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I grew up going to church. I was baptized at one month old and I went to that church almost every Sunday for the next 17 years of my life. The church ran a school, and I went to that school from the time I was in kindergarten until I was done with ninth grade.

A friend of mine, Stacie, who shared this feature of childhood with me became aware that she was a lesbian, and went to the pastor and some trusted teachers at that school, and regretted it ever since. She became an object of scorn and embarrassment to many of her mentors, and news of it flashed through the school, probably in a matter of hours. It made things very difficult for her.

So, I decided to take a different approach when it became clear to me that I was gay. I prayed that God would make me in essence a eunuch; that He would somehow make me “beyond” sexual attraction, not affected by lust and lacking a sex drive. “Just take it all away from me,” I prayed.

I kept telling myself that I had succeeded, and said as such to my friend. Stacie told me “God doesn’t just take your desires away.”

I thought to myself “Well, that’s all YOU know. Maybe you just don’t have enough faith.” This thought recoiled upon me very soon after.

Of course, my prayer had not had the affect that I had wanted. I still fantasized about men, daydreaming and writing about what I would like to do; it was thrilling but also humiliating. I started collecting pornography and stashing it away, feeling drawn to it almost daily. After viewing it or reading it, I would suddenly feel as though all of the apostles were somehow gazing at me and sadly shaking their heads, speaking amongst themselves and an imaginary guardian angel, and saying “What a sinful young man!” It was never Jesus or God saying this, I notice now--I always imagined people who in my schooling had been held up as particularly righteous and just. It was not my conscience! Those imagined eyes stayed trained on me only when I engaged in somewhat desperate behaviors to cope with my unnaturally imposed chastity.

My personality became extremely closed. I would not dare admit enjoying anything, or having a preference for anything--music, food, television shows. It was a coping mechanism, I supposed. I was miserable, but I felt that this must be God’s will for my life: a 70 year (possibly less, possibly more) stint of suffering loneliness, frustration, and jealously of the heterosexual people I’d see who could have happiness and fulfilled lives (according to what I had been raised to believe).

Things became much worse when I started going to college and for the first time met openly gay people who were not miserable and did not seem to be suffering their fates. They would tell me that they had outgrown their Christianity, leaving it behind, and it made them happy and free. But I couldn’t just let God go.

Also, they weren’t as happy and free as they’d pretend. They were also very lonely people, too. I almost started thinking I wasn’t really gay because I didn’t enjoy going to clubs and hooking up with near-strangers, and doing drugs. That’s what being gay seemed to mean to those people.

This was about the time that I prayed for the first time for God to just kill me before I lost control of myself and acted on my desires to have sexual relations with another man. “I won’t be able to stop it, Lord,” I prayed. “So please kill me before I act out on these dreams.”

People in churches I was involved with would talk about gays. “They need to know Christ,” they’d say. “They need to turn away from this choice, this self-destructive behavior that they’re choosing, and turn to God.” I’d agree, when I’d think of my club-going friends. But I did not choose to be the way I was, and the way I am today. I did not pick it and go along that path willingly. If I had seen what I’d imagined as the right sign, or heard the right word, I may have taken my own life at this stage.

I started looking into “ex-gay” movements and speakers. Immediately I had a very deep mistrust for these people who told me about their former lives. Their stories matched my clubbing friends more than mine. They said they hit rock bottom, and that’s when God offered them a “way out” of that life.

“But,” I thought to myself, “if I had come to a point where I was praying to die, isn’t that proof that I wanted to change?” I had been tested by people who had let go of God to pursue their interests, and I had remained faithful, so it wasn’t a lack of faith. My prayers to be changed were not resulting in me changing, but I simply couldn’t believe that someone else could lay their hands on me and say some magic words that had escaped me for my entire adult life, and then suddenly I would be changed. It’s not the power of men that can change lives, it’s only the power of God.

It all came to me in a flash: It’s phony, it’s fake. I will not change. Miracles are possible, I believe that. Jesus performed many in order to teach both his disciples and other people. As a result of seeing these things, people believed. But will anyone come to the Lord by me changing from being a homosexual to a heterosexual? No, it will not save anybody--anybody who isn’t already a believer.

Miracles can happen but I believe they are reserved for the work of salvation. This means (and this is important) that I am saved despite being gay. This is not really a revelation; any sinner can be saved despite being a liar, an adulterer, a murderer, or anything else. But it still seems like the moment I understood this, my life changed from night into day.

Once I grasped that, I changed my prayer. I no longer said “Please kill me, Lord.” I instead prayed for someone to help me feel less alone in my life, and to put me to work in the Church instead of wasting all my time dwelling on being unclean and going to hell for occasionally wanting male companionship--something that wasn’t going to happen, anyway.

In the meantime, I’ve begun ministering in prisons. If you’re looking for something to do in your church, I’d recommend that. I actually go into the jails and sometimes preach to them, and sometimes just talk to them or have Bible studies with inmates, but I started out merely writing letters to inmates about God, the Bible, forgiveness and salvation. Anyone can write a letter.

I also found someone very, very special. He was also brought up Christian, but has fallen away. I ask him if he’d like to come with me to church sometime. I don’t want to be pushy, so I try to be as Christ-like as I can so he can see that it’s possible for a gay man to be a Christian in deed as well as word. Maybe it will win him back; maybe that’s why I had to be gay. Pray for me, and pray for him.