How God set me free
In my late teens, I adopted a stray budgie that had flown in through my next door neighbour’s window and landed on his head whilst he was asleep. After trying unsuccessfully to locate the owner of the bird, I kept the budgie, naming it Wally (after the neighbour), not knowing that it was actually a female! Uneasy with keeping birds in cages, I left Wally’s cage door open for her to come and go as she pleased. She loved to have a fly around the room, but always returned to her cage after her excursions. I was fascinated by the fact that every day, she chose to return to captivity, even though in the natural world she would be a wild bird, free to fly anywhere she pleased.
As a same sex attracted female, now married to my husband for thirty three years, I have often felt like Wally the budgie; as a Christian, I am set free from the bondage of sin, and yet time and time again I have returned to the ‘cage’ of secret fantasies and desires, never enjoying true freedom. I loved verses in the Bible that speak of a believer’s freedom in Christ (e.g. ‘So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’ John 8:36) but deep down, I knew that I wasn’t really experiencing that kind of freedom.
From a very young age, I had lived in a fantasy world, probably using my thought life as an escape from reality. Even as young as 4 or 5, I remember fantasising that I was a man, always the hero in my dreams, rescuing a distressed female. As I became a teenager, the fantasies became romantic with me and any girl or woman that I happened to have a crush on at the time. And then entering adulthood, these thoughts became sexualised and felt more dangerous as the line between fantasy and reality was becoming blurred. I think I must have set up some kind of neural pathways in my brain from a very young age, so that my brain became programmed to need fantasy and escape on a daily basis.
As I approached my fiftieth birthday in 2019, I became particularly distressed about my inner life not matching up to my outward Christian appearance, and I became desperate for change. My family and I attend the Summer New Wine conference each year, and this particular year, my husband and I went forward in response to a great talk to make a deeper commitment in our ministry. As we stepped forward to the front, a woman came bounding up to us and started to speak words from God about our ministry, prophesying into various situations and hurts that we had experienced as church leaders. She then noticed my name badge and said that the name Catherine means pure, and that God sees me as His pure daughter. As she said these words, I found myself screaming very loudly. (Just as a side note, I do not usually do things like this and feel uncomfortable when people scream or yell in church gatherings, so I was just as shocked as everyone else at the noise that came out of my mouth!) My legs then felt very weak and I had to get to the floor. I remember being in a position as if giving birth, and taking lots of deep breaths. All I could think was that I could trust God, whatever He may be doing to me, and so I wanted to breathe in as much of the Holy Spirit as I could. Another lady then came up to me and said that God was doing a new thing in me and that it was a time of new birth. I don’t know how long I was on the floor, but afterwards, I was unable to walk properly for a good half hour.
So what on earth was God doing to me and in me? At the time, I had no idea what was happening, but it felt very freeing, whatever it was. For a few months after this, I didn’t have a single sexual thought or desire.
Surely God hadn’t taken away all my sexual desires?! But after a few months, thoughts started to return, but I was able to fight them. I didn’t actually want them anymore, but just longed for the presence of God that I had felt so tangibly at New Wine. I haven’t been perfect since; there have been a couple of occasions when I let fantasies control my mind again, and I have also found that my attractions are still towards females. But what has changed is that I am not controlled by my desires or thoughts anymore. I feel free at last! And because I am experiencing true freedom, I feel much more confident in sharing the Gospel with others now, as I truly believe in and am experiencing the freedom that Jesus promises to His believers. I know that He can do for others what He has done for me. I am also able to look people in the eye now, without the feeling that I am hiding something all the time. And the ‘new birth’ that was spoken over me at New Wine has included a much deeper involvement with TFT. Lockdown made it so much easier for me to join meetings as everything went online, and I am gradually being drawn in to being part of this ministry which I am really excited about.
I know we will not experience perfection this side of Heaven, but I do believe that it should be every believer’s experience to be truly free. God deals with each of us differently, and so freedom won’t look the same for each of us, and we don’t have to scream loudly and lie on the floor to experience it. He will deal with us in whatever way we need, and we can trust Him completely to take us on a journey that leads us out of the cage and to being ‘free indeed’.
This article was originally published in the Summer 2023 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.
Download the Summer 2023 edition of Ascend
To give space to discuss certain articles in greater depth, the TFT staff team will be recording occasional podcasts under the banner “Ascend Higher”, covering the issues raised in a more conversational style. To hear it for yourself, you can use the audio player below.