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The Surprising Joy of Self Denial

The Surprising Joy of Self Denial

I grew up in Scotland, in the privileged position of being the oldest of three children. My father was a GP and my mother a nurse. I was also privileged in that my parents were both Christians - my father in the Church of Scotland and my mother a Roman Catholic. I, therefore, grew up in a Christian environment, both at home and at school. They gave me a good education and I had ambitions for engineering, having a love of all things mathematical and mechanical. However, although I had the typical interests that boys have, I also felt, at times, I wanted to be a girl. In quiet times, I would fantasise about being a girl and wearing their clothes. Other than that, life carried on pretty much as normal compared to everyone else, up till the time of puberty and around the time of transition from primary to secondary school. Over the summer between schools, I found I had time on my hands at home. It was then, when no one else was at home, I would secretly act out the fantasies by putting on my mother’s clothes. Each time it felt sexually exciting, but it would not then be long before I would need to take them off and carry on with ordinary life. I remember one time thinking, “What could be wrong with doing this?” However, I also remember one time that summer when, although I had some garments ready to put on, I said “No” to myself, and put them back. Later, I had a really peaceful feeling because of having said “No.” 

A Double Life

The summer passed, and I started at secondary school, with all the changes you would expect from that. Although I was not attracted to other males (and therefore not typically homosexual), I began to regret intensely what I had been doing – it felt wrong. I really wanted to be one person, rather than live a double life. I wanted to be a man, as I had been created, and to have a girlfriend. About two years later, I heard a priest talk during the summer about King David of the Old Testament saying “sorry” to God for wrong things he had done. I realised that I also needed to say “sorry”, not just to Mum, but also to God. I searched my previously unread Bible for the relevant passage and then prayed to God for forgiveness. Saying “sorry” to Mum came about a year later. A few months before, I had spoken to the priest about it and he thought it would be better not to tell Mum, but keeping it from her became unbearable, and eventually it came out. It was initially very hard for her to hear about what I had been doing, but we soon reconciled. Also, Dad, who was always very patient, gentle and reserved, had a good little talk with me, and this really helped. 

The urge is stronger when times are tough... but there is always some help available

Choosing the Narrow Way

That was many years ago now, and much has happened since. Without going into detail, I did go into engineering (of the mathematical and computing variety). Despite thinking I would be forever single, I met a kindred spirited woman whom I married almost 30 years ago. It has been a turbulent marriage though, probably because of our respective insecurities. About ten years ago, we separated, and even went through a divorce, but then came back together after a period of about 18 months. Although we now live fairly separate lives in the same house, regressing into our “old ways”, I hold in my heart that it was wonderful for a time when we came back together. It seems we must have been made for each other, because of our mutual support.  

I have found that when times are tough, the old urges become stronger, probably from me wanting to find an escape. However, I have also found that there is always some help available: through godly friends and mentors; the Word of God; Christian music and reading; prayer; contemplation and worship; physical activities such as sports; or creative activities such as art, craft and design. Most of all, the thing that helps is humility rather than pridefully striving to have things exactly the way I want them. I love the joyful teachings of the American Baptist Pastor John Piper (

God’s help is not just to turn away from wrongdoing, but to live life to the full as His beloved child

Over the years, I have come to a greater understanding of how our loving Heavenly Father wants the best for each of us. This help is not just to turn away from wrongdoing, but to live life to the full as beloved children of God. For me, that is in the body that He designed and provided for me. I have also learned that He has provided all that I need to do this, as a child of God, and in wonderful brotherly fellowship with His Son Jesus, who made it possible through His sacrifice on the cross. His Word promises that I have all that is necessary through the power of the Holy Spirit, for, “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue...” (2 Peter 1:3). 

To summarise, I have a choice. I can either escape from my troubles by focussing on seeking my own pleasure and going against the design of my body, with all the isolation from God and others that would follow. Or, alternatively, I can embrace whatever difficulties I have and walk, limping and stumbling at times. If I choose this narrow way daily, I am fully equipped one day at a time to live life to the full as one of the Father’s many beloved sons and daughters.


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