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Wanderings, My Life and Thanks For Being You

by Jeff Coe

I can’t say exactly how I came across your site, for you know how the Internet leads down different paths—some good, some not so. But anyway, I came across it and have been blessed, challenged, frustrated and encouraged. For you see, like many gay men and women in the church, at one time I held onto a belief system that was fuelled by years of misinformation. When I recommitted my life to Christ 25 years ago it was out of a lifestyle of hook-ups, parties, drugs, and gay sex before the advent of AIDS. It was a way of life that anyone with a normal sense of understanding would say, “This is not healthy; this is not in the best interest of himself or others”.

 

So I took that and held to a belief that who I was—“gay”—was a sin, missing the mark.  Having recently split up with a boyfriend, who was a pastor himself at one time, I had to take a new look at Jesus and the church.  One evening I cried out to God and had an encounter with the Holy Spirit (yes it still happens today).  Gradually I got involved in the strange new world of church and began to find acceptance from God. After attending several churches, I found a place that was healing; a church that accepted people as they are (addicted, adulterous, unbelieving etc. . .)  Homosexuality was seen as a sin, but not one that needs to be disdained, rather healed through prayer, confession, conversation and choosing to live a life of fidelity and faithfulness to God and to His Community.

 

This lasted for many years, 22 to be exact, and many blessings, challenges, friendships, etc. occurred, bringing a corresponding depth of growth and ministry. I believed whole heartedly in the ex-gay theology on change, and the need for accountability and healing. I was highly involved in this way of life for about 13 years. I lived mostly as a celibate man; though I must admit that there were a couple of occasions where I failed early on. I even became romantically involved with several women.  But deep down inside, I still knew that my attraction, my desire, at a fundamental level, was to be with another man. At the time, I put these feelings to one side and busied myself with work and ministry.

 

I had a full life and it was good in many ways. Yet there was a longing that could not be satisfied. I did have a meaningful relationship with Christ, and was used so often in helping to draw others into a life of love—through prayer, worship, and doing the works of Jesus. But this thing, this desire, this longing was still there, no matter what.  I was taught that part of this was about taking the good of the masculine and stepping out with initiation into healthy sexuality. This could only mean one thing in my community at that time—it meant moving towards heterosexuality. I will agree that many times, I did not take full advantage of all that we, as Christian men, need to learn—how to battle and take initiative, build character and spiritual muscle.  But this “me being gay” was still there no matter what and it slowly began to develop more in my life, especially as community began to shrink and the need for relationship grew stronger.

 

I was in a relationship with a woman and she was beautiful both in appearance and in Spirit. But I was not attracted to her sexually. Due to that, I hid thoughts and feelings about myself, fuelling the fire of isolation and hiddenness. This was exacerbated by the Internet, where I discovered porn. So slowly, in my mind and heart, I hid myself, and began to distance myself from God, others and the church as well. This was something I never dreamed would occur. I was even warned in various ways. But my desire for connection, for relationship, intensified, even though in essence there were no real possibilities that I could see.

 

My last girlfriend and I split up and we went our separate ways, due to me being unable to commit to the relationship fully—for I knew that I could not love her in the way that she truly needed. Nor did I want to see either of us (or potentially our children) become casualties of my affections. When that occurred, I just left the world of church behind and rediscovered the “gay life”—of bars, and hook-up sites on the net. This fuelled longing, lust and dissatisfaction with myself— creating more loneliness and isolation. I also began to believe that I did not know how to love, and that I probably would never have that possibility in my life. God was distant, silent (and probably mad). I was hurting, lonely and ashamed at what I had done and what I was becoming.

 

However, in the process, I came across some churches and website like Courage (UK) that began a restructuring of my beliefs. I visited some affirming churches and witnessed gay men and lesbians worshipping God and wanting to live a life devoted to Jesus. This truly brought a paradigm shift—for at one time I could never have put the words Christian and gay together. Slowly, for this process of jumping into the frying pan spanned about 9 months, change began to occur. I began to read some books and articles that challenged my beliefs about God, Christianity and being gay. At first I was apprehensive, for I felt that there are those who want to draw you into their beliefs because they themselves are gay, so they proof-text and explain things away to justify their beliefs. But I came across others who I believed looked at scripture honestly and really wanted to see what the Bible has to say for those members of the church who are attracted to the same sex.

 

Slowly light has began to dawn on me and an acceptance has begun to develop. Incomplete though it is, I am seeing things about my life, and the lives of others, in some new ways. Drawing out of the well of self, I am beginning to draw into the well of others. This I found in just relating and talking with other gay men and lesbian women. I have also discovered that for too long I have allowed the voices of others—the church, books, friends and family—to drown out the voice of God. I allowed them to define what a relationship with God looked like, therefore the condemnation of me as a Christian gay man was always present. But slowly, and often awkwardly, I am coming back to the One who loves.

 

I can say also at this time that I am in a relationship with a man who loves me and me him. Jim and I have been friends for many years at church. He ran the men’s ministry as well as some other things; I was the youth pastor where his son was a part of the group. About 10 years ago he separated from his wife and divorced.  He came out to himself whilst on a trip to Europe (see what happens when the Yanks go overseas).  Having at last recognised and admitted to himself that he was gay, he quickly came out to friends and family on his return home—me being one of them.  Working as I was then in a ministry that deals with sexual and relational brokenness, I had no place for people being Christian and gay.  I sadly chose to stop communicating and continued on in my life and ministry.

 

In his process of self-discovery, Jim had a couple of relationships which failed and was then single for awhile.  One day he was thinking about relationships and thought about someone he would like to be with. His mind went to me, which was too bad since ‘I was not gay’. We had not talked for 7 years, yet just a month after he had been ruminating about relationships, I happened to send an e-mail to say that I was going to be in town, moving my parents, and asking if we could talk?  He was not sure what this was about, due to the years of silence.  Was I going to preach to him?  Or could it be that I had come out?  When we met, I apologised for the silence and the fact that I did not know what to say or how to be a friend.  We talked at length and our friendship was restored.

 

After many months of talking on the phone, chatting on line and a couple of visits back and forth, we both knew that this was more than just friendship. So, after me going through my own first relationship in many years with another man, a relationship which failed, we decided that more was in store for the two of us. After much talk and prayer, I moved back to the North West to be with him, my family and my ailing father. I am indeed thankful and honestly surprised at the turn of events.  As I said earlier, I really was beginning to believe that I would not find love, for I am not young like I once was. Moreover, we were both still living according to the lies in our minds—that somehow God was distant because of our sexuality.  Thankfully we’re now realising that God likes us—loves us in fact, both as individuals and as a couple, desiring us to be faithful Christian gay men in a world that understands neither.

 

Now this has been no easy journey for either of us. I had been single for a great many years, so I was used to doing just what I wanted in my free time; both of us in fact had become set in our ways to some extent.  Since moving in together, we have seen (like most couples) that there are differences we had not known about each other.  But through it all we continue to choose to love and to work out the differences, knowing that we are meant for each other and that God has a plan for the both of us to live out.

 

I am reminded of a verse in the book of Isaiah that has meant a lot to me—spoken first as a word of prophetic encouragement to me. This is has been a guide in my life that has had its ups and downs, adventures and misadventures.

 

“Do not call to mind the former things or ponder things of the past behold I will do something new, will you not be aware of it? I will make a roadway in the wilderness a river in the desert.”

                                                                                                                          (Isaiah 43: 18,19)

Thanks be to God our Father, in Christ.

Jeff Coe

April 2009


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