I would have rather doused myself in honey and sacrificed myself to a bear than talk about it...
Hardly anyone knew.
I was way too embarrassed and ashamed to talk about it, even to my family and friends. My kids didn’t know, my parents didn’t know, nor did my 3 sisters. My wife did, of course, and a very small handful of my most trusted friends did, but outside of that tiny circle, I simply refused to discuss it. Indeed, even with those few with whom I had entrusted with this incredibly personal and private information, I found it awfully difficult to discuss. Honestly, even the thought of talking about it brought only fear.
No. Dread is a better word.
What was the “it”?
That I used to live a gay life before becoming a Christian and was still homosexually attracted even though I had left that life behind by in 1987. To me, in 2006, at the age of 43, even though I had been blessed with a wife and family and good career, there was nothing that caused me more self-loathing and regret than this reality in my life. I was in a mental prison, and the key that could unlock that huge cell door was never going to be found, I was sure.
You might imagine then what went through my mind when, out of the blue, Dr. Douglas Jacoby contacted me in the summer of 2006 to ask if I would be willing to speak at an International Teachers Seminar he was hosting in Washington D.C. later that November. The subject; Homosexuality and the Church.
What? You’ve got to be KIDDING ME!
First, how had this man whom I had greatly admired from afar but hardly knew at a personal level found out this tightly held secret?
Secondly, how could he expect that I would be willing to talk about this area of brokenness and weakness in my life to a crowd of people? Upon intense interrogation and to my surprise, I discovered that Mr. Jacoby had no idea of my situation and had asked me for a various number of other reasons. Horrified, I quickly declined and then spent the next day in the fetal position. With some time to think though, I simply couldn’t escape the idea that maybe more was going on than I first realized. With all the people in the world to ask, how was it that the well-known Christian apologist would have asked me to speak on this delicate subject when he knew nothing of my story? It couldn’t be an accident. The more I considered it, the more I realized that this had to be a 'God thing'.
I had hidden for so many years so I was forced to ask, what exactly I was hiding from? So, I used to be gay and had some same-gender attraction issues. So what! My wife loved me. My kids loved me. I had a few good friends who loved me, and more important than any of that, Jesus loved me. Why did I feel it so necessary to hide that part of my life. Did it really matter what everyone else thought about me? Besides, not allowing myself to be real with my friends and those around me was a lonely existence, and not real. Not only that, but I began to think of all of those other Christians out there who were also same-sex attracted who probably felt as lonely and isolated as I did. What about them? I began to think of it as a “calling” to start reaching out to them, letting them know that they were not alone. Over the next 24 hours I prayed and my heart softened. It was a miracle, but in a short amount of time I went from not even being able to consider ever speaking about my predicament to anyone, to contacting Dr. Jacoby and telling him I would accept his invitation.
The date of the big event was Saturday, November 16, 2006 at the Dupont Circle Hotel. I’ll never forget the night before. I sat in front of my computer with tears streaming down my face as I typed out my lesson, afraid and excited, all at the same time. Was I really about to stand in front of a group of well-respected leaders in the church and “come out of the closet”? I’m not the most proficient public speaker at the best of times. The lesson I gave that day was strained at best. I stumbled and struggled to get the words out, but with the help of God, I did it. It was the most terrifying and exciting day of my life. When I was finished, I felt like a thousand pounds had been lifted off my shoulders. That long lost key to the prison I had been living in all those years was finally found, and the door was slowly opening. Within a week, my wife and I had decided to tell our kids, our family, our friends. Within another week, we had started a website called “Strength in Weakness.” That was ten years ago, and from those very humble beginnings, God has blessed this work to become so much more than we could have ever imagined, helping thousands in over 60 countries around the world. It’s mind blowing how God worked and maneuvered through my hard, frightened and insecure heart to so quickly bring me to a place of total transparency, allowing our ministry to help so many.
Saturday, November 16, 2006 was a life altering day for me and I wouldn’t go back to my old ways of silence and fear for anything. I’d rather be the star of a documentary called “How far can a person be stretched, and what happens when you go too far?”