What’s in a Name?
I always hated my name. Every time it was called out at school in assembly, or some prize giving ceremony, I cringed. For the life of me, I never understood why my parents called me Margaret — I was NEVER a Margaret. I much preferred one of the many nicknames or shortened versions given by friends. These seemed to ‘fit’ me better.
From as far back as I can remember, I felt different from my siblings, not following their patterns of behaviour, or paths of early marriage and children. In fact, at an early age, I vowed that I would not get married because I wanted something different. What that ‘something’ was I was not yet sure, but I would go on a quest to find ’it’.
I became interested in music at a very early age, doing a very good Tommy Steele in front of the mirror—playing a ’tennis racquet’ for a guitar, much to the amusement of my family. My early childhood and teenage years were full of music, which was my passion. Devouring the explosion of the sixties groups, I also played drums, then guitar in various local bands myself.
I was an out and out tom-boy, but had crushes on both boys and girls in my early teenage years. But although I went out with boys, I struggled with my most passionate and strongest feelings over girls. I never told anyone—it was too risky to do so. Besides, I felt such shame and self loathing about how I felt, I just ‘buried’ it all knowing that I could never fulfil these desires and feelings, and no one must ever know—I could not bear to be found out. I think at that time, the truth about myself known to another person would have destroyed me.
During my years of playing in bands, I developed a taste for alcohol. It gave me confidence but became more and more destructive. I continued playing the game of being heterosexual but secretly longed for a relationship with a woman, yet was terrified of being found out.
I was not of a religious background and only attended church for weddings and the occasional funeral. At around age 21, we started playing in some catholic clubs where there was often a huge crucifix present. I would often find myself drawn to this figure on the cross but knew nothing about Him. At the same time, I met a catholic woman, then a lad in a band, then another chap—all of whom had encountered Jesus in a very deep way. They shared their deep faith with me and I was deeply touched. I was being reeled in . . .
My conversion was dramatic and life changing. I encountered Jesus as Saviour in the afternoon and that evening, whilst playing on stage, l knew I didn’t want to be in the band anymore. I was radically different so promptly quit. I was led by the Lord into Caring Professions, then Nurse training and finally into a Specialist Nursing post. These were amazing in themselves since I had not an educational qualification to my name, having left school at age fifteen.
After becoming a Christian, my gay feelings were shoved even further into the darkest recesses of my ‘cellar’, believing that I could ignore them or just live with them. Everywhere I went, the teaching was the same: homosexuality was condemned by God. To my shame, I spouted the same stuff when asked what I believed. I even financially supported a ministry that prayed for ‘deliverance and healing’—for Christians struggling with their gay feelings.
There were a few deep friendships that I had, which were really hard for me. I developed real deep feelings for these women but I knew that: a) I could never express the love I felt for them and, b) I knew that they did not feel the same about me, although they each cared for me deeply as a friend.
These were terrible times of conflict, confusion, shame, guilt and depression, with both the agony and the ecstasy (paradoxically) of NOT wanting to be with them, yet also DESPERATE to be with them at the same time.
It wasn’t as if I had not tried to get myself sorted. I was the first in the queue at conferences or meetings for prayer and ‘deliverance’. I was always very open with Christians I felt I could trust. It was quite interesting to hear some of the responses to my worries about my sexuality. On more than one occasion, I was told that I could not be gay! Perhaps they said this because they did not want to believe it of me. Another said, ‘No, you can’t be gay—I have seen the way men look at you and find you attractive’. I did not know whether to laugh or cry!
Despite periods of struggle and difficulty, I never lost my passion for God and He blessed me in so many areas of my life. My relationship with Him was always first and foremost. After one of these periods of struggle which involved yet another ‘friend’ and the resultant emotional trauma which followed, I became unwell. After many tests over many weeks, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness for which there was no known treatment. I plunged into a living hell where my faith was tested to the limit. It was during this period where I first began to think that the Lord was punishing me for all the many thoughts I’d had for this woman. After a good few months off, I was able to return to work, although still far from well. My gay feelings were once again relegated to the ‘cellar’ as I immersed myself in a new post which would give me many challenges but also many blessings.
I went on for many years, refusing to entertain any gay feelings, but gradually talking to the Lord about them a little more. But all that time, I would come to the conclusion that I was going to have to live without that part of my life ever being realised or active. My health remained poor; it was so difficult to live and work with this, but I kept going, literally praying my way through the days.
One day, through the course of my work, I met a lesbian couple. Seeing them together disturbed me greatly, though at the same time, a longing for what they had began to consume me. The constant exposure to them meant that I could no longer stuff my feelings down, and many years of aching and longing began to surface.
I had to get help because I was being drawn more and more to this couple. I shared my heart with a godly Christian woman who embarked on the journey with me—to discover whether the Lord was cool about being gay and Christian, a combination which I had always believed could never be possible at one time. So, my journey into acceptance began—both my own and the awareness of God’s acceptance of me. And this continues. That godly woman is now my Civil Partner and what a journey we have had over the last 11 years, fraught with many difficulties yet also many blessings and much joy.
During the early years of searching and discovery, I never lost my relationship with the Lord, but I did keep Him at arms length. I remember a Jesuit priest saying that he was afraid to pray to the Lord for a very long time, but chose to pray to the Virgin Mary instead, as he felt she would be more accepting of him. For me, I had so much doubt about whether I was truly accepted as gay by Him, but I did keep going to the Lord despite my fears and worries. The fact that the chronic illness which had plagued me for years seemed to be getting worse did not help and I entered into a very dark time which lasted about 4 years.
During these dark years, the Lord stripped away everything—the old ways of working, old ways of thinking, being and even praying. I even had to give up work for awhile, and work was something I could always fall back on to lift my spirit. Not any more— it was as dead as a dodo and I knew it. All the crutches and scaffolding came down and, like a demolished building, I resembled a pile of rubble. Months, then years went by with no change in anything. I continued to search and seek God, but it was like walking through treacle. Isn’t it strange that crisis often follows crisis, just as when we are in a season of blessing, blessings follow blessings. I couldn’t even hang on in the end. I just ‘fell’ and hoped that the Lord would catch me.
Very gradually, things began to shift. I reconnected with my evangelical roots then my charismatic ones—the latter I was scared to revisit because of my past experiences. But somehow, God breathed new life into me and my passion for the Lord was rekindled, plus a new hunger and thirst for Him.
This last year has seen such a change, and a fresh new sense of the presence of God in my life. I have rediscovered my first love and, after many years of drought, I’m experiencing wonderful showers of Latter Rain.
I believe that acceptance is a process, not a one off thing; for me, this process has deepened to new levels. I now believe that the Lord accepts me as His gay child but know that I still have a way to go in this process of self acceptance. But I also believe that I am finally on the right road for my healing and wholeness.
At the start of this testimony, I spoke of how I used to hate my name. But I don’t anymore, because the name Margaret means a pearl, and pearls are pretty special and valuable. The pearl is mentioned loads of times in the Bible as something significantly beautiful, and this is who I truly am in the sight of God—significantly beautiful.