God never gave up on Me
To tell you my story, I should really go back to the 1970s. I grew up in rural East Anglia. My family were Quakers and so, from my birth, they took me along to the local Friends Meeting House. The one thing I most remember was being interminably bored! When I was about six or seven, my father had a change of heart about his religious expression and carted us off to a different church which was much livelier. We were asked to agree to certain things which I think involved promising not to drink or smoke, which were tasks I managed reasonably successfully at that age! Within a short period, my father had developed a relationship with another married woman who attended the church. The effect this had on us as children looking on was to put us off organised religion. As well as his ongoing affair, my father showed very little affection or interest towards me. In fairness to him, it may have partly been a generational thing. I don’t think he was necessarily a bad person, or deliberately set out to damage me. However, as a teenager, I felt isolated and insecure. I had friends with whom I played football but also experienced a degree of bullying at school. I also developed a hatred for my father and his mistress. I can remember making up a plan to kill her with a spade when she came to visit the house one time. Thankfully, I didn’t carry this through, as my story would then be very different.
It was during my early to mid-teens that I realised that there were particular older male teachers that I wanted to be close to. This developed into fantasies and masturbation. I tried to form some friendships with girls, as I wanted so much to be ‘normal’, but these never lasted and I never even got close to a sexual experience. Looking back, I think I was quite a mixed up, unhappy and anxious teenager.
At 17, I became a Christian after my sister had dragged me along to a church she had become involved with. Although a gradual process this was a genuine experience. Part of the attraction for me was the love and concern I was shown. The downside was that I would fantasise about the older men in the congregation. In my heart, I knew these feelings were not how God designed me to be – I had a constant battle and often an overwhelming sense of guilt.
I left home at 18 when I got a job about 20 miles away. The attraction was getting away from the atmosphere I had grown up with. I lived in shared accommodation but was often the only one there. It was at work that I met the man with whom I had a relationship for almost four years. He was a colleague in his sixties. I’m not sure exactly how it started, but he showed an interest in me, and I craved the attention of an older man. Being away from the church I had attended, whilst working many shifts on a Sunday had led to a lack of Christian fellowship. Initially, our relationship was one of friendship and grabbing brief moments of physical contact at work. He had recently lost his long-term male partner and was living at his sister’s. He was on the waiting list for a flat, and we knew that as soon as he got one, our relationship would become more physical. The first time I went to his flat, we quickly ended up in bed. I had no experience, whereas he had years of sexual behaviour with other men. However, I am sure he was not acting in a predatory manner, as I remember him saying “You’ve done this before haven’t you?” and then being concerned that he was leading me into something I did not want. But the thing was, I really wanted it. It fulfilled a deep inner need in me, and I can still picture that first encounter. However, this was the door to a lifetime of guilt, battle and struggle. This relationship was the point where those needs of affirmation, belonging, grounding and self-worth became sexualised.
But I was still a Christian, and so my flesh warred with the Spirit of God within me. To try to assuage this guilt, I would drink (mainly whisky) before visiting him. I tried to shut out God, and yet I so wanted to know him too. All the while, I was desperately trying to keep our relationship secret.
For two years or more, this continued until I moved to another job. The distance, work commitments and my overwhelming guilt led to less frequent meet-ups. I also had a couple of other encounters with older men, although my heart and emotions were tied up with my first lover.
Turning back to God
It was at this time that drinking and gambling were playing a bigger part in my life. In short, I was quite a mess. But God had a plan. One Sunday evening, when I had been drinking, I went for a walk and heard singing from a local free church. I felt drawn in and, amazingly, the person taking the service was from the congregation where I had become a Christian. Once more, I felt loved and valued by this small fellowship. My faith was growing, yet I was still deeply unhappy.
A watershed moment came when I ended up in hospital having taken an overdose. I had misread the signs from another man, consumed too much alcohol and swallowed a load of pills. I found myself on the doorstep of the pastor of a chapel I had recently been attending. They called an ambulance, but also showed me such love and concern, which truly demonstrated God’s compassion to me. Whilst in the hospital, there was a moment when, in my desperation, I was crying out to God. It felt like physical arms enveloped me and held me. At that moment I was reassured of God’s love and compassion for me. Gradually my faith was reignited, and a short while later I met the young lady who was to become my wife. We both knew that it was right that we were together. However, I didn’t tell her about my past.
But it is not all bad news. God has been very gracious to me. I believe it is as if He has put a hedge around me – protecting me from being consumed into a homosexual lifestyle when I was younger, and watching over me even when I engaged in risky behaviour. He has provided people to support and strengthen me when I have most needed them. He has graciously revealed His love, grace and mercy to me through His word, through pictures He has given me and those times when He has drawn me out of the miry clay. Importantly, He has protected my wife and family from much of the hurt I could have caused them. They are unaware of my same-sex attractions, and I feel that has been the right course for us, although it might not be for everyone. I wish I could be more open, as that might relieve some of the pressure, but that would be for selfish reasons, and maybe this is part of the burden I am called to carry.
In recent years God has blessed me with the support of a volunteer, Peter, from TFT. Words cannot adequately describe the difference this has made to my battle with same-sex attractions and my walk with the Lord. God has placed many people in my path who have helped me enormously, but this is the first time I have been able to share with someone who REALLY understands. From the first time we met, he has showed me love and understanding and has been the conduit of God’s grace and mercy. He reminds me of the truth of the Gospel, and has imparted wisdom to me. He is endlessly patient with me, which is a demonstration of God’s patience. He is now one of my dearest friends and brothers in Christ.
Another important role Peter fulfils is that of my accountability partner regarding my use of pornography. For years this blighted my life, and I realise I had become addicted and that even a few minutes is enough to damage my mind, heart and soul. This can become a pattern which goes on for a few days until I come to my senses again. Every time I sin in this way, I feel such despair and despondency until I turn again to Jesus and seek his grace and mercy. I tend to feel I have to beat myself up for a while until I allow myself to accept His forgiveness. This is not the Gospel.
I set up Covenant Eyes on my various devices, and Peter agreed to be my accountability partner. It’s not cheap, and it’s not foolproof, but for me it adds a significant layer of protection. When I am tempted, I ask myself whether I want to have that conversation with Peter when the report comes out.
Acceptance and forgiveness
There are many things that have helped me along my journey. Two have been particularly significant. One has been a gradual and ongoing acceptance of who I am and what defines me. Yes, I am a man who experiences same-sex desires – but that is only a part of me. For years my holy grail has been to be ‘normal’. It has taken a long, long time for me to accept that this is unlikely to happen and, in fact, it should not be my major concern. Rather, I am a child of God whom He calls to be a disciple of Jesus and to be His ambassador, faithfully propagating the Gospel. Yes, it is a part of me, and it is a constant battle to resist temptation. But it will not define me. I suspect that this part of me has been much more important to me than it has to God!!
The other significant aspect has been that of forgiveness, both towards my father and towards myself. I cannot change any of the past, and I believe that my father’s behaviour, and lack of affection towards me, has played a large part in my being attracted to older men. But I accept he didn’t deliberately set out to damage me or cause me the pain I have encountered. He was a product of his own upbringing, and I have to leave him in God’s hands. Sometimes I have to revisit this and almost forgive him again, albeit posthumously.
I am also slowly learning to forgive myself. I am responsible for my behaviour. I opened the gateway by engaging in a sexual relationship. I am responsible for other encounters. I am responsible for my use of pornography. But I have repented many times, and I must believe the Bible when it says, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9).
So, I would encourage you to seek support and accept it when it is offered. TFT is a great place to do this. Also, identify in what areas you struggle and take some action. I have had to accept that the only thing I bring to the table is my weakness. I often pray the hymn, “Just as I am”, but that is the best place to be. For God says, “my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).
This article was originally published in the Spring 2021 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.
Download the Spring 2021 edition of Ascend