn’t strong enough to be on my own yet, but I had no choice in the matter. Things went realy well for another two months. Then I experienced a personal disaster, became discouraged, and returned to the old ways. And the draw to go back to being with other men had intensified exponentially.
I was up and down for the next three years, and even though I found another man in our church who genuinely cared and was willing to help, it never was quite the same. I never had quite the victory. It simply wasn’t the same. And even though in the back of my mind there was always the fact that I had been free for over half a year–and the unspeakable joy that I had experienced in those days–there was still something major wrong. The fact that I had been unequivocally rejected by two earthly fathers threw a huge shadow over the way that I now looked at my Heavenly Father. I just couldn’t bring myself to trust Him any more.
However, Someone intervened. During my quiet time in the mornings I read through the Bible. Usually five chapters a day. The first of October, 2004 I was in Jeremiah. This particular day started out like any other. The alarm went off at 4:30AM. I brushed my teeth, shaved, showered and was in my favorite chair in the living room at 5:00. I had intended to continue reading from Jeremiah. At that time I could not have told you why I turned instead to Ephesians, chapter one. But I began reading a passage that I had read a zillion times in the past thirty years. When I reached verse four I began to understand: “According as he [the heavenly Father] hath chosen us [me, Richard] in him [the Lord Jesus] before the foundation of the world that we [Richard] should be holy and without blame before him [the Heavenly Father] in love …” Because I’m in Jesus, I have a Heavenly Father, an Abba Father (Romans 8:15), a Heavenly “Daddy” who loves me with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). Because I am in Christ, the Father–MY Father–looks at me with a love that defies description! Wow! This is great! I have a Father who loves me and cares about me! Verse five says I’m adopted. Yes! He sought me!
Verse six ends with the phrase “accepted in the beloved.” Because Richard is in the Beloved (the Lord Jesus) the Heavenly Father accepts me, no questions asked! It’s amazing–I concluded later–that the Holy Spirit, after waiting three years, picked up where Roy had left off! Oh, the tears of joy that ran down my face! Unable to read past verse six, I fell on my face and just started talking with my Father. My conversation with my Heavenly Daddy that morning was absolutely tremendous. I cried and prayed, and prayed and cried for over an hour. I stopped momentarily to dress and head for work. We fellowshipped all day! And the next day, and the next! For many days that month and the two following I would stay up till midnight, one, or two o’clock in the morning studying and fellowshipping.
These past several months my only desire is to please the One who loves me. Not out of fear, nor from berating; but out of love–His love for me, my love for Him. I do not want to disappoint my Father by sinning against Him! It was sheer euphoria for about three months. I’m back on earth again, but things are still great!
Now, I’ll be perfectly honest. There are a few things that are still beyond my comprehension. For instance, when I finally experienced my acceptance in Christ, somehow my identity problem was solved. I no longer find my identity in homosexuality, and I don’t call myself a former anything. My identity is no longer in supposed friends who would invariably set me up for a fall (with my permission, of course). My identity is no longer wrapped up in trying to prove to anyone who would listen that I have value (something I didn’t believe myself). My identity is no longer in my job, or even my church. My identity rests securely in the finished work of Christ on the cross.
And I’m learning to abide in Him. I’m learning not to say “good riddance, bad rubbish!” to situations that don’t appeal to me, or memories of people who have hurt me. I’m learning to abide in the ship in the midst of the storm rather than fleeing to shore where it’s safe and then abiding (as A.B. Simpson put it). The Holy Spirit has taught me many things about myself since that day when He directly intervened in my life. Just this week (and it’s only Wednesday) He has shown me that, what started out as an inability to trust, wound up being an excuse for utter disobedience (toward others in authority and toward God). He has shown me too that the solace I have found in food the past three and half years was misplaced identity. (Is my identity in the comfort gleaned from that late night meal, or in my Savior?)
I could go on and on about how tremendous life has been since experiencing my acceptance and identity in Christ; and the constant challenges and daily growth as I seek to abide in Him, not every day, but every moment. Instead, I’ll end this with my plea to my Heavenly Daddy that whoever reads this will come to know Christ as life, as I have (see Col. 3:1-4). That they will learn to cling to the Father for protection, consolation, and guidance, knowing that wherever He takes us–even if it’s someplace we don’t want to go–if we abide in Him, He will instill us with indescribable peace and joy.
Recommended follow up resources include the online video: Journey Home to Love, Charles R. Solomon’s book, The Ins and Out of Rejection, and www.hopefortheheart.org/ Counseling Key (or free download brochure) on Homosexuality, and on Identity: Who are You?
On this 10th anniversary of Richard’s testimony, he gives thanks for ongoing healing and growth due to God’s grace and faithfulness (1 Thess 5:24). – JBW