Becoming a Son
I grew up in a family that sometimes attended the village church, although sometimes only at Christmas and Easter. At the age of 8, I started boarding at all-boys schools. I remember, aged 12, anxiously saying to myself, “There’s something wrong with me. I’m made to love boys, not girls.”
From the age of 13, I moved to a boarding school rife with homosexuality. There were many liaisons between older boys and younger boys. I was not attracted to older boys, but I must have wanted a father-figure and so allowed myself to be “courted” by some of them until it became embarrassingly clear that I was not really looking for a sexual relationship. By the time I left that school, I was 90% homosexual.
After leaving school, while staying in London, I was stopped by a woman one evening who asked whether I believed in God and knew why Jesus died. I recounted it to a friend as an amusing incident. However, about five days later, I saw the same woman elsewhere. She didn’t remember meeting me, but did give me a gospel of John.
Later, reading that gospel in my room, I understood the message of eternal life as a free gift, based on forgiveness. It had the ring of truth. However, at that time in my life, I was very troubled by a horrible fear of death, and I was surprised to find the idea of eternal life almost equally frightening. I was caught out either way.
Suddenly I grasped that what makes eternal life attractive is Jesus Christ. I would be enclosed in him, in a bubble of protection, as if in a womb. With this sudden insight into his loving nature, joy welled up in me. Assuming that my life would now change, I threw my tobacco and papers out of the window of my 5th floor flat. Still, the next day, nothing had changed, so I soon restocked.
After that experience, I read through the whole of the New Testament, but the only sentence I understood was Hebrews 2.15, “He came to free those who, through fear of death, had been living all their lives as slaves to constant dread”. That was me!
False Starts In New Zealand
On my gap year in New Zealand, I was homesick and missing the warmth of family. While there, I worked on different farms for short spells. Arriving at each new location, I would locate the churches and decide which to go to on the Sunday. While fruit-picking near Nelson, I went to a church which believed that baptism is essential for salvation. After being asked there, “If you crashed your car on the way home tonight, unbaptised, where would you spend eternity?”, I was fearful that God might deliberately arrange that. After all, they knew more about Him than I did! I suddenly dropped my arguments against it and agreed to submit to baptism there and then, for safety’s sake. However, I soon regretted it, and felt foolish for doing something that I didn’t really believe.
Whenever I attended a church in New Zealand, as soon as the music started, tears would course down my cheeks. I used to sit in the front, so that no-one could turn round and see me at close quarters. I couldn’t understand why I was emotional, but I now know it was God touching me.
At a dairy farm, I stayed with a cold, unfriendly family who saw me solely as a farm labourer. The son, who ran the farm, had a terrible temper; I once saw him break a broom handle beating a cow, drawing blood from it. I was miserable. There, in my room, I read a book by David Wilkerson that I had found in a bookshop. I decided to follow his suggestion for seeing God perform a miracle in order to be free from solo-sex. His steps were to admit you were helpless, ask God for help and expect a miracle. To my surprise, days and then weeks went by without falling into my old habit.
I remember one evening, in that family’s living room, the inaudible TV showed Kermit the Frog sitting atop a globe, looking glum. He had the world, yet he was miserable. Without knowing why I was suddenly choked up and had to go to the privacy of my room. I did not realise that God was speaking to me but, looking back, it was an illustration of Mark 8.36. I had wanted to use my gap years for travelling but “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul?”
Although I asked Jesus to be my Saviour many times over a month or two in New Zealand, I never felt like I had been born again. I didn’t trust him enough to invite him to be my Lord.
A Feeble Faith
Back in England that summer, I just about held on to my feeble new faith but could not bring myself to tell my family. At university, in the autumn, I was dismayed to hear the doctrine of predestination for salvation. Surely, if I were really ‘elect’, God would not have let me, as a teenager, commit the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. I was convinced that I was a fake Christian. God seemed capricious and inflexible.
I had been free from solo sex for about six months, but one day I used a coin toss to ask God whether it was something I really needed to abstain from. Seven times the coin landed the same way, telling me “don’t” but, on the eighth toss, I finally got the other side of the coin. That was the answer I wanted, so I ignored that coincidence and got enslaved again.
One day I asked a slightly older student to pray for me to receive the “baptism of the Holy Spirit”. He laid hands on my head and said that, if I had any sounds like language in my mind, I should speak them out, but I had nothing like that. Afterwards, alone in my own room, I decided to try. I made five or so random syllables when suddenly something tripped and a fluent unknown language was flowing from my mouth. Because I did not trust that God had accepted me, I assumed that it was not the real thing, even though I had never been able to do that before.
As a new Christian at university, I did not allow myself to entertain any homosexual fantasies. If I met a young man with my idea of good looks, I would be anxious. Although, in retrospect, that was more a fear of being tempted than actual temptation. Somewhere along the line, my sexual orientation changed, without a battle, apart from trying to discipline my thoughts. Was I “healed” or was I never really homosexual? Perhaps my former same-sex attraction was simply because I had been in an all-male environment in my teen years. Whatever the explanation, I was now troubled by only the occasional attraction to a man and found it easy to turn away from those thoughts. I was very lucky compared with those who struggle for years with same-sex attraction.
Learning To Trust
My identity as a Christian had all but fizzled out again by the end of my 20s. However, realising that my approach to life had been very unsuccessful, I decided to start trusting that God loved me, even though I could not feel it. Eventually, I trusted him enough to make him my Lord as well as my Saviour and found the joy of being a Christian for the first time.
I made a close friend who was taking steps towards God, yet who was outside the normal religious mould. We used to talk very openly about our lives, including our day to day failures. One regular failure in my life was the porn channels in hotel rooms on lonely business trips. I was defeated time and time again so, on seeing my friend after one such trip, I had a choice of concealing my failure and losing that precious openness, or suffering the embarrassment of confessing. I chose confession and he would say “no condemnation”, referring to Romans 1:17. My struggles make me smile now. When I entered a hotel room, I would put all the ads for the porn channel out of sight and tell Jesus that what I really needed most was Him - more than the pressing urgency of my own desires. I even tried asking a hotel in advance, at the time of booking, for the porn channel to be disabled in my room but was told to mention to the receptionist at the time of check-in. That wouldn’t have suited me! After a few years, the unpleasant addiction to those films that I despised was broken. I was free.
I was still troubled for a number of years by indulging in solo-sex while asleep, almost always waking at some point, but that eventually ended too. The key for me to lasting freedom was the phrase “Not by power, nor by might, but by my Spirit” (Zech 4:6), said not in a religious way but in a relationship way, reminding myself of God’s willingness to win my battles for me.
Today, I enjoy my relationship with God so much. I focus on His love for me and see myself as a son and a friend, much more than as a servant. Every day I take time to remind myself of His pleasure in having a son. The Bible says graciously that whatever we have sacrificed for His sake He is well able to make up to us in other ways in this life or the next (Mark 10:29).
This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.
Download the Summer 2020 edition of Ascend