Walking in the Light
Michael Lumberger (African American)

I grew up in the little town of Crabtree, Pennsylvania. It was a coal-mining town, predominantly white. I remember being called names as a kid, but I didn't understand racial prejudice and what that all meant.

My problems, however, weren't all outside the home. I was sexually abused by an older sibling when I was four years old. I remember him threatening me: "If you tell Mom and Dad, I'll beat you up."

As the years passed, I felt increasingly "different" from other boys. In junior high school, I dated girls, but sensed a growing fondness for the male body. When another male student came on to me, I allowed my curiosity to take over. We ended up having a sexual experience, but I found it disgusting.

My identity confusion was fed by a lack of solid role models. I never saw my dad express any affection to my mother. Similarly, my mom never affirmed my father; she only tore him down. I don't want to be like him, I thought, and I never want to marry a woman like her.

Then came 1968. I was a high school sophomore, and I discovered the world of drugs. My fantasy world became increasingly perverted. I began looking at others as sex objects, imagining wild orgies that would get me as high sexually as the drugs and alcohol.

In college, my sexual confusion increased. I had three male roommates and two girlfriends, and I was sexually involved with all of them at some point. Two of the women and one male roommate declared their love for me, but I just laughed. To me, it was just sex.

Then my homosexual behavior was discovered. After being away for Thanksgiving, I returned home to discover my roommate had slit his wrists. He had also written a suicide note, lamenting how I had rejected his love. My bleeding roommate--and the note--were discovered by our next-door neighbor.

He confronted me. "Lumberger, you had a man." My heart pounded as he asked, "Are you a faggot?" Of course, I denied everything, but inside I was already running. Within a week, I had packed my bags and left college. I was terrified that people would find out what I had been doing in secret.

I went back home and worked with my family for a few months. Then I decided, If I'm gay, I'm going to be gay all the way. After visiting the gay bars in nearby Pittsburgh, I moved to San Francisco.

When I ran out of money for food and drugs, I even learned to sell my body on the streets. But after a few months, I grew sick of homosexuality. I decided, "I am going to go home, find a woman, and get married." And I did.

Of course, my marriage didn't last. After four years and three children, I left my wife and returned to homosexuality. I moved in with a guy for one year, but left him because the relationship was abusive. I met another guy, and we spent the next six years together.

Toward the end of that relationship, I felt God speaking to me. One morning when I got up after a drunken binge the previous night, I heard an inner voice: "It's time to come back home. I need you." Within the week I told my partner, "I really believe that this life and this love affair is coming to a close." I knew that I was in love with this guy, but God was drawing my heart to His.

I started going to church and eventually, even my former lover gave his heart to the Lord. But our church had some deep problems. It was very legalistic, and steeped with secret homosexual activity. Then in 1986, I visited Covenant Church of Pittsburgh and sensed God's voice: "This is the church where I will deliver you from homosexuality."

A few months later, my attention was drawn to a really attractive woman who was there for every service. I heard God again: "That woman is going to be your wife."

Yeah, right! I thought. But we became friends, and she won my heart. Nine months later, we were married. Soon our first daughter was born and I should have been excited and fulfilled. Instead, my unresolved inner conflicts erupted. I was plagued with gay thoughts, fell into pornography, and even got together one time with my former gay lover.

Then the Lord challenged me,"The only way you're going to become free of homosexuality is to confess it to your wife."

"Lord, I'm not going there," I protested.

A month later, the Lord challenged me again, but I refused. Finally, I felt His ultimatum: "You are either going to tell your wife of your homosexual sin, or I'm going to start taking away those things that you love the most."

I had a trucking business that was making a tidy profit. Our trucks cost $100,000 each--and I had ten of them. Suddenly, clutches and transmissions and other problems began erupting in my vehicles. Within a few months, I was staring at possible bankruptcy.

My whole world continued crashing down. I went for a blood test prior to obtaining a life insurance policy and my doctor broke the news: "Michael, you tested positive for AIDS."

I started shaking and couldn't say a word. I went out to my car and cried hysterically for two hours. I thought of crashing my car on the way home, so I could die and no one would know. Then I heard God again: "If you confess to your wife, I'll set you free."

I went home, but couldn't give a plain confession. "Honey," I began, "I want to tell you some of the things I practiced before you and I were married." I mentioned homosexuality in a long list of other things and she said, "Don't worry about it. We all have skeletons in our closet." She didn't seem upset at all.

But the next day, it hit her: My husband was involved in homosexuality! She went right to our pastor. He sent her home with one piece of advice: "Ask Michael to tell you the whole story."

I told her a little bit more, and finally the pastor asked to see both of us. He wanted a full confession, and I knew that I had to come clean with the truth.

I'll never forget that night. As I spilled my whole past, I saw an anger rising in my wife that I'd never seen in anyone before. But she humbled herself and forgave me. It wasn't easy for either of us. I felt totally emasculated. I couldn't even face going to men's meetings at church, because I didn't feel like a real man. I was plagued with gay memories. It seemed like all the demons of hell had been unleashed against me.

Then I started attending a support group for ex-gays right in my own church. At first, I hated it. One of the leaders was effeminate, and it was so distracting.

But one night the teaching really got through to me. The group was discussing masturbation, a bondage in my life for many years. Afterward, I broke down and cried. For the first time, somebody had spoken into a deep place in my life. I understood the underlying reasons for my addiction, and I knew there was hope. Over the next year, I kept attending the group and my life improved greatly.

Then I visited a former lover who was dying of AIDS in the hospital. We began talking, and our conversation went deep. "Where did it all go wrong?" I asked him.

"It went wrong when I didn't accept Jesus." He had never mentioned Jesus in all the years I'd known him.

"If you had it all to do over again, what would you do differently?"

He looked at me sadly and said, "I would not be a homosexual. This has been a painful life for me." I held his pitiful body in my arms and tears slid down my face as I asked him to forgive me for all the unholy things we had done together. As we talked, he fell silent and limp. I realized that he had died right in my arms.

Later as I stumbled out to my car, I wondered, "God, why did You do that to me?" When I started my car engine, the radio came on and I heard a well-known Bible teacher say, "You were chosen for such a time as this. And you will lead many to redemption."

Several weeks later, my pastor asked me to begin leading the support group when the previous leader resigned. When I prayed about the decision, God said to me, "This is the thing that I have been preparing you for."

In the years since then, about 500-600 men and women have gone through the group. Some of them have gone back into gay life, but a great majority of them are church leaders today. Some are married with families. And it has all happened because I said "yes" to what God called me to do.

I have remained under the pastoral leadership of Bishop Joseph Garlington, who is the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Pittsburgh, a cross-cultural inner-city church of approximately two thousand members.

With God's abundant grace, my wife and I celebrate 12 years of marriage this year.

Without Him, my life would have never changed. I give all the glory to Him.

Editor's note: This testimony was written in 1999. Michael Lumberger died in 2004.