Welcomed back into God's family
I love the story of the prodigal son, the way his father ran towards him with open arms, ready to welcome him back after his years of wasted opportunity. No rebuke, no questions asked, just pure love and acceptance. And that’s exactly what God did for me four years ago, just before my 49th birthday. After years of rebellion and destructive behaviour, God welcomed me back into his family.
I grew up in a Christian family. Both my parents were heavily involved in the church, but their relationship outside of church life was volatile, which had a profound effect on me. I realise it caused me to question what faith was all about and was a stumbling block to me acknowledging that God really could make a difference in my life. I had no strong connections with the youth leaders at the church - no-one picked up on my pain and anger at my family life or the fact that I was self-harming. So my focus drifted and I looked elsewhere for affirmation, attention and love.
I was one of those sporty kids. I threw myself into sport and that’s where as a young teenager I first started to become attracted to other girls and women. I can’t tell you how difficult that was we’re talking about the early 80s. It was hard enough to be gay, but coming from a strict church background, I’d been taught and believed that homosexuality was the worst sin ever and that God would never love me because of it. As soon as I could, I stopped going to church. I knew about God and believed in God, but I didn’t have a personal relationship with Him. I figured I was lost anyway: God didn’t love me, so what was the point?
As I moved away from home to go to college, a whole new world opened up for me. I hit the gay scene in Nottingham and started to chase the dream, seeking fulfilment in my new-found identity as a lesbian. My search for happiness in this lifestyle was never satisfied; there was always a sense of wanting something more and I continued to battle with self-harm, in particular with bulimia.
My drive for contentment and happiness led me to change jobs regularly, blaming my bosses or work for my lack of satisfaction and I found it hard to settle down, I spent many years drifting from one relationship to another.
In 1999, however, I met someone I felt I could settle down with and in 2006 we became civil partners. That was a day which should have been full of joy and celebration, but deep down in my heart something was niggling at me it didn’t feel right. I didn’t even invite my family and that was the start of a new season of discontent. I still hadn’t found the fulfilment that I was so desperate to experience.
What changed? In the spring of 2014, I was bored with my normal radio station so I hit the retune button and that’s when I heard a familiar song from my childhood from church. I listened to the end I had discovered Premier Christian radio! Immediately after the song was a talk by Joyce Meyer, and wow it was powerful stuff that spoke to my heart. So I tuned in the next day to hear the next instalment and before long I was listening regularly and God was talking to me. Over time, I began to realise from what I was hearing that God loved all sinners, regardless of the sin. He loved me and that was a warm and good feeling after all those years - so I carried on listening for more. God didn’t hate me because I was gay, He loved me the same as He loved everyone else. He just didn’t like my sins. After a while I felt God telling me I needed to go to church. I resisted for a while because I wasn’t confident whether I would fit in, but God spoke again and again and so I plucked up the courage in August 2014 to go to a Sunday service.
I started going to church regularly and it was great, singing worship songs, praying and listening to the sermons But I still wasn’t getting it. I still felt empty and I was not right with God. I looked round at many people in the room and I was not getting this Holy Spirit thing. I was missing something and I was still fighting back: “OK, God, I get some of this stuff but I’m gay - where do I fit in?”
That’s when I got busy trying to prove to myself or God (I’m not sure which!) that I could be gay and a Christian. So in my spare time I researched many Christian websites to see what people had to say. There were no “eureka moments” and no easy answers: this search went on for 6 months and was intense to say the least.
In February 2015, I listened to a sermon about giving every part of your life to God had I opened up every area of my life to Him? I went home and over the next few days that really bothered me. Instead of looking for the answer elsewhere, I asked God. I talked directly to God in prayer and He answered, convicting me that I needed to repent and turn from all my sins and that meant I could no longer have a sexual relationship with my partner. I needed to make major lifestyle changes and I needed to repent and open up my whole life to Him. Before I asked God to come into my life, I sat down with my partner and had a difficult conversation explaining that I wanted to become a Christian and what that meant for us. Only then did I put things right with God. I repented from all my sins and I asked God to come into my life. It was an amazing moment: the weight lifted from me immediately and I knew God’s forgiveness and peace.
Becoming a Christian has been a roller coaster to say the least! On the one hand, I finally found peace with God. I knew that I was forgiven and saved, and I knew that God had amazing plans for my life - all that felt awesome. On the other hand, my world turned upside down. I had been living with my partner for 16 years. We had been civil partners for 9 years and suddenly this one decision had changed everything - understandably things at home became extremely difficult. Whilst I loved God, my partner hated Him with a passion. I know now that God was with me, everything had changed and the situation was torrid for a few months, but I had God and pulled on His strength daily (one of my first prayers after becoming a Christian was “God surround me with strong Christian women”, which he did in abundance).God spoke to me through a number of people and scriptures and reassured me of His love. I was being shielded and He was with me through the storm. I had many revelations: “God is shielding you; God is rebuilding you; it’s going to hurt but it’s going to be worth it.” Through this time, God was constantly there by my side.
I now realise that when you become a Christian that it’s just the starting point – so much needed to be changed in me and that was going to take time.
As I grew in my faith, I was baptised. God was talking to me regularly and really blessing me. I was learning so much and changing for the better, but I was not totally letting go of the past. I had not learnt to allow God to fight my battles. I had not learned to trust Him. Yes, I was a Christian, and I was giving my testimony, getting baptised, and really on fire for God. But I still didn’t know how to hand it all to Him. So I was still self-harming when things got hard. But after support, counselling and prayer from my friends within the Church, I was able to stop self-harming and also stop my bulimia.
Giving my life to Jesus has been amazing. I feel totally new and fulfilled and God is making me a better person day by day. I am training to become a lay preacher and am on my church leadership team. I have a passion to speak up about faith and sexuality in the church setting and have written a book which I am hoping will be published this year. I have handed over all my stress, anxiety and shame from the past to God. And I am enjoying being part of His amazing family.
I know you will want to know what happened to my relationship. After times of difficulty, times of questioning and much prayer, God has helped me to make significant changes in my life and has removed the burden of same-sex attraction from me. I now share a house with my former partner and we are making a new life as best friends. Although she hasn’t yet given her life to Jesus, I am convinced God has some amazing plans for her life too and I continue to pray for her daily that she too will find the peace and acceptance that I have found from my relationship with our amazing God.
This article was originally published in the Summer 2019 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend.