My wedding ring is engraved with “12-22-89   Philippians 1:6 – Eternally.” That day in December was certainly a highlight in my journey of restoration and experiencing God’s Grace. Over twenty years of my life had been consumed with the dark underbelly of homosexuality. In His tender, loving mercy, Jesus pulled me from the miry clay of sexual and relational chaos. He put me on the solid rock of His Grace. He also led me to rightly divide His Word.

I was born the youngest of three boys. My father was trapped in the web of drunkenness. He was a mean drunk and very abusive to my two older brothers. Because I was the “baby of the family,” my dad never hit me and rarely raised his voice at me. I quickly learned how to use the favoritism to manipulate my father and my brothers. Deep inside, however, I was extremely lonely and afraid.

At an early age my life was filled with tension. On one hand, I wanted to know what it meant to be masculine. I desired to connect and be affirmed by my older brothers and my dad. Yet, on the other hand, I saw that it was very dangerous to try to connect with masculinity. Without God, my way of dealing with the pain and confusion was to detach from my deep, God-given longings to connect with my father.

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” That decision set me up for a childhood of loneliness and fear. Those feelings of isolation and of somehow being different than the rest of my peers followed me into adulthood. I found our Evangelical and Reformed church to be a safe haven from the turmoil at home. I was confirmed, sang in the choir and participated in the youth group.

When an older neighborhood boy began to sexually abuse me, I finally felt a connection with someone else. The sexual abuse created more confusion, pain and loneliness. I confused sexual intimacy with relational intimacy. By the time I was in seventh grade, I was sexually active with a few guys.

I can remember searching the Gospels for the Gospel that Jesus and the Disciples shared but could never find it. I did find, however, Scriptures about those committing homosexual sin would not go to Heaven. I wanted to pursue being a minister, but knew I was disqualified. I drifted away from the church and Christianity. When I finally left home for college, I was still feeling isolated and inferior to every other guy.

In college I found new ways to escape the pain through drugs and pornography. My involvement in pornography took a downward spiral into frequent visits to adult book stores. It also led to frequent anonymous homosexual encounters. For years I maintained surface relationships while continuously being driven by my secret sexual desires.

My life was a continual quest to fill the deep desire for an intimate relationship and for purpose in my life. They were God-designed longings that only He could fulfill. I found my life out of control. I continuously thought the next sexual encounter would be the one that truly satisfied.

One day when I was driving home from work, I tuned into some music that caught my ears – it was a local Christian radio station. Listening to the program whetted my appetite for church and the things of God. I didn’t personally know any Christians, so I stopped at the radio station to find a Bible study that met during the daytime. They directed me to one that was part of an interdenominational singles’ group. I plugged into a church and became very active in it.

For three years I went to church, prayed and read my Bible. I met a young woman in the study and began dating her. I wanted so much to put my homosexual lifestyle behind me and I wrongly thought marriage would be the answer. We eventually were engaged to be married. My life was full of deception as I continued to secretly act on my lusts. The engagement ended when she left me for a lesbian relationship. To this day, I believe she is still caught up in the destructive deception that she can find life in the arms of another woman.

God finally touched me at a play put on by our church. God showed me that I couldn’t strive enough to please Him (Rom. 3:23). He showed me it was only through Christ’s sacrifice that I could ever hope to be in a relationship with Him (1 Cor. 15: 3-4; Eph. 2:8-9). I understood Him to be lovingly inviting me to trust in His redemption on His terms.  I was broken and prayed and trusted in Jesus and His gift of Grace.

Although I trusted Jesus as my Savior, things did not automatically change. For a year I struggled silently and continuously fell into sexual sin. I repeatedly responded to altar calls and recommitted myself to Christ and to sexual purity. I cried out for God to remove my compulsive urges. The church I was in believed you would lose your salvation when you sinned. I was in constant fear and torment.

I went to a local charismatic pastor in town. I shared my struggles with homosexual sin. He earnestly listened and proceeded to cast the demon of homosexuality out of me. I walked out of the church confident God had released me and answered my prayers, until that evening when the struggle hit me, and I was devasted. I questioned if I was really saved; if I really had wanted freedom; if I were just a piece of pottery God had chosen for dishonor.

Jesus did answer my prayers, but in ways I didn’t see at the time. I had been very irresponsible with my finances and living in my parents’ home at no cost. For the past few years, my mother was in a care facility for her Alzheimer’s disease. The state informed me it had cut off the funding to cover the costs of her care and I had to sell the house. I couldn’t afford rent, I was alone and had nowhere to turn. I was brought to the point where I needed to share what was going on.

I went to our Singles Pastor at the church I was attending. I shared my need for housing and my struggle with homosexuality. It was the second time I shared my struggle with a pastor. This time, I received compassion and respect. He offered me a place to live. He also explained that while he had no experience helping others with this sin, he was there to help.

He gave me a book called “Beyond Rejection.” It was the biography of a pastor who fell into homosexual sin and was restored. I cried as I finally heard about God’s redemptive power to change a life caught up in sexual and relational chaos.

The epilogue of the book gave contact information about the ministry that had helped the pastor. I contacted them and began calling regularly for support and encouragement. They eventually told me I needed be involved with a ministry that I could be discipled face to face.

I did connect with a local ministry and set up a time to meet with someone. When I did meet with Don, I mentioned I had gotten their contact information from the ministry out West. It turns out they had never heard of the ministry and didn’t know how the ministry out West had gotten their contact information. They did not specialize in helping people with homosexual sin. They were just a street ministry who met one-on-one with people to help them apply the Bible to their situation.

Jesus used the time I spent with Don to show me the roots of my compulsive behaviors. They were based in legitimate, God-given longings. The process was long because I had refused to embrace the fact I was a fallen image-bearer.  It was my attempt to avoid the pain of the abuse and rejection I had experienced growing up. I began to embrace my identity in Christ. I had to come face-to-face with the rage, bitterness, and self-centeredness that fueled my distorted sexual identity. All the time Jesus was gently and patiently showing me His love and Grace. He did it through Don, through His Spirit, and through His Word even during my unbelief and rebellion.

I discovered that real change from homosexuality should not be a goal or as something one sets out to accomplish. Change is the byproduct of a chosen direction and chosen activities. The direction that needs to be chosen is not unique to the problem of homosexuality. It is one that is common to all Christians pursuing holiness. Basic Christian disciplines (understanding ourselves in the light of God’s truth, knowing God, lovingly relating to others, and understanding spiritual warfare) were essential to the restoration process. The basic approach is still simple (but not simplistic)—those who diligently seek Him will find Him.

God significantly used another person in my life as well. As I was meeting with Don, I had a soul-mate: Kathy. We met in the singles’ group of our church and encouraged each other as we dealt with our life-controlling problems—me with homosexuality, and her with bulimia. We cried together, prayed together and laughed together. As we continued to deal with our issues, we grew closer to each other.

I stopped acting out with other men and stopped using pornography. I also started to relate with my peers and created healthy friendships with other guys. As the process continued, a longing stirred in my masculine soul for a more intimate relationship with Kathy. We pursued a dating relationship and one year later, were married. Don was my best-man.

Throughout this process, God was leading me to rightly divide His Word as well. I began to see that I was secure in my salvation, that it wasn’t on probation. I saw that striving, trying to remember all my sins and confess them was not necessary for God’s Grace. Six years ago, God crossed my path with a young man who invited us to attend Grace Bible Church in Oshkosh. It took three years, several visits from Pastor Paul, and a lot of patience before we began to understand rightly dividing. I can now understand how well-intentioned men of God added confusion and pain in my journey with Christ because they did not rightly divide God’s Word.

I remember asking Don if he had ever helped someone overcome homosexuality. He responded, “Nope, you’re the first one.” While I didn’t find it particularly encouraging at the time, that response stuck with me. I remembered when Jesus sent His Disciples out in Matthew 10:8 he said, “… freely ye have received, freely give.” I knew I wasn’t going to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, or cast out demons like the Disciples. But I did understand that according to Ephesians 4:10 that I was His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God had foreordained.

Out of that burden, my wife and I began a ministry and called it Reclamation Resource Center. We provide Biblical support and encouragement for families dealing with a loved one. We provide pastoral care for those dealing with homosexual sin. We also help equip and motivate the church to minister to the needs of those who are affected by homosexuality.

It was not until I was an adult that I understood how my father was a very wounded man. He had lost his father as a young boy and had an angry, violent step-father. He was a POW in World War II and could never talk about the atrocities he went through. I was glad to hear my father trusted in Jesus for his salvation while he was on his deathbed.

I believe that the damage done in our life is the damage done. God doesn’t take us back through time and remove the incidents that have wounded our souls. What God does do, however, is sufficiently heal those wounds, affirms our dignity and calls us into a deep relationship with Him. He allows us to overcome the limitations of our past and enter the fullness of His truth.  Jesus not only gave me freedom from homosexual behavior, but He also brought me into my new identity as a man of God.

While I would never limit the ability of God for a miraculous change, my experience has been that this side of Glory, there will still be vulnerability for a homosexual temptation to occur. The difference is that now if a homosexual temptation does occur, I can embrace the true longing in my soul for intimacy and submit it to God. I am no longer consumed by lust and uncontrolled homosexual desires. The longer I go in this journey; even those residual temptations are less frequent and less intense. I am a husband and a pastor whom Christ has redeemed and restored.