MAX'S STORY

Escaping Despair

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the LORDís great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.Ē

Lamentations 3:19-24 (NIV)

Gratefully, that bitterness and gall has become for me a fading memory. Almost eight years ago in an HIV clinic, The Lord in His kindness, revealed to me the futility of the life I was living and the gift He had provided in reconciliation. Deeply dependent on affection from males, I had wandered far from the path, I believe, God wanted me to travel. Awaiting the HIV test results in deep fear and sadness, yet, in this moment, God, the Father, showed me clearly that he had given me back the one man I had hated for most of my life. There in the clinic, sitting next to me, was my earthly Dad. The man who had cursed me as a child was being for me the biggest blessing, at the time I needed his love the most. God turned curses into blessings for me and that was the start of experiencing a relationship with a very personal Saviour.

My life had started a few decades ago in a conservative Christian family. But my view of God was so much like that of my parents. I saw Him as strict, distant and punishing. I had seen God as not being trustworthy, unpredictable and ready to pour wrath on me at any time. I was the "Good BoyĒ always performing to secure love, and not knowing really if I was lovable. I knew all the right things to do in church. Knew how to speak "ChristianeseĒ and raise my hands when I needed to in song. But I had no personal relationship with Jesus Christ whatsoever. Donít get me wrong, I wanted a relationship with Christ, I just didnít feel I had one. My only relationships were performance based. And because the standards were so high, when I failed, I developed a deep sense of self hatred and resentment that I had carried around for over three decades of my life. I think somewhere deep inside I thought God valued me too for my performance.

I remember as a kid trying to be good at sport, to try and secure my fatherís love, but failing miserably having no real interest in physical competitive endeavours. I was dying inside as my father cursed me, in front of my peers, from the side lines. He did not realise the words he was yelling to try and toughen me up, were in fact crushing a very sensitive soul. I desperately needed affirmation not condemnation. I realise now, my father did this as his father had years ago acted likewise toward him as a child. This helped me in the forgiveness process. Unfortunately as a child I started to wear and agree with those curses as my identity. Feeling somewhat different from the other boys, in fact inferior or less-than other males I closed myself off to life-giving masculine friendships.

I also had a mother, who although kind and doing the best she could, was struggling with deep depression and anxiety that she had never really dealt with spiritually. She was doing the work of two parents in our home. My father worked hard, but came home often to a frustrated wife, who set him onto his kids with a belt as soon as he came in the door. It did not take long for me to become anxious like my primary caregiver and deeply resentful toward the man who came home and strapped, shamed and cursed me.

I think subconsciously I held resentment for my mother, who had turned her tired and angry husband onto me. I even had difficulty trusting the one parent who seemed to pay me the most attention. There always seemed to me to be anger and frustration on the end of that beltÖ My parentsí marriage may have been presented well at church, but at home our family was quite dysfunctional. When I was a teenager my father had an affair and was absent from our home a fair amount in the evenings. He finally left my mother when I was an older teenager.

Around the time my father left, I acquired a taste for pornography. This became an addiction that mastered me for over fifteen years. I remember going to church and hearing the other teenagers talk disdainfully about a homosexual struggler at church behind his back which only deepened my own fear and self-hatred. About this time I started wanting to go out to nightclubs and experiencing men beyond idolatrous images. I used to go to church, but looked forward more to partying later in the evening at a gay night club, with the attention I got from men.

I decided quite quickly that I was not going to be a hypocrite. I didnít know Jesus personally or the concept of grace, so decided to leave church completely and embrace a community who seemed to willingly accept me. Little did I know back then, I was simply a new fresh face on the block. I wonder sometimes why I didnít realise this sooner. I must have been so hungry, like so many of us were, for love.

I was over fifteen years in the homosexual lifestyle far from what little faith I had abandoned. I had a couple of long term relationships and between these and after, numerous lovers. After about 13 years living as a homosexual, slowly, somehow, God in His kindness started waking me up to all the pain and sadness in and around me. (This was His decision. Not mine. But a decision I am truly grateful for).

My mother, with whom I was really close, had died when I was in my mid-twenties. So I had felt alone for some time. When my second partner, with whom I had been with several years decided I was no longer appealing and went looking for other men, my world started falling apart. Devastated by this loss, I started throwing myself into many different relationships, trying to find someone similar to him. The more I tried securing a sense of value, the more broken I became. The sadness, the need for love, was deepening.

Itís amazing what The Holy Spirit started showing me. At the gym, I could see older gay men trying to keep their bodies in shape for someone to admire. I would see the same men, hanging out at nightclubs, just hoping someone would "loveĒ them enough to take them home. I remember thinking I hope I donít end up like that. I could literally see illness and despair in the various clubs and haunts I frequented. Everything was beginning to look very unattractive. You see - Jesus was very rarely on my mind - but it seems I was always on His. His kindness was leading me to repentance.

I can see I was "waking upĒ. I was so unfaithful to pursuing God but He clearly showed himself in pursuit (that is faithful) to me. My personal pit was not too deep for Him to rescue me. About to move overseas to live with the next "oneĒ - that lover announced to me his HIV positive status just as I was about to pack my bags. Thatís when I went in fear to the HIV clinic.

In the meantime, somewhere along the way God had softened my heart towards my Dad. He was all I had, as Mum had gone, and I really needed Him. And he was there! Dad walked alongside me. He took ownership for his behaviour and I for my sinful responses, and forgiveness was released. This happened before I had figured Godís hand in all of the proceedings. By Godís grace, I was given a clean bill of health (negative result) and sent (not so merrily, but quite relieved) on my way.

But which was the right way to go? I was just over thirty and still deeply sad and lonely. One evening, with a broken heart, with the deepest wounding, I cried out from my bed, "Jesus if you are really real. Save me!Ē And like only Jesus can - He did just that!

It was more a process than a "zapĒ but God certainly delivered time-and-time again. Jesus not only rescued me, but my immediate close family as well! Jesus surrounded my family and me, with trustworthy and gracious believers who began walking the hard journey back with us to hope. My father was so convicted by the healing that was going on in my heart towards him that he returned and got married to his partner and is worshipping God this day.

With three other close family members returning to or receiving salvation, Christ has secured a family that the enemy had tried his hardest to destroy. I can honestly say I love my Dad now. He is not my Saviour, but I really miss him when we donít get to catch up regularly. Believe me - a miracle has truly happened with my father. My restored family is an amazing display of Godís grace, redemption and love for the broken-hearted.

Walking from despair has been the hardest battle. But so worthwhile! The enemy was not easily going to give me up. I can say through Jesus (by way of healing ministry) and some wonderful Christian friends, who showed me unconditional grace and love, I have been freed from addiction to pornography and homosexual activity. I still from time to time envy other males, and am quite aware of where I have come from, but I just bring that into the light and God keeps making me the man He always intended. He helps me understand my value by showing me the work of Calvary.

Letting go of self-hatred has been huge, but I am so grateful to Jesus and the healing power of His blood. I just keep admitting any issues and He keeps, healing and cleansing. He keeps moulding me into the true me. I am nothing like I was ten years ago. Praise God! I am more often than not comfortable with myself. So much so in fact that it gets me in trouble sometimes when people in their insecurity try and curse me again!

God has recently blessed me with a wonderful girl who I am about to marry. She is loving and beautiful, full of grace and compassion and affirms my true masculine identity. I had not-so-patiently been waiting several years for the right girl, when true-to-form, God (at the last minute) literally delivered to me my wonderful fiancée. Jesus has been so very kind and compassionate to me. I keep learning more and more about Godís character and He often shows me that my views of Him are unfounded. Itís just amazing the love He has given me for my Dad and others. I know I am a miracle of Godís grace. Itís hard not falling for a saviour who personally blesses me and shows Himself faithful (even as I stumble along).

What can I say for you who struggle with homosexuality and want a way out? If you want freedom from same sex struggles you can get there. The Word says who the Son sets free - is free indeed! Same sex attraction does not have to be something one struggles with for a life time. (I do not recall in scripture Jesus partially healing blind men). The Christian walk is tough and is not about God doing everything for us. Itís about co-partnering with Christ and walking in obedience to His word to maturity and freedom. Keep close to God. He showed me not to make anyone (even Christians) an idol. The church is not perfect. I have learnt this the hard way, as God has been freeing me from fantasy. But then none of us are perfect.

Keep deep in Godís Word (Jesus) and seek Him with all your heart. He promises He will be found by you if you keep seeking Him. I had to make radical decisions to leave the past behind, cling to Jesus Cross and continue to be open, with trusted believers, about any personal issues I have. Confession works! On-going prayer has been fundamental to my healing journey.

I can only end with words from a song that I grew up with that makes so much sense to me now, in my healing journey from despair. Leaving all the bitterness and gall behind.

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth, will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and graceĒ