It was my freshman year of college and it was less than I’d imagined it to be. I had met God when I was fifteen at a conference in Minneapolis, and while I had hoped everything would change, I had found a competing love still living in my heart.
Writing this paper, for me, was about more than a grade. It was about wholeness.
You see, when I was twelve years old I looked around at the sea of faces in my health class and realized that there were more angles to the faces I liked, fewer bumps around the chest… And when my eyes finally fell upon a simple boy near the back of the classroom, I knew it was true. I thought, “Even him, I could fall in love with him.”
In the coming years, it felt like fighting against my heart to deny it, to pretend that there were not longings I didn’t understand and could not control… Now, as I found myself hovering over books chasing answers I’d searched for all my life, I felt undone.
As a teenager, I had picked through the Bible by searching key words like homosexual and homosexuality. But all those searches returned was the same message I had always heard: God doesn’t like it.
The truth is there are only a handful of verses that speak directly to the issue. While I desperately wanted it to be OK, I was beginning to realize two things:
1) The most honest reading of the passages was that God does not approve of homosexual activity.
2) No matter what those verses seemed to say, I could find someone willing to offer another explanation.
I didn’t know what was true, but I did know I was lonely…
I could honestly say I believed God was there. He was real. But I couldn’t find him and I was ready to give up.
I prayed. There was no threat in my words. I spoke with the foregone conclusion and sorrow that I found inside me, “God, I know you’re there, but I don’t know where you are, or why you won’t show up. I have nothing left.” And I meant it.
I was completely broken there in that little cubicle desk. I was struck by the irony of my situation. I mumbled, “Tonight I’ll finish my paper on homosexuality and the biblical perspective, get into my car, and drive to the city to find the gay community.” I was looking for sex, for love, for whatever else there was. I didn’t expect life would make sense after that. I just needed action; the stagnancy was killing me.
That was the plan… at least until Elvis entered the building.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a guy everybody called Elvis walk through the front door of the library. Truth be told, he had a haircut ten years out of style, round Harry Potter glasses, and spoke with an accent. And he was a bit socially awkward, the kind of person who didn’t pick up social cues that you were no longer interested in talking to him.
Honestly, I think he really cared about other people and was good to them. But I couldn’t see that because he didn’t measure up—he wasn’t the kind of person I wanted to be associated with. So when Elvis came in the front door I ignored him. I pretended to be working feverishly. I was giving my desk one of those “I’m really in the game” looks. It didn’t work. He came over anyway.
“Hey, man, how’s it going?” The words came out quickly, slipping over one another and nearly skipping the vowels.
“Good,” I said, without looking up. I systematically placed a pen over the word homosexuality while covering other phrases with blank note cards and piles of paper clips.
“What are you working on?” he asked.
“Just a paper,” I replied.
He paused… “Oh, yeah? What’s it on?”
Man, this guy didn’t quit. I was giving him the whole “I’m disinterested, I’m tired, I’m not feeling real social” routine… but he just stood there…
“Ahh, homosexuality…” I said sheepishly.
But, unperturbed, he replied, “Cool, cool. Are you finding many resources?”
Now this was an odd question. Most people don’t take a vested interest in your paper let alone offer resources.
“No, not really,” I said. “There isn’t much in the library.”
At that point, having the standard research ability of a freshman, I had found about twenty questionable internet sources—none I would call authoritative. After a second he asked, “Do you need some?”
Now I paused… “Sure.”
It turned out Elvis had recently had to do some research too. He unabashedly said, “I’ve got like four or five books, a couple of videos, and some pamphlets in my room. Do you want them?”
Now I don’t know if you want to qualify this as a miracle, but I was literally on the verge of wrapping up my night. I had prayed honestly and had no energy left to fight. I had already decided to find the gay community that night and effectively give up on the faith I had known.
I had never had resources and felt completely defeated. I did not want to talk to Elvis. And yet, within two minutes of my being overcome by sorrow and defeat, a man named Elvis, who refused to be rebuffed, handed me the resources I had always been too afraid to seek out. You draw your own conclusions.
As I walked back across the field that night with the cool Texas air on my skin, I felt the calm of the Holy Spirit moving in and around me. I knew that God had showed up. And while I wanted this to be an ending with the type of answers, conclusions, and healing that make for a good story… I knew it wasn’t. The Holy Spirit whispered that this was a beginning. He had waited until the last possible second, but he did show up. It would be a long road, and I knew it and feared it, but I had started. And starting can be the hardest part.
Now many years later, I’ve had time to wrestle with those verses. What I’ve found is that, on the whole, the Bible leaves us with a few truths we need to acknowledge:
1) Jesus loves those who oppose him, and all people oppose him in some way or form.
2) Salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned. Thus, Christians are called to humbly consider our own oppositions toward him, ask where we may still be putting up walls against him, and submit our own will to his in faith and love.
3) God gave us a design. In his love, he tells us how to live in accordance with that design and informs us that if we live outside that design we are going to miss out on God’s best for us.
I think homosexuality is one form in which we experience our wills being in rebellion against God. People often explain away each verse in the Bible that seems to stand in opposition to homosexuality, but I think the most honest reading is that God had other plans for humanity.
You can make a list of sexual rebellions: homosexual, heterosexual sex outside of marriage, polygamy, etc. There are not better or worse rebellions. They are all areas where our hearts—like Adam and Eve—still think God is holding out on us. And we want to fight him.
We forget that true intimacy, true love, isn’t found in another person. The other person is only a reminder of the God in whose image we were all made. Our deepest longings are for God and we spend our lives confusing the creation for the Creator.
Today, I would say things are different. I still experience attraction to men sometimes, but it happens so rarely that I forget it’s a struggle. And honestly, I’m hesitant to talk about sexual orientation change at all because I don’t think it’s the point. I think the point is trusting Jesus.
God wants to meet you in your pain. I’m not sure how he’ll do that. But whether through your pastor, a parent, or from behind the glasses of an unlooked-for friendship, God does reach out. Healing may not look like you think it should; healing of homosexuality may not be heterosexuality. But it will be a deepening of trust in the faithfulness and love of Jesus in new and life-changing ways.
God has worked a lot of healing in me and it has not been primarily sexual. He has taught me how to love people better, to repent better, and to submit better. And while I still find myself fighting him, I have come to believe that he really is good and I can and should trust him with all of me. When I do that, I am better able to love others and love myself as God made me. I now know that healing is less about fulfilling myself and more about knowing how I am already fulfilled in Jesus, as I am drawn closer to the true intimacy of God the Father through faith in Christ.