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.”