Secrets, Shame & God’s Love
Nobody knew the secret that I was keeping. For as long as I remember I felt different than other boys. I felt out of place and awkward. Other boys were interested in sports, rough play, and knew the secret boy code. I was interested in art, sensitive to other’s feelings, and didn’t understand the secret boy code. I wanted to fit in with the guys, but I just couldn’t figure out that part of my life. When I was about 13, I had a sexual encounter with an older boy. I was ashamed of the incident not so much because I knew it was wrong but because I enjoyed it. In fact, I had wanted it and encouraged it. At the time I had no skills of how to talk about the experience because I was too shy and embarrassed. From that time on masturbation became a significant addiction in my life and a way of coping when life was rough. As I grew through adolescence, I knew I was supposed to like girls but dating and talking about girls was difficult and awkward. A secret attraction to other guys developed during this time and I dabbled in pornography when there was opportunity. There were no cell phones back then, so I would catch a glance at the magazines behind the counter or look at the stash of magazines at a friend’s house. I wasn’t looking at the girls, I was looking at the guys. I was brought up in a fine Christian home and always felt like I had to be perfect…. I did not feel perfect and certainly could never divulge my attraction to other men. If I did, I imagined my life would be over. My secret attraction to other males was put neatly in a box on a shelf out of sight in the dark recesses of my mind. At the time I even fooled myself into believing that God didn’t even know about my secret.
I decided to be a follower of Jesus at Bible Camp in eighth grade. I said I wanted to make Jesus Lord of my life…. but just not of that little box on the shelf that was now labeled “Shame”. Somehow, I made it through adolescence, continued to Bible College and married my college sweetheart. I convinced myself that marriage would solve all my problems. We enjoyed all the normal things that couples go through over the years. We were not able to have kids, so we started adopting. Several kids later we were well entrenched in our lives and very active in our church. We had busy, fulfilling, and stressful lives, which soon began to take an emotional toll. With the advent of cell phones and internet, pornography began to seep back into my life and my desire for a sexual encounter with another male grew. I had never given up masturbation during our marriage. I tried many times to stop but was too fearful and embarrassed to seek help. Victory in this area seemed hopeless and I felt defeated and alone in my secrecy. In desperation to satiate my sexual desires I made series of very bad decisions and engaged in illegal encounters. My behavior lasted for many years and was kept a secret, or so I had convinced myself. Each time I pleaded with God. “Please help me stop”. My shame and now guilt built within and my relationship with my wife began to erode into a platonic marriage. My relationship with God was strained and maybe if I am truthful, I was just going through the motions.
One day in the fall of 2010 the dam broke when my wife found out about my secret life. I remember the moment vividly. All the blood drained out of me and in the emotion of the moment I walked out of the house and plopped myself on a rock next to our driveway. I sat there and contemplated running away or going back inside to face the consequences. My biggest fear up to this point had been that I was going to die in my sin, but suddenly there was relief that I had been discovered and a heavy burden was lifted from my shoulders. As I look back, that moment was pivotal as I finally took my first step to make Jesus Lord of my life. The Holy Spirit nudged me to go back inside and face my consequences. My wife graciously gathered all the family and we sat down while I confessed the sexual sin in my life. The next few days were a blur. I was restricted from contact with my minor children, had to leave my house, arrested at my job and spent my first night in jail. I don’t think I have ever felt so scared and isolated in all my life. In that dark place of my life I had nowhere turn and I cried out to God. Proverbs 3:5-6 came to me and I was reminded to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on you own understanding: in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
It’s been nearly 10 years since that time. My wife and I were separated for over 5 years. Shortly after we got back together, she was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a year later. Early in the process of my healing I tried to hold on to all the familiar things in my life and my goal was to make everything as it once was, “Perfect”. But as I looked around, the landscape of my life had changed, and the familiar landmarks were unrecognizable or gone. It was there that God met me and began making my path straight again. Along the way I have been learning to trust the Lord with all my heart and submit to his Lordship. I sought help for my same sex attraction in a group of guys who were also struggling with same sex attraction called Tower of Light Ministries at Northshore Community Church. I learned that my identity was not about what I had done or based on my sexual attraction, but my identity is who I am in Christ.
My struggle is not yet over. My propensity to sexual addiction and same sex attraction have not suddenly left me. I wrestle every day with these demons but with God’s help and the support of the men in my sexual addiction group, I make the choice to walk in purity and holiness. As I become more confident of who I am in Christ, I can now talk about my addiction with other people. The little box that I kept hidden away is no longer a secret that I hide. I gave that to the Lord at the foot of the cross. The consequences of my sin will follow me the rest of my life here on earth but the shame that I held on to for so long, no longer controls me. David describes the weight of his sexual sin in Psalm 32:3-4 “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.” But in the end, he confessed his sin and I now see my true hiding place and deliverance from sin as “the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.” (Psalm 32:10b). I am a “new creation” in Christ. No more secrets! No more shame!