Will You Accept My Love?
By Willy Torresin (Brazil)
I grew up in a religious family. Although my parents did take us to church every Sunday, our family was far from being "normal.” My father had a serious drinking problem, so he kept losing one job after another. My mother tried to compensate by working outside the home to make ends meet, and also by trying to fulfill the roles of both mother and father. Somehow in those early years of my life I got the message that I had to be good to be loved and accepted. I also had very low self-esteem, so I tried very hard to be a good son in order to be loved and accepted by my parents, especially by my father. Somehow I sensed that in our family love was conditioned to my behavior and performance. I believed that I’d be loved by my parents, by other people, and also by God, if I behaved in the right way. Otherwise, I would not be loved and accepted. When I went to church on Sundays I was told that God would love me if I did not sin. So I resolved that I would not sin, so that God would love me. I simply transferred to God the same performance-based acceptance I had learned from the people around me.
In my teenage years I felt that there was something wrong with me, something that had to do with my sexuality, but I did not know what it was. At that time no one spoke about sexuality openly. The implicit message was that anything to do with sex was wrong and sinful. That negative impression was reinforced when an adult woman sexually molested me when I was 5 or 6 years of age. In addition, there was absolutely no form of sexual education at that time. When I asked my mother how I was born, she told me that God had "planted a seed” inside her, and that’s how I came to be. It never occurred to me to ask her how God had done that, though!
When I was about 14 or 15 I took refuge from my stormy family environment in religion. I became more and more involved in church activities, and I tried to spend as much time in church as possible. But I continued to believe that the only way to please God was to try to be good and to do the right things. The feeling that something was wrong with me persisted, but I didn’t even want to consider what it was. I simply preferred to push those things away, hoping they would eventually disappear.
When I turned 18 I was encouraged by one of the pastors in my church to go to seminary and become a pastor. I wasn’t too sure of that, but since I did not know what to do with my life, and since I was always looking for more ways to please God, so that He would love and accept me, I decided that his suggestion was the right thing to do.
I eventually started seminary and did some missionary work, still trying to earn God’s approval. That lasted for about three years. However, during that time I became more and more aware of something wrong in my sexuality. I started reading all the books on the subject that I could find. Eventually I came across a description of same sex attraction. Perhaps the most difficult thing in my life until that point was to admit to myself that I was struggling with homosexual feelings and desires. At that time I believed that homosexual practice was probably the worst possible sin, and that people who struggled and practiced those things would be totally rejected by God. So I promised myself and God that I would never do any of those things! Therefore I worked very hard in staying away from anything that could get myself involved in any homosexual activity. One of the consequences of that attitude was that I did not approach other men, even when they were trying to be my friends. I felt safer befriending girls, or just being on my own, as I had always done all my life. I also believed at that time that if I were good and behaved well, those feelings would eventually disappear or maybe keep "quiet” and never manifest in my life.
One day three young men came to me and said to me, "We’re gay. Do you think God can change us?” Although I was startled by their question, I answered matter-of-factly, "of course, there is nothing impossible for God.” But inside me, my heart sank in despair, for I had been painfully aware that although I had been praying, fasting, reading the Bible, memorizing Scripture, doing everything I could do to be a "good” Christian, my feelings and attractions towards other men were increasing, and not diminishing.
Eventually I left missionary work and returned to my hometown. Although I was disillusioned, I continued to do all kinds of church activities, but in my heart I was feeling confused and alone. I wanted to talk to someone, but was afraid of being rejected again. So I kept my struggle a secret. One day I attended a missionary conference, and in that conference, ironically, had my first homosexual encounter with another seminary student. I felt terrible afterwards, and horribly afraid of God’s punishment. The feelings of guilt were crushing me, and I promised myself I’d never do it again.
Although I continued doing all the Christian work I had been doing before, something in me had changed. I had reached a point in which I was tired of making promises I couldn’t keep. Besides, now I wanted more of what I had experienced with that seminary student. Although the sexual part hadn’t been the most important for me, I wanted to be embraced again, and to be told that I was loved. I was hungry for more affection and for emotional involvement with another man.
One day I decided to go to a gay bar. I can still remember how free I felt! It was the first time in my life I could be myself and not hide behind a mask! I felt I had found heaven on earth! From that day on I simply stopped going to church and all the "religious” activities I had been involved in so far. Sometimes I felt disturbed within me, but I made sure I always had friends around. Drinking helped to quiet any discomfort inside me.
I was angry at God. I was tired of trying to please someone I obviously could not please, so I simply gave up trying to!
All that "devotion” and desire to serve God little by little turned to rebellion and anger. I believed I had committed the "unpardonable” sin, that there was no hope for me.
Occasionally I would "miss” God. And occasionally I would attempt to find a new church and fit in. That happened three of four times. But I always kept my struggle a secret, so whenever my homosexuality came to the surface I would walk away again in shame and bitterness. Until I finally gave up totally. I realized there was no way I could find my way back to God.
Altogether I spent about 15 years of my life trying to find purpose and meaning in a long-lasting relationship with another man. However, after some long-term relationships I realized I was getting nowhere. I also realized I myself no longer wanted or believed in a long-term relationship or "marriage” to another man. I became increasingly frustrated and depressed. That’s when God began speaking to me.
"I love you.” The words were very clear, but I had no idea where they were coming from. Was it my mind? Although I suspected whose words they were, I could not believe it was God. I was so deep in sin… How could God possibly love me?
But once in a while, in a very unexpected way, I would hear it again, "I love you, my son, and I have so much for you…”
One Saturday afternoon I was outside my house, washing my car, when I heard that voice again. I got so mad! I remember I threw down the bucket of water I was holding and stormed into my house and down to the basement where I could be on my own. I screamed at God, saying, "Don’t you have anything else to do? Leave me alone! Stop doing this to me! I can’t serve you! I tried all I could to do the things you wanted me to do, to become the person you wanted me to be, but I failed! Why don’t you leave me alone? I know there’s no hope for me! You made me this way, didn’t you? Aren’t you happy? Leave me alone!”
When I was through shouting at God (and I did use some heavy language!) I thought that God would open the ground under my feet and send me directly to hell! But this is what I heard: "Are you finished?” But I had no more to say. But God continued, saying: "Do you think you have anything that I do not have? Do you think there is anything you can do that I can’t? Do you think I need your money? Or your time? Or even your work? Do you think I need you at all? And when did I ask you to do all those things?” I was stunned. "But God, I always heard people in church telling me this is what I ought to be doing…” I was interrupted, "Why didn’t you ever ask me what I really wanted from you? I had no answer. It was true. I had never asked God what He wanted. I always assumed that people around me knew what I had to do, so I just kept doing those things. I was no longer angry, but now I felt so lost and confused. Yet I needed to go on with the conversation.
"God, what is it then, that you want from me?”
"I want your heart.”
"What do you want my heart for? It is so filthy! It is filled with sin. And worse, sins that I love, that have become part of my life. What are You going to do with this filthy heart of mine?”
"I’m going to pour my life into it!”
"But why? I don’t understand”
"Because that’s what I’ve made you for – to pour my life into you!”
"Because I made you, and because I love you! Will you accept my love?”
Somehow I felt that it was real, that God really loved me just as I was. And I could no longer resist it. I could no longer keep that awesome love away. By then I was sobbing uncontrollably and I couldn’t stand up anymore. I fell on my knees, opened my hands, and said, "Yes, Lord! I accept your love! I don’t understand why you want to love me, but I can no longer live without your love! I can’t promise you anything, though! I can’t promise you to leave homosexuality, or to give up my lover…” "Just accept my love for you! I’m not asking you to promise anything, just to accept my love.”
And then it happened. I was literally flooded with God’s love. I don’t know how to explain it. In fact I don’t think it is possible to explain what happened. All I can say now is that it just flooded in! I just felt loved by God in a way I never dreamed would be possible, and it had nothing to do with anything I could offer in return. It was just God’s unconditional love pouring in. I could not believe it! It was beyond anything I had ever dreamed, or ever experienced before. How could God love me that much? But I just allowed Him to love me. For the first time my life had a purpose – it made sense! This is it! I said to myself, this is what I have been created for, to experience this love, this awesome God! At first I felt, this is too good to be true! But eventually that feeling was replaced by another one, "this is SO good and IT IS true!”
That went on for a few days, and I felt afraid that eventually it would vanish, and that things would still be the same. I guess the emotional aspect of it did decrease, but the experience of God’s love has not.
What I experienced then was that the very thing I had been looking for in homosexuality all those years had reached out to me, although at the time I did not know what it was. What I saw happening after that experience with God’s love was that I started to ask God to remove anything in my heart that kept me from getting to know Him better. There was a new desire in my heart, a desire not only to know God better, but to BE like Him. God’s love produced a desire in me to be like Him. I no longer wanted anything to keep me from knowing Him better. In other words, I found in God what I had been looking for in homosexual practice. So, I no longer needed to look for anything in homosexuality. It lost its attractiveness to me. It was I who took the initiative to end the relationship I was in. It was I who asked God to remove not only the homosexual identity and practices, but also my sexual addictions, from my life. I didn’t want anything keeping me from my new relationship with God.
And as that started to happen I also discovered that God’s love and grace were available for me as I learned to walk this new life, step by step, and day by day.
Several years have passed since those things happened in my life. I have learned to respond to the pain of my wounds in non-sexual ways. I have also been healed of many of those wounds. I also learned to turn to God when I am tempted, and trust Him for all my needs.
This experience created in my heart a desire to share this love with the whole world! I feel that it is too good for me to keep it to myself – I feel that the world needs to know the God who loves each one of us in such a special and transforming way! I feel compelled to let others know that God loves them, and that He has done all that needed to be done to bring them back to Himself!
This is what I want to do with the rest of my life. To proclaim the gospel of God’s love and grace to anyone willing to listen, especially to those who also feel trapped in homosexuality, as I was. They too need to experience that there is no sin God cannot forgive, and that there is no bondage that He cannot break. They need to know that God is the true Lover of their souls!