Living a Double Standard

My feelings of guilt and shame towards a same-sex attraction began at an early age. I experienced frequent sexual abuse from an older male friend during most of my teen years, and hustling for money soon followed.

Years later, I was baptized in a Mennonite Brethren church as a public declaration that I would follow Christ. My secret desire was that maybe now my attraction and sexual fantasies towards men would disappear. They didn't, and the fantasies soon turned into years of acting out behaviours.

I attended several MB churches in different provinces over the years, all the while living a double standard. I became addicted to cruising public places that were well-known to the gay community as places where homosexuals could meet for anonymous sex – a behaviour very typical of this community. Frequenting gay bars was a given.

Life in the gay community has been tumultuous and everything but a happy time. I would be in the arms of a lover on Saturday night and then actively participate in a worship service on Sunday morning. My life was such a lie – a secret I was able to maintain for many years.

I now thank God for placing roadblocks in my life. God took hold of my life, and through numerous difficult circumstances (including a conviction for abusing a teenage boy) He brought me to my knees. I have cried out to God from the deepest part of my being many times over the years. My cry for help was the start of my recovery journey.

Professional Help
One church I attended several years back was very accepting and supportive. I truly appreciated the people and their concern – but I also knew I needed professional help. Years of struggle followed. My addiction continued.

Finally, five years ago, I found a Christian counselor who has been a tremendous support in my journey toward being set free. Through thick and thin, he has stuck with me. For the first time in my life, I began to believe that freedom and deliverance from my same-sex addiction was possible.

I pray that this man may be used by God to assist others. My heart is burdened for my brothers and sisters in Christ, and those He is still calling to Himself, individuals who are still held captive to their desires and are struggling to break free.

I grieve for the single male whose life is driven by a community of friends at the gay bar, which has become home to him. Like many others, and for a variety of reasons, he doesn't have family in his life. Maybe someone from church will invite him for a Thanksgiving meal at their home. Maybe it's his turn to host the Christmas party. Who could be on the guest list? Could his straight Christian friends celebrate the birth of their King together with his gay friends?

I grieve for the man who has a lover but still feels that there is something missing, that he has a deep inner void. When that unidentified void becomes too great, he cruises public washrooms for a quick fix, a familiar pain killer. The problem is that now he needs to deal with the guilt of having cheated on his lover. He needs to constantly cover his tracks, knowing there is a strong possibility that the relationship will be over if his lover finds out. He does not want to be left alone. Who will help him find that something he is looking for?

I grieve for the married fellows of every age who do "quickies" in public washrooms on their lunch breaks or in malls while their wives are shopping. These are often the same men who participate in the safe sex ritual of feasting their minds on pornography at a newsstand before satisfying themselves. Their feeling of being trapped is almost unbearable – and if they disclose their problem, they risk losing their marriage, their status in the community, their church friends and their job.

Their situations are so difficult. Many homosexual and bisexual men are drowning in their deep, dark secret. Who is going to give them the confidence that they need to risk taking the mask off and come up for some healing air?

My Experience with Church
I have sought sanctuary at several different churches. Frankly, it's been easier working with God. My experiences with most churches have been disappointing. I share some of these experiences with you, not to hurt others but as an opportunity to express my pain, where despair and hope have collided.

I am encouraged by the willingness churches are showing to address this issue, and by those in leadership who are taking a much more active role – including mentoring, holding people accountable and walking alongside them during a long and difficult recovery process. Nevertheless, in speaking with church leaders, I have found that there is often a limited understanding of the gay and lesbian community, its lifestyle and its culture.

When you're out-and-out sick, your appointment with a doctor is probably long overdue. Whom do you make an appointment with when your heart is bleeding with emotional pain? I would like to think that my pastor could be that specialist to help me heal.

I had been preparing myself for weeks to make such an appointment with my pastor. I wanted to share my pain with him. It was a difficult talk, and I greatly appreciated his listening ear and heart of compassion. I know he was trying to stay with me. He was doing the best he could, yet I soon realized he was not informed enough on the issue being discussed. I didn't need someone "winging it." I needed someone who could provide definite support. I don't know what made him uncomfortable, but that was the first and last meeting. No communication ever followed to see how I was coping. I felt rejected, abandoned by my own pastor and very sorry that I had made myself transparent. I left.

One Sunday morning at yet a different church, we sang the hymn, "Blest Be the Tie that Binds." The third verse reads, "We share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear, and often for each other flows the sympathizing tear." I could sing no further. The pain inside was too great. If only there could be evidence of this actually happening!

At my most recent church, I just cannot seem to get past the Sunday "Good morning" handshake. Three weeks after starting to attend this church, I signed up for the men's retreat. This was not a comfortable thing for me to do, but I did it with the sole intent of challenging myself to press into other men's lives. I wanted to get to know these guys, and I wanted them to get to know me. That was nine months ago, and nothing has happened since. I told myself that I would not sit in the same pew every Sunday but move around and continue to work on building relationships.

There has been no invitation for coffee after church or during the week, even though I have asked men directly for this opportunity and have even written my home phone number on my business card. My name and address have never been added to the church directory, or even put into the church bulletin. I guess I'm still a guest! It's time to move on. Nothing is going to help me develop healthy relationships with straight men at this church. I'm running out of energy. Where do I go now?

What Could the Church Do?
What insight have I gained as to how the church can offer help and healing to us, the modern day untouchable lepers? It seems Christians fear contamination and would like us banished to a safely distant leper colony, well out of their thoughts and away from their children. I'll be the first to admit that as long as I wasn't seeking healing and deliverance, no one could help me. As the sick man at the pool of Bethesda had to express his desire to get well (John 5), so I had to want to be made whole. I needed to be very decided in my mind that I wanted to change, to pay the price and to accept whatever that might bring. Yet, once I was willing, as my heart broke over this addiction and its consequences, it was difficult to find people from the Christian community who were willing and able to help lift me out of the pit and put me onto the road to recovery.

Yes, I needed professional counseling, and still do. But I also sorely need people to come alongside me and encourage me, pray with me and socialize with me. I need people to just help meet the ordinary needs of an ordinary person. Galatians 6:2 says: "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." The question is: Who is willing to do that? It takes a lot of personal sacrifice of time, energy, convenience and self-interest. Who will invest so heavily in someone who has fallen into the alternate track of life?

The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) was willing to suffer inconvenience and expense to help such a person. His attitude plainly shows us the mind of Christ. I'm sure that's also the mind the church would like to express, but many times the personal cost is too great. There are so many "self" needs, legitimate needs, which leave little time for others. I understand that, but what about the broken fellow in the ditch? Can the church, in good conscience, walk away from him and let him perish? Jesus touched and healed the untouchable. I feel the church is making progress, but it's a hard discipline to learn.

I am still looking for a church where I can worship the God I love, together with a community of church people who love the same God, a shelter where I can give back to God the abilities and talents I've been blessed with. Is your church a hospital for the wounded?

I am now a celibate, recovering homosexual.

--"Kenneth"

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