Do Not Give Up: When the Good Old Days Seem Better Than Another Day of Manna

Bird flying free from cage

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

So you wanna go back to Egypt
Where it’s warm and secure
Are you sorry you bought the one way ticket
When you thought you were sure
You wanted to live in the land of promise
But now it’s getting so hard
Are you sorry you’re out here in the desert
Instead of your own back yard
(So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt, Keith and Melody Green, 1980)

These lyrics by Keith Green describe the predicament of Israel during their wilderness wanderings. They also offer a clue into the attitudes of many today who have escaped slavery to sin (i.e. they have received the forgiveness of sins and become Christians) but who also wish to avoid the necessary struggle required to maintain their freedom. This struggle involves successfully avoiding the re-enslavement to sin, while on the other hand, still having to pay the high cost of maintaining their freedom.

Within two months of leaving Egypt and their slave masters, the Israelites forgot the object of their journey into the desert, which was lasting freedom from oppression. It was a worthy objective in itself, but additionally, they had the higher goal of worshiping the Living God. Instead, Israel settled for a golden calf. In our quest for freedom from the life-dominating nature of same sex attractions (or fill in the blank with your own particular sin struggle), we may also be tempted to passivity like the Israelites of old. We’d rather settle for slavery than take responsibility for ourselves.

Jeremiah Recounts Israel’s Sin

The prophet Jeremiah lamented the indecisiveness of Israel. About a hundred years prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the beginning of the Babylonian Exile, he wrote, “And I will declare my judgments against [Israel], for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands” (Jeremiah 1:16.) Later, Jeremiah quotes God, referring to God’s spiritual courtship with Israel, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the LORD.” (Jer. 2:2f.)

Then Jeremiah recounts the history of Israel (see vv. 2:3-12) from God’s perspective as a spurned and grieving lover. Essentially what God is saying is “What did I do wrong that you left me? Why did you stop pursuing me after all I’ve done for you?” Next Jeremiah lists priests, lawyers, shepherds and prophets as having forsaken their authority and forgotten the Living God altogether. No other people on earth does this, complains the prophet; but all Israel has forsaken her God!

Israel’s Complaining and God’s Response

The prophet summarizes Israel’s problem in v. 13. First, they forsook God, and second, they tried to live by their own effort. Both of these options were predictably ineffective, and left Israel in a miserable state of frustration and destitution. They longed to go back. Things weren’t really all THAT bad in Egypt, they moaned. At least we had garlic and leeks. Food tasted good. What’s this manna? And the golden calf: at least we can see and feel it. Who is this unseen God who dragged us away from our comfort zone? Israel is clearly upset. They are not getting what they wanted. They are angry. “We didn’t sign up for THIS!,” they cry. Then God’s Word turns it all around: “You brought all this upon yourselves!” Jeremiah continues, “And now what do you gain by going to Egypt to drink the waters of the Nile? Or what do you gain by going to Assyria to drink the waters of the Euphrates?” (Jeremiah 2:18). Here he cuts them off from all their false hopes. Slavery (Egypt) can’t comfort or satisfy you. Idols (Assyria) can’t cure or save you. Jeremiah even reminds them in v. 20 that long ago, it was God who set them free from slavery. But still they refused to serve him! Everywhere they went, they adulterated themselves sexually and spiritually.

Sin, Slavery and Freedom

What’s interesting to me is the story hasn’t changed much in the twenty-six centuries since Jeremiah wrote. God chose us for Himself and delivered us out of slavery to sin. But, we remember the “good times” of our past and want to turn back. We tell ourselves just a little taste won’t hurt a thing. So we revisit the pleasures of sin for a season, and suddenly, we’re trapped. The apostle Paul writes, “why subject yourselves once again to a yoke of slavery?” (Galatians 5:1)

Regarding our discussion of same-sex attraction, let’s call it what it is: slavery. Some may even veer off into the language of addiction here, and it’s all the same. We have an incurable condition into which we were all born. But, we have also been born from above, and our true allegiance is to heaven. Let us no longer pine for the prison! We don’t have to settle for prison food! As the apostle Paul wrote: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Even more pointedly, Paul wrote to the Corinthians–specifically in regard to sexual immorality–“I could say that I am allowed to do anything, but I am not going to let anything make me its slave” (1 Cor 6:12, GNB). Indeed!

Let’s see sin for what it is; but even more, let’s see Christ as the one who has broken the power of sin to control our lives! The struggle to maintain freedom is hard work, but every minute in the desert is worth it as we are transformed unto lasting freedom. While we walk, we can look forward to being united with Christ and made fully new.

There is power in the name of Jesus
To break every chain
Break every chain
Break every chain
(Break Every Chain, Jesus Culture, 2011)

All Scripture references are from the ESV unless otherwise marked.

Rock Bottom, Persistent Love

rock bottomsMy story is not a simple “coming to Jesus” story. It’s been a long, hard journey, full of ups and downs, messy relationships, and many rock bottoms. But Jesus faithfully pursued me and reached out to me in every twist and turn I took, in each rock bottom I hit. His love has been persistent through it all.

My Early Years

I grew up in a Christian home, and we went church every Sunday. At a young age, I contracted bacterial spinal meningitis and was in the hospital for months. The doctors told my parents that if I survived, I would have brain damage and be disabled. By God’s mercy, I lived. I came out with only a hearing loss and a slight learning disability. My illness still had a profound impact on my life, though. Other kids teased me for having hearing aids. I struggled with friendships and connecting with peers.

In the third grade, I went on a Christian camping retreat with my dad. There, I was introduced to Christ and his love and salvation for me. I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior while at that camp.

Around that time, I also got into a lot of fights with my two sisters. Once during a fight, my older sister punched me across the face.  I cried and went to my dad, but I was met with a face of anger and disappointment, not the comfort I was longing for. I was crushed. My relationship with him was already strained, and I felt a deep emptiness inside me. I determined to be the good little boy from then on.

Trapped and Hopeless

In middle school, that emptiness grew. Then I discovered pornography, and eventually gay pornography. I quickly became addicted. The images consumed me. It was torture, and by the ninth grade, I felt hopelessly trapped by it. I was losing sleep and losing friends because I was going home to look at porn rather than hanging out with them. I knew God and had accepted Jesus as my Savior, but I didn’t know how He could help me.  On many nights, I cried myself to sleep, asking God to take away this addiction. He seemed to respond with silence. I would vow to do better the next day but never did, and I was filled with guilt.

One night, while my mom and I were the only ones home, we got into a huge fight. I got so angry that I threw a large book at her. My actions shocked me. How could I do such a thing? I was the good boy! I finally confessed my addiction to my parents. They took away my computer privileges, and I met with our pastor for a while. It was helpful to talk with someone, but we never got to the root of my problems. Then I went off to college and was given a laptop, and I went right back to my desired source of comfort.

Trapped Again

During my first year of college, I began to be more aware of my intense attraction to guys and to actually question my sexuality. Eventually, I came out as gay to my parents. I began hooking up with other guys I had met online. My sexual addiction began to consume me once again, and I distanced myself from my friends.

Shouts in Our Pain

I still had a relationship with God though, and I didn’t want addiction as a part of my life. Once, after I had been crying all night, something nudged me to look up C.S. Lewis quotes. One in particular jumped out at me: “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” I knew then that, through my pain, God had been shouting at me for a while. I knew that I needed to leave college. The next day, while my friends were off at class or at chapel, I left all of my belongings and drove home.

My parents were supportive and helped me find Outpost Ministries. I was involved there for a season, but I was not quite ready to submit my sexuality to God and decided to leave. In the meantime, regardless of my choices, my dad started to rebuild our relationship. We began going out to lunch together. I would talk, and he would just listen. He took an interest in me, and it meant the world to me. It was a small but important change, and my life slowly began to shift course.

Another Rock Bottom

Soon after, I went back to a Christian college closer to home, and I was able to receive counseling there. My heart for God grew, even though I was still leading a double life. On campus, I was the good Christian boy, shy and unsure of himself, doing what he was told. Off campus, I was a sex addict who hooked up with about 30 different guys. The more I tried to find comfort and satisfaction in other men, the bigger the emptiness inside me grew. I hit an all-time low point. Yet there was another rock bottom to hit: I later learned I had contracted a sexually transmitted infection. I was devastated.

One night, I was reading in the book of Jeremiah and came across Jeremiah 30:12-13, 17: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing. There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you. But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord, ‘because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.’” It was me. God saw me in my state and promised restoration and gave me hope. From that day on, I stopped acting out sexually. God gave me a chance to try again.

A Question I Couldn’t Hide From

Two years later, I still desperately longed for a relationship. I thought, this time, maybe a Christian guy would work out better. I met one, and after a party, we sat in his car talking and agreed to start dating. He then asked me a question I couldn’t hide from: “How can we do this and glorify God?” I froze and heard God say, “Yes, Ian, how can you do this and glorify Me?”  I didn’t know what to say.  Eventually, I turned to him and said, “I don’t think I can do this,” and I got out of his car and left.

By the end of college, I had come to the conclusion that I would have to be a “gay Christian.” I had gotten involved in the LGBT community and the gay club scene by this point, but I still had a desire to honor God and be close to him. I determined that I would live a celibate life, but accepted that I would always struggle with my attractions.

Maybe There’s More

I still desired a place to go for spiritual support, and eventually found it again at Outpost. First, I went through Joshua Fellowship’s summer masculinity course. I learned what it means to be a man created in the image of God and how to be the man He created me to be. I also found a new, enjoyable community with the Joshua Fellowship guys. As my masculine strength and my trust in God grew, I noticed that my thoughts began to change. Maybe I wasn’t limited to just live a celibate life and always struggle. Maybe God had more for me.

Inviting Jesus with Me

I was still involved in the LGBT community during this time. It fed a deep desire inside of me for connection with others. In group at Outpost, I continually admitted going to gay clubs.  As I shared, the Outpost leaders advised me to ask Jesus to come to the bars with me.

I started doing just that, and my experience at the bars began to change. It wasn’t as fun anymore. One time at the bar, I saw someone I knew, and my friends continuously made lustful comments about him.  It hurt to hear what they were saying because I knew this person loved God, and he deserved better than those comments or to be in that bar. So I left my friends there. Little did they or I know that this was the last time I would go to the bars with them.

A New Season

A new season in my life came when I attended the One Thing Conference in Kansas City.  It was an amazing experience, and it launched me into a life of prayer and inspired me to get more involved with the ministry. I signed up for TCJHOP’s summer internship. We spent four days a week in the Prayer Room and also listened to different speakers. I experienced how being in prayer healed my heart and my relationship with God. I grieved my many messy, unhealthy relationships but recognized my real need for love. The Father’s love began filling that emptiness inside, and I desired less and less to be in a relationship with a guy.

God’s Power to Restore

Over time, God has not only restored my relationship with Himself and provided me with healthy same-sex friendships. He has also brought healing in my relationships with my parents, especially with my dad. My sisters and I have built amazing new friendships. God really does have the power to restore the family. God has also restored my desire to be married and have a family of my own. In fact, I have found a very special woman, and we are engaged to be married later this year. I have a new a passion to stand for the image of God in men and women. I also love to share my story with young people who find themselves trapped in similar addictions and situations as I did.

Through all the ups and downs, twist and turns and rock bottom experiences of my journey, God has been patient to reach out to me in my darkest moments. He has graciously shown me His persistent love and the truth of His Word. “He brought me out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm” (Psalm 40:2). God’s healing, restoration and firm foundation have brought unexpected joy and peace in my life that I never thought possible.

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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

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