WHAT DOES CHANGE INVOLVE?
It is very important to have realistic expectations about the journey out of homosexuality. Sometimes people think that if they pray enough or wish hard enough, their homosexuality will just disappear. This is an unrealistic expectation. Changes in the area of sexual orientation happen as a result of a process that usually involves some hard personal work.
Imagine wanting a vegetable garden. You could pray for years that God would make vegetables grow in your backyard. When nothing happens, you might even decide to be angry with God for not hearing your prayers. However, the reality is that while God can make vegetables grow, we must prepare the soil, plant the seeds, water and weed, and do other work. This gives the best chance that there will be an abundance of vegetables to harvest. In the same way, individuals who want to experience changes in their sexuality must do a lot of work as part of the process.
God certainly does His work and by His Spirit accomplishes things that we cannot do ourselves, but we need to prepare the space in our lives and cooperate with what God wants to do.
How Long Will This Take?
Change depends on a number of factors. These include:
1. The root issues that are involved.
The more difficult or complex the underlying factors involved in a person's same-gender attraction, the longer the process of change may take. For example, the process may take longer for a person who has experienced severe sexual abuse in childhood than for someone who has experienced mild sexual abuse.
2. How much support a person has.
The more helpful things a person puts in place, the better progress he or she can expect to make. For example, a woman who only attends the support group will most likely make slower progress than another woman who is also in individual counseling, involved in a church fellowship, and has friends with whom she can share what is happening in her life.
3. One's ability and willingness to face difficult personal issues.
As the process of change involves facing difficult personal issues and the pain related to these issues, a person's ability and willingness to face these things will affect their rate of progress. Related to willingness is the question of whether a person truly wants change.
It is not unusual for the process of change to take 5-10 years. This is no reason to despair. Significant relief from the intensity of homosexual feelings can also come much sooner. If God is part of the process, He will walk with you, protect you, direct your path, and shine His light into the darkness. Remember the ultimate goal is not heterosexuality, but following God and giving one's life to Him.
Is This Guaranteed To Work?
As with any deep personal issues which a person may want to change, there are no guaranteed results. No one can promise you that in a specific number of years, you will experience a complete change of sexual orientation. Many people do experience a complete change of sexual orientation. Before they were only attracted to the same sex, they are now only attracted to the opposite sex.
Other people experience significant progress toward that goal. They may now be fully attracted to the opposite sex and ready for marriage, with very little same-sex attraction remaining. For others, there may be great change in their attraction toward the opposite sex without any change in their attraction to the same sex.
Others still may become able to make healthy choices in terms of their behavior yet find that their attractions and desires remain the same. When any two people deal with the same issue, it is normal to expect different outcomes. So change does happen but we cannot guarantee the amount or speed at which change happens.
How Does Change Happen?
It is helpful to understand three characteristics of change; its foundation, our role and God’s role in the process of change, and what the process of change looks like.
A) The Best Foundation For Embarking on a Journey of Change
1. Life is bigger than sexual orientation.
Do not let your desire to leave homosexuality become the primary focus of your life. Do not become obsessed with changing, as this also is unhealthy. Instead, live a balanced life. There may be times when you work very hard on changing this area of your life, and times when other things take priority.
2. God loves you and accepts you as you are today.
What you think, feel and do may certainly affect your perception and experience of His love, but His love for you is not conditional on anything you think, feel or do. You do not need to change first, or be perfect, or get straightened out, in order for God to love you. Grasping this intellectually is one thing; knowing it on a deep "gut-level" is quite another, yet this is of great importance. When we know that God truly loves us and will never leave us, we have a solid foundation from which to face difficult issues in our lives. Sometimes we are tempted to go to one of two extremes. The first extreme says that God loves everybody except for me -- I'm not good enough. This is simply a lie. No one is "good enough" for God to love them, yet because God created us, He loves each of us. The Bible says, "while we were still sinners Jesus died for us..." (Romans 5:8). God loves us in the midst of our brokenness and sinfulness.
To go to the other extreme of saying that God loves me exactly as I am and therefore I do not have to be open to the change He wants to bring in my life, is not true either. God loves us as we are, but loves us too much to leave us this way. He wants to bring us into wholeness and into an even greater understanding of what it means to be His son or daughter.
Part of knowing that God truly loves us and accepts us is coming to love and accept ourselves as we are today. We need to accept the part of ourselves that experiences same-gender attraction, and work toward meeting the legitimate needs and resolving the hurts that have brought about such an attraction.
3. You do not have to identify yourself according to sexual orientation.
From a Christian perspective, a person's primary identity is as a well-loved child of God. That is who you really are, whether or not you know it at this point. You do not have to use a label such as gay or lesbian. Instead of saying "I am a homosexual," you can describe what you feel or experience with statements like "I am dealing with homosexual feelings," "I am attracted to other men/women," or "I experience same-gender attraction." Especially when the process of change is discouraging, and at times it will be, it is important to remember that we belong to God and nothing can take us away from Him. That reality can help us keep the right perspective and keeps us focused on God's goodness and love to us, and His faithfulness to us in all circumstances.
B) For many people, change happens as we effectively do two things:
1. We need to deal with the root issues of our homosexual attractions. These are the negative and damaging events and dynamics of childhood, such as sexual abuse, rejection, deficits in our relationship with our parents, shaming, bullying or peer pressure, etc. While we cannot change what happened, we can change how it affects us today and how we understand what happened.
2. As the root issues are being resolved, we also need to undo unhealthy patterns of living and thinking and learn new ones instead. For example, if we have lived for years in ways that were influenced by the hurt and pain of childhood, those ways will have become habits or patterns, automatic ways of doing things and of responding. Often, these patterns will have been reinforced by fantasy and masturbation. If they are unhealthy habits, they need to be unlearned and new ways of living and responding need to take their place.
C) The Process of Change
1. The process of change is both different and the same for everyone.
Each person has a unique personality, personal history, support system, and so on. At the same time, there are many common threads that run through most people's process of change. Childhood sexual abuse and issues with one's father or mother are two common roots that need to be worked through by many men and women. A feeling of being somehow "different" and accepting the labels that peers put on this different-ness is also a common story.
2. Change happens in three areas: behaviour, fantasy, and attraction.
As change is a process, it is important to realize that change in one area may happen sooner than change in another area. While we can make choices about what we do and what we think about, we have less control over feelings and attractions. Do not be discouraged when one area starts to change and another does not -- this is normal.
3. Things get worse before they get better.
As we begin to work through difficult issues from the past, there is often much pain to face. Things may seem worse simply because we are starting to face past issues which we were ignoring or denying. God is faithful to guide us to the right people, church, friends, resources and other things that we need on this journey. And most of all, He himself walks with us!