The Road of Faith and Manhood

Basketball Under WaterI was born to parents who were high school teachers who genuinely loved me and imparted good qualities to my sister and me. Our family attended a Presbyterian church for a while, but it was never a big part of our lives. Little by little, we found other things to do on Sunday mornings.

Even though our family lived apart from God, He amazingly pursued me in my childhood. When I was eight years old, I had a dream about Jesus. The dream had a big effect on me, and I told others about it. Billy Graham Crusades, televised during prime time, also impacted me. I learned the sinners’ prayer and prayed it daily.

Broken Reality

When I was 13, life and the forces of darkness took their toll on our family. I was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer and wasn’t expected to survive. Eight months of nauseating chemotherapy and radiation followed. But thankfully God brought me through it, though I lost my right leg through the ordeal.

Also around that time, family problems began to surface. Suddenly we were dealing with fractured relationships and hidden sin. Without the Lord in our lives, none of us knew how to handle it. Wounds and brokenness resulted. (Side note: Outpost’s Living Waters program was a great help to me in processing and praying through wounds from the past.)

Searching for Truth

Having survived cancer and junior high school (not sure which was worse!), I really began searching for truth. In high school, I took lessons in eastern meditation. But my journey to Christ began in the most unlikely place—the local movie theater. Two friends and I went to see The Omen, a Hollywood horror flick based on the emergence of the anti-Christ. We talked into the night about the Bible, even though none of us knew much about it.

Soon after, my friend Mark and I began attending a series on the book of Revelation at a local church. Stories from Revelation left me more afraid than The Omen did. Jesus is coming back, judgment day is approaching, and I knew I wasn’t ready.

Opening the Door

In college, I really started seeking a relationship with Christ but didn’t understand that it began by faith. This difficult season came to a sudden and joyful end when two Christians knocked on my dorm room door sharing a gospel tract. I invited Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior on February 22, 1978.

Wonderful days followed, as I was translated from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God. My life had been turned right-side up, and I was all in. The Lord brought two men into my life to disciple me, and I was baptized that summer.

Off the Rails

Naturally, I thought my same-sex attraction would go away now that I was a Christian. I was wrong. Rather, it was like holding a basketball under water. My gender identity had gone off the rails when I was an early teen, and it was still off the rails. Becoming a Christian didn’t fix it. As author Alan Medinger has said, I had undeveloped masculinity, and the only solution, was, well, development. I needed to resume my journey into manhood.

Same-sex attraction might seem horrible and undesirable to some, but as Proverbs 27:7 says, “to one who is hungry, everything bitter is sweet.”  I longed for manhood—my own manhood, really—and, eventually, the longing became sexual.

After college, I moved to the big city and lived near downtown. Soon, I discovered all of the places to get into trouble. I hated falling into sin but couldn’t resist the draw. Along with the spiritual consequences, there was real physical danger. It was the early 80’s, and AIDS was spreading unknowingly and undetected. Even though I veered into sexual sin, God spared me from that brutal outcome.

But God had a plan. A job opened up in Minneapolis. I packed up a U-Haul and headed north.

Deepened Roots

Many blessings awaited me in Minneapolis, and one of them was Outpost. I contacted the ministry within days of arriving and started meeting with one of the staff members. He also recommended a good church, which I attend to this day.

The following years brought many opportunities for growth. I was in the thick of things at Outpost as a volunteer and participant in Joshua Fellowship. I also deepened my roots at church where I joined a great small group and participated in a church plant in my neighborhood.

At the time, I believed that my efforts to grow spiritually and emotionally would cause my same-sex attraction to go away. Again, I was wrong. I was still falling into sexual sin from time to time, and I longed to be set free. None of my efforts addressed the real underlying issues.

Breakthrough

Though it wasn’t sudden, eventually there was breakthrough. When I focused on developing my wounded gender identity, I began to experience real change—a change that I would have never dreamt possible. I went on men’s weekends, joined a men’s group, read books pertaining to manhood, watched war movies and hung out at Home Depot. I pursued athletics and relished any activity that involved a power saw. Gradually, my identity changed. With masculinity growing in my heart of hearts, temptations lost their power. I didn’t need the masculinity of another; I had my own.

Same-sex attraction isn’t completely gone, but it’s nearly gone. I spent decades believing that this sort of transformation wasn’t possible. Now I can testify that real change awaits the men and women who embark on this journey. It’s been a long haul, and I’m still on the road. The rerouted journey into manhood that I’ve lived just might be more satisfying than if it had never been interrupted at all.

The Psalmist describes me when he writes, “[God] drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (Psalm 40:2, ESV). I’ve been rescued from the grip of dangerous sin, deadly disease and much, much more. I owe all to grace.

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Tales of a Former Prodigal

lost sheepIn 2008, I began my journey out of a lesbian relationship.  God had been deeply convicting me that my partner had taken His rightful place in my heart and that I needed to decide who was Lord in my life.  God, in His mercy, made it easier for me by having my partner leave me.  In that place of abandonment, I had to decide.  Do I look for another partner, or do I choose God?  I chose God.  Now the work would begin of renewing my mind from the previous seven years of lies from the devil and the world about my identity.  Who was I?  I didn’t know anymore.  My identity was a mystery to me.

Although I felt like an outsider, I had never stopped going to church.  As I carefully tried to be part of the Body of Christ again and shared bits of my story, fellow believers asked, “How did this happen to you?”  I couldn’t explain it.  I didn’t understand how I had come to be in the condition I was in.  I knew the journey of my life events, but I didn’t understand the psychological or emotional undercurrents of those events that had brought me to this point in my life.

I began seeing a Christian counselor, and I attended Leanne Payne’s Pastoral Care Ministry Conferences, but the most helpful resource turned out to be a program called Living WatersLiving Waters is a 20-week inner-healing program for the sexually and relationally broken.  In Living Waters, I learned about events in my early childhood—nothing earth shaking, just subtle things—that set me up to hunger for feminine touch and connection.  You see, I was the middle child in my family. Psychologists sometimes refer to the middle child as “the lost child” where no one pays much attention to you.  It plays out that as your legitimate need for love from your same-sex parent doesn’t get met, you seek other ways to meet the need yourself.  You become needy, like you want to be the center of attention.  This was me to a “T”.  People thought I was fine because I was popular and loud and was the center of conversations, but the source of that striving was a lost, hurting heart.

I hid my pain and tried to push it down for years until, in my late 30’s, the pain resurfaced.  At the same time, the pro-gay movement was gaining momentum. I began to entertain the thought of being close to a woman.  Cognitively, I was in a battle with myself thinking it was a bad idea, but my emotions were driving me in this direction.

Fast forward to my partner leaving me.  I entered the Living Waters Program, and through the large group teachings accompanied by healing prayer in my small group, God Himself met me and filled the void in my heart with His love.  I couldn’t go back and relive the early years of my life, but God is all-sufficient for the needs we have.  When we ask Him, He comes and fills every gap, every hole, and all of the pain He takes away and sends to the cross.  No longer in pain, I could then begin to love myself and discover who I was, my true identity.

Today I help others find healing and reconnect to God through the ministry of Outpost.  I lead a group called Elijah Company, a group for parents and friends who have loved ones identifying as gay or struggling with same sex-attractions.  When parents first come, they feel shame and fear, not knowing who they can talk to about their situation.  They are grieving because of the loss they feel as their loved ones have distanced themselves from them.  When they come to Elijah Company, they find a safe place to talk about their pain and receive comfort from the group.  They share their stories with each other and encourage one another to trust Jesus with their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

After being in Elijah Company, most parents testify that their faith has grown exponentially as a result of their crying out to God and seeking His face daily for their loved one.  What at first seemed like a painful and hopeless situation slowly turns into faith and trust that we have a loving Father.  We have been together for so long now that some of our original parents are now sharing in their churches what God has done for their families.  They are giving hope to others in their churches and offering a safe place to come.

I chuckle when I think of one of my grandsons: he insists on learning the hard way.  He reminds me of myself!  Having been a prodigal daughter, I can testify to the goodness and faithfulness of God.  He has led me faithfully on this journey of the restoration of my heart.

The Road Less Traveled

I was the middle child of five in a Catholic family. Our church in the 50’s and early 60’s was all about fire, hell and damnation. I don’t remember hearing about the mercy or love I longed for. 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, as I had been sexually abused as a toddler.

As I grew older, I felt different from other boys. I was called a sissy by my peers and ignored by my older brother. I was also a super sensitive young boy, and I perceived, erroneously, that my father was ashamed of me and didn’t love me. I detached emotionally from him.  I got involved in theater in high school, and it was my major in college. My father just had no interest in those things, so I thought he had no interest in me as well. My mother was bipolar during a time when there was no such diagnosis; she could be verbally abusive.

I want to make it clear that I don’t blame my parents for the sinful choices I made. They did the best they could with a son they didn’t understand. Later in life, God showed me many happy times in my childhood and that my parents had indeed loved me.

When I got to college, I discovered pornography and began to act out with other men. Diane, my high school girlfriend, and I were dating and later married.  I continued to act out, unbeknownst to her.

I remember the first time that I went into a gay bar, and I was in awe of all the attention I received. For the first time in my life, I felt important, needed, and affirmed.

One day I was in a bathhouse, and a very old, fat, ugly man in a disheveled suit approached me and asked if I wanted to have sex. I said, “No.” He said, “I’ll pay you $20.” Again I said, “No.” Then he said, “I’ll pay you $20 if you just give me a hug.” I told him to keep his money.  I gave him a hug and went home. I looked in the mirror, and though I was 26, like a veil being lifted, I saw that one day I could be like that old man.

I believe that man was an angel. He opened my eyes, and I had a new revelation of myself. I realized that my homosexuality was not about sex at all, but it was all about being accepted and affirmed.  I got on my knees and cried out to God, “Lord, please change me.”

I struggled with unemployment for a season, and within a year, Diane and I moved to our cabin in Wisconsin.  We joined a prayer group, and they loaned us books.  One night, Diane and I were reading Ephesians out loud. The scriptures jumped off the page at me, and I soon realized that God was speaking to me. In Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV), we read, “For it is by grace you have been saved . . . It is the gift of God—not by works,” and in 2:10, my life verse, “We are all God’s work of art” (The Jerusalem Bible). For one suffering from self-hatred, that was music to my ears. Ephesians 5 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’” (vs. 8, 11, 14, NIV).

I fell on the floor weeping and asked God for forgiveness for my sinful ways. I also wept for joy because I finally understood what Christ did for me at Calvary and realized that the Father’s love for me is unconditional. We gave our lives to Christ that night. I thought my healing journey was over, but it was only the beginning.

We moved back to Minneapolis, and I finally got a job. We joined an interdenominational Christian community, and for the first time in my life, I began to relate to men in a healthy way. We also discovered we couldn’t have children. Diane miscarried three times, and each time, it was like a death in the family. We adopted the first of our two children, a special needs child. Though God would work a miracle in my son’s life, healing him from hydrocephalus, he had to endure severe migraines for the first 11 years of his life.

The stress at work and home was too much to bear, and I sought out those old patterns of medicating.  I now knew what the Bible said about homosexuality, and I just felt more guilt and shame. The shame fueled my acting out, and it became a cycle.

Homosexuality was not talked about in the church unless it was condemned. 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 to join a non-denominational church with some of our friends, and God showed me how those relationships were key to my healing. It gave me great comfort and strength to know that these men accepted me and respected me and would not reject me. Still, I was not ready to divulge my secret sin.

One Sunday, the pastor spoke on anger and then invited people forward and prayed over them to be released from the clutches of anger. I went forward. Another Sunday, I went forward to be prayed for to be released from bitterness and unforgiveness. God revealed to me my hardened heart toward those who had wounded me in my youth. I was led in a prayer to forgive all of those people—my parents and my tormentors. I even had to forgive God for not allowing me to father a child. My desire to act out decreased considerably after each of those times of prayer ministry.

Later at a men’s retreat at my church, God spoke to me in my quiet time, “I have given you friends to encourage you, I have dealt with the root cause of your sinfulness. The next step is up to you.” I knew what He meant. I needed to expose the darkness and end my double-life. The truth needed to be shared. At the large group gathering, trembling, I shared briefly, “I have struggled with homosexuality most of my adult life, and God is doing a tremendous thing.” I did not get the rejection I feared but applause and acceptance.

That fall I went to my first group meeting at Outpost Ministries for Christian men struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions. I finally began to talk about my brokenness. Shame and guilt lost its hold on me, and along with it, my desire to act out with other men. No more pretending. I went to Diane and shared with her my years of infidelity. I said I was sorry and asked her for forgiveness. Initially in anger and tears she said, “No,” but God spoke to her at that moment. He told her He had forgiven her of her own sins. She then grabbed my hand and chose to forgive me.

I went through Living Waters, a Christ-centered program with teaching, prayer, and small group interaction. God showed me many other areas I needed healing. Living Waters brought me to the cross where I experienced a deeper level of healing for my sexual brokenness.

Diane and I gave our testimonies for the first time publicly at our home church in 1999.  Around that time, God called us to help other couples impacted by homosexuality in their marriages.  We formed Simon Ministries, named after Simon of Cyrene who carried Christ’s cross on the way to Calvary. Diane also gave her testimony at a national conference in San Diego in 2000.  I will always remember those two events as highlights of our ministry.

We worked out of our home, holding group meetings for both husbands and wives and running Living Waters at our church.  We were under the authority of our church until 2011 when we closed Simon Ministries and joined forces with Outpost. I came back to where it all began. Our group is now called Simon Refuge. In total, we have been ministering to married couples impacted by homosexuality for 16 years. We will be celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary in September. One of my favorite scriptures from Psalm 34:4-5 (NIV) says it all, “I sought the Lord, and He answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”

To quote Robert Frost, we took the road “less traveled, and that has made all the difference.”

Fixing Our Eyes: Strategy for Persecution

Overcoming the life- dominating aspects of unwanted same-sex attractions (SSA) is difficult.  Homosexuality is rooted in deep woundedness and driven by pain and anger; at times, it can feel like the prison door will never open.  Add to that the shifts in our culture, and freedom can seem even more elusive.  Nearly all spheres of life are now supportive of embracing and celebrating a gay identity, including much of the Western Church.  Someone who chooses to walk away from unwanted SSA in this day and age is a target for much opposition and even persecution.  We at Outpost Ministries are very much hated by the world in which we live.

But we do not lose heart.  Jesus warned us of such hatred and persecution.  In fact, His counsel was to not be surprised by such things; the world hated Him first. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18).  We are in good company.  He goes on to say, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (15:19).  The hatred of the world is a testimony that we are not of the world.  We have been chosen out of this world!  Hallelujah!  Therefore, we do not marvel at the world’s hatred of us but at the reality of God’s love and that we are now His children.  We do not fix our eyes on hatred but on love.

Where we choose to fix our gaze will determine whether or not we move well through persecution.  The devil loves to pull away our focus.  In many ways, his primary goal is the persecution of the saints—to get their eyes off of Jesus, the author and finisher of their faith.

King David understood the importance of gazing upon the beauty of the Lord in times of trouble.  Psalm 27 is a prime example of his warfare strategy.  In verses 1-3, he declares that the Lord is his light and his salvation in the midst of impending war.  His confidence came from what he saw in the light:  a strong God who was fighting for him.  What did he have to be afraid of?  God was on his side.

In 27:4 he proclaims,One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek:  that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.”  David did not want to be caught up in what he could see or hear in the natural realm.  He wanted to behold the beauty of the Lord and to talk to God about the many issues he was facing as the new king of Israel.  What a profound strategy and life vision!

When I fail to see God in my circumstances, I quickly lose hope.  I mean, let’s face it, no one wants to experience hatred.  We certainly weren’t created for such an experience.  Persecution for our faith is beginning in our country and will most likely increase in the coming years, but I refuse to let self-pity or fear rob me of my glory as a son of God.

King David made good on his life vision.  After he was anointed king over all of Israel and established his throne in Jerusalem, he brought the Ark of the Covenant to Mount Zion and established a worship center.  The sacrifices offered in this tabernacle were very different from the tabernacle of Moses; they were sacrifices of praise, joy and thanksgiving (Psalm 95:2, 100:4, 141:2)*.  David hired and paid out of his own pocket for singers and musicians to worship the Lord day and night.  David and his kingdom were blessed and protected.

In this evil age, I have taken a page out of David’s playbook and established a House of Prayer with the goal of offering the sacrifices of praise, joy and thanksgiving as well as our petitions to the Lord, day and night.  I am convinced that this is the only way to operate wisely in the changing culture.  Like David, we believe we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13).  I believe we will be blessed and protected.

Fixing our eyes on the Unseen can be difficult.  It definitely takes practice.  I have learned to quiet my heart at different points throughout my day and simply ask the question, “Jesus, where are You?”  I am not doubting He is with me but reacquainting myself with the reality of His presence.  This has been called “practicing the presence of God” by saints of old.  Ultimately, it is about doing my day with God, from the mundane to the serious.

Practicing God’s presence has been a saving grace for me on many occasions, especially during various forms of persecution.  Knowing God is with me and for me truly is, like David said, the strength of my life.

It has also been the key to my working with mentees.  Often times, the issues of struggle and opposition they report are quite overwhelming.  One can wonder how in the world they will overcome.  But as I remember that not only is Jesus with me, but He also lives in me, I have hope to offer them.  Christ in me is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27)!  If Jesus lives in us, there is always hope for overcoming unto glory.

Times have changed.  Persecution is beginning for Christians in this nation, but God is still on the throne.  He is still sovereign, and He is still beautiful.  If the shifting culture has gotten you down, turn off the news, open your Bible and gaze upon God’s endless beauty.  “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

*Johnson, Bob. “A Short Catechism on the Tabernacle of David.” Tabernacle of David. ZionSong Ministries, p., 2000. Web. 15 May 2015.

The Undeniable Power of God

My family consisted of a mom, a dad, and two sisters. My father had set his heart and focus on providing for his family. He provided everything from a nice house to food on the table to, of course, fun toys for his children! Both Dad and I were clueless about the need for emotional connection with each other. With Dad’s time spent traveling for work, I remember distinctly when he’d return home. For two days, I would barely recognize him. How could I engage with him emotionally? My desire to connect with him, to be the apple of his eye, to make him proud of his little boy was stunted, leading to doubt and confusion.

The eight years that followed had me wrestling and searching for connection with males. Only now can I see just how ill-equipped I felt in relating to men. While I turned up empty-handed in this area of my life, I had no problem connecting with women. It’s all I could do growing up in a house full of them.

I believe this all contributed to my later torments in school. I was an easy target for ridicule as my peers teased me for my girlish behaviors, feminine sounding voice, and girly walk. At the tender age of ten, I could do nothing but fall for and, yes, even embrace these taunting lies as truths of my identity! As I did, I arrived at a new place of prescribed clarity: I must be gay!

At the age of 14, I came out as gay to my mother. We had been sitting together at night when I turned to her and unleashed my secret. Her words to me that evening sowed seeds that would later lead to changing my life forever. Her response to my secret was one offered in honesty, not judgment. She simply said to me, “Brad, nothing that comes from God will leave you confused or unsatisfied.” I couldn’t fully grasp what she meant in that moment, nor did I care to try. With my secret out, I was excited to get started on living my life as an openly gay young man.

Five years down the road, I had managed to acquire many sinful experiences, all in pursuit of happiness and love. I was ultimately looking for someone who would provide for, care for, and support me. In the end, my unhealthy relationships just exposed my emptiness and desperate need for fulfillment. The good feelings I came across would evaporate as quickly as they first appeared.

A game of tug-of-war began in my heart at the age of 20. God purposely ignited a slow-burning passion within me to have a family: a child and a beautiful wife. My gay partner could not offer this nor argue against it—men are meant to create! For the next two years, confusion set in and buried me. To speak out any of my new yearnings would directly contradict my “identity.” Drugs, promiscuity and isolation became the methods I used to interact with the world. I had attained everything I had ever wanted, yet here I was unsatisfied with a desperate need for more.

At the point when my life was the darkest, I found the light of salvation shining very brightly! The hope of Christ, however, had me pinned; mercy had come but with it, a choice. I could leave my lifestyle, move in with my parents and search for the abundant life God had promised my heart. Or, I could remain in the ruins I had created with my very own hands. After what felt like a full 24 hours of weeping, I surrendered to Jesus, and reached out to receive the hand of the Lord on April 20th, 2008.

The door of my parents’ house greeted my weary soul with a calming hush. My family rushed in and surrounded me with the unconditional support of their presence. God’s peace met me and welcomed me. I would need it for strength to commit myself to the unknown journey ahead. I realized quickly that God never intended me to fight alone, so I made the heavy-handed phone call to Outpost Ministries.

I spent three years as a participant at Outpost finding healing through:

  •  Real people who understand this issue. I couldn’t do life without community, especially without transparency, vulnerability, and others carrying the burdens of my heart (Galatians 6:2).
  •  Men standing strong with me, linking arms with me through the Holy Spirit, giving me support and encouragement through the Word of God.
  • Healthy masculine relationships. We are wounded in relationship and we are healed in relationship! The more I communicated with men and opened up, the more I felt my own masculinity being called forth. God placed a very specific group of men around me as Christian brothers. This was beyond powerful for me because I needed to know I was enjoyed and appreciated by other men.
  • Learning to rejoice in my weaknesses.

 “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

As I started to give God thanks through my trails, temptations, and afflictions, I gained the strength and power of the Lord.

  •  Listening to the voice of the Lord to obey His Word. Slowly but surely, He peeled back layers of my heart exposing pain and discomfort. My heart ached but God gave me perfect mercy and grace. God healed my heart as I heard His voice. He exposed me to my pain, allowing me to feel it. He didn’t leave me in the pain for long but used it to propel me forward with a stronger, fuller heart. It’s God’s desire to repair and restore the years the locusts have eaten.
  • Not focusing on the healing of unwanted same-sex attractions (SSA) but instead on the holiness of Jesus. The goal of healing from SSA is holiness, nothing else. If one has any other goal, it will lead to a disappointing and even destructive end. But the good news is that as we are transformed into the righteousness and holiness of Jesus (Ephesians 4:24), we are healed from SSA—over time.

My friends, the transformational power of God is undeniable! He has transformed my broken heart, searching for love and hope in all the wrong places, into a heart lovesick for Him, being filled with every blessing and revelation!

I have been serving on staff at Outpost for over three years now. I started Elijah Company, our support and prayer program for parents, friends and family with loved ones struggling with SSA, and I currently serve full-time as our Chief Operations Officer.

Today, seven years after God turned my disobedience to the wisdom of the righteous (Luke 1:17), He has blessed me with an unbelievable wife for whom I would joyfully give up my life. He has given me a double portion for taking up my cross to follow Him.