Growing in Grace
Although I'm not from a Christian background I did grow up in a loving family with a nice upbringing. I listened intently to Gospel messages when I was 10 years old and started going to the church youth group and other services. I experienced God's love and started to grow in faith.
My first memories of attraction and sexual feelings as a child were towards guys. I didn't realise I was 'gay' at the time as I didn't know what that word meant and had only ever heard that term used in negative ways.
Growing into my teens I never told anyone I was gay. Things could sometimes get awkward when girls would want to date me and I wasn't interested. With my low self-esteem and insecurities I would also wonder why anyone would want to date me... me of all people! I generally remember feeling very different to those growing up around me because of my attractions, but despite this I did have a lot of great friends. I tried to push the same-sex attraction to the back of my mind and always assumed I would just end up getting married. I thought that one day I would no longer have these attractions - surely there was no need to worry, maybe it was just a phase...
It wasn't just a phase and things didn't change. What's more I was worried as I thought that being gay was incompatible with being a Christian. Whenever the subject was addressed at church it was in unhelpful ways like judgemental Sodom sermons, or unhelpful statements like "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" etc. I have, however, always believed from the Bible and my relationship with God that sex outside of marriage is not God's intention for our lives.
By the time I was 16/17 nothing had changed in my attractions. I naively assumed that I would reach a certain level of holiness where I would no longer struggle with same sex desires, or maybe if I had enough faith I could just become straight. I did, however, have some amazing experiences of God's love and power at this time. Without the truth of really knowing God I shudder to think where I would now be.
Despite knowing more deeply who God is, things started to get tough in a number of ways. In my early 20's I got diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. This was a complete shock. It meant I had to stop playing sport, I struggled to work, at one stage I couldn't dress myself. I vividly remember one morning when I couldn't grip a spoon to eat breakfast; it's hard to put that feeling of helplessness into words. The specialist doctor warned me that if the medication didn't work, or if I didn't take it, I would be completely crippled within a few years.
I've made mistakes as a Christian and have, at times, acted on my attractions. Often I have been beside myself with guilt as a result. On one occasion it led to me telling a close friend about what happened; he was the first person to ever know about my attractions and he was really helpful. After a difficult period I was in a really dark place. I read a book called Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill. True Freedom Trust (TFT) were mentioned in it and I emailed them in what must have been one of the longest and most rambling emails the Director ever received!
God has shown me such amazing grace in spite of failures and TFT really started to help me overcome the guilt of my attractions. Before being in touch with TFT, I saw the attractions themselves as sinful, whereas in fact they are better viewed as temptations. Despite ongoing struggles and mistakes, God has continued to work; I did have a brief relationship but this ended, as I couldn't live what felt like a double life.
I believe that as Christians we never outgrow the Gospel - its something we need to hear, respond to, and live out every day of our lives. It's taken a while, but I am now in a place where I am enthusiastic about following Jesus, which for me also involves a commitment to singleness.
The playwright and journalist Fulton Oursler once said that “many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves; regrets of the past, and fears of the future.” Wrestling with these two areas has become a major part of my Christian walk. Regrets of past mistakes can still sometimes cause guilt, but I am now in a place where deep down I know I am forgiven. I sometimes get fearful about the future and can worry about living a life of celibacy or perceived loneliness. I am now discovering, however, that even if singleness is his plan for me, which I think it is, it's not a second-class gift. According to the Apostle Paul, it really can be God's best gift. This is being highlighted to me through biblical examples of friendship, such as the amazing brotherly love between David and Jonathan, which is described as being ‘more wonderful’ than erotic love.
God has shown me that to truly worship him involves giving him every area of my life. I have also discovered that it really is worth it! If I were to sum up my small story using one Bible verse it would be Romans 5:8 – “God demonstrates his love towards us in this, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”