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From about the age of eleven or twelve I had recognised that there was a distinct difference between myself and my buddies at school, although no one would have ever guessed it.
The distinguishing feature had nothing to do with anything external as I was very much a part of the in crowd during my High School years, being a confident and outgoing kid who excelled at sport.
The factor that set me apart (and tore me apart) was the rising tide of sexual attraction I felt toward those of the same gender.
I find it amazing when people suggest that homosexuality is a choice. What young boy of eleven chooses to feel things that his school friends and his TV screen tell him are abnormal and sick? I never for one moment chose nor wanted the sexual desires that haunted me at the advent of my adolescence. If I could have changed, believe me, I would have given anything to be like all my friends who talked so easily about there attraction to the opposite sex.
However, there was no magic wand and no amount of wishing seemed able to dissolve the ever increasing mountain of passion that I felt toward other males.
Exposure of my gay feelings became my ultimate fear so I was relegated to a life of pretence and deception. I lied to my friends about liking girls etc, even forcing myself to go out with them occasionally to mask my true sexual preference.
Despair, guilt and isolation were the other hallmarks of my early teenage years. Despair because I felt these unwanted desires were unchangeable. Guilt because of the sense of moral degradation. Isolation because I thought no one in the world could identify with what I was experiencing.
Somehow as I grew into my mid teens the inner crisis waned a little as I came to recognise there were others out their just like me and I began to long for the day when I could pick up the courage to make contact with other gay men.
My grand entry into active homosexuality came via an article I read in a magazine regarding a network of gay and lesbian youth groups established to help young people come to terms with their homosexuality.
From this point of contact I embarked on my foray into a gay lifestyle with great unbridled passion. No words can describe the release I felt in 'coming out' at the age of seventeen after keeping the dark secret of my sexual desires hidden so well, for so long.
The gay circle into which I entered opened up a whole new world for me. Not only did I find the freedom of sexual expression that I had ached for but also a sense of belonging that was gained from my association with the gay community and a hedonistic way of living that appealed to my senses.
I enjoyed thoroughly a two year period of sexual practice, parties and regular excessive alcohol and drug use. Life was at an all time high.
The overt effeminate mannerisms which I had developed, the odd comments here and there, the places I frequented and the friends I brought home gave very clear signals to my parents that their eldest son was gay.
To say that my father did not cope with my homosexuality would be an understatement. His ultimatum was loud and clear. Change or you're out of our home and our lives for good.
My parents suggestion of change was laughable. How could I alter something that was an intrinsic part of my being? It was like asking a lion to change its nature and become a lamb. I was incapable of doing so and to be quite honest I had long since lost the desire to be straight. I was gay and that's the way I was and that's the way I would stay!
My only concession was that I agreed to go with them to see a psychiatrist! The visit to the therapist read like a soap opera script; mum cried, dad ranted and raved while I sat calmly with my brightly dyed orange hair hoping the event would come to an end so I could go and get on with my life.
But something quite unexpected took place which I was completely unprepared for. The doctor in summing up his diagnosis of my sexuality made a remark that shook me to the core. "Stephen is ok, he's fine, in my estimation there is nothing wrong with him."
I thought I would have been delighted to hear it finally decreed and certified that my sexuality was not a problem, rather, in an instant those words drew from the recesses of my heart an acute awareness that I was not fine, I was not ok and in reality I had major problems not only within the context of my sexual orientation but my whole life and personality was thwart with inadequacies. I saw myself in a moment as a pitiful creature in desperate need of help.
The visit to the psychiatrist came to an end without anyone else knowing what was taking place within my heart and mind, I simply agreed that it would be best if I left home and family to pursue my homosexuality elsewhere.
However, the thoughts that had mysteriously invaded in the therapists office lingered and became an almost constant companion.
From that point there was birthed a sense of dissatisfaction with almost every aspect of my life resulting in a crisis similar to that which I experienced as a young boy coming to terms with my homosexuality. Only this time my once rampant sexual appetite somehow became dormant and nothing I could do seemed able to rouse it.
Darkness and confusion also began to reign over my mind to the degree that at times I thought I was going insane.
A number of months prior to my visit to the doctor I had begun a new job and a young lady by the name of Sylvana I worked with had become a close friend. Apart from having a vibrant personality I also enjoyed talking with her about her new found Christian faith. Sylvana's perspectives of God and issues of morality although not in line with my own did interest me and heightened my keenness for the supernatural.
I was a regular attendee at a spiritualist church and fascinated by anything of a mystical nature. I had studied astrology and plotted astrological charts for years, I'd also had a few out of body experiences, dabbled in meditation and read widely on things of an esoteric nature.
Discussions with my workmate about her beliefs continued, but nothing appeared to penetrate the wall of defence I had built to rebuff the message I heard almost daily.
I had written off Christianity as impotent and outdated, filled with legalistic demands that I could never adhere to, besides my homosexuality ruled me well and truly out of ever being a believer. I was safe!
But as I was to discover, my confidence in my safety zone was to come to an abrupt halt.
As I reflect back on the revelation that struck me as I sat in the doctors suite and the subsequent crisis that besieged me at the end of my teenage years I have no doubt they came as a direct result of the response of God to the prayers of Sylvana, her family and church. In the book Destined for the Throne, Paul E. Billheimer writes,
"Without violating the free moral responsibility of any individual, the Church, by means of persistent, believing intercession, may so release the Spirit of God upon a soul that he will find it easier to yield to the Spirit's tender wooing and be saved than to continue his rebellion."
It was those prayers I believe that brought me to my knees anxious for an answer to the hellish conditions that had pervaded my world and demolished the barriers that I had erected to keep myself at a distance from the clear call of the gospel.
A lot took place in those months of torment. Suffice to say I was in a pit of such despair that I became willing to try anything to get out. Sylvana's unswerving friendship and support had won my heart and I was hungry, even desperate to at least give this Jesus stuff a try.
Four people gathered to pray and lead me to Christ. I didn't know what was about to take place as I had not come from a Christian home and had little in the way of understanding of the Scriptures. All I did know was that I needed help and somehow I hoped the God of the Bible would make things different.
The night of my conversion began in a way that I had not anticipated. These nice Christians boldly began to confront me about my sinfulness. I was firmly informed that it was my sin which separated me from a holy, perfect God and punishment needed to be administered by Him, ultimately the consequence of my sin meant eternal separation from God and the penalty of hell.
If I had felt like I was in a pit of despair before, it paled into insignificance in comparison to that which I now experienced. The truth of what I heard burned deep and brought about an incredible, overwhelming sense of guilt and a knowing that I was powerless to rectify my situation. It was as though I had been plunged into angry sea in the darkest night without chance of rescue.
Fortunately and to my wonder their message did not end there.
I was then told of the grace of God, of how Jesus had come to take my place, to bear my punishment that I may be re-united with God the Father and enjoy a relationship with Him. Jesus Himself had suffered on my behalf so that I might know freedom. He was the only source of rescue.
All I had to do was believe and receive what Jesus had already done upon the cross and my past would be erased and I could begin life afresh.
I knew instinctively that truth was being set before me and although it sounded too good to be true the thought of having a new start was irresistible.
I was slowly and deliberately lead in a prayer of confession that covered every sin that I could ever remember committing. I'd been such an effective sinner that it took well over a couple of hours to work one by one through those things that needed to be brought into the open and repented of before God. I didn't find this easy yet somehow I thought it must be necessary.
I also had to deal with the offences and hurts that I felt had been perpetrated against me. Forgiving others who had wounded me throughout my life wasn't easy either but again I one by one released the pain of past events.
At the end of that exhausting exercise however, nineteen years of shame were lifted off my shoulders. The tangible release I experienced at that moment was truly awe inspiring. I felt clean on the inside and all trace of heaviness instantaneously disappeared. A lightness flooded my being like I had never experienced before.
But that was just the beginning.
I'm aware that there are those even within the ranks of the Church who would deny the influence demonic forces can have upon peoples lives but my Bible clearly points out that evil spirits can and do exert very real control over humanity.
Those who were ministering to me recognised the part that the demonic realm had played in my life and began to deal authoritatively with the work of demonic powers whose legal right to afflict me had been severed by my confession of sin and embracing of Jesus as Lord.
The process of deliverance again took some time but throughout the ordeal I became acutely aware of the power and love of God. The first notable result was a change in the way I spoke. I had developed a very effeminate voice yet immediately after this exorcism my speech became deeper and more masculine.
This was some introduction to Christendom! I'd never envisaged that this was how Christianity operated. God was real, He had power and He loved me!
However, things were not finished. To complete an already unforgettable night I was asked if I'd like to be baptised in the Holy Spirit. I didn't know what that was but my attitude by now was simply I'll take whatever is given. Within moments I spoke in a language that I had never learned. This astounded me but naturally and gracefully words of a foreign language of some description seemed to flow from within.
I went home in the early hours of the morning not knowing the full implications of what had taken place but one thing I was sure of life could never be the same again.
Today, as I look back upon the early days of my walk with God I can see His hand clearly at play in my circumstances guiding people and resources across my path.
The church I attended embraced me without discriminating or fearing my past history. My pastor, a gentle wise man by the name of Emmanuel discipled me in the basics of the Christian faith laying a foundation that would enable me to stand firm and setting an example as to a godly lifestyle.
To be a Christian came also with a price. It cost me every friendship that I'd had within the gay community. Once news broke about my 'getting religion' the friends dropped off quickly. Perhaps that wasn't a bad thing as it made it easier to deal with the issue of homosexuality.
To say I was never tempted again after my conversion by gay feelings would be a lie but there was one significant discernible difference. Prior to being born again I appeared to be driven and controlled by my sexual feelings, whereas, now the temptation was an external bombardment against my mind which could be resisted. After a short time even those attacks that assaulted from the outside ceased.
Psalm 16:6 proclaims, "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." Over the last fourteen years since coming to Christ God has done many wonderful things in me and for me, but the one thing that I treasure above all is my relationship with my wife Louise and my three children Nathaniel, Alexander and Chloe.
God's transforming power is truly amazing!
If you would like to meet Steve and Louise, click here. If you would like to meet the Jesus who changed Steve's life, click here.
Source: Steve Sutton, Newcastle, Australia.
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