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Out of the Pit

by Jeff Yarborough 

"He lifted me out of the slimy pit
   out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
   and gave me a firm place to stand."
                    -- Psalm 40: 3 NIV

I remember Dad saying to me, "Go play dolls with your sisters," after I said I didn't feel like playing catch with him. Dad was a jock, but I never shared his love of sports, which was a huge disappointment for him. Winning was everything for him, and he often hit home runs and was a star player in the church softball games and tennis tournaments. He was highly competitive, and I was shy and sensitive. Dad and I did share an interest in music and I enjoyed performing with him on our stringed instruments. 

I enjoyed artistic activities, and at school I generally preferred staying indoors with the girls to going out on the play ground with the boys. Mom encouraged me in the drawing and painting which I found so agreeable as hobbies. We took an oil painting class together, and the teacher recognized my talent, offering a future scholarship to a state university.

When I was twelve I was baptized into a conservative Christian church, and feeling cleansed of whatever sins I thought had accumulated in my life, I began trying to live a sinless life. I recall trying to be kind to others, trying to keep the Sabbath, trying to not lie or steal. But I did not really have a clear idea what walking with the Holy Spirit and trusting Him in all areas of my life was all about. Around that time puberty hit, and sexual feelings stirred. I shared the newfound joys of masturbation with a few male friends from school, who participated from time to time. On the whole, I was ambivalent towards my male peers, not really wanting to play with them but craving their attention and companionship. I recall climbing a lot of trees and being mostly alone. And I remember standing outside the fence of the ball field watching the other boys enjoy their game.

In boarding academy, a roommate seduced me, and I had a few other homosexual experiences with the boys in my dormitory. But at the same time, I was pursuing girls and dating several for extended periods of time. I began having occasional sexual encounters with girls as well. Thinking of myself as an artist and open to new experiences, it was all an adventure for me. 

I started to wonder if I might be gay because I felt strangely indifferent about girls. As I kissed them, I felt little passion and a good deal of boredom. With one girlfriend I was determined to prove myself heterosexual, and during a visit to her home, she invited me into the basement for a tryst. It was to be the first time for both of us. Just as we were about to engage, her mother flung the door open and demanded, "What are you doing?!" I was literally caught with my pants down. Somehow, it seemed safer to be with guys after this.

At the beginning of my freshman year at a boarding college, I was hitch-hiking towards the school when an army officer picked me up. He took me a few miles to a motel where I agreed to spend the night with him. I did not know what to expect, but was caught up in the mystery and adventure. Although this man just wanted sex, I was more interested in intimacy, and in the morning I kissed him tenderly. He just thought that was odd. But I felt somehow close to a father figure, and I felt less lonely and more "wanted." He drove me back to school, and I felt changed. I sensed there was something different about me because I had really enjoyed the encounter. Nevertheless, during that year I also had sex with a female students on several occasions -- equally as spiritually perverse as the motel experience, and probably contributing to a spiritual numbness creeping over me as worship and church lost their interest for me.

During my university years I indulged in man-to-man sex with enthusiasm. Soon after graduation I stopped going to church and started going to gay bars and beaches, beginning a season of anonymous sexual encounters and serial monogamous relationships. Some lasted for a month or so, but most were one night stands. I remember making a list of over one hundred men I had slept with and their various occupations. They ranged from truck drivers and contractors to doctors, lawyers and judges. These habits and patterns of gay sexual activity lasted for about 15 years. 

During that time I had girl friends too, and with one I had an intimate relationship for over a year. We had an active sex life which I enjoyed, but emotionally I felt detached. She was interested in marriage, but I was scared that I really didn't love her and it would be a huge mistake to commit to marriage. 

I never gave up on the idea of perhaps getting married some day, but I had a voracious appetite for men. I knew in my heart it was sinful because I was raised to be a Christian. But I did not really understand "having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ." What was personal about it? To me religion was about going to church and following the rules of good behavior, and it was also a dull life which was becoming increasingly unappealing. 

During my 30ís I had a male lover with whom I lived for about six years, and we bought a house together. My parents were very gracious to accept him into their home during the holidays when we went together for visits. Although our sex life was not very satisfying, there was such an emotional bond between us that I felt like we were brothers. But he was also very controlling and manipulative with me. There were jealousies and intense fights. He acted as though  he owned me, body and soul, and often accused me of seeking out other lovers while he was the one cheating on the side. Many times I thought he would kill me. If I came home late from work he would grab me by the neck and choke me. In fits of rage, he would sometimes say that I would never get out of the house alive. Sometimes he would block my car from getting out the driveway. He would call me often to check up on me during the day, and I started getting an ulcer from the stress and feeling helpless to get out of the relationship.

Since we owned property together, our lives were so intertwined financially and otherwise that it seemed I would never be free again. I felt utterly trapped and helpless, and I started going back to church regularly, hoping that eventually I could find freedom and a new life by following God.

God spoke to me through the situation of my relationship with my lover. One day I went with him to a bizarre New-Age church near the ocean which had a modern-day self-professed prophet. There were statues like idols around the altar, and people were chanting to them during the service, with smiles on their faces but eyes that looked empty. Half-way through the service, when the chanting was getting intense, I felt an oppressive evil presence, and I insisted we should leave. My lover and I argued on the drive home. Preparing lunch, I burned the food in my agitation. We got into an argument and fist fight. I fled the house and drove away in my pickup truck, with only one thought -- to get away. But he chased me in his car, not letting me out of sight, as we roared around and around the town, his white Maverick often bumping into the back of my truck. At an intersection, he blocked my path with his car parked sideways across the road. In a panic, I revved the engine and rammed his car broadside, crunching in the side and drawing a crowd. He was stunned but not hurt.

The police came and took me to jail. I simply felt dazed. However, my lover paid the bail, and within a few hours I was back "home" with him, still wondering how to get free. I prayed for God to intervene and met with a pastor for prayer and guidance.

A date was set for arraignment on charges of assault with a deadly weapon. On the day I went to court for my arraignment, I learned that it was canceled because my lover had refused to press charges and the police had dropped the case. I drove to work with tears of gratitude streaming down my face. I felt that God had intervened, and I felt warm and cared for. Sensing God close to me for the first time in my life, I cried out to Him, "Just let me die now and go to heaven!" I didn't really want to die, but I did not want that feeling of closeness to end. I wanted to be with Him.

After this I separated from my lover. He agreed to pay me for my share of our house, and I got an apartment of my own. I sought out some Exodus ministries and went through several recovery programs including Homosexuals Anonymous and Living Waters. During a  five-year period, I went to weekly support meetings which included accountability through confession, teaching, prayer, laying on of hands, as well as  new experiences in praise and worship. I started trusting Jesus to make me who He wanted me to be. But acting out homosexually was a hard habit to break, and there were times of weakness when I still found men irresistible. My thoughts and feelings changed gradually, and the Lord was patient with me during years of celibacy interrupted by occasional falls to sexual temptation. Because the Lord had ministered to me through some of the charismatic churches which had ex-gay ministries, I joined such a congregation.  

Eight years after moving out on my own, I  started dating a woman I met in church -- a wonderful woman with a very strong faith in Christ. Part of what attracted her to me was my belief that God could change me. She had experienced depression and suffered through the pain of a divorce with her first husband. She knew the life-changing power of God in her own life. Although I was open and transparent with her about my own checkered past, she still loved me. I am convinced that God brought us together at the right time. 

I cannot say I am absolutely delivered from the feelings of attraction to men. But I now see the needs of male bonding and affirmation as emotional and not sexual -- a separate issue from heterosexual desires and marriage. During stressful times in my marriage I have occasionally fallen to the temptations of internet porn. And, although we have a normal sex life, there have been times when I have felt little sexual attraction for my wife. The emotional bond between us is the important element of our marriage which keeps us together, and my physical attraction to my wife is growing.

There is no doubt that living many years of homosexual indulgence created scars on my personality that will always be there. But that woundedness also enables me to be a vessel for God. He is now the center of my life, instead of my sexuality, which was for so many years the central focus in my life. God is the One who broke the power of those sexual compulsions.

I am coming to a new realization that God's transforming work in my life continues as I trust Him more and more. I listen to Scripture as I drive to work, and my wife and I  worship several times a week with a spiritually alive congregation. I still attend support groups for those who struggle against same-gender attraction, some of which are on the internet. I believe God is bringing new friends into my life to continue the healing work which He began in me about 15 years ago. I know that Jesus never left me, but I am learning to trust Him more and access the power of His Holy Spirit each day. When there is an agreement between what I read in the Scripture and what I feel to be right in my heart, I recognize that He is leading me. He keeps me clinging to Him day by day, and I'm thankful for that.

The male affirmation and bonding which was for so long missing in my life is beginning to happen with Christian male friends and support groups. I am learning to trust Jesus moment by moment and to witness for Him even though I still feel weak. His strength is made manifest in my weakness, because I could not accomplish the victory without Him.

-Jeff Yarborough is a pseudonym


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