Like many other LGBT+ Christians, I lived my life trying to be heterosexual. It was a common teaching that being gay, or committing homosexual acts, was an abomination to God. No one wanted to be an abomination to God, of course. We were taught that if we had enough faith God would “cure” us of our “adverse” sexual orientation. We learned that our sexual orientation was a choice that we had made, even if we had no recollection of ever making that decision. Notwithstanding, we were expected to make the decision to be heterosexual every day of our lives, and oftentimes multiple times a day. Do straight people have to make the decision to stay straight every day, I would wonder to myself?
Being an avid Bible reader, I could not help but feel condemned by it. In my younger years, when my sexuality was but a whisper in the wind, the Bible was full of awesome stories and fantastical feats. It spoke of a man, named Jesus, who seemed really cool and very loving. However, as I progressed into my teen years, when my sexual orientation became more evident, reading the Bible was like stabbing myself in the heart with a rusty, dull dagger at each sitting. Reading about a “God of Love” didn’t ease the pain of knowing that just a few chapters away God was reminding me that He hated who I was. As a natural consequence to all of this negativity and condemnation, my teen and early adult years were eventually plunged into a dark pit of depression.
Just before I hit my lowest point, and ultimately an attempt at suicide, I did receive a small glimmer of hope. While I was learning to hate everything that I was and everything that I liked; when I began demanding that God explain to me why He would allow me to be born, He spoke to me. It was on a clear autumn morning, just as the sun peaked over the tree lined horizon. I was semi-conscious, that state between awake and sleep in which you are aware the world exists but your mind is still in dreamland. It was a voice speaking directly to me, as though someone was in my room. I lived alone—one of the perks of being a dorm floor Resident Adviser. Yet, there the voice was, clear as day, addressing me like a parent addresses their child. It said, very simply: “I love you just the way that you are.” Period. There was no interlude, there was no time for questions, there was no pause. In and out. The voice had come without warning, said what it had to say and left just as abruptly.
I was, in that moment, fully awake, wondering what in the world had just happened. Had God just spoken to me? That had never happened before, not like this anyway. I considered that perhaps I was hallucinating, but I remembered the story of the prophet Samuel, who, when he was but a child, had been called by God three times. He didn't know what to do until Eli told him, but, thanks to this story, I knew what to do. I knew I wasn't hallucinating; I had actually heard a voice, out loud, in my room, while I was alone! The message replayed in my head: “I love you just the way that you are.” So, like Eli counseled Samuel, I fell to my knees and spoke to God. I thanked Him for taking the time to actually speak to me and for the message. The meaning of the message was clear; it was as if the interpretation had been revealed to my brain as the voice spoke. The message was: God was not asking me to change who I was for something others thought I should strive to be. It was a pure, direct message of love, peace, and acceptance, and for that I promptly thanked God. The end. Except, plot twist: this was just the beginning. As it happened, I would have to learn the hard way what it meant to disbelieve God's promises.
What should have been the next few years of bliss and peace were, instead, transformed into the next few years of hell. These are the times that I rightly entitle my “dark ages.” My dark ages lasted almost nine years and were filled with the worst amount of emotional suffering that I have ever had to endure. All of it was unknowingly self-inflicted. Why self-inflicted, you may ask? Because, the worst decision that I have ever made in my entire life was to blatantly distrust God’s promise. In response to that wonderful gift God gave me, a gift of total acceptance and love, I got on my knees, thanked God for the message, and said, “I know that you love me just the way that I am, but I know there are some things you want me to change.” I had, quite literally, negated everything God had just told me and put my religious beliefs before God’s Word. I followed right in the footsteps of Adam and the Children of Israel. I simply did not believe God's promise. And thus began my crusade to double, even triple my efforts to be rid of the plague called homosexuality and all the while falling head first into a world of misery and pain. It was a crusade that nearly claimed my life multiple times.
Two years after having heard God's voice, I found myself in France. It’s true what they say about depression, because I was in a country that I had dreamed of visiting for years, and I could find no enjoyment in it. All of the pictures I had taken that year, which were already few in number, showed me without a smile. The world seemed against me; as if no one cared that I was slowly dying inside. How lucky my friends around me were, I kept telling myself, to not have to battle such a heavy demon. I was persuaded that they would never know the pain that I was going through, nor would they care to try. They were having fun, traveling here and there, planning parties, and going out meeting the locals. Meanwhile, I had confined myself to my room, partly because I simply had no money to partake in revelries, but, mostly because I saw no reason to go out and tempt myself or try and have fun. It all seemed futile. Instead I stayed in my room reading the Bible, praying, fasting, and cleaning like I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
It was about a year after my first suicide attempt when those same thoughts started resurfacing. To be honest, they never really disappeared during that time, it was just that some moments were more poignantly depressing than others. I had never known tears and sorrow as much as I did during that school year in France. And although I didn't know it, this was just the beginning. I still had almost seven more years filled with anguish and pain and suicidal thoughts. During that school year in France, however, I suffered the most. I cried myself to sleep more nights than I can count and certainly more than I care to remember. That school year is what I call the worst year of my life.
During this worst year, at the time when I was starting to seriously consider suicide again, the same voice that had spoken to me two years earlier spoke again. It was the second time I heard this voice. Again, it spoke to me in an empty bedroom. Again, it woke me from my sleep. Again, the message and meaning were impossibly clear. It said, “Go, sell all that you have, and follow me.” To the average Bible reader, one would recognize this as the command Jesus gave to the Rich Young Ruler. The Rich Young Ruler, according to the story, declined Jesus' invitation, telling himself that he had invested too much into his riches and status. I, unlike the Rich Young Ruler, had not a penny to my name. In fact, I was using school loans just to be in France, so not only did I have no money, or possessions for that matter, but I was already deeply in debt. The message did not want me to get rid of my money, however. It wanted me to let go of the beliefs and traditions that I had invested so much of myself into. I, like the Rich Young Ruler, had a difficult decision to make. Would I let go of everything I learned in my Christian community about life, God, and Christianity, or would I cling to it, like a lifeline and my only source of pride?
Like the last time I heard the voice, I got on my knees and prayed. This time I told God that what He was asking me to do was incredibly hard. Basically, He was asking me to trust that He would teach me. But, how could I trust that this was the voice of God? Even if it were His voice, I didn't really know God. How could I be sure that He would actually catch me once I let go of my religious lifeline? Like many other Christians, my faith was grounded in the Bible and our fundamental teachings. God was asking me to give up on those things, to learn at His hand; His invisible, unproven hand.
If I did choose to trust God, however, how could I convince others that it was actually Him who I was following and not my own hedonism? How would I protect myself from the enemy if I gave up on all these teachings? Certainly, my religious community would strongly disagree with me, and quite possibly reject me for not keeping their beliefs. As most people in my particular community, I was well integrated, and had no desire to find myself out in the world alone, following a “God” that I had only ever heard of but whom no one had ever seen or heard. The community was my home, a place where all my friends were and where I felt protected. It was a tall order to ask me to give all that up. Needless to say my hesitation was great and the decision frightening.
After telling God my mind, I paused for a good while, rethinking the consequences of either action. Finally, and still not completely sure of the outcome, I told God that if He helped me to sell all that I had, then I would indeed follow Him. The decision, though unsure, was based on the fact that I trusted God somewhat. If He could not keep me safe from deception, though I chose to walk with Him daily, then why follow Him? I had decided to step out in faith, as so many before me have done. I knew that it was God speaking to me. It certainly could have been the Great Deceiver, which is something I thought about while making this decision. Yet, somehow I knew that it was God. It was like when God told Abraham to get up and leave his country for a country that he had never seen. Abraham just somehow knew it was God and he obeyed.
So, there you have it. I decided to obey like Abraham. The next few years of my life were spent casting away every single belief I had learned in my religious community. One after another I shed the layers of dogma, like a butterfly breaking from its self-made cocoon. My community's teachings weren't all erroneous of course, but I had to question every teaching that came to mind and ask God for clarification. Nothing was left to my own wisdom and interpretation. I was beginning to have a reason, my own reason, for why I believed the way that I did.
Finally, toward what would be, the end of my dark ages, I came upon a Bible chapter: Psalms 91. When I read the text I didn't feel any real connection but I also wasn't looking for anything in particular. I was just reading through the Bible, as I had taken to doing three times a day. Having finished with 91 I moved onto chapter 92. For some reason, however, something in the back of my mind provoked me to go back to chapter 91. So, I reread it, but still nothing really jumped out at me. There was no real reason that I felt I should stay fixed on this chapter. Again I moved onto chapter 92. Again, there was something in the back of my mind trying to convince me to reread chapter 91. I didn't know why I felt this nagging. Perhaps it was because when I read the chapter it felt as if the words were written in a foreign language. Yet, it also felt as if I understood the foreign language, and the words, but I simply could not grasp the meaning.
Succumbing to my self-imposed nagging, I re-reread chapter 91. This time I read the first verse and I stared at it: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” It felt like I was reading through a medical tome. I understood the words and their individual meanings, but when they were combined in these sentences they just seemed to drone on with no real significance. What I needed was enlightenment, a spark of interest or just a hint of understanding.
Lacking any real connection to verse one, I continued on to verse two. I slowly read the chapter a third time, verse-by-verse, until I reached the end, yet still no closer to understanding. It felt like I was doing homework, looking for the solution of an assigned problem that the teacher had never taught. Determined to understand what I was reading, I reread the chapter for a fourth time, until I got to verse 15: “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.” The part “and honour him” grabbed my attention. Asking myself what I must do to be honored by God, I decided to read backwards to find my answer.
Verse 14 said: “Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.” My body started to get warm and began shaking as though I was cold. It’s a reaction I normally get when I am on the verge of discovering the answer to an enigma I've been trying to solve for a while, or when I am in the zone while I'm gaming. When I am in this state, my senses become heightened. Every action I take is hyper-calculated, my peripheral vision seems to expand, and my brain begins to analyze, in rapid progression, all possible outcomes, as if I was a Game Theory genius. I continued, backwards, verse by verse: “Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation”(verse 9). I was beginning to get excited. It felt as if God was promising this directly to me! “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day”(verse 4). “Wait, is He promising me protection from attacks?” I asked myself as the excitement mounted. “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (verse 2) and finally verse 1!
The cloud had lifted! It was indeed a promise! A promise that God was making to me, to everyone who would decide to believe it! I read the chapter again, forward this time. I could not believe what I was reading. God was essentially telling me that if I decided to trust Him, He would be my place of refuge. He was saying that if I chose to call upon Him and find in Him my solace, no evil would come upon me! What a promise to be given!
Upon understanding what God was saying in His scriptures, I got on my knees and prayed: "If you are promising this to me, then I cannot accept it.” I told Him, “I have literally done nothing for you to do this for me!" I opened my eyes, thinking and hesitating. Was I really going to pass up a wonderful promise for an incredible future just because I don’t deserve it? God isn’t stupid, so He must know that I don’t deserve it, but He’s promising it anyway. I closed my eyes again and asked, "Why God? What did I do? I have done nothing to deserve this.” There was no rhyme or reason to this promise. I was gay although still desperately trying to fight it. I kept slipping up by looking at guys. I was constantly berating myself for my “wicked” thoughts that I tried continuously to cast out of my mind. No, there was no way that I was worthy of such a promise.
Then I remembered Esther 6:11—"Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour.” The account was settled. God wanted to bless me. Years ago He told me He loved me just the way that I am, no strings attached. Two years after that He showed His love to me by asking me to trust Him. Now, He was proving His love to me by asking me to let Him bless me and protect me. He promised all this, knowing full well that I was gay. He knew that if I ever came out of the closet I would have relationships with men and thereby commit homosexual acts. God knew all of this and more, and still He made these promises to me. I did, quite literally, nothing to deserve His blessings. Finally convinced, I happily conceded and thanked God for His promise. I told Him that I trusted that He would keep it and that He would show me His salvation. Not long after having accepted this promise, I came out of the closet, fully assured that not only did God love me but He had set His seal of protection upon me. I have never been back to the closet since.
God loves me and blesses me on a daily basis, of this I have no doubt. He also loves you, regardless of who you are and what sexual orientation you possess. It has never been God’s will to ostracize you for feeling different or request that you change. He loves you just the way that you are. In order to believe that, you are going to need to do what I did and “sell all that you have and follow [Him].” If you remain under the belief that He is forcing you to change or that He is forcing you to act like someone you aren’t, then you will never get to know the real God. You will never understand that He has unconditional love for you, despite what others say or think.
I know what you read in the Bible. I know that it seems crystal clear how God feels about homosexuality. Yet, I also know that our current interpretation of those texts has cast a dark cloud upon God and His love. There is a reason those texts exist, but they were never, ever meant to condemn anyone for being who they are. Remember what God told Peter: “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 10:15). The law has not condemned you and neither has God. God has not called unclean those who have been purified through their faith. So, don't let others fool you into believing so. Allow God to show you His law and love through His eyes. When you begin seeing life through your own loving relationship with God, the Bible will make much more sense. It will all come together like pieces to a puzzle.
If you never get to know the real God, then you will never be able to claim His promises to protect you and honor you, either in the Bible or elsewhere. You will be on your own, forging your own future according to what others have been telling you, and it is likely to be full of unnecessary burdens. Has He not told us that His yoke is easy and His burden light? (Matthew 11:30)
Do not do as I did and place upon yourself a burden that God has never acknowledged or ordained. Let Him free you of those self- and societal-made prejudices by calling upon Him and trusting in His love. He will indeed free you as He has freed me, and we all know, whom the Son has made free, is truly free indeed.
Nathaniel E. King has an extended career as a project manager in Europe and America and is a passionate writer. After studying law and obtaining an MBA in Switzerland, and, later, working in a renowned French business school, he decided to move back to California to pursue his career as a Business Consultant. Founder of KingDom Coaching, he blossoms, giving his heart every day as a life coach with an emphasis on marginalized sexuality, fortifying faith, and managerial coaching.
Photo by Mantas Hesthaven from Pexels
If you respond to this article, please:
Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.