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Never be ashamed of your testimony

by Rick Hocker

After reading someone’s testimony in a newsletter, I was reminded of the power of personal stories and testimonies. I have never written down my story, but I felt compelled to share portions of my journey hoping that it might encourage my GLBT brothers and sisters.

I became a born-again Christian during my first year of college. For the first time in my life, I no longer felt alone or empty. Previously, I was painfully shy, but being brought into a loving and accepting Christian community enabled me to develop confidence and learn much-needed social skills. Where before I felt different, excluded, and friendless, I found comfort and healing in belonging to the family of God. God became very real to me and I learned to cherish my encounters with him.

In spite of my growth as a new Christian, I noticed that I was still different from others. I seemed to be wired differently. I didn’t have any romantic or sexual interest in women. I told myself that these feelings would eventually arise once I met the right woman. I believed that the woman that God had picked out for me was out there somewhere.

Three years later, I attended a leadership camp on Catalina Island sponsored by Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. There was a lot of time for prayer and reflection during the week-long camp. I suspected that I was a homosexual but I had no strong evidence. That week I found the courage to ask God to reveal the truth to me. I was given my answer by the end of the week after developing a strong crush on a fellow participant. His affection towards me stirred up feelings that were quite new and scary. I confided my secret to him and he shared the same secret with me. We went back to our respective schools and stayed in touch. We never acted on our feelings for each other.

I spent the next eleven years navigating a minefield. I carefully avoided any situation that might make me feel "those" feelings. I fled from temptation at every occasion. I would extinguish or shake off any feelings towards men. I wanted nothing to remind me that I was a homosexual. On a few occasions, I developed romantic feelings towards friends and I quickly terminated those friendships. I hurt a lot of people along the way. I was also hurting myself without realizing it.

I believed that God had every intention of healing me from homosexuality. I had experienced such amazing personal transformations in my life. I had seen God work miracles of healing. Since Jesus was not a homosexual, I fully expected that the process of being conformed to the image of Christ would result in heterosexuality. It just made sense to me.

However, I saw no change in that area, even though I saw change in every other area of my life. I could not understand it. I prayed more and I trusted more and I cried more. At some point, I lost faith and I despaired, now believing that God would not heal me because I no longer had faith. I felt that I had somehow failed God and myself.

I spiraled into a five-year depression. I was suicidal at times when I felt so overwhelmed with failure, shame, and hopelessness. I didn’t know where to turn for help. I was also too ashamed to admit I was suffering. Meanwhile, I stayed active at church and listened to my fellow Christians talk about the evils of homosexuality. They had no idea that they were shoveling dirt on top of me as I sat in a dark hole. Occasionally, I would take a risk and tell a Christian friend about my struggle with homosexuality. After the initial shock and horror, they would express their sincere concern and offer to pray for me. Many times, I had hands laid on me for deliverance. The resulting emotional release always convinced me that I was, in fact, freed from my bondage. Each time, I quickly discovered that the deliverance did not take and that somehow the departed demons had resumed residency with greater determination.

I started seeing a Christian counselor. I had hoped he would cure me, but he kept focusing on helping me to accept myself. That was my deepest need as he saw it. I believed that I was evil. I despised myself and I was consumed with self-hatred. I believed that God loved me unconditionally, but I reasoned that God loved all people including those who were evil, such as myself. Eventually, God broke through my distorted thinking and convinced me that he loves me because I am lovable. I had a series of encounters with God where he expressed the reality and extent of his love for me.

On one occasion while praying alone, I felt God’s holy presence so strongly that I could not help but cover my genitals with my hands. I saw myself as dirty. It was as if I had messed my diapers years ago but I had never been cleaned up. God told me to remove my hands and allow him to cleanse me. He washed my face, and slowly and gently moved down my body until he cleansed my genitals. I cried like a baby as he cleansed me. I was then given an image of a father lovingly washing a baby. I saw the baby so clearly and I saw that the baby’s skin was so perfect and without blemish. It was so beautiful. God said that that was how he sees me – without blemish. Afterwards, I felt his warm embrace and it was like a soft, warm towel enveloping me. It was a very physical feeling. I felt so loved.

I gradually accepted my homosexuality as something that I would have to struggle with for the rest of my life. I abandoned the idea of dating and marriage. Jesus was my husband now. My relationship with God was sufficiently deep to compensate for any loss. My struggle had forced me to go deep with God. I discovered great contentment in my life and ministry. God was active in my life. My struggle was under control.

I remember that one time during a worship service, I saw Jesus approach me and I felt him kiss me on the lips. I was freaked out for days by this. Surely, that could not have been God. It seemed so wrong. And yet, it was so intimate. It was so real. Looking back, I see that God was slowly coaxing me into being comfortable with my sexuality.

I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and started attending a new church. I quickly made friends with someone named Jeff at church and started having romantic feelings towards him. My first response was to end the friendship, but God stopped me and encouraged me to not run away this time. I decided to stick it out and see where it would go. We set strict boundaries on our relationship, but we got as close to the edge as possible. When I confided in a friend that I had kissed Jeff, he rebuked me and told me that such behavior was very wrong. Feeling guilty, I returned to Jeff and announced that we needed to curtail our behavior. Jeff accused me of wanting to stop primarily because I was afraid of what this person thought. He was right! I had lived my life by trying to do what I was told and by fearing what people thought about me. I had heard what the church and Christians thought about homosexuality, but I had not heard from God himself. What did God think about homosexuality?

I asked God a lot of questions during this time. His answers always surprised me. He did not seem to have a problem with my homosexuality. In fact, he seemed to be very comfortable with it -- more comfortable than the church was and more comfortable than I was. In Christ, there was no male nor female, no gay nor straight (Galations 3:28). Gender and sexuality are an earthly frame of reference. God sees us from a spiritual perspective that does not make those distinctions.

I became comfortable with my sexuality and my relationship with Jeff deepened. Jeff and I felt that it was appropriate for us to marry, as we believed that premarital sex was wrong. We met with the pastor of our church, which was Southern Baptist, and explained our decision. Surprisingly, the pastor did not ask us to leave the church. He explained that he intended to honor the church’s policy that everyone is welcome, but we were prohibited from having any "visibility or responsibility" within the church. He said that it would be easier to ask us to leave, and that by letting us stay it would be very messy, but he said that he would personally deal with any mess that resulted. It was messy. Many people disagreed with the pastor’s decision. Some people left the church.

Attending that church during the following year and a half was very unpleasant. Some friends stopped speaking to me. Many people were obviously uncomfortable. I didn’t want to appease them by slipping out the back door. I figured that if I stayed, then I would be in their face and they would have to deal with me and their hang-ups about homosexuality. I wanted them to see me worship with hands raised and wonder how I could worship without shame. If I left the church, then they would have no cause to re-evaluate their beliefs. The only way that Christians will re-evaluate their thinking about homosexuality is if homosexuals are a part of their lives. When they can see the fruit of the Spirit and the blessings of God in the life of a gay person, then they are forced to question what they believe.

At first, I was very frustrated knowing that I could no longer participate in any church ministry. I was unable to see how God could use me ever again, since the Church would never allow me to minister. One day, when I was feeling down, God told me to never be ashamed of my testimony. I told God that I didn’t have a testimony. What kind of testimony could I possibly have as a gay Christian? Eventually, I asked God, "Okay. What is my testimony?" He said, "Your testimony is that you are completely accepted by me!"

Whether the church agrees or not, we are completely accepted by God. I had been at conflict with myself for so many years. My sexuality was my enemy with whom I was constantly at battle. Now, I am at such peace with myself. I can be comfortable in my own skin. I can be comfortable with God, knowing that I am welcome and cherished just as I am.

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