My early childhood was filled with scenes of my father coming home drunk and smashing furniture. Mother, my older brothers and sisters and I would stay with a neighbor until he was sober again. When I was eight, he nearly died from a brain aneurysm and spent the next six years in a VA hospital. That ended any hope of developing a relationship with him.
About this time I was the constant companion of two brothers my age in our Atlanta neighborhood, and we began to experiment sexually with one another. Even though my family didn't go to church, my conscience still bothered me. I was too young to understand what was happening, but our activity introduced me to homosexual behavior.
My mother worked to support the family and was out of the home a lot. She worried that I didn't have a father-figure, so she sent me to live with my older sister and her husband stationed in the Panama Canal Zone. I was excited about that, but my brother-in-law had a drinking problem, too. One night he even slapped my sister and choked her in front of me and their two-year-old son. I was really frightened. Then he suddenly threw her aside and left the house.
I had two emotional reactions. First, I decided never to trust adults. Second, I hated myself for being male, thinking that the same anger I saw in my father and my brother-in-law was also in me. I returned home shortly after that incident.
When puberty hit, I had strong homosexual desires, but I didn't act on them since I had started attending church. I prayed all through high school and my first year of college that God would take away the urges, and when He didn't I couldn't reconcile Christianity and homosexuality. So I left the church--and college--and took off for San Francisco's homosexual community. It was 1975; I was 19 years old.
When I joined the gay bar scene, I wanted to settle into one relationship. But that didn't fill the void in my heart, and I turned to drugs and alcohol. I stayed in California for six months, then traveled to other major cities. Eventually, I moved to rural Georgia and took a job in a convenience store, trying to put the past behind me. There, a local pastor invited me to church--where, on separate occasions, two men asked me out. These guys were both married, and supposedly, upstanding Christians. That made me feel justified in my lifestyle. At least, I thought, I've lived more honestly.
By 1978, my alcohol and drug abuse was getting worse, so I began looking for answers in the Bible. Even though I didn't understand most of the passages, reading it gave me peace, and a longing to find people who really believed its message.
A few months later, I left Georgia and eventually wound up in Boone, North Carolina. I arrived with a back-pack and $60. I rented a room for a week, not expecting to stay, but I found a job immediately. After several lonely months, I went to a concert put on by a local church. The man who greeted me at the door shook my hand, looked me in the eye and welcomed me. I thought, This man knows the love of God.
That night I was moved not only by the words of the songs, but by the spirit of the people. When I returned to my room I flushed away my marijuana, and said, "Okay, God, I want to be clean, and I want to know You. What next?"
The following Sunday, I set out for that little church and was heartily welcomed again. For the next two weeks, I went to every service Watauga Christian Center offered, and I listened--and watched--carefully. After a while, I even went to the pastor and apprehensively told him about my homosexuality. To my surprise, he didn't condemn me. Instead, he answered my questions about the Lord. He also helped me see that my homosexuality was learned behavior, and that I could choose to leave it.
Then he helped me make a commitment to the only One who could fill my heart's need. The months that followed were the beginning of a wonderful adventure in learning loving acceptance from the congregation. I also began understanding that men in the church need encouragement to befriend those who struggle with homosexuality. I know now that the emotional makeup of homosexual behavior is rooted in self-hatred and the overwhelming sense of being different from heterosexual men, and therefore, not being able to relate to them.
But while I was confident when helping others understand homosexuality, I worried about dating women, since I didn't have a clue of how to go about it. I prayed, "Lord, I can't do this. So would You please bring the one You want to be my wife to me. And make it really clear who she is."
Freida, a second-year teacher, and I worked in a nursing-home ministry and became acquainted. After much prayer, I asked her to date me. Four months later, we were married.
We have five wonderful children ranging in age from 4 to 11 who daily remind me of the joy I would have missed if I had continued believing the lie that homosexual men cannot change. Praise God, we can! I'm proof of that.