In August of 2005, I had a deep and life-changing encounter with God. I had been trying to run with a “nail in my foot” for 58 years. When I was nine I was molested by an older male cousin. While it was not a violent molestation in any sense of the word, it introduced things to me that a nine year old should never have to deal with. When I became a Christian at the age of fourteen, I thought all that was long behind me, but clearly the wounds were still there. During my high school years I was hit on by one of my (male) best friends who was also a Christian. Since I felt the call of God on my life, I enrolled in a Bible College. In Bible College I was seduced on two different occasions by guys who were also older. I began to feel like I had a “target” on my back and began to question my sexual identity. The scars became even deeper.
Upon graduation, I became the pastor of a church in Pennsylvania. A year after I graduated from Bible College I married my wife, and again believed that all the issues surrounding my abuse and sexuality were in the past. I worked hard at hiding wrong feelings, but was clearly “limping” in my walk with the Lord. In spite of this, I continued to follow what I believed to be the call of God, and planted a church in Vermont. I went through a spiritual crisis, largely triggered by these feelings and had a brief gay encounter that further deepened the scars. I resigned from the ministry, not wanting to bring reproach upon the church. I went back to college, initially at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. After I finished graduate school I took an administrative position at Dartmouth College.
I had a significant encounter with God in the early 1970’s and became the somewhat reluctant pastor of a large Christian Fellowship at Dartmouth that was made up primarily of students. During those days, I was relatively free from all the struggles, but continued to work at concealing my thoughts. I did share my heart with a few folks, but I was still holding back to some degree from a clear open confession of sin.
Over the next 20 years I held administrative faculty positions at several major universities. In each of these cities, we were deeply involved with the local church and I held leadership positions in each of them, even though I was still struggling with sin. My actual encounters with other men became very rare due to fears of AIDS and not wanting to disappoint others including my family and the church.
In the mid-to-late nineties I was counseling a couple of guys who were struggling with an addiction to Internet pornography. I found myself wondering what was really out there and discovered gay images on the web. Over the next several years I went through cycles of repentance and going back to the images. Discovering online video clips was even more addicting. I confessed the pornography aspect of it to my wife and to the Elders, but kept hidden the fact that the clips were gay.
At the end of the summer 2005, I had just returned from an international meeting in Oslo Norway, where I had been elected President of our international professional organization. The University Librarian called me into her office and said that the Information Technology Security people had recovered an image from one of my old hard drives (they were gay images in case you wondered). Although the images were not “illegal” per se, they represented an “inappropriate use of university equipment”. She said the University wanted me to retire. Since I was beyond the retirement age of 65, I would get full benefits and no one would need to know the reason for my retirement.
Although I could clearly retire and keep my sin hidden, God said “Do you want to get the nail out of your foot”? I went home and told everything to my wife and we cried that afternoon. I went to the other elders of our church and told them everything as well. I then sat down with each of my sons and their wives and revealed everything. I wrote a long letter to my parents and my brothers and sisters. Finally I went before the church at my own request and confessed according to the guidelines set down by the elders and asked to be released from eldership while I “got the nail out of my foot”.
Although all those to whom I confessed received me with love and pledged to be part of my restoration, I was devastated. I went through a deep and painful period of repentance where I cried myself to sleep every night for weeks. I read everything I could get my hands on about sexual addiction. I attended a “Men of Purity” weekend in Chicago with around 600 other men who were on their face before God. I became part of an accountability group of men within our church with whom I shared my whole story. They became a “Band of Brothers” for me, although none of them had dealt with same-sex attraction in their own lives.
One of the most convicting and freeing things I came across in my readings was the link between idolatry and sexual addiction which is described in Romans 1. The Holy Spirit reminded me of my struggles as a six year old with not being able to throw a baseball accurately and being told “You throw like a girl”. I had longed for someone to teach me how to throw a ball. I began to idolize guys who had athletic ability that I did not have. At some point it apparently became actual “idolatry”. When I confessed this to the Lord, I received a tremendous freedom which deepened the healing process. The healing process is still going on. God has progressively brought other old wounds to the surface and healed them.
I can say however that although the “nail has been removed from my foot”, it still hurts and I still limp. Another imagery that has occurred to me is from the story of the “Ninety and nine”. In Luke’s account it says that the shepherd returned with the lost sheep “around his neck”. Some accounts of eastern sheepherders told that if a sheep kept straying, the shepherd would break one of its legs and then carry the sheep around his neck until the leg healed. Whether the story is true or not, God did “break my legs”. He also “carried me around his neck”, and still does.
My daily times with God have been awesome. I don’t dare to go through a day without soaking in his Word and his Presence. I’ll hopefully never again conceal my sin. An anaerobic infection needs to be exposed to be healed. I have been completely free from sexual sin since everything became known in 2005.
I’m asking God to give me the grace and insight to minister healing and release to others. May his name be praised! On the way home from a conference on healing in 2009, I found the old grief over my sin had been lifted and replaced with a passion to see others freed. I wept much of the way home!
That fall I told my story to my church (State College Assembly of God), and with the urging of our senior pastor, we began a ministry called “Free Indeed” We developed a team and subsequently have taken about 60 people through the healing process from everything from unwanted same-sex attraction, profound gender identity issues, childhood abuse, and addiction to pornography. I have served on ministry teams for healing from sexual brokenness at several national conferences and continue to walk in the healing process. The mantra that we have used many times is the “healing is not an event, it is a process.” I am thankful that this healing power is real, and can transform anyone, including me!
Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net