I was the middle child of 5 in a Catholic family. Coming from a Scandinavian heritage I learned at an early age that boys don’t cry and never share their painful thoughts. I had plenty of painful thoughts. (In the last couple of years God has revealed to me that I had been sexually abused as a toddler. My abuser has not been revealed.)
The Catholic church in the 50’s and early 60’s preached “fire, hell, and damnation”. I don’t remember the mercy or love I so longed for being preached. As I grew older I felt different from other boys, maybe because I was not an athlete. I was called ‘sissy’ by my peers and ignored by my older brother who was an athlete. I began to compulsively masturbate at the age of 4 to ease the insecurity I felt and as I grew older it would be my way to get to sleep at night and to ease the pain I felt. Sometimes I would cry myself to sleep.
My father was the president of his senior class and captain of the football team. He was an aeronautical engineer and a captain in the Naval Reserves. I wanted so much to be close to him but he pushed his sons away at an early age. “Men don’t hug.” When we played or worked together I heard words like “you throw a ball like a girl.” “You’re delicate just like your mother”.
I felt he was ashamed of me. I detached emotionally from my dad and vowed never to be like him. As I got involved in theatre in high school his lack of support reinforced my perception that my dad believed I was gay. When I heard my mother tell a neighbor that she wished I had been born a girl that reinforced the fear that perhaps I was gay. After all I fit the stereotype of the gay male.
I loved show tunes, theatre, classical music, opera, ballet. I at one time wanted to be a modern dancer.
When I got to college I discovered pornography and began to act out my homosexual desires. Diane, my girl friend from high school, and I were dating at the time and planned to marry in 1970. We were products of the sexual revolution of the 60’s so this didn’t seem strange to me at all. One month before our wedding I got a sexually transmitted disease from a man. I was angry and bitter at God for giving me these desires and wanted so much to be a “normal” married man. I was forced to tell Diane and assumed she would call off the wedding. To my surprise she still wanted to get married. Perhaps we both thought marriage would change me
I remember the first time I went into a gay bar and was in awe of all the attention I received. For the first time in my life I felt important, needed, and affirmed. I went to bookstores, bathhouses, and beaches. I loved the adulation I received. For the first 6 years of our marriage I suspected Diane knew of my unfaithfulness but we never talked about homosexuality.
One day I was in a bathhouse and a very old ugly man approached me and asked if I wanted to have sex. I said, “no thanks.” He said, “I’ll pay you $20 to have sex with me.” Full of arrogance and pride of my youthful good looks I curtly replied, “I don’t need it I can get anything I want for free.” Then he said, “I’ll pay you $20 if you give me a hug.” I told him to keep his money and I gave him a big hug and went home. I got home and looked in the mirror and saw that old man. Like a veil being lifted I saw that one day I will be like that old man.
I saw that my homosexual desires were not about sex at all but about being accepted for who I was and being affirmed as a man. I cried out to God and asked Him to change me.
The following year my wife and had moved up to our cabin. The first month we were up there we joined a catholic prayer group. I discovered what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and to be born again. Diane and I were reading Ephesians one night together out loud. The scriptures jumped out at me and I realized God was speaking to me. Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are all God’s work of art.” (Jerusalem translation) For one with such low self-esteem that was music to my ears. Ephesians 5:8-14 says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light… Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness but rather expose them…. This is why it is said; Wake up, O sleeper, Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
I fell on the floor weeping and asked God for forgiveness for my foolish sinful ways. I wept also for joy because I finally realized what Christ did for me at Calvary and that the Father’s love for me is unconditional. We gave our lives to Christ that night. I thought my healing journey was over after all I am now a “new creation”, but it was only the beginning.
Around this same time I got a phone call from dad who expressed his love for me and told me how proud he was of me. I waited 26 years to hear those words. The next day I got a phone call from my sister and told me our dad had just died at work from a heart attack at the age of 54.
We moved back to Minneapolis several years after and I got a new job. We also discovered we couldn’t have children. I was devastated. I felt God was punishing me for my past. Diane miscarried 3 times and each time was like a death in the family. We joined an interdenominational Christian community at the same time and for the first time in my life I began to relate to other men that was not erotic. We adopted a special needs child. Though God was to work a miracle in that boy’s life he had to endure severe migraines for the first 11 years of his life. The stress at work, home and new relationships (what if they found out about my past) was too much to bear and I sought out those old patterns of medicating.
I went to all the old places and my pornography and homosexual addiction once again reared it’s ugly head. I knew now what the Bible said about homosexuality and I just felt more guilt and shame. The guilt just fueled my acting out and it would become a cycle. In 1980 there were no recovery groups.
I had not heard of Exodus or Outpost, the local Exodus ministry. Homosexuality was not talked about in the church. All the recovery books were yet to be written. Jesus was going to have to lead the way and lead He did. He called us out of the Catholic church and the Christian community we were involved in and joined a non-denominational church. We followed some of our friends to the same church. God showed me how key those relationships were to my healing. To know that these men accept me and respect and would not reject me gave me great comfort and strength.
One Sunday the pastor spoke on the topic of anger and after the sermon invited people to come forward to be prayed over and be released from the clutches of anger in our lives. I went forward. On another Sunday he spoke on bitterness and unforgiveness. I again went forward. God showed me my heart and how bitter I was toward all those who had wounded me in my youth. He showed me that I was even bitter toward Him. He showed me all the people I needed to forgive especially my parents and my childhood tormenters. I had to forgive God also for not allowing me to father a child. My desire to act out sexually decreased considerably after each of those sessions. It was only in the last few years when I have given my testimony, God has shown me that He had been dealing with the roots of my sexual brokenness.
In the summer of 1997 I went on a men’s retreat. God spoke to me in my quiet time, “I have given you friends to encourage you, I have dealt with the root causes of your sinfulness, the next step is up to you.” I knew what He meant.
I needed to expose the darkness in my life. I needed to end my double-life. The truth needed to be shared. I needed to take off my mask. At the large group meeting at the retreat, trembling I shared briefly that I had struggled with homosexuality most of my adult life and that God was doing a tremendous thing. I did not get the rejection I feared but applause and acceptance.
That fall I went to my first Joshua Fellowship meeting. This is a support group for Christian men struggling with homosexuality and is part of Outpost, an Exodus ministry. I began to finally talk about my brokenness. Shame and guilt lost its hold on me and along with it my desire to act out with other men.
I went through Living Waters and God showed me the different areas in my life where He needed to touch. I made peace with my parents in Living Waters. Living Waters brought some closure to my sexual brokenness. We continue to be involved in Living Waters and God continues to heal.
I have given my testimony at a Sunday service at my Church. This has to be the highlight of my ministry.
I thank God for my wife Diane who gave her testimony at Exodus in San Diego in 2000. Her forgiveness and compassion has been an inspiration. I wouldn’t be where I am without her.