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Twenty-one years into my marriage, my husband announced one day, “I’m leaving you for another woman.”  I was devastated.  I fell into a deep emotional abyss as my life and my heart broke into a million tiny pieces. My friend, “Lydia,” who had been talking to me for several years about Christ, stepped into my pain with gentleness and love.  Into my broken world, she ministered to me, sitting with me for hours as I poured out my pain and my tears.  She read to me from the Bible and continued to share Jesus with me.

Several months later I did ask Jesus into my heart and accepted Him as my Savior. “Lydia” and I continued to meet almost daily; ours was a completely new level of relationship for me.  With her, I felt complete and deeply known for the first time in my life.  I needed her desperately and soon began to long for her when she was absent.

Without noticing it, my life began to revolve around our time together.  When we were together, she held me as I cried and rubbed my back and dried my tears.  Her touch was such a comfort to me, and there was an intense feeling of being connected.  It was just a matter of time before we moved into sexual touching and then, a full sexual relationship. Even as a new Christian, I knew that this was not OK with God, and I struggled to understand how what felt so right could be so wrong.  After several years, our secret relationship became public and what started out then as a whole new devastation in my life was actually the first step of a new journey into wholeness.

This new struggle lasted for many years.  I have moved from identifying myself as a lesbian, to a woman who struggles with same-sex attraction, to a follower of Jesus who has experienced relational brokenness.  I have learned, with the help of godly counsel and Bible study, that the intense, all-consuming, emotional connection I craved from another person was not God’s design.  What I perceived as intimacy was a dysfunctional enmeshment; an entanglement of two relationally-broken people looking to each other to fill the space that only God can fill.

I put my relationship with “Lydia” on the throne of my life, occupying the place that belongs only to Jesus.  Praise God that he continues to heal me as I seek to worship only him and find the answer to all of my longings in Christ.

Testimony: By Ben*

Read the first post to this testimony here. The power and hope to overcome pornography and other sexual struggles is not found in resisting impulses, changing one’s habits or even in religious practices.  It’s found in the power of relationship—specifically the transformative grace of Jesus Christ. One of our former support group members, who wishes to be anonymous, shares his story.

The turning point finally came through tragedy. My wife died, having suffered twenty years with a disabling illness. My horrible grief magnified the pain of my guilt. I know it doesn’t seem possible, but I loved my wife. I thought that God was punishing me by taking her. I know now this was not true. Perhaps he was protecting her from the potential consequences of my sin. In any case, God was demonstrating a “severe mercy.” It was severe and painful, but merciful because he was using these horrific circumstances to draw me to himself. I was finally reaching the point where I had had enough of the struggle.

Over the next twenty months, the Lord continued to draw me to himself as I began to regularly call out for him to reveal himself to me and take away the pain. For a long time, my behaviors did not change. Still trying to self-medicate, I engaged in sex more frequently and took more sexual risks. But I did not stop praying.

Two years after my wife’s death I learned from my church’s new pastor, that my spiritual condition was far worse than I thought. I had always thought that homosexuality and pornography were the roots of my sin problem. However, even before he knew my secret, my pastor told me that I did not need to merely stop sinning, but to find rest from struggling. Such rest could only be found in the love of Jesus Christ.

One Sunday, my pastor preached on the man who came to Jesus with his demon-possessed son (Mark 9:14-29) for healing. When Jesus asked him if he believed Jesus could do the healing, the man replied, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24, ESV).

I needed help to believe that God could love me in spite of my sin

I was that man! I had believed in Jesus since I was five years old but still thought that God’s love was contingent on my behavior. I needed help to accept that I could never make myself righteous in God’s eyes. I needed help to believe that God could love me in spite of my sin. I needed to believe that not only did Jesus suffer the punishment for sin that I deserved, but that God had also credited Jesus’ sinless life to me. I needed help to believe that I was no longer an object of God’s wrath, but a son in whom he delighted. I prayed for another nine months, meditating on various scriptures, and tearfully crying out, “Help me overcome my unbelief.”

Finally, my desire to know God’s love was so great that nothing else mattered. I lost all fear of rejection. A friendship had been growing between my pastor and me. I told him that I wanted to share something I had never revealed to anyone. After my confession, to my amazement, he did not turn from me in disgust, but told me that God loved me and he loved me. He showed me Romans 2:4 where Paul writes that God’s kindness leads us to repent. Through my friend, I felt God’s pleasure for the first time. I repented.

When I confessed to my pastor, I was waiting for the stones. Instead, my friend told me there was no more condemnation. Jesus, my Savior, had set me free at last.

Spiritual change doesn’t take place in secret. Only when sins come to light are the lies of Satan exposed. Satan had told me that no one, even Jesus, could love me. But he lied. In addition to caring brothers and sisters at Harvest USA, Jesus proved his love to me through many other Christians who encouraged me with the gospel. Among these were my children, my siblings, and my best friend of thirty years, who is like a brother. Satan told me that if any of them knew my heart, they would desert me. Instead — praise God — our relationships have grown deeper. I know I don’t deserve any of this. I deserve everything that Satan told me. All I can say is that it is God’s grace!

Although I am thrilled to share how God has worked in my life, it has been a painful exercise to recall many of the events. At times I just want to forget the past; I want it to have never happened. Thankfully God is redeeming even the way I view the past. He is teaching me that my past is not about what I have done, but is part of a larger story revealing what he has done for all of us. He is not asking me to share my story, but to share Christ’s story.

Christ’s story is simple. He has changed places with me. On the cross, he received the full punishment from God that I truly deserved, then gave me his perfect record. I am learning to share this story with joy because I’m beginning to believe the Bible. It tells me I am not the man that I used to be. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (ESV).

*Ben is a pseudonym

Testimony: By Ben*

The power and hope to overcome pornography and other sexual struggles is not found in resisting impulses, changing one’s habits or even in religious practices. It’s found in the power of relationship—specifically the transformative grace of Jesus Christ. One of our former support group members, who wishes to be anonymous, shares his story.

I was reared in a family with one brother and two sisters — all older than me. In our home, my mother was the nurturing one, and although I loved her dearly, I craved my father’s love. He worked hard to provide for us and so was absent much of the time. When he was around, he was busy, tired, and easily angered. He rarely had time for me. His favorite saying was, “Go peddle your papers!” We shared no interests. Talking with him was always awkward. I’m not sure I ever really pleased him or made him proud.

I viewed my relationship with God in the same way. Although I desired him, I had little hope of having a relationship with him. He was unattainable. I tried to convince myself that if I was good and worked hard, one day I would be worthy of his love.

I don’t remember how young I was when I was first exposed to pornography. I doubt that it was very graphic, but I do remember it had a strong attraction. Then, as a teenager, one of my neighborhood friends showed me a hard-core porn magazine that he had stolen from his uncle’s bedroom. This was the first time I had viewed sexual acts between men and women. I was instantly hooked. The images burned into my brain and ignited my fantasies. However, instead of imagining myself with women, I wanted to sexually please the men who used them.

Other than some curiosity-based sexual exploration in my early teen years, I never physically acted on my fantasies with men until after graduation from high school. I had opportunity, but feared crossing the line from thoughts to actions.

When I turned eighteen, I started to cruise adult movie theater restrooms and interstate rest areas. Sometimes I was a voyeur, sometimes a participant. More than once on the news, I saw the places I frequented raided by police. But that never stopped me from going back.

At twenty-one, I was arrested for engaging in homosexual sex in an adult theater restroom. During the night I spent in jail, I prayed for forgiveness and swore I would never act out again. But it wasn’t long until I took the same chances, and my desire for men grew stronger. I no longer just wanted to experience sex with a man; I wanted him to tell me that I was the best he had ever had. I didn’t merely want to please him; I wanted him to worship me.

Oddly enough, I rarely had sex with the same man twice. I knew that what I was secretly doing was not pleasing to God. It was more than homosexuality; it was idolatry. I tried to stop repeatedly. I did not want this life for myself. I wanted real relationships with real people and with God. I wanted to be married and have a family. So I compartmentalized my same-sex struggles and lived the illusion of the socially acceptable Christian life.

I attended a Christian college in South Carolina. Upon graduation, I taught in a Christian school for four years. I married a Christian woman, and we served the Lord in our church. Together, we raised a son in a home where we tried to actively live out our faith.

On the outside my life appeared normal and fulfilled, but on the inside there was not one minute of rest from my struggle with sin and my frustrated desire for God’s approval. For forty years I hid this part of my life from everyone, including my wife.

Before we were married, I tried to share my secret sin with my fiancée. Not being totally honest, I told her that I had sex with a man one time and assured her that this was in the past, never to be repeated.

I wanted to believe that what I told her was true, but it wasn’t. I sneaked away to have anonymous sex in an adult bookstore just three weeks after we were married. Realizing that determination alone would not bring me victory, I became all the more unwavering in hiding the truth. I feared that being honest would cost me my wife, my family, my friends, my job, and any hope of having what I perceived to be a “normal” Christian life. Pornography and same-sex encounters continued to be very much part of my life throughout twenty-one years of marriage.

Realizing that determination alone would not bring me victory, I became all the more unwavering in hiding the truth. I feared that being honest would cost me my wife, my family, my friends, my job, and any hope of having what I perceived to be a “normal” Christian life.

Over the years, I sat in Sunday school classes that discussed relevant topics like sinful addictions. I wanted to be honest about my struggles and free of them. I longed for others to walk along side of me and encourage me. But I didn’t see anyone else struggling. Instead of facing my sin, I sat silently in pain, telling myself I just had to try harder. Loneliness and despair, however, drove me deeper into my sin patterns. I continued to hide the truth because I was convinced that no one would love me if they knew the truth. I feared rejection from other Christians more than I feared hell.

I did seek help during those years. Twice I paid psychologists to hear my confession. Both were Christians. Neither was helpful. One told me that if I wore a rubber band around my wrist and snapped it every time I had a lustful thought, I would eventually associate pain with the thought. That would lead me to eventually stop acting out. It failed to produce the promised result.

The turning point finally came through tragedy.

*Ben is a pseudonym

Bob Heywood shares his story about his battle with pornography and what it took for him to change.

 

Who is a safe person to share, or confess, your deepest struggles with? Ellen Dykas, our Women’s Ministry Coordinator, gives a good suggestion. (From a Harvest USA Seminar: Discipleship Leader Training.)

11 Jun 2014

Silent Sisterhood

Silent Sisterhood 

What I have been asked to share with you is not so much my story of how and why I came to Harvest USA, but rather what has happened to me since then. I will not pretend to have answers to many questions. This is a story of ‘work in progress,’ and how God ceaselessly and actively works in my life.

I came to Harvest USA because I was convicted that there was something very wrong in what wanted from people and women in particular. I remember the night I finally began to see the subtle differences in what was good and bad in my friendships. It was a New Year’s Eve party to which a certain few had been invited. As I sat there I was aware of, as if for the first time, the lingering, meaningful gazes, the exclusive conversations, and private jokes, the hand resting too long on a shoulder. I had the sensation of being sucked into something that was no longer alluring. Everything worked in this group by hints and insinuation; nothing was ever said openly; so nothing could be defined. I remember it being a long, long night. Next morning I spoke to someone who shared with me her New Year’s Eve. She talked about how she and her friends had come together and prepared a meal. Then during that meal they renewed their friendships and prayed for the coming year and what it would bring. I walked away from her, into another room – and cried. The openness and honesty of the events of her evening contrasted sharply with the complete lack on anything meaningful in mine, and this cut me to the bone.

The Silent Sisterhood to which I belonged required secrecy, and for maintaining the secret my reward was an aching hollowness that gnawed deeper and deeper into my soul. I was a living, breathing lie. I had spent a lifetime building a pleasant, inoffensive façade keeping all but a tiny few out. Now this façade was so thick that it seemed impossible to break through. This is testimony that God can pulverize even the thickest walls around our hearts.

If God says, “No, this not the lifestyle to which I call you,” then to what does He call me?  There has to be more to living than just not being gay anymore. For me Harvest USA is not just about walking along side men and women coming out of the homosexual and lesbian lifestyle. It is a mistake to think that when someone stops acting out the gay lifestyle that it ends there. In most cases all you’ve got is a celibate homosexual or lesbian who lives in an androgynous twilight world of simply knowing what they shouldn’t do. Having been there I found it’s a cold, comfortless place to be. Those who stop there find little to rejoice about; their hearts are rarely open or warm, their anger something to be avoided. So, as I came to know what I shouldn’t do, my heart cried out to God to know what He was calling me to be! There had to be more, my heart yearned too much for these deep changes to stop there. What was it? What was it I was tasting, glimpsing, that drew me to the cliff edge of choices, and to the realization that I had choices. It was in this place I first began to understand what it was to be a child of God – the child of a loving father.

Though it sounds simple, to move from seeing myself as a child of God to being His daughter was a momentous step. I could easily have held on to the idea of being a child, seeing myself simply as a child – not even as a little girl, for the rest of my life and effectively never grown up. But God calls me to be His daughter, His beloved daughter, to grow into womanhood, capable of seeing and experiencing Him, people and life in a totally unique way through my femininity. He teaches me in Word and leads me to women in church, in groups, and in friendships who, as in the words of Proverbs 31, are clothed in strength and dignity, who do not fear the future because of Him and who speak with wisdom and faithful instruction. These women move freely and enjoy the respect and confidence of others and shatter my old notions of strength, independence and freedom. These women are interdependent, they do not see themselves as separate, and they are connected closely to others and enjoy it! The connection is neither smothering nor exclusive as I found in lesbianism, but springs from being present to one another even in the hard, raw times that God uses to shape His daughters.

I am at that point of my journey where I have begun to explore my femininity, this intrinsic part of me – and it is not without fear. I am often frightened by the newness of everything. In a world in which I have heard femininity described as a ragbag of discarded female values to be passed over in search of something better: allowing my life to be shaped by God through His gift of femininity is also frightening. But to expose myself to the refining fire of my Father, to feel the sharpness of His knife as He cuts deep into the shadowy corners of my soul is also to expose that fear for His attention so that He may deal with it. And I also know this, God sets me on a high cliff and there I feel the breath of God, it can burn like fire, searing through me and separating sinew from bone; and all the while as I come apart He reshapes me for His purpose, and all the while the protection of His love holds my feet firm in that place. Only God protects and gives safety as I look in things long buried and discarded and am willing to pick up and own as part of me.

From the safety of His protection I face the temptations to go back, to strive at being strong and independent, and consequently to being untouchable in the core of myself. For these temptations are still there, but in God’s love I no longer welcome them as old friends, but see them as the soul destroyers they are.

My femininity, my sexuality, my place as a daughter: these are all gems for the taking from my Father’s hands. How I will wear such precious gifts is something that only time can reveal. But as I look on these well-cut stones, their facets catch and reflect the light of my Father’s love. The luster of His promises never fades, they are promises more enduring than the hardest diamond. Promises worth dying for; and Christ died so that I might receive these gifts. To receive is something that was impossible for me not so long ago. There is beauty in this that I know I am just beginning to understand. God has lifted the curtain and I have glimpsed something wonderful – that promises more. I want to know, see and be more of what he is calling me to be. As He reveals more, I know this process will not end in this lifetime, but this a journey I want to make; I want to make it hoping and trusting always in Him, my loving Father.

My life in the past few years has included a variety of changes that I once could never imagine taking place.

My problem with homosexuality began approximately forty years ago, when I was a teenager. Life was very difficult for me even then. My formative years were those of confusion, loneliness and parental psychological abuse. It seems that I could never measure up to my father’s expectations. There was an estrangement between the two of us that lasted all his earthly life. Anger, pain and bitterness grew inside of me, and I carried them silently wherever I went. My view of masculinity became distorted. I longed for friendship with other men, but deep down I always felt unable to relate with them in a normal sense.

What followed next were many years of lying, covering up and doing whatever I had to do to persist in this sin. It became very addictive and I couldn’t seem to live without it.

There was a void in me that never seemed to be filled. As a result, I seemed to be always “looking for love in all the wrong places.” My life became a nightmare. I was constantly and frantically searching for something that I seemed never quite able to find.

I thought it was all hopeless and eventually got to the point where I really dreaded waking up in the morning, knowing that all I was going to face that day was emptiness in my soul. At that time I didn’t fully realize that it was my separation from God that was the real source of most of my misery.

It was as I began to think about my relationship with God, that He did a wonderful thing for me. Several years ago as I thumbed through the pages of Philadelphia Magazine, I came across an advertisement for HARVEST USA. A few weeks later I called the number. Little did I know how this discovery and subsequent interaction was going to deeply affect my life. When I called, I was immediately struck by the friendliness of a caring and seemingly understanding voice on the other end. I knew that I had to visit the office and find out more. Through attendance at weekly meetings I began to draw on a strength that I never knew was available. The source of the strength is well explained in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” That verse has been ringing true for me ever since. My view of myself and my masculinity began to change.

Through subsequent involvement with HARVEST USA, my relationship with the Lord has flourished and grown. I began to get involved with other Christian groups and get Christian counseling, which I needed. At long last my struggle was over, and the simplicity of it all astounds me.

But my life today is not easy by a long shot. Nor do I really expect it to be. There are still problems and I continue to live with enormous pressures. But there is a very discernible difference! I do not bear these things alone anymore, and I also realize that God will not allow me to be tempted beyond what I am able to bear. Living, no matter how difficult, makes so much more sense now that there is a clear direction to follow and wonderful goals to be achieved.

Jesus Christ is my focus and my salvation. Even though I once thought of myself as the lowest form of human life, I realize now that I am quite valuable. I can make choices based on the fact that I have as much to offer as any other man. I am accepted and loved in the truest sense. I am no longer separated from God, and He does not condemn me. This truth is actually simple but genuinely liberating to a person who has had to struggle with homosexuality nearly his whole life.

I thank God every day for the wonderful work of HARVEST USA and for making me a part of it. The fellowship, true caring and friendship along with the steady leading of God, have certainly opened my eyes so that nothing seems hopeless anymore. I am one person who has conquered this battle and lives in constant wonder at the healing power of Jesus Christ. I highly recommend Him for everyone!

 


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