Monday, June 24, 2013

My Story

Well, okay. It's only a part of my story but it has changed everything for me.  [I thought I'd posted my sotry when I first started this blog in 2008 and only today have I discovered it remained a draft until now.]

I believe that God uses the sin in our lives to draw us to him. The problem is that we’re ashamed of our sin and so we hide it in a dark corner, furtively bringing it out to play on occassion, but rapidly hiding it again because we dare not let it see the Light. For me, that sin was lesbianism, the hunger and desire for women instead of men. So long as those women were nameless and faceless, I could pretend I didn't have a problem. But that changed 3 ½ years ago when my friendship with Pearl became much more than a friendship.

I was horrified and shocked at what I was capable of and, in what those wiser than me later said was a big mistake, I confessed my thoughts and desires to her. I also confessed to an ex-lesbian who had shared her testimony in the Online Christian community to which we all belonged. She told me to do two things: 1) leave Pearl and 2) tell my pastors.

Both seemed impossible. But I obeyed. In her hurt and anger, Pearl made a public announcement, telling our community what I had done. She didn't reveal my identity but I was sure that folks, who knew we were best friends, would read between the lines and recognized me. With fear and trembling, preferring to be castigated to my face than behind my back, I made an equally public announcement that it was me she was talking about. I expected outrage from some and withdrawal by others. What I didn't expect was an outpouring of love that enabled the journey of healing to begin.

Telling my pastors was harder. How does one do such a thing when all they've known is a woman apparently sold out for Jesus? Yes, they were shocked, but their love for me, though not the sin, was immediately apparent. How I was blessed, especially by one of them, who never wavered in that love!
Erin was someone who spent hours pouring Christ into my life. As I cried in anguish over how to get rid of the demon of same-sex attraction she counseled me to not focus on the problem or even how to solve the problem but rather to make my primary focus God. I watched her life and realized that my relationship with God was superficial. I wanted what she had and pushed toward God with single-minded determination.
Sue, introduced me to Exodus and, from their website, made contact with a local ministry to people who don't want to be homosexual. I began to receive counselling.

God used so many ways to speak to me and bring layers of freedom and intimacy. I began taking an online course for people struggling with sexual addictions and learned how we all have a thirst for God but we go to broken cisterns and muddy wells to fill that thirst instead of going to the well of Living Water. The mentor for that course was such an encourager!

That Good Friday, in a labyrinth of prayer, I read how Mary Magdaleine was granted the privilege of being at the foot of the cross. She whose sin was great was granted honour and mention; God’s forgiveness is so gracious. As I sat at a table laid with nails and hammer, I realized that, like my name-sake, I too had been forgiven. Jesus took that piece of dead foreskin, my sinful nature, and nailed it to the cross. I was free! I was so excited I wanted to grab the pastor and dance and leap all over the church. Instead, I covered my face with my hair and laughed and laughed with joy.

Soon afterward, Lois accompanied me as I walked through Neil Anderson's Steps to Freedom in Christ. We've been friends since our children were babies and her lack of condemnation, when I confessed my sin to her, spoke healing to my heart. Making my way through the steps was hard work and yet, through it, God granted me another layer of freedom. When we walked out of the house at the end of two evenings of painful wrestling with sin, the most glorious display of Northern Lights was spread across the sky. It was as if God was celebrating with joy!

A few months later, I travelled to St. Louis for a Joyce Meyers Women's Conference. God had made it very plain he wanted me to go. Why, I wondered. It was here that God filled me with his Spirit. I was so overwhelmed by his presence, I didn't want to leave it. I didn't want to stop praying in tongues. In fact, I discovered that each time I would speak in tongues, God would do a work in me that was inexpressible and powerful, reaching into my very inner being.

But my world was caving in. Months earlier, Erin, my spiritual mentor, cut me out of her life without explanation. Just before the conference another very close friend, Karin, did the same thing. Together with my loss of Pearl, nearly a year before, I was devastated and spiralled down into a depression where panic attacks, suicide and self-injury were predominant themes.

I had begun a course locally, first started for those wanting to deal with homosexuality in their lives but now open to all who are sexually or relationally broken. Powerful things happened out of that class. One particular evening I came to class in more pain that usual. I was carrying a knife for the express purpose of hurting myself, as though the physical pain would somehow excise the torment in my soul. Hidden in my clothing, I kept it pressed against my skin through the worship and teaching times. Afterwards, in our small group, the leader asked what I wanted prayer for. I mentioned several things but she honed in on breaking the generational bond of suicide. She wanted me to renounce the spirit of Death but I couldn't get the words out of my mouth, at least not at first. As I sobbed and looked at the cross I was now holding I realized, "Jesus died so I could live!" I spoke the words of renouncing and handed the knife to the leader. From then on, when death lured and the knife begged to dance, I remembered, Jesus died so I can live and I could go on.

Another evening in that course, I was asked to go back in my memory to when I first felt rejected. As I did that, I prayed that God would reveal to me anything else I should know. While in that place of remembering, the group leader gave direction and asked questions that put Jesus into a grade two memory and into a powerful dream I had had as a preschooler. The memory and the dream changed with Jesus' presence and joined into one sequence and I realized just how loved and wanted I really am. I often go back to this experience and relive the reshaped memory and dream when I need reminding of God's love.

God showed me his love in another way. Erin had talked about cuddling on God's lap. I tried to imagine myself doing that but the closest I could get was prostrate at his feet. On a trip I took to Colorado, I visited a friend who was taking classes in Centring Prayer, a way of coming into God's presence in silence and staying there. They spent 40 minutes like this, completely motionless. Could I do it? As I focused on the words, "He loves me," the most amazing thing happened. There I was on God's lap, my head pressed against his chest, his enormous arms enveloping me. It was like I finally knew what it was like to be loved, treasured, valued, wanted, held; like no other arms could give me what he was giving me; like no one else could satisfy me like he was satisfying me. All my imaginations of the past were filthy rags compared with the few minutes I spent in my imagination with God that day. I have returned there often.

On the same trip, another friend spoke to me about the difference between condemnation and conviction. Conviction points to Jesus but condemnation focuses on self. Conviction invites me to God, condemnation pushes me away. Conviction gives me choice, condemnation gives none. Conviction frees me to obey Jesus but condemnation enslaves me. How liberating it was to know that I was no longer condemned!
It had been a year and a half since my secret had become public and since I had walked away from Pearl but I continued to struggle. The temptations were powerful and I wasn't always successful in resisting them.

I'd had so many falls despite the healing and freedom God kept giving me. One night, after a long phone conversation with a particularly close friend I was filled with awe at the love between us. "God, please keep this love holy, pure and honouring to you!" I begged. Amazingly, perhaps for the first time ever, I was able to experience the intensity of my feelings without crossing the line into forbidden thoughts. There was no battle, struggle or temptation. It just was. When I told my counsellor the next day, he asked me why, when I had tasted a new way, would I go back to the old. Why indeed? God gave me a vision that day. I was in a dark hut, heavy with chains and not eager to leave. And yet I had begged to be removed, so why stay? The struggle was huge. I saw a sliver of light I recognized as a doorway. Would I move through it? Why was it so hard to do so? Finally I did and, as I left the hut for the brightness of a grassy meadow, God met me and danced with me, dragonflies joining in the dance, twirling, swirling, leaping with joy. I was free! When I looked back, the hut was gone. I couldn’t go back. For the first time, though temptations continued to come, it was evident they had lost their power over me. People remarked upon the glow on my face. I had changed and it was obvious.

I had never stopped mourning Pearl's absence from my life. I wanted to be her friend. Surely with all the freedom God had given me, it was safe to reconnect with her again. I didn't realize it at the time but I was wrong. I discovered that she was very much in love with me and that my feelings for her hadn't changed at all. What to do? I didn't want to lose her again. Surely we could be in love and still honour God, I thought. But where are the boundaries? Frankly I was amazed at how God was protecting me from falling. It was like a wall of saran wrap was between me and all that pulled at me. Temptation isn't tempting if you're not being offered something you don't want. I wanted everything that was on the other side of that saran wrap and yet, somehow, though I could see it, I resisted. God truly HAD freed me!

The sad thing is that if we dance on the line too long, we'll fall off. My friend Jan, told the story of a matador who gloriously conquered the bull he was fighting. As the bull lay on the ground, gasping his last breaths, the matador turned to receive the adulation of the crowd. Behind his back, the dying bull stood to its feet and, with the last of its energy, dealt the man a deadly blow with his horn. "I've been killed by a dead bull!" he exclaimed. I was nearly killed by my dead bull. In one thoughtless moment I ripped apart the sheet of saran wrap and stepped to the other side.

The next day I was full of remorse. It was like I had thrown away all God had given me the previous two years. I knew God would forgive me but I wasn't sure I wanted forgiveness. Did I still want him? I also knew that even if I turned from God and gave myself completely to Pearl, pretending he sanctioned my behaviour, I wouldn't happy. I knew I would be bound with chains heavier and tighter than anything I’d ever known. And yet I didn't want to let her go. How could I? She had become my life.

Jan spent many hours that night confronting me. I had come to a fork in the road with God and Pearl going in two different directions. I could choose one or the other but not both. I hated that. I wanted both. According to her, my eternal destiny was at stake and quoted Hebrews 6:4-6 which says,
"For it is impossible to restore to repentance those who were once enlightened – those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come – and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people to repentance again because they are nailing the Son of God to the cross again by rejecting him, holding him up to public shame."

I choose God and said good-bye to Pearl but I wasn't happy about it. I felt like I had died and I spent the next week raging at God. But, just as a young boy does not like his face cleaned after a fun but messy time of eating, I was squirming and twisting under God’s damp washcloth, hating the process of getting clean. I was like Jacob, wrestling with God and not wanting to let go for fear of what would happen when I totally surrendered to him. But that's what I needed to do, surrender. I walked through the steps I learned through Cleansing Stream, another course full of deliverance I had attended, repenting, renouncing, breaking and blessing. When I was done, I felt a joy, peace and calm that I hadn't for a very long time.

As I began to hear God speak again, I realized how I’d withdrawn from God because of Pearl and was grieved. What time I had wasted! God had started to do remarkable things in my life but, because of Pearl, I’d become unusable. How could I hear him speak when I was ignoring what he said about Pearl in my life? I began to pay attention to the nudges he gave me and obeyed them.

I also began to evaluate what had happened. Paul talks about being slaves to sin and slaves to righteousness. I had been a slave to sin until that day when God danced with me in the meadow. He had set me free from slavery to sin, from the power of temptation. I'm still convinced of it. But freed from the ownership of sin, I was released into my own recognizance, to self-ownership. I had now proved that I was not a good owner of myself. When I surrendered all to Jesus, even my love for Pearl, I sold myself into slavery to righteousness. No longer did I belong to myself. I was bought with a price.

In the Old Testament, Jews could own slaves but every 7th year the slaves were to be released. However, a slave could go to his master and say, "I want to be your slave the rest of my life." The owner would then take an awl and pierce the ear of the slave as a sign that he could never be released. I was like that slave. The day I surrendered all to Christ, having given up what was most dear to me, was the day I said to him, “I want to be your slave for life. I do not want to be my own anymore. Pierce my ear!” And so, for the first time in my life, I had my ears pierced.

God gave me a wonderful picture. Imagine a former slave, maybe a galley slave from Roman times or a slave in a mine. The slave is set free, messes up her freedom and is bought by the Queen. The slave is washed, dressed in fine clothes and walks through the doorway to a completely new world. Can you imagine the wonderment in that slave’s mind as she enters the beautiful palace, not through the side entrance but the main doors? And, contrary to her expectations, the slave isn’t relegated to the kitchen or bathrooms doing dirty drudgery. She is appointed personal aide to Her Majesty, the Queen. She’s given the job of sitting by the Queen and running errands for her, of hearing what she has to say and doing it.

I've been giving much thought to that picture lately, especially since reading "The Coming Prophetic Revolution" by Jim Goll. He talks about developing intimacy with God, learning to listen to his voice and then speaking out what we've heard. Is this what God has called me to do? I'm thinking yes. We sing Brian Doerkson’s song "Refiner's Fire".

Purify my heart, let me be as gold and precious silver! ... Purify my heart, cleanse me from my sin, deep within. ... Refiner's fire! My heart's one desire is to be holy, set apart for you, Lord. I choose to be holy, set apart for you, my master, ready to do your will.

This is what I want. Despite the pain or the cost, I want Jesus to continue to refine and purify me. I want to be set apart for Jesus, ready to do his will regardless of what it is.


To read the whole story, buy my book, Searching for Love: One Woman's Spiritual Journey through Same-sex Attraction.

2 comments:

TammyIsBlessed said...

Thank you for sharing your story Debbie.

I read a post today that I thought you may find encouraging.
http://www.theologyforwomen.org/2014/01/gay-christianity-and-my-favorite-book.html

Debbie Haughland Chan said...

Thanks, Tammy! Great article. I'm going to get the book she writes about.