Healing for the Homosexual: What Does It Mean?
by Alan Medinger
Most lesbian or gay people would say that homosexuality is more than sexual behavior or romantic and sexual attractions; it reaches to a person’s very identity. Gay pride is not pride in a certain type of sexual behavior or in same sex attractions; it deals with the whole identity of the gay or lesbian person.
These views are valid in that homosexuality does embrace more than just sexual activity. It encompasses the entire way a person feels about him or herself (his or her identity) and the way a person relates to men and women (his or her attractions).
It follows that when we talk about healing for the homosexual we are talking about changes in behavior, in identity and in attractions. In fact I would define healing for the homosexual as the process that occurs as a person experiences significant changes from homosexual to heterosexual in behavior, in identity and in attractions.
What are these changes? Are they so complete and radical that the individual’s new condition carries no vestiges of the old homosexuality? Do we become just like everyone else?” That is the goal of most people who come to our ministry. Or is change more like that of the 12-step member who continues to carry the affliction, but has gained control over the behavior?
This is an important question; one of the most important that our ministries must address. To overstate our claims for change is to be dishonest, and therefore dishonoring to the Lord. And besides, exaggerated promises will eventually lead the struggler to disillusionment and despair. On the other hand, in understating our case, we fail to set forth the goals and offer the hope that are important elements in the healing process.
These difficulties not withstanding, we owe it to those who come to us for help (and to those who challenge us) the most honest and accurate description of healing we can offer. That is what I will try to do here.
Most men, when they first come to us, want to be just like other men”; that is they want to exchange their homosexual lust for heterosexual lust. Right here, the Christian sees that something is wrong. God made us to have sexual attractions, but he calls lust a sin. God’s healing is hardly going to involve the exchange of one sin for another. As we look at "normal heterosexuality” as our model we must soon conclude that heterosexuality also operates under the effects of the fall. It is a simple truth that all sexuality, just like all creation, has been touched and tainted by sin. What then, is God going to do with the man who seeks to overcome homosexuality and become heterosexual?
Many women come to us wanting to find freedom from immoral sexual behavior or from destructive dependencies, but they may not want to move on to healthy relationships with men. Their definition of obedience is "not doing” but doesn’t include "becoming.” How is God going to deal with such a woman when she seeks healing?
I believe these thoughts point to the real question we need to ask: What would our sexuality have been like without sin? Certainly none of us can answer that question with certainty, but knowing the principles of God’s plan, we can try and imagine sinless sexuality. And really, it is a most pleasant thing to imagine.
God’s original plan for our sexuality I believe that, had there never been sin, sexual desire would have been inseparable from the special type of romantic love that God desires that one man have for one woman. I believe Adam’s love for Eve would have naturally led to a desire to unite sexually with her, and that this sexual desire would have been for Eve alone. Possibly, after the world had become populated, Adam would have admired the beauty of the young lady in the next garden, but I believe his admiration would have been entirely aesthetic, and the thought of sex with someone to whom he was not joined in a sacred and eternal commitment would not have occurred to him. Isn’t that a wonderful thought? This would be very similar to the attitudes of a whole and together woman today; a woman who cannot conceive of sexual intercourse without true love and caring. One of the effects of the fall on men seems to have been a separation of their sexual desire from the rest of their personhood. Most men can enjoy sex absent any type of relationship. Hence, men will go to great risk or expense for a few minutes of sex with a prostitute or for a brief homosexual encounter in a park. Man’s sexual desire seems to have an energy and power of its own, separate from what makes up the rest of the man.
A second way in which sexuality may have been distorted in a man by the fall is that, as his identity became damaged by sin — his sin and others — he sought to use sex for purposes other than that for which it was created. Thus, the ladies man enhances his feeling of manhood by seducing as many women as he can. The man who has felt unduly controlled by women, takes his anger out sexually on women. The rejected seeks affirmation by having another show sexual desire for him. Sex, rather than being an expression of love becomes a means of feeding ones self, a way of meeting ones own emotional or psychological needs.
Perhaps, it is because a man’s fallen sexuality, his tendency to seek sexual pleasure or release without any concern for the object of that release, that woman’s curse in Genesis relates to her relationship with men. A woman needs a man, but his greater strength, and his powerful and often free floating sexual desire always makes her vulnerable to being used or abused. This woundedness in relation to men is a common root of lesbianism.
If God is to heal a person in the area of their sexuality, would he not move them back in the direction of His original plan? That is what I see happening in the healing of the homosexual. In each of the areas first discussed — behavior, identity and attractions — we see God leading us away from our brokenness, not to a fallen heterosexuality, but towards his original plan for us as sexual beings.
Behavior As regards behavior, many (especially men) who come to us are compulsive or addicted in their sexual behavior. Often it is the pain of living a life out of control that brings them to us in the first place. (However, this should not be taken to mean that we get an unusual proportion of sex addicts; the average male homosexual is many, many times more promiscuous than the average male heterosexual). This compulsion may be in acting out with other people, an addiction to pornography or compulsive masturbation. For some the victory comes through a 12-step type process; admitting ones helplessness and surrendering the problem to God. Often, the bondage is broken as one discovers the deep needs that are fueling the compulsion. For example, many men, lacking a sense of their own manhood, seek the manhood of another. Knowing the true need, and growing in the area of deficit, often the power of the compulsion can be broken. As regards healing in the area of homosexual behavior, after 12 years in ministry to homosexuals, and after having dealt with hundred’s of men and women coming out of homosexuality, I am confident in assuring anyone who comes to us that, if they will yield their lives and their sexuality to Jesus, they can, over time, experience total victory over homosexual activity with others and over pornography. As regards sexual fantasies and masturbation, all seem to experience significant progress. For some few it is close to total, but I believe C.S. Lewis expressed a great truth when he said that perfect chastity, like perfect charity, is something most of us will not experience in this life.
Identity As regards healing in the area of identity, we are not talking about simply giving up the identity that says, "I am gay.” That is a small part of it. More importantly, healing involves coming to a comfortable acceptance of our own manhood or womanhood. We start to feel right about ourselves as men or women, and we rejoice in our manhood or womanhood. For men this may be a fairly long process, as they may have to go through part of the developmental process that they avoided as boy. Before their manhood can be accepted, it may have to be developed. For women, it may mean a true healing that enables them to put away negative views of what it means to be a woman, or frees them from the fears that caused them not to want to be a woman, particularly in relationship to men. What a process of liberation this is, and it goes hand in hand with victory over the behavior. As a person becomes comfortable with both men and women, as one feels oneself equal to other men and women, and free to relate to women as a man, and free to relate to men as a woman, the excessive neediness fades away. A man or woman who is truly healthy in their sexual identity seems to have little consciousness of their manhood or womanhood. Those who are coming out of homosexuality can reach this point, and what a joy it is.
Attractions Finally, we come to attractions. For many, this is the bottom line. If a person coming out of homosexuality still experiences some same-sex attractions, or if they are not "turned on” generally by the opposite sex, then they are not healed. The gay community declares that if we admit to any same sex attractions, then we are simply "repressing”. Conservatives are let down and question the whole process if we don’t declare our "total healing.” To address this part of healing, I ask you to go back to what I said about all sexuality being fallen. What we experience in the healing of the homosexual is not a move towards fallen heterosexuality, but a move more towards what God intended for us in the first place. We don’t go from a years of struggling not to look at Playgirl to struggling to not pick up Playboy. Although one is "normal” and the other not, neither is pleasing to God.
You may notice that we talk of healing in the area of attractions rather than orientation. Understanding the reason for this distinction can help you understand what this part of healing means. If we talked of change in orientation, we would be describing a single change process; as we gradually become less homosexual, we become more heterosexual, just as if I were turning around, the less I faced north, the more I would be facing south. In the healing of the homosexual, this is not the way it is. Rather, two things are happening and they happen somewhat independently of each other. First we find, that as there is a healing of the underlying causes of our homosexuality, the power of the sexual drive starts to diminish. As our needs for love and affirmation are met in healthy non-sexual ways, as we find our manhood or womanhood in ourselves, the power that fueled the homosexual drive diminishes and diminishes. Eventually, for many, if the same sex attractions exist at all, they seem to have become little more than involuntary physical responses that were burned into our psyche by years and years of sexual activity or fantasy. But even these fade, if not altogether, at least to the point at which they are no longer a major factor in our lives.
Somewhat independently, although usually following the fading of same sex attractions, there starts to arise a new way of seeing the opposite sex. At first it may be just a new appreciation for those things that make the opposite sex different from us. As men, we start to delight in those things that make a woman a woman, and for women a similar appreciation and delight develops for men. Then, if God brings along that special man or woman, we find that this delight takes on special dimensions. We discover the wonderful complementarity that exists between us. Whole and complete as men or women, we are free to find our further completion in one whom God designed to bring us to another level of completion. We delight in that special person. That delight turns to love. That love makes us want to be close to that person, and eventually we desire that closeness of two people that is found uniquely in a one-flesh union.
This is a totally realistic expectation for the Christian coming out of homosexuality. Thus far in our ministry, in every case in which a man coming out of homosexuality has married, and where he has been open and honest with his wife about his homosexual struggles, and where both of them are Christians, every marriage has worked out — including a full and blessed sexual life.
Although our expectation in this life is not perfection, we are clearly moving in the direction of God’s design for us as men or women.
I have addressed healing and marriage first because marriage is God’s norm. Obviously, many who come out of homosexuality will not marry. God may call some to singleness; others may be of an age at which likely Christian marriage partners are rare. What does healing in the area of attractions mean for the single person? I found this expressed wonderfully by a Christian brother who is now in seminary to become a Catholic priest. He has taken a vow of celibacy, and thus never expects to marry or have sexual intercourse. Nevertheless, as he has experienced God’s healing of his homosexuality, he has found significant changes in the way he relates to both men and women. Especially in friendships with women, he has a wonderful awareness of his manhood and of what makes men and women different. He does not have to experience sexual feelings to be able to delight in God’s wonderful provision in creating both male and female.
It may be true the person being healed of homosexuality does not become "just like everyone else”, and a few old reminders of the past may linger. We have no need to apologize for this. What God does in the life of a man or woman overcoming homosexuality is glorious. The life controlling power of sexual sin is broken, we come to accept and rejoice in our manhood or womanhood, and every opportunity for a full, rich life as a heterosexual — single or married — is open to us. This is healing for the homosexual.