My story is similar to many others I've heard. A childhood centered in church and family. A growing awareness that I was attracted to guys, not girls, coupled with systems of massive denial. My identity was centered in being a good boy, an obedient son, a committed Christian. Inner nudgings toward ministry set me on a path that included a Christian college and seminary - places where being gay was just not an option. I couldn't imagine a life that didn't include a wife, children, and the respect of others for being a Christian role model.
Being a pastor and practicing spiritual disciplines did nothing to diminish the power of my innate sexuality. I got married to a remarkable woman, hoping the Christian counselors were correct that it would be a sign of my 'healing.' No doubt a very bad decision, though I'm deeply grateful for the two wonderful children who came out of our marriage.
In 2001 the unthinkable happened. On the day after my 40th birthday, I met a man with whom I experienced an immediate emotional connection. Until then I assumed my attraction to men was only physical and that periodic encounters with men had been a kind of addiction - but not related to who I really was. A very brief 'fling' with this man ended when he challenged me to be completely honest with myself. A gay, Jewish agnostic man demonstrated greater integrity than this married Christian pastor, and his words began what ultimately resulted in my coming out.
For over a year I committed myself once more to finding my 'true identity in Christ' as a heterosexual, or at least as a homosexually abstinent male. I cashed in everything. I came forward to my superiors in the church and surrendered my ordination credentials. No job, no income, no stability. Just incredible pressure and an angry, distraught wife. We attended a 10-day intensive counseling program in Colorado at great expense. I entered reparative therapy... again... realizing on some level that the treatment was sub-standard if not bogus, but hoping that God would honor my efforts and finally fix me.
By Nov. 2002 I couldn't pretend to believe any more that the counseling was helping. I asked too many questions one day and received a lengthy tongue lashing from the counselor for my lack of faith. So I stepped back from a lifetime of effort and committed myself for the first time to pursuing the truth about myself and homosexuality. For 8 months I suspended judgment while studying social and biological sciences, scripture, and theology. And submitted to a psycho-sexual evaluation with a bona fide sex therapist to determine whether I was 'bi' or truly gay. I came to believe that the 'addiction' was a compulsion rooted in the fear and shame I experienced because of my attractions. Further, I believed the compulsion would only be resolved by accepting my orientation, a revelation I received while journaling in prayer, and which has since proven to be true. The day I was able to first utter the words "I am gay" in late spring, 2003, was one of the hardest days of my life. I wept in the arms of my wife. And with her began the excruciating discussions that resulted in the decision to separate and divorce.
Life is getting better... I've developed a home-based art business that has been quite successful, and in Nov. 2004 was received into a gay-friendly denomination where I am serving bi-vocationally for the time being (see, I guess I'm 'bi' after all - haha :-) Though I've lost a couple of close friends as the result of identifying as gay, most friends - and all of my family - have been strongly supportive. My kids - ages 13 and 11 when I came out to them - have not wavered in their love for me, and we have a wonderful relationship. I live mid-way between my kids' school and their other home, and am currently able to see them almost every day.
I am not in a relationship (at the time of this writing, at least : ) but look forward to sharing my life fully with another man at some time in the future.
If someone had told me a few years ago that I would one day be an out, proud gay man, I would not have believed it. While the losses and challenges of life seem great at times, the benefits of peace of mind, self-control, and inner integrity are much greater.
© 2005 Rick
This testimony has been reprinted with his permission.
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