Anyone who knows me well would probably say that I don’t handle change very well. I like getting into a routine and knowing what to expect. I feel a sort of comfort from this. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t enjoy a little spontaneity every once in a while or that I can’t recognize when change must happen, or that I’m completely against anything ever changing. It just means that I don’t tend to like life changing surprises, especially if I’m ill prepared for them, in disagreement of their effects, if it means I have to completely readjust or rethink my plans in life, or if I have to give up some greater level of control over my life.
Having said all of this, I will now say something that will sound completely contradictory. For quite some time now I have been earnestly trying to allow God to lead me in my life. I think if one is truly going to call Jesus the Lord of their life, then this must happen. Naturally, though, this means that I am not going to be the one planning a good part of my life, but rather having it planned and directed for me by God, and interjected by many, many possible changes—and God has certainly thrown me some curveballs to have to deal with.
When change is introduced in one’s life, it is easy to worry. I try not to worry though, desperately recognizing the truths that it cannot add even a second to my life and is nothing more than a chasing after the wind, meaningless. Keeping this in mind has certainly helped me to accept and look for the good in any changes that have taken place in my life though, and to not be so completely against them.
Something I’ve thought a lot about the last few weeks, considering the closing of Exodus International, is exactly what sort of help and/or change Exodus actually brought about in me. I believe I was genuinely helped by them, and because of their help, certain things have definitely changed in me. It was not help through reparative therapy, though, but by the hope of it, and mostly by their simply reaching out to me in kindness and understanding at a time when I really needed someone to.
I didn’t want to be gay. This thought dominated me from the first moment I realized I was attracted to other men. I thought my parents and other family members would reject me, I thought friends would reject me, and I thought God would reject me. I didn’t want to be rejected by anyone for this reason. I was though. And I did have a certain level of self-hatred because of it. I was different and I didn’t want to be. I felt inferior, like I was broken in comparison to other guys. All of this was because I was gay, and I thought that if I could just not be gay, everything would be better.
I prayed for God to change me, to help me, more times than I can even remember.
When I sought out help from Exodus, I literally had no place else I felt like I could turn to. I don’t exaggerate when I say that. They were the only refuge I could find to help me in any way regarding my struggles (and believe me, I tried). I felt like they understood me. They welcomed me. They told me I could change, but to focus first and foremost on my relationship with God.
I should clarify something here. I said “they” told me, but what I should have said more specifically was that my counselor, Paul, was the one mostly telling me this. He was one of only about a handful of contacts I ever made through Exodus, but was my primary contact above all others. Paul helped me the most. He listened, comforted me, gave solid Christian advice, encouraged me, and prayed for me—he is one of the kindest and Godliest men I have ever known, and there is nearly nothing I can think of by looking back that I can say he was wrong about. He just wanted to help, and I think he knew how much I needed it.
Even though Paul did believe it was possible for me to change my sexual orientation, he never pushed that. He always tried far more to encourage me to build my relationships with others, to develop and work on some goals in life, and to grow stronger in my faith (he looked beyond my sexual orientation). If anyone ever pushed orientation change, it was me. After all, I was the one who wanted it, and wrongfully thought that a lot of my life’s problems would go away if I could just change.
After many years of trying, I realized the change I wanted wasn’t happening. I admit that I got far too tired of trying, but more importantly, it no longer made sense to me to try. I no longer believed I should try. This isn’t to suggest, however, that certain positive changes weren’t taking place during that time though. They were. It’s just that my sexual orientation wasn’t one of them. And in some ways, I realize that this may be for the best.
I believe the world needs gay Christians—people who can help build a bridge between the church and individuals who have all too often felt completely excluded or pushed away from her. Having a foot in both worlds, I can certainly help to build that bridge. Furthermore, I recognize that trying to change my sexuality just isn’t worth my time when I think about all the greater things I could be doing with it; not just for myself, but for God and others as well. I’ve realized that in some ways, it is definitely better to simply accept my sexuality for what it is, rather than to focus so much time worrying about it. That, in itself, has been a tremendous change for me.
Looking back, I can say I have changed or developed many beliefs over the years, either entirely or in part. For one, I don’t think I care nearly so much about what others think or believe as I used to. And this is good because it means I can just be myself and not be so hurt by the action or inaction of others. Secondly, I’m not so quick to act upon the advice or thoughts of others without first doing a whole heap of thinking on my own. Keeping an open mind and being willing to listen to the thoughts and ideas of others certainly can go a long way. Thirdly, I have decided that at least some people in this world really are worth knowing and I should try harder to get to know them. Fourthly, I’ve realized that worrying gets me nowhere, even if I still find this a hard habit to break at times. Fifthly, I know God doesn’t hold anything against me for being gay, which is a huge load of relief. Sixthly, hope is incredibly important, but no less than faith and reason. Seventhly, it is good to be humble and to admit my weaknesses. Eighthly, not everybody is going to like me, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t still try to like and be nice to them. Ninthly, it’s good to have goals and dreams in life, just so long as I don’t forget to live a little in between the planning, working, and (hopeful) eventual achievement of said goals and dreams. Tenthly, it’s better to think positive and look for the good in every situation, and in every person, than to think the worst. And the most important is to hold onto God no matter what, trusting Him in all things. I say this because He’s the only person I’ve ever known to be with me completely through thick and thin. He has done so much for me. Without him, I’d be lost. I also say to trust Him in all things because only He can ever truly know what is best for us.
When I think of change, I recognize it as something that can be good or bad, expected or unexpected, wanted or unwanted, but something that does happen for each and every one of us. It is unavoidable. And we can either make the best of it, or the worst of it.
For many years, Exodus’ slogan was “change is possible”. I know many people never felt that they actually helped to change anything for them, but for me, they did. They may not have helped me to change my sexuality, but they were a part of many other changes, which have certainly done me and others a great deal of good. There is no doubt in my mind that God did in fact use them to help me as I’d pleaded so often for Him to do. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
With all of this in mind, I say to be hopeful, to trust God, to follow God, to look for the good in all things, and to try your best not to worry. And do not be troubled in whatever changes come your way.
This, at least, is what I am going to try my best to do.