*Names have been changed to protect privacy
“What is your testimony?” My reply would often be “Nothing spectacular. I was born and raised in a loving Christian family. No dramas and no radical conversion.” Little do they know, I do have a life-transforming testimony. And here, I share it for the very first time.
Growing up in a conservative environment, things considered ‘normal’ adolescent behaviour such as dating boys, wearing short skirts, and occasional partying were deemed indecent. The ramifications of this strict deprived culture led many girls in my school to seek same-sex relationships. I went to an all-girls school and I was the class captain, the star athlete, the life of the party who everyone wanted to be friends with. Being popular, I had all sorts of girls pursue me, and they made it very clear by carving my name on their arms with razors as a sentiment. I was an obedient Christian girl and loved God. I liked boys and had many crushes but my overly conservative youth leaders made me feel that my attraction to boys at that age was wrong and even sinful. I ended up suppressing my feelings towards boys. At the same time, girls were showing an interest in me at school, and it seemed normal and even glorified. Confusion in my identity crept in as I thought “If girls liked me, and I wasn’t allowed to like boys, maybe I am just like these girls.” I felt like a chameleon, tempted to conform to the ‘trend’, but knew it was completely against my belief and faith. I had a lot of opportunities, but God protected me and I did not act on any feelings, although I developed several emotional attachments. I had many friends, but felt isolated, confused and alone in my struggles. This lonely torment brought me to an agonizing state of self-loath and anger, where I engaged in self-harming behaviours to cope.
After I graduated from school, and was safely out of the environment, I thought I was free. I was actively involved in church and mentored younger Christians. When I was in my 20s, I befriended a girl, Jean who intrigued me. She was warm, attentive, sensitive and charming. Something drew me to her. One night away on a group trip, in the middle of the night, she drew closer and tried to be physically intimate. I was caught off guard but went along with it. I tried to fool myself into believing that it was innocent, but I knew I crossed the line. The confusion from my school days set in again and the floodgates opened. This time, the chameleon in me had conformed. Jean became the centre of my world, and I could not give her up. Our secret relationship was a roller coaster ride, filled with moments of euphoria and passion, only to be followed by floods of overwhelming guilt and revulsion. Everyday was a struggle as I masked my damaging ways by masquerading as a faithful Christian leader. So much energy was needed to fight and lead the double life that it was easier to just give in. As much as I knew I was sinning against God, I could not let go of the compelling and obsessive pull that made me feel so good, and yet sick with confusion. I knew I needed help when people started confronting me with their suspicions. My life was miserable and filled with darkness. I knew very well that my answer to happiness was total surrender to God, but it was not enough to convince me to leave my selfish desires, which was poison to my soul. I tried ending the relationship many times and even dated guys, but it never worked out. During this time, my faithful Lord continued pursued me. He intervened, as my two year relationship with Jean became so toxic and damaging that we ended the relationship. It was excruciating and my world fell apart.
With God’s mercy and grace, He brought me out of darkness. I had become an expert in compartmentalising my shameful past into the corner of my subconscious. The prodigal in me was determined to not return to the ‘pig sty’. I knew that my Father’s house was a better place. I eventually met Bruce, whom I married. I thought by burying my past, I had dealt with it, but unknowing to me, the invisible roots were still in place, invading and manifesting in my marriage. Bruce was unaware of my past, and although I knew I loved Bruce, something was holding me back and I was unable to love him wholeheartedly. Deep inside, I knew I had been imprisoned by my past sins and was unable to enter into an abundant life that God desired for me. My physical intimacy with Bruce sometimes felt obligatory and empty. I struggled with physical intimacy and often, flashbacks of my past experiences would haunt me and entice me. I was deceived into believing that I could never have the same passion with anyone else. I allowed myself to dwell on and yearn ‘pleasurable’ feelings of the past, especially in times of conflicts with Bruce. It was a real trap that the enemy got me involved in previous pleasures that he now used to accuse and drag me back down in defeat and shame. I wanted to give Bruce my all, but I did not know how to let go of unseen strings that were controlling me. I was fearful that I would feel this way for the rest of my life, and this ‘curse’ would be passed down to my children.
Just as I was about to hit rock bottom in despair, the ray of hope presented itself one day at church. A member of Renew Ministry shared her testimony on similar struggles. This divine and timely event was enough for me to know that God had not forsaken me. I contacted this lovely lady, and for the first time in my life, I verbalized the struggles I had avoided my whole life. Her understanding and advice was God-sent ‘medicine’ to my soul, and I didn’t feel alone anymore. I was challenged into seriously examining my life to ensure that my past brokenness did not create brokenness in my present life, marriage and relationships.
Why did I have these struggles? I often asked myself. I grew up in a loving Christian family filled with opportunities. This made me feel worse about myself, as I had no justification for my behavior. It was clearly a deliberate choice of rebellion, and I was disappointed in myself. I concluded that I was a bad person and something was very wrong with me. Fortunately, with the help of some counseling, I began to dissect my life and understand the factors that had led to my struggles.
1) When I was an infant, I was hospitalized due to chronic illnesses and hence separated from my mother for some periods. I gathered through counseling that any significant separation from a mother is a risk to the development of a child’s identity.
2) My mother grew up in a large family and was subject to neglect and abuse. This crafted her into a mother who was over-protective, emotionally controlling and often anxious. I built up walls towards my mother, who often invalidated my feelings as a child.
3) My carer who looked after me had gender identity issues and I looked up to her.
4) Two older boys from my neighbourhood used to expose themselves to me, and on several occasions, touched me inappropriately. At the age of 9, I was also subject to a traumatic encounter involving a male perpetrator.
5) Between the ages of 8-12 years old, I was drawn, groomed and violated in a troubling world of internet chat rooms by perverse men.
6) My church mentor was exposed in a public homosexual scandal.
It was helpful for me to recognize and discover the things of my past that may have led to my struggles. Through counseling, I discovered that mainly my lack of emotional fulfillment from my mother led me to unconsciously be emotionally dependent on people, especially in my friendships with other girls. Through unfortunate events in my life, I also developed a strong lack of respect for men in general. Wrong perceptions and desires made me look to others as idols to fulfill my needs that only God could. I was fulfilling my legitimate need through illegitimate means. These revelations have slowly brought freedom to the bondages of my past. With that acknowledgement, the Holy Spirit began a healing process, without which I would never enter into the joys of a relationship and intimacy with my husband as God intended.
Discovering my unseen root issues did not immediately change the way I felt or take away the temptations or the guilt and shame. I committed to surrendering this part of my life completely to God. Daily, I disciplined myself to fill my mind with His word and songs. I had to let the truth scream louder to my soul than the lies that had been infecting me. For the first time in 20 years, I was able to talk to God about my struggles and temptations. I feared God’s wrath and rejection, but He astounded me with His forgiveness, acceptance and reassurance that I was a new creation, pure as snow. It took me a while to forgive myself for my rebellion. I had accepted the fact that the consequences of my actions were eternal shame and guilt. I was wrong. Because of the cross, Christ rescued me. I did not even have to face my consequences because Christ had paid it all for me. I am no longer condemned. I have been set free.
I knew for complete healing to take place, I could not walk this journey alone. I tried for 20 years and failed. In James 5:16, it says “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” I knew for complete healing to take place, I had to firstly be transparent to Bruce about my past. It was only few days ago, that I finally stood before him weeping, as I came clean of the secrets I had been keeping that had caused so much pain in our marriage. My fears of him rejecting me melted away as I looked into his eyes filled with forgiveness, grace and love. Into his arms, I fell back in love. He gave me a safe haven to heal. The walls fell, and I was finally free to love Bruce completely. My physical intimacy with Bruce has since been restored to wholesomeness. Today, I can say I am madly in love with him. I finally let go of my past, knowing that there is no life in that, and knowing that there is nothing in this world that can satisfy me except for the love of Christ. Since then I have shared my story with some trusted friends. It is amazing how the unhealthy thoughts and lies started to evaporate when I opened up to accountability.
For half of my life, I struggled to search for my identity. Was I homosexual, bisexual or what? Today, I stand before God and choose a life of holiness. I am no longer defined by all the wreckage behind. I have been saved, I have been changed, and I have been set free. My identity is in Christ and I am the daughter of the one true King. God has been faithful and patient with me in my weaknesses, and has graciously walked with me through my repeated falls and failures from the very start. He has never forsaken me. I still occasionally face temptations and emotional dependency but I am learning to recognise it when it arises and to place my security in Christ instead of another person. “Teach me Lord to rise to You when temptation comes my way. And when I cannot stand, I will fall on You, for You are my hope. You are my anchor.” As Christopher Yuan said, “God’s faithfulness is proved not by the elimination of hardships but by carrying us through them. Change is not the absence of struggles. Change is the freedom to choose holiness in the midst of our struggles. The ultimate issue has to be that I yearn after God in a total surrender and complete obedience.”
The answer for me now is to cultivate my intimacy with Jesus and my husband. When I am soaked in His presence, there is no room for sin. With God’s guidance, I am now more confident in developing healthy friendships and relationships that are God-honouring. I am not proud of my history, but it is evidence of God’s awesome goodness. I thank Him for allowing me to go through the trials of life, and come out of it victorious. Beth Moore’s quote resonates in me “You cannot amputate your history from the fulfillment of your destiny. When you are in Jesus, your past is something He takes hold of and makes it into destiny. That’s called redemption. There is not a single darkness in your life that God cannot bring His light upon.”
Sharing my story is the final step to my healing. “I stand in victory. Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me. For I am His and He is mine, bought with the precious blood of Christ. No guilt in life. No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand.” I close this chapter of darkness in my life, and reopen a new chapter as I take what was my past, and light it as a bonfire to be a beacon for others.