By Robert Schaeffer
I had my first sexual relationship with another boy when I was in middle school. We would meet on Sunday afternoons in a secluded place behind his house and fondle each other. Occasionally we would go into his house and literally hide in a closet to touch each other. We continued to meet like this for several years, and I occasionally invited him to my house in the summer when no one else was home. I felt nervous during these encounters because I feared getting caught and being beaten, as well as being told by my parents how ashamed they were of me. Yet this fear wasn’t enough to dissuade me from meeting with him. These sexual encounters excited me because this boy didn’t make me feel unattractive or girlish. I felt that there were actually few long-lasting joys in life. Times at my favorite aunts’ homes or family vacations ended too quickly. My parents’ presence made me feel uneasy and self-conscious whenever I tried to express myself. In early adolescence I developed acne. Feelings of embarrassment and self-hatred overwhelmed me. I wanted to isolate to avoid someone making hurtful comments about my skin. Every morning new blemishes appeared, and I often wanted to rip the skin off my face and back. The inner pain I felt from this made me extremely unhappy and insecure, fueling anger at God and jealousy of others with clear skin.
When I was with this boy, however, I could “be myself” and feel that he found me attractive. But once our encounter was over it was “back to the real world” of being teased at school and punished at home. Having homosexual sex created a “catch 22” situation for me: it gave me pleasure but it confirmed to me what others had said of me—I was not a normal boy. I longed for the sex because in it I found an escape from pain of feeling unattractive, weird and left out.
Shortly before I graduated from high school I sensed the Lord calling me to Christian service. I knew that I couldn’t maintain a double life and please God, so I told the other boy that I could not continue to have sex with him. Surprisingly, he understood and never asked any questions. We simply stopped meeting and that was that. I didn’t have sex with another person again (except one time in college) until I began teaching in Europe five years later. One night while on vacation in Spain I discovered quite by accident men cruising each other in a public park. Without speaking they followed one another into the bushes to have sex. I was intrigued by this and felt a rush of excitement when I realized what they were doing. When one of the men made eye contact with me and went into the bushes, I followed and had sex with him. Afterwards I returned to my room feeling excited and guilty. Despite this inner conflict, I made my way back to the park each of the remaining nights of the vacation.
When I returned to my home in Salzburg, Austria I discovered the same kind of behavior taking place in the local park. With sex this close, my flesh couldn’t resist. After work on most nights I would visit the park under the cover of darkness to have sex, sometimes several times before going home to sleep off the guilt and shame. This type of sex appealed to me because it was done anonymously and in secret. No one knew me and therefore no one would find out about my homosexual feelings or condemn me for being queer. I was able to meet attractive men who didn’t want much more than sex. The darkness would conceal my acne and other blemishes. The chance of being hurt seemed minimal yet the atmosphere was just dangerous enough to make it thrilling. I could get away with this without anyone in authority over me knowing about it. The rush of excitement I felt while cruising men in a dark park was the same that I felt while hiding with the boy in middle school and having sex behind his house. I lived in a constant state of inner conflict: my flesh desiring the sex and my conscience condemning it. Most of the time, the flesh prevailed.
The repetition of this sin compounded a fear that I had lived with for years, namely, that God was fed up with me and would soon “lower the boom”. This anxiety began in my home with the treatment I received when I did something wrong. Because of their own dysfunctional childhood, my mother and father couldn’t differentiate between inappropriate behavior done out of childish innocence or awkwardness and inappropriate behavior done out of maliciousness or rebellion. They yelled whenever I did something that they didn’t like. It didn’t take much to make my parents angry. Little things like laughing too loud (we lived in an attached house with very thin walls!) or spilling milk at the table triggered a sudden and violent reaction. The faces of my parents would contort with rage and they would rush toward me screaming or with an arm raised. I was sure to get yelled at and usually slapped. Then, after this initial lashing out, my parents would stay mad at me for what seemed like a long time. I would try to avoid them because I knew they were mad and might yell again if I just looked at them the wrong way. I hated this time more than the beatings because of the nervousness, tension and guilt I experienced. This affected me deeply. I didn’t perceive love in those moments—the assurance of my acceptance in the midst of correction and discipline. I learned that being bad was sure to bring criticism, harsh judgement, insults and severe corporal punishment. I felt ashamed and bad after each episode, often frustrated that my parents overreacted and hurt me. I began to hate my parents, and not to respect their authority. (After my mother would cool down she would wonder why I didn’t want to be hugged or touched by her.) I developed a desire to do bad things as an indirect way of getting revenge or retaliation. Together with a friend who grew up in a similarly charged home, I engaged in acts of vandalism and petty thievery.
My relationship with my parents prejudiced my understanding of God. I transferred my fears and disrespect for authority to the Lord. I found it hard to believe that He really liked me. How could He like me, I thought, when I am filled with such horrible feelings toward my parents and do such bad things in secret! I believed that He existed—I was too fearful of hell not to believe—but couldn’t feel that He was kindly disposed toward me. I didn’t trust Him. My emotions made me think that since God is the ultimate authority figure He must be more rigid than my parents. Whenever I had an evil thought or committed a sinful act I feared that He would punish me. I didn’t think that God was on my side or treated me any differently than my parents did. Even though I wanted to serve God and be a good Christian, I also wanted to things that were ungodly. It was difficult for me to pray because I felt that the Lord was disgusted with me. I just couldn’t relax in God’s presence. Although I was living thousands of miles away from my parents, I still believed that God was displeased with me. So many people knew me as a Christian and model of integrity but inside I felt like a hypocrite. (I remembered how my mother would call my father—a devout Lutheran--a hypocrite when he would curse.) The inner anxiety mounted and stirred a desire to escape to a place where I could be alone and do what I wanted—and what I wanted was something bad!
After four years in Austria I returned to the United States addicted to homosexual sex. In 1992—the same year that I graduated from seminary and began to pastor my first church—I met a man who became my lover. For several years I pastored that conservative, evangelical church while maintaining a secret homosexual relationship. Amazingly, God sustained me and nurtured the people I was serving. People grew closer to the Lord because of my teaching and preaching ministry. God provided for my financial needs as well. But that doesn’t mean that He was pleased with my duality. The Holy Spirit convicted me daily of the sinfulness of my homosexual behavior and double-mindedness. I felt the guilt of my sin acutely as I tried to minister knowing that I was harboring a deep secret. Sometimes, when I was in reality, I would cry out for mercy and forgiveness. At other times, when the stored negative emotions overwhelmed me, I tuned out the Spirit’s voice and joined in with the desire to have sex. During these years as I engaged frequently in this sin God mercifully protected me from physical attack, robbery, kidnapping, mutilation, and discovery. He gently urged me to seek counsel—to confess to someone that I needed help. But I resisted because I didn’t want my public image tarnished or to be rejected by the people who knew and loved me. So I continued to struggle in private, vowing after each fall never to sin again yet joining in lustily when the temptation presented itself once more.
The type of sin I was attracted to—secretive, anonymous, multiple sex—seemed to be the way of escape from everything that bothered me. It felt like the only thing that gave me freedom, adventure, and real happiness. Because I was sinned against by my parents (who did not realize the impact of their inappropriate responses), I was arrested in my emotional growth. My responses to the continual and oppressive rigidity of my household were ungodly and laced with anger and frustration. I was not allowed to express freely my own tastes and desires, nor was I given more privileges such as staying out a little later with my friends as I grew older. No protest or reasoned argument could convince my mother to relax the rules. This bred a devilish desire to do something bad—as a way of indirectly getting revenge. But because of the threat of severe punishment I did these bad things in secret. I acted like a good little boy around my parents and people who knew them, but turned into a juvenile delinquent when I was alone. Thus, I could have “fun” doing perverse illegal things without being punished. The free time I spent with the few friends I had (also social “outcasts” like me) surpassed most other pleasures. The more I joined in with the evil desires, the more power Satan gained in my mind and emotions.
Homosexuality numbed my inner conflict. It temporarily quieted the pain and anxiety caused by being the person I thought I was and that I lived with every day. My spirit was troubled by the sinfulness of my behavior but I justified the sex because it felt like the “real” me. The thought of connecting sexually to another man gave me a rush that made it easier to face each day. I chose this type of sin because it more than any other “fit” with my buried emotions, twisted thinking, false concept of self and false concept of God. What had begun with masturbation eventually led to anonymous sexual contact with men and later, taking a homosexual lover even though the thought of establishing a monogamous relationship with another man never appealed to me. It carried the increased risk of being discovered; it required relating beyond the sex; and it seemed to me more offensive to God because it prolonged an already ungodly relationship. Besides, who would ever want me? Yet, after years of anonymous encounters when I finally met a man who was handsome, had a beautiful home, was identical in so many ways to me, and who desired me, the emotions again overruled the conscience. I gladly risked being vulnerable because I felt “safe” with him. Both of us, as it turned out, needed to keep our relationship a secret—I was a pastor and he was a teacher and organist.
As I entered puberty the negative emotions I had stored connected to my sex drive. In other words, the desire for sex was driven by an attempt to quiet the emotional pain I felt. Intuitively I knew that homosexual feelings and behavior were not normal, and this knowledge was reinforced by the teachings of the conservative church I attended. Yet these strange and abnormal sexual attractions had developed in me involuntarily. Whenever I felt lonely, ugly, angry, weird, or rejected my desire to do something bad—especially, to have sex--kicked in and I began to plan how I could do it. I tuned out my conscience saying that even though this was sinful, I was going to do it anyway. Going out would get me away from the suffocating control and prying eyes of my mother and later, the heavy responsibilities of the pastorate. Satan knew what would offer a boy with a warped view of reality and God the comfort, revenge, fun, acceptance, and personal interaction he craved. Homosexual sex became a counterfeit for wholesome heterosexual intimacy.
All homosexuality is fully explainable and understandable. If you have homosexual feelings you must not see this as your “cross to bear” or a “thorn in the flesh”. This is not a normal stage in your development. You were not born with this orientation. These feelings are not passed on genetically or generationally. Homosexuality occurs more often in some families that others because of the prevalence and power of unfettered sin. The sins of the fathers, mothers, grandparents, and other family members do have a disastrous effect on the home. No two children deal with the things that make for conflict in the same way. What doesn’t offend or trouble one sibling may cause great anxiety and emotional upset to another. Homosexual attractions are a disordering and dysfunction—the result of ungodly reactions to pain. Granted, those reactions occurred in childhood when you didn’t see many options available beyond the simple desire to survive. The feelings developed involuntarily. But as you grew older you chose to join in with these stored feelings and childish perceptions and to justify your sexual thoughts and behavior. The buried negative emotions you have never processed are connected to your sex drive, which makes you feel inappropriate emotional and erotic attractions to members of the same sex. Homosexual fantasies or behavior or relationships feel like an emotional refuge to you but are in fact a deadly form of sin called addiction. It is an addiction that was tailor-made by Satan to “fit” with the emotions you buried, the twisted thought patterns you developed, the false concepts of yourself and God you took on, and the inability to relate to others in healthy ways.
Even though you are trapped in this addiction, you are not beyond help. It is no mystery to God or a good Christian counselor why you have homosexual feelings. Nor does God want you to live any longer with them. If you will turn from the behavior or thoughts and ask yourself what emotional gratification does homosexual sex seem to provide for me, you will find its roots. You will discover the way of escape by uprooting the lies you have believed to be true. Demonic power can be broken. God is not against you but determined to destroy the works of the devil. Face the addiction and the underlying pain that it covers rather than lamenting its presence in your life. Don’t run any longer from it. Turn to God and He will set you free!