Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How the Gospel Changed My Life

I grew up in a Christian home. We prayed before meals and before bed time, and we went to church every Sunday, ever since I was a little girl. I don't remember not believing in God.

At 12 years old, I knew I believed but questioned whether or not I was actually saved, and the uncertainty troubled me. I had a talk with my mom and we prayed to the Lord together. I accepted Jesus into my heart as my savior. :-)

Soon after that, I got baptized with a few other people from church on a Sunday. Beforehand, when they asked all of us if we knew what we were doing, I just started bawling. I knew that Jesus had died for me.

But I didn't really understand faith beyond that.  For me, there wasn't as much of a daily, vital element to Jesus as there was for my mom or my sister. They would pray regularly and attend bible studies and church functions.  I was more like my dad, who didn't do much outside of church on Sunday, and didn't really want to.

Like I mentioned, our family prayed before meal times and before bed, and would also pray if there was a deep need or a crisis. For me, the praying before meals or bedtime was usually sort of a routine, obligatory thing. I began thinking of God as a stern, sort of distant being with alot on His plate. He had war, famine, sickness and grief--what would I matter to Him? I reserved prayers for emergencies only.

It didn't help that I had a secret. I had always struggled with same sex attraction, as long as I had known. I remember having crushes on girls from a young age and instinctively knowing this was something I should hide. So I did. I hoped it would go away...it didn't.

My mom found out about it when I was 17, and after we had our first talk about it, she didn't handle it very well. I don't think she understood the fact or could even face the possibility that it wasn't a phase. I could tell my secret made her so uneasy that I learned I should not bring it up.

My dad was so focused on providing for the family that, in that pursuit, he had become emotionally passive and distant. He didn't realize he was doing this at the time, but after work he came home and sort of checked out. He was also pretty uncomfortable with big emotional issues or heavy stuff, so I didn't feel like I could talk to him, either.

I was so ashamed of my secret. I couldn't cope with it and neither could my parents. I entered into a long, silent time of deep suicidal depression.

Meanwhile, my sister deepened her path on the straight and narrow. She got further involved in church and her youth group and started being gone all the time when she got into her mid teens. Before then, we were very close, but I was 4 years younger, and when she got a little older she didn't really want much to do with me. I felt so rejected. I couldn't talk to her about the secret, either. And I lost one of my best friends.

I started rebelling. I couldn't accept myself, so I sought the acceptance of others. In my last years of high school, I started drinking, smoking, and smoking pot to escape. It was mild at first, but it increased and really blew up when I moved out of my parents' house at 19.

The further I got into the drug scene, the wilder people were, and the easier it was to admit my same sex attraction and start acting on it. Before long, I came completely "out" and began having full blown relationships with women. Throughout college, I had a series of dysfunctional relationships with girls and got further into pot and other drugs. God was still with me at the time, as He always was, but he was still an "emergency only" God in my mind, a far away God who had enough to worry about.

I was a miserable Christian. I was selfish and paranoid. I lived for people approval, pot, and women. Life was a roller coaster, and the high points never lasted long. But I never questioned whether or not all this, or specifically, being a lesbian, was ok with God. It wasn't going to change. It couldn't change. It was part of me. Besides, what did God care about me?

My parents were beside themselves during all this. The trauma of it brought my Dad to his knees before God. My mom continued to pray her heart out everyday over me and for my life, as she always had, but more desparately as I detached more. 

As I pulled away from God, my sister pulled closer.  She had done the polar opposite with her life, getting married and even becoming a missionary in Mexico.

When I was 28, I went to visit her and her husband there. One of the last nights of my stay, I had an experience that dramatically opened my eyes. My sister asked if I really thought homosexuality was sin or if I thought it was ok with God. For the first time, I had to admit, I didn't know.  It had always "had to be ok," but was it?  She offered to pray and I accepted.

And then, God allowed me to see Him in a way I had never seen Him before. He spoke to me, spoke to my heart. He wasn't a distant, far away God after all. He revealed to me that I was precious to Him, that He loved me more than I could fathom, enough to die for me, and that my life and purpose were more than anything I had been living for. As He flooded my spirit, everything I had been hanging on to seemed so small. And He told me the answer to the question of whether or not homosexuality was ok, and it wasn't in condemnation. It was a gentle answer.

When I came back to Houston, He began pulling me out of my pit, one step at a time. He showed me that I was right, I couldn't change my same sex attraction, I had to rely on Him. It wasn't me that would have to do the changing, He would change me from within. And my same sex attraction didn't have to be a part of me, either--regardless of how it felt, my identity was in Christ. All I had to do, my part, was to surrender myself, believe Him, and let Him work.

It wasn't easy, but He held on to my heart. I began going to church and getting involved there, and He used those followers of Christ in a mighty way to help me. They showed me the love and compassion of Jesus, and provided me an example of living for that. They did not condemn me or make me feel ashamed, they loved me and accepted me and prayed for me.  They believed for me when I couldn't believe. They were trustworthy and did not reject me or tell my secret when I asked them not to. They lifted me up, and taught me what it meant to be rooted and established in Christ.

God began to heal me in ways I never thought possible, and make me understand where my brokenness came from. He sloughed off the old and made things new, replacing my heart of stone with a heart of flesh. He broke through all the layers to the real me, and brought it back to life. I felt as though I had been raised from the grave. All my family's prayers for all the years I was gone were finally coming true.

But then, He did the most amazing thing of all. He blessed me with healthy, reciprocal love for a man. I didn't think it was possible...it was the first time it had ever happened to me. As our love deepened, I realized more and more that it was from Him. For the first time, this intimacy was pure and healthy, and acknowledged Him. Him first--what a marvelous wonder that is. I was 31 years old.

Now, that man, who is more wonderful than I ever could have asked for or imagined, is my husband. Now, we pursue Him together. My heart is full.  I have been renewed to breathe new life.

1 Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:1-5


All that is within me, Praise His Holy Name.