Linda’s Story: Tranformation of a Transgender

Linda SeilerFrom my earliest memory I wanted to be a boy instead of a girl.

Somehow I just knew that if I had male genitalia, my life would be complete. As a child, I prayed repeatedly for God to make me into a boy and became obsessed with my pursuit. However, I never told my family. Though I was a tomboy growing up, no one ever knew the depth of my struggles. It was my little secret that I kept for decades.

Around fourth grade, I heard about sex reassignment surgeries and vowed I would have the operation as soon as I was old enough and had the money. About the same time, some playmates introduced me to pornography, which developed into sexual addictions that would span the next 20+ years. Unbeknownst to my parents, I would spend hours alone in my room feeding my sexual fantasies, always envisioning myself as the male counterpart rather than the female.

JUNIOR HIGH

In junior high, when all the other girls were interested in makeup and boys, to my horror, I found myself attracted to women—especially older teachers who were strong yet nurturing.

I desperately wanted to be held and comforted by a woman, which then progressed into sexual fantasies. I was distressed by my attractions, but I dared not tell anyone.

Around seventh grade, I started to consider the logistical difficulties of having sex reassignment surgery. Where would I get the money? How would I tell my family? You can’t just be Linda one day and David the next. I considered running away as soon as I reached adulthood to have the surgery without ever telling my family, but I loved my family, and I didn’t want to live without them. I made a conscious decision at that point to try and conform to society’s expectation of me to look more like a girl in order to fit in. But inside, I still longed deeply to be a man, and the attractions to women became increasingly difficult to resist.

GOING THROUGH CHANGES

When my body began menstruation, I could have sworn my life was over. I envied the boys around me whose voices were beginning to change, and I mourned the fact that mine would never change like that. Instead, I had to submit to wearing training bras and being inconvenienced by monthly periods. Being female was a curse, not a blessing.

I committed my life to Jesus during my junior year in high school, but within days, I began doubting my salvation experience because my struggles didn’t go away like I thought they would. Yet, I knew Jesus had done something in my heart, and I wanted to follow Him. I got involved with my church youth group and, for the first time in my life, felt like I had friends who loved me. But the closer I got to females, the more I struggled with my attractions and sexual addictions. I was miserable but couldn’t tell anyone. I tried growing my hair out and even dating guys—thinking that being physical with a boy would “cure” me—but it just made me want to be male all the more. I tried to conform and even wore dresses on special occasions, but inside it always felt like I was wearing a costume, like dressing in drag.

COLLEGE

In college, I got involved with a campus ministry and developed a deeper relationship with God, praying and reading my Bible regularly, even sharing Christ with the lost. I eventually became a student leader despite the fact that I was deeply attracted to women who mentored me and was enslaved to sexual addictions behind closed doors. I hated the double life I was living. At one point, I knelt down on my dorm floor and prayed earnestly for God to please take my transgender desires away, hoping no one would ever know.

My senior year in college, I attended a campus ministry talk on overcoming habitual sin. The speaker quoted James 5:16, “Confess your sins one to another and pray for each other so that you may be healed,” stressing how important it is to get your sin in the light in order to be free. I was deeply convicted and knew I had to confess my secret to my campus pastor if I was ever to experience freedom.

It took all the courage in the world to finally tell my campus pastor my lifelong secret I had kept for 21 years. In fact, I seriously considered suicide as a way out, but I knew that would devastate my family, and I couldn’t do that to them. When I finally confided in my campus pastor, I expected him to react with shock, horror, or condemnation because I was a leader in the ministry living a double life. But instead, he responded to me in love, assuring me that he was committed to finding me the help I needed. I couldn’t believe it. I walked away from that conversation with a fresh revelation of God’s grace. I had always felt God hated me and condemned me for my sin. My campus pastor’s reaction was a living illustration of the Father’s heart towards me. For the first time, I discovered that being completely transparent with another person was very healing. I didn’t have to hide anymore.

That day in 1994 was my first step in what would be an eleven-year journey towards freedom.

My campus pastor met with me a few times and eventually connected me with a professional counselor. The next decade was full of ups and downs as I sought healing. I read every book I could find on homosexuality, listened to tapes, attended conferences, and met with multiple counselors from both ex-gay ministries and general Christian counseling. It was a slow process, as there were not a multitude of resources at that time to help women struggling with transgender issues. In fact, well-meaning Christian counselors told me they had seen homosexuals and lesbians set free but never anyone transgender, so I should do my best to cope this side of heaven and know that I will be totally free when I die. Despite their discouragement, the Lord gave me supernatural assurance that He would completely heal me and that the transgender issues would be a thing of the past. Nevertheless, I thirsted so deeply for nurture, I seemed to get worse before I got better, falling into sexual immorality with another woman from my church. I eventually repented and broke off that relationship, realizing my fantasy of being a man who slept with women would never fill the deep void in my soul. By God’s grace, I resolved to tug at the hem of His garment and not let go until I experienced the freedom Jesus died to give me.

As I continued to pursue healing, the Lord put a spiritual mother in my life who was only a few years older than I but spiritually much more mature. I was deeply attracted to her, yet she wasn’t phased by my struggles and began to invest in me relationally in a wholesome way. I found myself wanting to be just like her (much like a daughter might want to emulate her mother), so she helped me buy more feminine clothes and gave me advice concerning makeup and mannerisms. My outward appearance began to change, but inwardly, I still believed the lie that it was better to be a man, and I was still battling attractions to women.

In the fall of 2005, the Lord led me to meet with Mark Sandford, an inner healing prayer counselor at Elijah House. Over the course of a week, we spent hours praying through a lifetime of deep emotional wounds that were at the root of my issues. I forgave those who hurt me, let go of bitterness, renounced inner vows, and repented for my wrong responses towards those who had wounded me. I embraced the cross, and we closed every door I had opened to give the enemy legal ground to influence my life. I cried and cried as the Lord spoke graciously to me, and for the first time in my life, I saw a tender, compassionate side to the Father that I wasn’t aware existed. It’s as if I could literally feel His hands holding my heart. My lifelong yearning to be held and comforted by a woman was met in the tender arms of my heavenly Father.

THE NEW ME

After that powerful encounter with God, I had a newfound contentment in being a woman and was set free from my sexual addictions, which were essentially a counterfeit to the comfort I could only find in my Father’s arms. As I continued to walk out my healing, I eventually started experiencing genuine attractions towards men. It was as if I was going through delayed puberty in my mid-thirties, which was both awkward and thrilling to finally experience the mystery of sexuality according to God’s design. God had transformed me from the inside out and accomplished the impossible. I still feel like I’m living a dream!

Linda Seiler

Though I wanted to share my testimony immediately after everything happened in 2005, the Lord had me wait. I see His sovereignty in that now, as I needed time for my healing to be tested and to prepare me for the warfare that lay ahead. I stayed silent for eight years until the Lord gave me the green light to go public upon my eighth-year anniversary of freedom, a “new beginning” of sorts. I am finally coming out of the closet in a redemptive way, sharing my story with others to bring hope and restoration. I’m grateful for all the pastors, counselors, faithful friends, and especially my supportive parents who walked with me during the healing process. The eleven-year journey towards transformation was totally worth it. The length of the journey itself has given me empathy for those who are currently struggling to break free from similar issues and sometimes feel hopeless. Healing from sexual brokenness is rarely instantaneous—it’s more like peeling back layers of an onion one at a time—but if we will hold fast to the truth of God’s Word and determine never to give up, we will experience transformation to the point that the sin which once characterized our lives ceases to dominate us. God promised: such were some of you (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Outpost Ministries is grateful for Linda as a co-laborer in God’s Kingdom and for sharing her story. Check out more of Linda’s resources and pictures of her transformation at www.lindaseiler.com

Blown Away

testimony

The following testimony is from a Joshua Fellowship participant after completing the Holy Aggression Masculinity Course at the end of last summer:

I went into the [weekend retreat] expecting, but not expecting much. So now I’m a little blown away and still trying to process the weekend. God met me in an incredible way, speaking to me at every turn. The weekend felt like it was the culmination of the last year God has been working in me finally coming to fruition. 

From the start, I could tell there were people praying for us. I had asked a few friends and family to pray for me throughout the weekend, but [I] could feel that there were more. People I do not even know had set an atmosphere, and I’m incredibly thankful for that.

 I found out a lot about myself and how I cope under adversity. I make compromises, and that is what has gotten me here in the first place. I came face to face with my passive self, really putting words to what had been just a vague concept. That allowed me to confront it, to take it down.

 All the while, I was having fun working with other men as broken as I am. After the weekend, I really feel like I am part of the community. I do not just feel hopeful for change, I feel changed. I have come to an understanding of what brotherly love looks like that has been so foreign to me in the past. I am so glad I committed to this summer. It works if you work it. It’s worth it.

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Staying the Course

God has been good to us at Outpost Ministries. It is no small thing to be a ministry to the sexually and relationally broken and still be bearing fruit after 41 years. Our fruitfulness is especially remarkable given the reality of the front lines ministry we do and the major shifts that have taken place in culture. We begin the year with gratitude in our hearts to the Lord for His leadership and provision throughout the years. And we are looking forward to the future and staying the course, knowing that God is with us every step of the way.

Speedy Justice

In the fall of 2012, the Lord spoke to my heart from Luke 18:1-8, the parable of the persistent widow. In this scripture passage, Jesus clearly teaches us that in the context of night and day prayer, He releases justice speedily to His elect ones. As I read the passage, it was as if the word “speedily” jumped off the page. “Lord, you mean we can speed up the process? Human beings can play a role in partnering with You in the release of justice?” The answer was, “Yes”! God had my attention.

You see, I had seen many of our clients fight for long periods of time to get justice for their souls. The warfare around getting free from unwanted same-sex attractions was intense. The enemy wasn’t letting go without a fight. This passage of scripture gave us insight into how to fight back. The answer was persistent, consistent prayer.

Biblical Justice

The Lord loves releasing justice. “For I, the Lord, love justice . . .” (Isaiah 61:8a, NKJV). Justice is when God makes the wrong things right. Though not an exhaustive list, Isaiah 61:1-4 gives us one of the best pictures of what justice accomplishes: Good news is proclaimed. Broken hearts are bound up. Captives are released. God shows favor to His people and vengeance to His enemies. Those who mourn are comforted and made glad. What has been torn down is restored.

Speedy justice for our participants is to experience the healing of their hearts and the restoration of their families. It is to be set free from the bondage of homosexuality. It is to become grounded in the truth of who they are as God’s image bearers. Speedy justice is the taking hold of their authority as sons and daughters of the Father. And it is to be made fruitful.

We said “yes” to the Lord and began the task of marrying night and day prayer with inner-healing ministry. The warfare intensified, but we started to see justice prevail in new ways. People’s lives were transforming. Our staff was growing. Our finances were increasing. God was blessing our efforts.

Now, I am more convinced than ever that times of corporate and personal prayer are key to overcoming life-dominating issues. There are many other helpful tools I wholeheartedly believe in that we use for the journey—Christian counseling, 12-step groups, life-giving community—but when we spend extended time in intimacy with God, we get more. God accelerates the process.

Not a Formula

I want to be careful not to make this formulaic—if you do “x,” God will do “y.” It is not a formula at all; God desires relationship with us. Prayer is dialogue with God. It is a conversation that involves sharing our hearts with Him. Our primary goal in prayer, however, should be listening. We are transformed from the inside out by hearing the voice of the Lord through His Word and through the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.

Discerning God’s Voice

God is always speaking the healing word. Psalm 107:20 says, “He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions.” The Lord is quick to release truth that will set us free, but we have to be receptive to it. It can be hard to hear the voice of the Lord in the midst of all the clamor around us. There are so many other voices that demand our attention.

This is where Outpost comes in. One of the main skills we teach our participants is to discern the voice of the Lord from all the other voices—especially the voices of the world, our flesh and the devil. Our participants learn to have life-giving quiet times with the Lord and to obey what He is speaking to them.

Leann Payne, in her book The Broken Image, wrote:

 Listening to God is the most effective tool we have in our “healing kit,” for by it we know how to collaborate with His Spirit. Teaching others to listen is one of the most valuable lessons we as spiritual directors can give them; by this freedom to hear, they pass from immaturity (being under the Law or laws) to maturity (the walk with Christ in the Spirit), both as persons and as Christians. The Lord Himself becomes their chief counselor and guide, and our vocation is made easier (pg. 134).

Corporate Prayer

When we pray together, we receive more revelation of the love of God. In Ephesians 3:17-19, the Apostle Paul prays, “. . . that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (emphasis added). God desires personal prayer and corporate expressions of prayer. Thus, we teach our participants how to do both.

We provide a place for corporate prayer in the TCJHOP Prayer Room. In the Prayer Room, our participants are able to join with the greater body of Christ in a unified cry for justice—not just for themselves, but for the believers in the Twin Cities and beyond. As we pray together, we receive more of God’s heart for those we are praying for. As we pray together, we are set free from the prison of being only self-focused.

Looking Forward

One of our main objectives in the coming year is to make our resources more accessible to the region. Requests for speakers and our Distinctions Seminar are increasing. Outpost North in the Brainerd Lakes Area is going strong under the leadership of Angie Klein. We have planted groups in the South Metro that we hope to grow in 2018. As the Lord gives grace, we will consider the possibility of expanding in the east and west.

Even as the tide of culture continues to embrace gender and sexual confusion, there are still those who are seeking our services. Young people are still making different decisions about how to deal with their same-sex attractions. Instead of embracing them and living them out, they are striving to bring their sexuality under the lordship of Jesus Christ. God is meeting them in their obedience and restoring their souls. Jesus Christ has life-changing power! We have the privilege of witnessing this process week after week.

As I look forward to the future, we are staying the course. We will continue to strive to make prayer central to all we do. From the overflow of what we receive in prayer, we will do the work of inner-healing ministry. Thank you for partnering with us in this essential work, and blessings on you in 2018!

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Confronted at the Cross

In August, I had the pleasure of taking 15 young men into the wilderness to confront their false ways of relating to God and to others. At the cross, they were able to crucify their false selves and enter into the truth of who God created them to be as men. It is always a profound time of watching God move. It’s definitely one of the highlights of my year!  I wanted to share with you part of a testimony from a young man who attended the “confront” (our word for  “retreat”):

I went into the confront expecting, but not expecting much. So now I’m a little blown away and still trying to process the weekend. God met me in an incredible way, speaking to me at every turn. The weekend felt like it was the culmination of the last year God has been working in me finally coming to fruition.

From the start, I could tell there were people praying for us. I had asked a few friends and family to pray for me throughout the weekend, but you could feel that there was more. People I do not even know had set an atmosphere, and I’m incredibly thankful for that.

I found out a lot about myself and how I cope under adversity. I make compromises, and that is what has gotten me here in the first place. I came face to face with my passive self, really putting words to what had been just a vague concept. That allowed me to confront it, to take it down.

All the while, I was having fun working with other men as broken as I am. After the weekend, I really feel like I am part of the community. I do not just feel hopeful for change, I feel changed. I have come to an understanding of what brotherly love looks like that has been so foreign to me in the past. I am so glad I committed to this summer. It works if you work it. It’s worth it.

Thanks for praying for these young men.  They are feeling your prayers!

 

True Endurance

Teenagers are crazy. I’m probably just as crazy to supervise, of my own free will, an all-night lock-in with a few dozen of them. Any youth worker will tell you, the infamous “youth lock-in” is a program from the pits of purgatory to sanctify us and test our endurance.

enduranceTrue Endurance

As Christians, youth worker or not, we all need a lot of endurance. There is so much in our culture, society, and personal lives that tries to pull us down. Maybe we put down our guard for just a second, and all of sudden, we start to believe lies and accusations. Maybe we follow temptation into sin. Even if we are a super-saint, we still can get walloped with external disappointments and setbacks.

When this happens we might question, “Was my breakthrough even real? How can I carry on in victory and not start back from square one?” This is what true endurance is about.  It’s not only about standing tall when the world is pulling you down, but  it’s also about standing up again and again after you’ve landed flat on your back.

My Healing Story

Hebrews 12:3 says, “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” For now, let’s just focus on that last line: so you will not grow weary and lose heart.

My own healing story, like most, has turned out to be a lot longer than I expected. I first joined programming at Outpost during my last college semester before going overseas. I figured, “Well, better get this little issue of same-sex attractions (SSA) out of the way before I leave. Three months should be good enough.” It’s been more than three months. I found that SSA was visible on the surface, but like an iceberg, there was so much more underneath. Sometime I have felt like I’m walking in circles, but each time I go deeper—more like a spiral staircase. There were many times I could have said, “I give up. I’m tired of this process.”  But even then, I feel like I have received too much and learned too much to go back.

Fixing My Eyes

The ultimate motivation and inspiration for me in all of this is Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 says,  “. . . Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” I am learning what it means to fix my eyes on Jesus.  

Just to clarify when I say Jesus, I don’t mean God the Father, I mean God the Son—Jesus, and the entire theology behind His personhood. Hebrews chapters 4 and 5 tell us about how Jesus endured. He was fully human. Scriptures says how He was tempted in all the ways we are. That means He had no advantage. That really is radical, but it makes sense. If anything, He faced more temptations to sin than we ever will. He was tempted in ways we can’t even imagine. When I fast, I might be tempted to eat bread, but I’m never tempted to turn rocks into bread.

Fighting On

When I’m reminded of how Jesus overcame, it encourages and inspires me. Jesus is not this abstract idea, but since He was flesh and blood, He understands what our struggles are like, and He helps us in them.

I absolutely love the song Love is War by Hillsong Worship. It ties into this idea of not growing weary by fixing eyes on Jesus:

I will fight to follow, I will fight for love

Through my life forever, into the triumph of the Son

Your love has won it all, You took the fall to embrace my sorrow

I know You took the fight, You came and died, but the grave was borrowed

I know You stood again so I can stand with a life to follow in the light of Your name

When I see what Jesus did, how He fought on my behalf, how can I not get up and fight on?

Getting Desperate

The very next verse in Hebrews 12:4 says, “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.” If you can’t holla, “Amen!” holla, “Ouch!”

This verse always gets me every time. It reminds me that I’m not stuck. You’re not stuck. We’re not stuck! Even if we’ve failed, there’s more that I can do, there’s more that you can do. We haven’t resisted to the point of death yet!

This is what true endurance is all about: even after failure, we do whatever it takes to press on and overcome. It’s about getting desperate.

I love that word, because “desperation” is not affected by feelings, it’s fueled by need. I can be passionate about something, and I can lose that passion. Desperation stays consistent. I might go to visit the Sahara Desert because I’m passionate about travel, but if I’m stuck in the middle of the Sahara, I will quickly lose that passion. However, my desperation for water will remain the same.

When I’m desperate about seeking after God, His Kingdom and His righteousness, aware of my incredible need for Him, circumstances won’t change that desperation. If things are going well, I desperately need God; if things are terrible, I still desperately need God. For me, that is the foundation of endurance. It’s the reason why I continue to fight on.

A Great Cloud

Fellowship and community is another reason to push on and endure. Hebrews 11:39-40 says, “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.”

That last line is absolutely insane: apart from us they would not be made perfect. Just for the sake of context, “they” is referring to the super-heroes-of-faith-hall-of-fame-all-stars of the Bible. We read in Hebrews chapter 11 about all of these amazing people, their lives of faith and how they endured so much. The chapter ends in saying that all of that was just the prelude to what we can now receive.

They are the same “cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews chapter 12. And they are not cheering us on with a polite golf-clap. They are screaming and shouting because our freedom is their freedom. We are a part of the fullness of what God had promised to them. They, just like the rest of us, are waiting for the day that the Bride is ready for her marriage and mystical union with Christ. They finished their race, and are eagerly waiting for us to finish ours.

What a privilege and responsibility it is, living on this side of the cross! I still can’t get over how crazy this passage of scripture is and how it inspires me. I read how these heroes of faith “did not receive what was promised” and “saw promises from far away and welcomed them” (Hebrews 11:13). I read on and find out that they committed their lives, even though they saw that the promise was not to happen in their lifetimes. All they saw was a small glimpse of what was to come through Jesus, but that was more than enough. They knew it would be worth it.

Worthy of It All

A glimpse is what they saw, and it was worth it. A glimpse is what we need because Jesus is so worth it!

Jesus is the only reason I would be doing any of this process. There is no other reason besides Jesus to go through the pain and the work to endure. I’ve tasted and seen God’s love that is better than life (Psalm 63:3), and now I’m wrecked for anything else. I don’t mean that in any cute or romanticized way. Our God is an all-consuming fire. When I think I’ve given Him enough, He demands more. Yet because I’ve seen a glimpse of Him, I see how He is worthy of more than I can ever offer. Just like in the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when they said that even if God did not save them, they would not bow. I can do nothing else but get up, carry on, and pursue God no matter what.

So let’s continue to persevere and never give up. Keep focused on Jesus. We can endure, and we will overcome. He’s worthy of our sacrifice, our struggle and our strength.

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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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Waving the Flag of Surrender

surrenderAs Christians, we sing and talk about surrender all the time. We often forget that surrender is a battle term. It means giving up all rights to the conqueror. When an army surrenders, the victors take complete control over their lives. When we surrender to God, we are declaring that He has won, we have been defeated and subdued, and we give ourselves over to God’s plan for our lives.

I’m a proud person. I’ve always worked hard, and I have always gotten what I’ve wanted. I studied hard and got a good degree and a well-paying job. I work out and eat well so that I have a strong body. I practice so that I can become a better worship leader.

But when it came to my sexual struggles, it was a completely different story. Growing up, I had a perceived lack of masculine affirmation, affection and acknowledgement in my life. When I discovered homosexual pornography, it was the perfect drug. These were men willing and ready to share intimacy and vulnerability with me. I could control these relationships, and there was no risk on my end. What I didn’t realize was that I was training my heart and my head to receive male love through this avenue only.

It took six years of silent struggle and mental torture before I could write these words in my prayer journal, “I am struggling with homosexuality. God, I’m not asking for You to magically make it disappear, but I do want You to help me change my life. I know You have the power to intervene and change me like nothing else can.” That was my first step in surrender.

After that journal entry, it took another three years before I could take the next step of surrender and confess this struggle to another person. Each time I brought it out into the open, it weakened the pull of my addiction and strengthened my bond with another man in a healthy and legitimate way. There was freedom in admitting that I was powerless, that I struggled with same-sex attractions. But just surrendering to the reality that I was powerless over sin and lust and acting out wasn’t enough. I needed help; I needed to surrender to something or someone outside of myself and my own patterns of thinking.

It was terrifying to come to Outpost for the first time. But eventually, this became a safe place for me and a refuge for my soul. There was also great promise and hope here. I saw men fighting in strength, walking in the fullness of their masculinity, and I saw restoration. I liked what I saw, and I wanted it. So I gave myself to this process of recovery. I came every week. I shared during our small groups. I said yes to whatever the leaders challenged us to do.

From that point, this journey has been a series of cliffs for me to jump off. Each time, it has felt like I would drop into oblivion. Each time, I had to surrender another part of my heart that I had been holding on to in defiance. I had to allow that part of my heart to become reconciled to God.

When we were required to have an hour of listening prayer each day, it meant waking up earlier. And if that meant waking up at 4:30am, then I had to surrender my sleep. When I was still struggling with pornography and isolation, I had to surrender my independence and find a roommate. When I started to develop an emotionally dependent relationship with my best friend, I had to surrender that relationship.

When I pursued relationship with a woman, and she broke my heart, I had to surrender my singleness and my loneliness to God. When I moved into my own place again, I knew I couldn’t have internet. I had to surrender my convenience and only use the internet at work

Each step is another terrifying adventure where God asks, “Are you going to trust Me in this?” I have had to come to the end of myself and finally let God have a personal place in my life. And just when I think I’ve already given my all to God, He reveals another part of my heart I’m holding on to with a death grip. He asks me, “How can you receive more from Me when your hands are clenched tightly around this?”

I need to constantly remind myself to trust in God. If I believe that God knows the deepest parts of my heart better than I know myself, then I can trust Him. If I believe that God knows what will truly make me come alive, then I can trust Him.

I had to surrender my sleep for listening prayer, but this discipline has taught me how to hear God and how have intimacy with Him. I had to surrender my independence and live with roommates I couldn’t stand, but with them, I learned about patience. I had to surrender one of my best friends, but it was only in letting go that we could learn to love one another in a healthy way and have God bring a new depth to our friendship.

I had to surrender my singleness and loneliness to God, but after that I began to appreciate being alone, and being alone with God. I had to surrender convenience by not having internet, but I haven’t struggled with pornography or masturbation since moving to my new apartment.

There’s an illustration that has helped me understand surrender: Imagine life as a rollercoaster. There’s going to be a big drop and bunch of twists and turns. I can try to hold onto the handle bars and clench my teeth, or I can raise my hands and feel the rush. Either way, I’m still going to drop, and I’m still going to be held in. So why not just enjoy the ride?

There can be so much death in surrendering and letting go. But there can also be so much peace and life when we finally give God space in our hearts.

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Drinking the Cup of Life

Silver Cup

The Cup. It’s a universal symbol. It’s not just something humans use to drink. Many cups speak of victory—soccer cups, football cups. These cups speak of bravery, fame, and great power. Many cups also speak of death. The cups in Isaiah and Jeremiah are the cups of God’s wrath and destruction. Then there is Jesus’ cup, a symbol of life filled with sorrows and joys that we can hold, lift, and drink.

Nine years ago, I was sitting at a local coffee shop, terrified to tell the first person about my struggle with same-sex-attractions. While waiting for my friend, I sat sipping my coffee, reading Luke 22:24 about 100 times before he showed up, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (NIV).

Jesus was willing to drink the cup; I wanted nothing to do with the cup I had been given. I had no idea what was even in my cup. I was comfortable, living a life of fantasy and addiction, and I had no idea what my reality was. I couldn’t feel anything. I came to Outpost six years later. As I shared my story with leaders for the first time and heard their stories, I began to confront the very things I had vowed I wouldn’t talk about again.

Drinking the cup we’ve been given, however, is much more than gulping down whatever happens to be in there. In our American way, we want the quickest possible result, but the Holy Spirit is in for the process of holiness. 

Holding the Cup. Well-renowned priest and author Henri Nouwen writes, “Holding the cup of life is a way of looking critically at who we really are, accepting our various skills, inadequacies and differences from others, and rejoicing in our radical singularity.”

I recently visited a vineyard and took an informal class on drinking wine. The sommelier taught us how to properly hold a wine glass, how to smell the aroma, how to cleanse the palate, and how to best taste the wine presented and enjoy the full experience. It takes all five senses to fully enjoy a good glass of wine. You have to know what you’re drinking, and you have to be able to talk about it.

Holding the cup of life means looking critically at the lives we are living. Just living our lives is not enough. We have to process, reflect, contemplate, discuss, and form opinions about it, just like wine tasting. This is living: looking deeply into our lives at the things that make us human—a living, breathing being with a body, soul, and spirit, in all our uniqueness and imperfections.

It takes great courage and can be terrifying. But don’t run, as this will be your first inclination. Confront it. Hold the cup. Ask Christ for more revelation, more truth, and more resolve.

The Cup of Sorrow. Some of us are all too familiar with the cup of sorrow. We have all experienced sadness, pain, grief, and hardship. Before coming to Outpost, though, I had hidden my sorrow in years of fantasy and addiction. All of the things I did to avoid the pain hurt me much more than actually feeling the pain would have.

I have now experienced deep sorrow over my struggle and for not owning my story for so long. I’ve had to mourn the lost years of my adolescence and young adult years. Even now, it is still painful that God has not quickly given me what I have most desired: complete freedom from same-sex attractions, addiction, and comparison. In embracing my pain, however, I’ve discovered my desire to have deep, healthy intimacy. The unfulfilled needs for affirmation remain alive in me.

Is there pain you’re running from? What are the ugliest parts of your soul, the things that cause the most shame? What are the things you have vowed that you’d never speak of to anyone?

Pain is not a mistake to hide or fix, it’s a traveling professor. When pain knocks on the door, wise ones breathe deep and say, “Come in. Sit down with me. And don’t leave until you’ve taught me what I need to know.” Pain is not something to run from. Rather, we need to run to it because that’s where healing happens. The discomfort is purposeful: it is there to teach us what we need to know so we can become who we were meant to be.

Before His crucifixion, Jesus said, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by” (Matt. 26:39). Jesus felt like he couldn’t drink the cup filled to the brim with sorrow and pain. But Jesus had a bond with the One He called “Abba”. Jesus didn’t drink the cup out of will power, determination, or great heroism. He possessed with Abba a trust beyond betrayal, a surrender beyond despair, and a love beyond all fears.

After Jesus’ prayer, Luke mentions, “Then an angel appeared to him, coming from heaven to give him strength” (22:43). In times of deep pain and sorrow, we have access to this strength. Dare I say the cup of sorrow, as extremely difficult as it seems, also leads to the cup of joy. Only when we discover this in our own lives an we consider drinking it.

The Cup of Joy. For anyone who has the courage to enter deeply into our human sorrows, there is a revelation of joy. Jesus’ life is not one of only sorrow that ended in his crucifixion. His beautiful life with sacred wounds continues in His glory and the glory of His Father.

The risen Lord invites all people into his new and eternal life. Jesus, who cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” also said in total surrender, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Jesus, who participated fully in all of our pain on the cross, wants us to participate fully in His joy. He wants us to be a people of joy! Jesus’ “yes” while he was in the Garden was one of unconditional trust in His Father. It gave Him the ability to drink His cup, not in passivity or spite, but with the full knowledge that the hour of His death would also be the hour of His glory.

Lifting the Cup. Henri Nouwen defines lifting the cup as “an invitation to affirm and celebrate life together. It means joining in community and sharing our cravings, our fantasies, our shame or vulnerabilities and giving others permission to do likewise in a spirit of blessing, of giving thanks.”1 When each of us can hold firm our own cup, claiming it as our own, it is then that we can lift it up for others to see.

When we lift our cup together in community, it is a way to celebrate the truth that we all carry wounds. In a place of mature, safe community, these wounds become areas of healing. Lifting our cup is a gesture of hope.

I am a fiercely independent person, but I’m also a fiercely relational person. In our “I can do it myself” society, I hid my need of relationship in fear and shame. It wasn’t until I understood vulnerability, until I trusted my brothers and lifted my cup, allowing them to see me, that relationship happened. Grace and mercy happened. I learned that we are wired for struggle, but we are also worthy of love and belonging.

You are a good gift. Life is not something to be ashamed of, but it is a gift to be shared with others. The cup filled with sorrow and joy, when lifted for others to see, can become the cup of life.

 Drinking the Cup. Henri Nouwen says, “Drinking the cup of life is fully appropriating and internalizing our own unique existence, with all its sorrows and joys. It’s a challenge to forthrightly acknowledge who we are, to forsake the entrapments of our addictions, compulsions, and sins and to be fully trusting in God and Jesus who, in a spirit of unconditional love, accepted his ministry with all its consequences.”1

Drinking the cup makes us own everything we are living. This isn’t “making the best of it” or “dealing with the cards you’ve been dealt”. It’s agreeing, “This is my life, and dare I say, with all of the sorrow and joys, I want this to be my life.”

When we do not drink our cup, avoiding the sorrows and joys of life, our lives become inauthentic, insincere, superficial, and boring. We are like puppets controlled by the world surrounding us. We remain victims of other people. Drinking our cup is a hopeful, courageous, grace-filled way of living. It is standing in the world, solidly rooted in the knowledge of our true identity in Christ, still becoming who we were created to be.

 Drinking to the Bottom. In Matthew 20:20-23, the mother of James and John asked Jesus if He would grant her sons to sit next to Him in His kingdom. Jesus replied, “You don’t know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” James and John responded, “We can.” They had no idea what they were saying yes to. They had no idea that Jesus would be tortured and killed on a cross. They had no idea how easy it would be to say “yes” initially and that the subsequent “yeses” would become increasingly difficult. All they knew was that they had been deeply touched by the man Christ Jesus.

Jesus’ invitation to us to drink the cup without offering the reward we expect is the great challenge of the spiritual life. It turns our hope of a comfortable, predictable future upside down. It calls for radical trust in God, the same trust that made Jesus drink the cup to the bottom.

We have to drink our cup slowly, embracing all of the joys and sorrows, drinking all the way to the bottom, as Christ did. As we drink it, writes Nouwen, we will realize that the One who has called us “The Beloved,” even before we were born, is filling it with everlasting life.

1Nouwen, H. (n.d.). Henri Nouwen’s Intimate Letters Shed Light on his ‘Theology of the Heart’. Retrieved from http://henrinouwen.org/henri-nouwens-intimate-letters-shed-light-theology-heart/

Power Perfected

power weaknessWhile same-sex attraction (SSA) has been present for all of human history, how it is viewed has changed over time. It wasn’t long ago that SSA was rarely discussed and viewed by some as the worst sin imaginable. In recent years, it is celebrated—demonstrated by massive parades in major cities around the world—and considered to be a source of pride.

Ask our participants to describe their experience of unwanted SSA, however, and you will hear words like painful, suffering, and weakness. (Do marchers in the gay pride parades experience the same pain? Perhaps, but that is a topic for another time.) It is a unique brand of unseen pain. We know that we are different than about 98% of the population and that life has sent us on a strange, unasked-for trajectory. Relationships with the same sex are difficult and can be confusing. Relationships with the opposite sex are not what they should be, and we know it. We wonder what the future holds. Joys that are routine and second nature to the general population seem far off. This isn’t the life that we had in mind for ourselves.

At Outpost, we are accustomed to hearing these stories of weakness, pain, and struggle on a regular basis. Indeed, we know that every time the telephone rings, there may be a caller on the other end of the line in pain, sharing her story for the first time, and there may be tears before the call is over.

For those of us afflicted with SSA, how are we to view this unexpected, unwanted turn of events? There are all sorts of responses ranging from anger to hopelessness, to blaming others, to rebellion. We’ve seen all of these responses, and many of us have dealt with them in our own hearts. But for followers of Christ, is there any instruction in God’s Word that will help us rightly view this weakness that has overtaken us?

The Apostle Paul deals with weakness squarely in 2 Corinthians 12. Afflicted with his own “thorn in the flesh”, he says “I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (v. 8–10, ESV).

The Lord did not take away Paul’s affliction. Instead, he gave Paul something better.

I’ve heard many testimonies from those with unwanted SSA, and it is not uncommon to hear believers say that this unique affliction led them to Christ. If life had been all good and hadn’t been made messy by SSA, they would have never known their need for a Savior and entered into a life-changing, joy-producing relationship with Him. It’s true for me as well. It has been a rough and painful road, but SSA was the street that led me to Christ as a lost 18 year-

old. And not only did it lead me to Him initially, but it has also led me to His throne of grace day after day ever since. Thankfully, He has never failed to meet me there.

Jason Meyer, Senior Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, shared in a sermon, “God’s solution for earthly suffering is not to take away the pain and the problems and make earth a paradise. His solution is to give us more of Himself so that we have enough to make it through our struggles and our trials” (“Boasting Like a Weakling,” May 30, 2015.) If you have been afflicted with SSA, it is true that you’ve been dealt a tough hand. But if it leads you to Jesus, you have the very best that life has to offer—the pearl of great price, the treasure hidden in a field. “Every heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee,” according to Augustine in his Confessions, and you have found the rest in Christ that every heart longs for. He is with you continually. He has paid for every sin you’ve committed. He hears every cry of your heart.

The long haul of SSA also gives one power. “My power is made perfect in weakness,” Jesus spoke to Paul, leading him to a 180 degree turn on his view of the thorn in his flesh. “I am content with weaknesses . . . for when I am weak, then I am strong” (v. 10). Through this affliction, we have come to know a victory that, in our own strength, we never would have won. Christ is in the process of transforming us, making us strong in the broken places, not strong in the strong places. As Pastor Meyer put it, “Paul is pleased with being a weak canvas because weak canvases are the only ones that Christ will paint upon” (“When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong,” June 6, 2015.)

This wonderful truth frees us from self-pity. Yes, the experience of SSA is a profound challenge, but God is setting us up for profound strength. The strongest people on the planet have been saddled with the most challenging circumstances. SSA is preparing us to join them. Why? Because “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength” (Isaiah 40:29).

So if you are dealing with your own issues of unwanted same-sex attraction, take heart. The piercing arrow of SSA need not penetrate your armor. Pick it up and put it in your quiver. It carries grace and power and is making you into mighty men and women of God. He is giving you more of Himself, and He is preparing you for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

Stepping into the Light

Celebrating 40 Years of Being Called Out of Darkness40 years

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. —1 Peter 2:9-10

In 1976, Outpost Ministries was born. I was born just one year later. I have often thought of the goodness of God. He knew that I would struggle with same-sex attractions, and He went before me to establish the place where I would ultimately find healing and wholeness in Jesus Christ.

I first set foot inside Outpost in the fall of 1997, and I was called out of the darkness of homosexuality and into the marvelous light of Jesus. True freedom always begins with stepping into the light. I had never before told anyone about my struggle. I was too afraid and ashamed. Now, for the first time, I was in a place where I could be open and honest about my sexual brokenness. How freeing!

In the light, we begin to see rightly. My sight began to heal through my involvement at Outpost. I began to see men and women very differently, I began to see myself differently. Most importantly, I began to see God differently. As I started to see how God truly thinks and feels about me, my heart began to change.

I saw that I am chosen. Growing up, I was not very athletic, so I generally wasn’t the first kid picked for playground sports, or the second or the third . . . We all desire to be chosen, and it’s painful when we are not. At Outpost, I got to know a God who chose me before the foundations of the world. He wanted me on His team!        Since then, I have often marveled at these words from 1 Corinthians 1:27-28:

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.

God’s standards are completely the opposite of the world’s standards, and in many cases even the opposite of the Church’s. He intentionally chooses for His team the weak and broken!

I saw that I am royalty to God the Father. What is so amazing about the cross is that not only does it afford us the forgiveness of sin, but it also give us a new identity. We are now kings and priests to God because of the blood of Jesus (Rev. 1:5-6). We have been given authority in Jesus’ name to partner with God in administering justice in the earth (Ps. 149) through our intercession. Our prayers matter to God!

I saw that I am holy. For someone who has lived in so much shame and condemnation for so long, it is an amazing thing for him to realize and truly believe that he is a new creation. In Christ, I have become the righteousness of God and am set apart to accomplish the good works God has planned in advance for me (2 Cor. 5:17, 21; Eph. 2:10).

I saw that I am special. I think my parents did a fine job of letting me know that I was special to them. There is, however, a part of our hearts that needs to hear this word from the Heavenly Father in order for us to feel confident in who we are. One who has heard the Lord affirm that he is fearfully and wonderfully made doesn’t need fame or status. He is already famous in the sight of the Creator of the Universe. It’s the angel Gabriel telling Daniel that he is “highly esteemed” by heaven (Dan. 9:23) or the angel of the Lord informing Gideon that heaven sees him as a “valiant warrior” (Judges 6:12). A person’s soul is set free from always needing to perform for approval when he learns to live before an audience of One.

In the light, I saw more clearly. I saw a God who is mighty to save. At Outpost, I learned to trade my rags for my new identity. Christ had always been holding it out to me. In the darkness, I just couldn’t see it.

Chosen. Royal. Holy. Special. What a glorious exchange.

There has been much fruit that has come forth from Outpost over the last 40 years. I am just one of the many who has stepped into the light because I heard the call of God. There are many more walking in freedom and many more to come. How much more do we need Outpost for the next 40 years! We need this beacon of hope and truth now more than ever before in the history of our nation.

Thank you for standing with us, some of you since the very beginning. It has been such a privilege to run the race with you. I hope to see you at our upcoming 40th Anniversary Celebration and Called Out of Darkness. Let us all come together and proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light!