December 9th, 2012
Fearful? Questioning? Reflecting on the past? or Pondering the future?
I will trust in Him.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path’s straight.
The Message Bible says it this way:
Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.
I am often evaluating things in my life. The past, the future, they’re almost always on my mind. Did I make a mistake. Have I done something that has hurt someone? Where will this lead me to? Is my future going to be an improvement over the past? How can I make things better? And a lifetime of, “how can things be different?”
I have heard many times that we shouldn’t focus on the past and keep our eyes looking forward. Well, I agree with this to a point but I have learned a great lesson in evaluating life. Let me put it this way:
“The past isn’t the past until it is the past. The past isn’t the past if it’s still the present. The past won’t become the past until you put it in front of you.”
You can quote me on that one. When I think about the past there are times when memories come along with a little piercing in my heart. They can cause me to feel a pang of pain. It is those memories that seem to need some attention. I am tempted to just push them away, which is probably why some people tell us that we don’t need to dwell on the past. They don’t want to feel it either.
But, I have learned that when past wounds, unresolved conflicts, and hurts come to my mind I have to check to see if there is pain with them. If there is and they are resolved with healing in my soul, they change. I think of it this way:
“When an emotional soul wound is healed it can change from being an emotional memory to an intellectual memory. That is when I know healing has taken place.”
You can quote me on that one too. Healing from past wounds doesn’t remove our memory of them, it can take the emotional sting out of them so we are free from the pain. But, if we are all honest, we don’t necessarily forget the times we have been hurt or disappointed. Rather we can move away from the present pain they bring up when we do remember them.
There was a childhood memory from when I was about 10 years old that was still painful to think about. The circumstances surrounding it were overwhelming and the exact situation was foreboding and it pulled on my heart each time it came up. And, it did come up. At times it came in prayer, other times when I would talk about that time in my life. When I was with my counselor one day, he asked me to pray with him about this situation. We found Jesus in the middle of it and there was a powerful healing time which brought a change of reference for that situation. A healing salve poured over the memory. Jesus had touched it with His hand.
Now when I think of that situation, my heart is emotionally neutral. I remember the situation, but even more, I remember what Jesus told me during the prayer time and how He changed my point of view. I no longer have a negative emotional tie to it, rather it is a memory that is purely an intellectual memory of the situation.
So, when I am fearful to face something from my past or questioning it with my soul, I seek to find out a solution through bringing Jesus into it with me. He knows my heart, he knows all of the details. And if there is someone else involved, He knows their heart too.
And when the healing seems to be far away and maybe even impossible, I continually learn more about trusting Him in the process. I have also learned that He will provide the right timing for my heart surgery. Now is not always the right time even though I may grow impatient for things to get better.
Sometimes God wants to bring someone else into the healing. Maybe He is working on their heart as well. In my selfishness I can say, “God – right now”, “I want it now!” But in the love that Christ wants me to walk in, I may need to be patient in waiting for His timing for all concerned. And in the process, God is not putting my life on “pause”, He is preparing me as well and growth continues all around.
I have a ring with a Hebrew inscription on it. I can’t read Hebrew but the paper that came with the ring says that it said, “Trust in the Lord”.
Boy, I need this ring every day in my life. I can easily get overwhelmed with impatience, fears, insecurities and the like. It is cool when someone asks to see the ring and wonders what it says, I am forced to say, “It says “Trust in the Lord”" and I can see that maybe He is using the person’s question to bring me to once again verbalize where my trust is at.
Take a deep breath – there, that’s it.
No matter what has come to your mind or your life today, make a decision. Where is your trust? Is it in Him? I often say, If I can’t trust Him today then who can I trust. If He isn’t trustworthy, that I just as well give up totally. But that is also a trustworthy place to be because I know He won’t let me go.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
Funny how this passage connects the love of money and discontent in contrast with trusting in God’s ever present commitment to us. We do try to do it ourselves when we fear He isn’t with us. His exhortation is to know that He is our helper and to remember man can do nothing to me outside of God’s hand on us.
I can trust in Him.
Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.
December 4th, 2012
Memphis Flyer – November 29, 2012
Ex’d Out made into the Memphis Flyer this week and was reviewed by Bianca Phillips
Fall into winter with some reading. Fourteen books to consider.
Ex’d Out is written for a Christian audience with numerous references throughout to God’s leading Smid in various directions with plenty of talk about grace and Jesus. But Christian or not, readers (especially those affected by the ex-gay movement) will be moved by John Smid’s story of transformation.
Written to a friend -
“Remember John J Smid from Memphis? He wrote a book that was released last week. My copy arrived today. Haven’t been able to put it down. I’m in tears (not bad) because it’s so relatable and honest. Maybe this will help release me of the years of shame I’ve struggled with….”
Former Memphis Resident
“I’ve read through your book four times! The first was just reading it, the next two times I studied it, the fourth time, I began using it as a reference book. I have found connection with God again in my life. I’m praying more, trying to listen to Him more. It was the chapter on grace that turned things around for me. Understanding how much God loves me even in being gay. I lost my partner of 24 years in February. My grief has kept me all tied up. Your book helped me to begin moving on and this came through my reconnection with God.”
“Please don’t think I am patronizing you but I must say I have never read a biography that reveals the author’s heart and life with such authenticity. You and I have discussed many personal aspects of our lives but the detail you gave in the chapter “Mixed Orientation Marriage” astounded me. I know this was not only hard for you to share but must have been for Vileen as well. This will resonate beyond words with other gay men and their straight wives who are or have been in mixed orientation marriages.”
“John, I just ordered 5 copies of your book through your website. I want to give them out to my Pastor and several of those that I mentor. I wish I could afford to buy a copy for everyone I know as your message needs to be heard far and wide. I still contend that you are called to be “The Apostle Paul” to the gay community! They are hungry to hear the message you are sharing. This is especially true of those who grew up in Christian homes and the gay community is full of them.”
I’m reading it now. Very good, insightful on things well beyond GLBT issues!
I thought you did a superb job with the book! It was easy to read and tucked full of who you are! It was like I had walked through some of the pages with you, as I had listened to your heart and read the many articles that you had on Grace Rivers site. I could remember when you shared with me, the very fact that you were struggling with the need to bring help to the Homosexual through the ministry of Grace Rivers. When you said that you needed to take it to the streets. I remembered praying for you. as I could sense the personal journey that lie ahead for you, was heartfelt.
Hi John…I’m just finishing your book and it has been amazing. I totally connect with your experience and thoughts. I’ve never had anyone articulate my own thoughts like you did at the end of the book.
2/3 through your book. I’m amazed at how you are able to open yourself to new information and allow it to penetrate if it has any ring of truth. In some ways a painful book to read as it reminds me of my own journey out of fundamentalism, self-righteousness and judgment of others. And yet, and yet, I am profoundly grateful to have followed the path to freedom and the knowledge that nothing can separate me or anyone else from the love and acceptance of God.
Finished the book, By the way, the most notable affect was that I realized I can no longer try to live as a straight gay man.
I have finished your book and want to share my response with you. For some time I have been curious about my strong feelings about how gays are (or are not) accepted by the culture but especially by “the church.” I ask myself why…to my knowledge none of my children are gay, nor my parents, nor my siblings or nieces or nephews. I grew up in the straight world. Though I have a deep appreciation for women I have never had any sexual attraction to females.
While reading your book I once again felt such strong emotions about this “issue.” I didn’t know whether to cry or scream. I have never read such an honest description of the struggle to please God by ridding oneself of sin, and yet I so identify. Though I have never been told I was an abomination – I was told throughout my childhood and adolescence what God expects of “godly” women. I knew at an early age I did not fit that description.
So, I began to work at it. Though fascinated by and terrified of sex I was determined to remain a virgin until I married. Though boisterous and gregarious I worked hard to become more demure, passive, feminine and submissive. I am strongly opinionated and I knew I must remain silent when around “church men, the god appointed leaders.” It would have been unthinkable to marry anyone outside the Church of Christ, so I married the first C of C man who had any interest in me.
It all came apart when my good Christian husband and I nearly emotionally destroyed one another and our marriage collapsed. Taught all of my life that the family that prays together stays together, I, like you, wanted to scream, “you lied to me!!” I felt betrayed by the church.
This experience has stirred all this up for me once again, not so much for myself, but to realize this is still going on today in 2013, and this time the focus is on gay men and women. I can’t stand it.
I ask myself what can a 66 year old straight woman do to convince alienated folks that Love is available to all? I question whether involvement with any church that does not openly proclaim that all people are not only welcome at “the table,” but in church leadership is a betrayal of all that I believe to be true about God. What am I doing in a church at all?
Your heart wrenching story, as well as others like yours, breaks my heart. Yes, I am gratified that you are finding that you have been accepted by God since your birth…better late than never! As I read your heartfelt apologies, I want to say to you, “I am so very sorry for the messages of judgment and rejection you received from well-meaning Christians (like I used to be). So, so sorry.”
I don’t know where I go from here with all this, but I clearly state to the Holy Spirit, send me.
About 7 years ago I began to research Gay Christian and accepting Churches. I realized that 17 years after my involvement with Love In Action I still had same sex attraction. I began to realize that God made me the way I am. If God did not change me He must have made me this way for a reason, who am I to second guess God. Some time ago I got a message from John Smid which was an apology and an encouragement to join a Christian fellowship. I wanted to respond but did not know what I wanted to say. I ordered Ex’d Out and have read about half of it. Yesterday I read John Paulk’s Press release and apology.
The following is my response:
I came to Love In Action a mess. Being raised a strict Jehovah’s Witness, being disowned by my entire family for smoking, being on the verge of suicide etc… I remember just setting there and weeping, as I said a mess. I came to change my life, the change I wanted was to go straight. The change I got was a new life! I learned forgiveness, I learned the bases for a better outlook on life, I learned to love myself. I am not going to say that I agree with everything that went on that year I was in Love In Action, as I left pretty resentful. As time went on I began to realize the LIA had changed my life in a positive way. I now have no ill will.
I now have a life that I would have never have had if it was not for the two of you. I am happy! In a stable relationship with a great guy, for the last two years! A great Job! And was able to buy a house. At this point I would consider myself an agnostic, mostly because of the churches political stances that I feel do not belong in the church.
I love you guys and owe you my life.
November 12th, 2012
This blogpost is part of a synchroblog of other authors writing today on the cultural debate over homosexuality and Christianity. To read the other articles please go to this web page: (click here)
I have discovered something about my life in the last year has been a new for me to experience.
Men and women have been isolated, criticized, unheard, misunderstood, rejected, avoided, chastised, preached at, judged, and often marginalized – because they are gay.
In I have known people who have been judged by “churchgoing folk” as; sinful, unchristian, damned to hell, rebellious, broken, insane, incompetent, un-human, and unimportant – just because they are gay.
On the Other Hand
For over twenty years, I was loved. I was sought out, deemed significant, godly, miraculous, unique, and certainly worthy of God’s fullest blessing because I was known for being “ex-gay”.
I was considered one of God’s finest men, and ministry leaders because I led the charge to “lead homosexuals away from God’s condemnation.”
I’ve discovered that while I was a leader in the “ex-gay” world I became a hero of sorts for the Christian community. I found myself on a treadmill of performance, receiving affirmation for the great ministry work I was involved with and the wonderful things I spoke of regarding my infamous story of “change from homosexuality”. It was as though I had brought home a wonderful trophy for the family to place on the mantle.
The Changes of Late
When I began speaking about homosexuality from a deeper place of honesty the trophy seems to have been taken off the shelf. Something happened and many of my relationships somehow changed dramatically. Some of those who used to think I was their hero began to shake their heads and delicately move away from me. Others have not been so delicate. I have had communication that has clearly been an “I’m writing you off” message without so much as a phone call, or conversation. It appeared that a judgment had been made about my character due to what I was saying about my own life and other observations in my written blogs. Many have read between the lines, or translated my writings from what I didn’t say.
Critical comments have come across my website from Christians that have called my character, my faith, and my beliefs into question. Since I have not published comments confronting me personally because I do not believe they are an appropriate biblical way to deal with conflict, these potentially public confrontations often came without any questions for clarity or asking for further explanation. It’s funny how easy it is for us to immediately point the finger in defense without so much as a question for clarity.
From the Other Side
Critics of my past ex-gay ministry involvement deemed me a liar, a false prophet, an abuser of people and a religious bigot. At one point in my past I received literally 1000’s of emails proclaiming hatred and desiring curses upon my life including the fitting vulgar language.
Akin to cross-like finger gestures in my face, I remember feeling the condemnation coming my way from those who were virtual enemies of my soul. There were times when I actually feared that at some point I would be physically accosted because of what I had been involved in.
When Jesus was Born
When Jesus came into this world, he came as an infant, innocent, sweet, loved, and I wonder when He experienced His first attack? Jesus life was full of conflict with the world around Him. Almost everywhere He walked someone was mad at Him, confronted Him, and at the very least disagreed with His words, His approach to others, and certainly His claim to be God.
What is it like to want to be like Jesus? Well, when I look at His life here on earth, and his first disciples, I think I can relate to some extent with the impossibility of pleasing everyone. There will be enemies all around us if we are passionate about any perspective in life. I am sure Jesus and His first followers had numerous enemies from all sides.
Pharisees, sinners, Jewish folks and gentiles all found reason to disagree, argue, and wrestle with the things Jesus brought into the world over 2000 years ago. I am sure Jesus wasn’t often asked for explanations or questioned about his challenging approach to life. When His ministry began, literally EVERYTHING was about to change. His approach to life challenged virtually every facet of the religious “status quo” of life. I am certain there were many who just judged Him to be a radical, loose, too free with the sinners, and not hard enough on them. I am also sure He was accused of being irreverent, anti-cultural, and many other shocking realities He brought to the table.
As with tree huggers, animal rights activists, social reformists, and undocumented worker advocates amongst far too many other issues, I find myself in their places often. My life has always drawn people to form conclusions about me whether it was to support me, or to hate me. I was seemingly born with a trait that continues to challenge the status quo of belief and practice. Honestly, I don’t go searching for things to bring conflict, however it seems to loom around me often. I think outside the box and I often ask the question so important to me, “how can things be different?”
For the First Time
I guess today, I can say for the first time, I can relate to what many people who are gay have felt most of their lives. Since I have made a public proclamation that I am a gay man, the lines are being drawn anew. Boy it is sure miserable being in the middle of the sorting process. People are changing their opinions about John Smid. Some are moving away, others are drawing closer. Many others just stand back and wonder what’s coming next.
The gay affirming community wants me to join them in celebrating same sex relationships, the conservative evangelical Christians want me to proclaim the sinful ways of homosexuality. I have said often, that I am on a journey of discovery. The journey may or may not have an end conclusion in my world. This is as uncomfortable for me as it is for many of you who are reading this article. I like things in a nice neat little box. But interestingly, that doesn’t seem to be the Jesus way. Nothing about Jesus ministry seemed to fit into a neat little box. He most often went against the flow and caused many in His day to stand back and wonder “what’s coming next with Him?”
Mind you, most of the folks who have separated from me have not talked to me or cared to hear my heart. But interestingly, those who have listened, have said they understood most of what I have shared even though there may remain some disagreement. Thankfully, some have shown me their affirmation of friendship and gracious love and are willing to walk the journey with me.
It’s a challenging road that seems to be present before me? I certainly cannot say I like it, but at the same time, I am going to continue on the path. Actually, I don’t think I would change the last three years for anything. I believe I have discovered more of who God is, who I am. I’ve found more of His love for me and for others than ever before in my life!
Yes, people who are gay experience rejection all the time. Some who are Christians and haven’t really heard the heart of people who are gay would disagree with that statement – as I did several years ago. But today, I see it for the first time and my heart grieves with empathy for all of those whose lives are forgotten, buried, shamed away, and lost just because they are gay.
A good friend told me today that in her research, 30% of America’s seminaries completely reject any applications that answer the question “are you homosexual” with a “yes”. There is no place to discuss actions, behaviors, or relationships, just the answer “yes I am gay” will bring complete denial of the application to their schools. On one application she was coached to lie in the answer because they wanted her in their school. Her reply, “I’ve learned not to lie, so in good conscience, I cannot.” She is fighting no only being a woman in the Christian world, but she is a lesbian. Mind you, she is not in a relationship and feels she should be celibate but that doesn’t seem to matter to many. The fact that she says she is lesbian is enough to send her packing from many Christian organizations.
The media has certainly brought out a number of stories recently that show us just a glimpse of how our culture responds to homosexuality, or even a hint of effeminacy in a young boy. Do young boys really end their lives due to the pain of rejection? Yes they do. Boys get accosted every day for their uniqueness in personality and life perspective if it even appears to be gay. What are we going to do about this epidemic? Can we change and begin to listen to their cries?
I’ve met with numerous pastors through the years who clearly state that people who are gay cannot be members of the congregation, much less serve in their organizations.. Much like the seminaries, they could lie on their membership applications and remain silent about their orientation and be members. Some have chosen to do this just so that they won’t be alone. Is this really “what Jesus would do?”
My Lot in Life
I guess in my vocational life, I have been chosen for the battle lines of homosexuality. No matter where the lines are drawn, it seems I am on the opposing team. Offensive, or defensive, I’m not sure exactly which plan is best. It doesn’t seem Jesus was either. He was neither defensive when attacked, nor offensive in attacking. It seems He was more responsive to a person’s heart cry.
That is my heart’s desire. I want to get better in listening. I’d much rather be a responder to a person’s heart than to be a proclaimer of “right and wrong”. This has been a source of great criticism from all sides.
After Jesus knew the heart of these folks, He responded differently each time to their lives.
Samaritan Woman at the Well
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. John 4:21
Jesus spoke a future of Knowing Him and an eternity with Him. The woman responded by going back to her people and proclaiming the message of the Messiah!
Woman Caught in Adultery
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:11
After a very significant connection with the heart of the Savior, He asked her to go and live a changed life. Was he specifically speaking of just the adultery she was involved in, or… was it a call to the gospel of the Savior in total?
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner. Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.” “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:5-7,9
And Jesus response to the “Tax Collector” was to enter his home and eat with him. After this, He clearly proclaimed that this man’s house had encountered the salvation of the Lord.
In none of these cases did Jesus ever condemn a person, criticize them, or speak ill of them. He met them where they were, heard their hearts, validated them as people, and offered them Himself and began a journey of LIFE with them. he knew it would be complicated and messy! Of all things, He knew it would not be perfect that the road would be a work in progress. He didn’t have membership requirements and for sure, His first disciples were sought out while they were in dramatic imperfection and certainly were a piece of work. He didn’t lay out a list of requirements before He bought them alongside Him. He just promised them He would be with them along the journey.
So, what have I learned?
I have learned that living a life in Christ will always bring criticism. I have learned that I can be tempted to become a hero for a group of people and that I need only be a hero to One Person, Jesus Christ! And even Jesus will not make a Trophy out of me.
I have experienced the criticism, rejection, and judgment that many gay people have. This gives me even more empathy for the cries of those within the gay community.
I am learning how I have not been very good at listening to the hearts of those around me and therefore have been tempted to judgment and criticism.
I am learning how Jesus related to those in the world around Him and I want to grow in emulating His example of acceptance and redeeming love.
I am learning more about the sanctifying journey of a life in Christ.
You can get a copy of my new book, Ex’d Out, by going to this webpage. (click here)
Through these pages you will find not only vulnerable and extensive personal process, but also a serious apology unlike any that has been written before by anyone who was in leadership within the culture of what has been known as “Ex-gay” ministry.
Another new book available by Justin Lee is: TORN: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate.
November 11th, 2012
Wow, it is now a reality
My first book is now released for public consumption! I am kind of numb actually. It has taken a long time to bring this life dream into a practical item in my hand’s grasp.
Ex’d Out, titled with the help of my friend, Kevin Diaz, will now begin its own life to live. Having done this for the first time, I am now seeing what I’ve heard for years about the life of a book and the references to being a child in life’s journey.
Several years ago I finally decided to fulfill a goal to write a book. I had many ideas running around in my mind and felt completely overwhelmed at the thought of sitting at a desk burning the midnight oil attempting to come up with eloquent and substantial reflections of life. I truly didn’t think I had the ability to accomplish such an arduous goal, but I tried anyway and began to write.
First is was centered on reflections of life values and their application to relationships. It was titled The Journey of Thomas. I thought surely it would be the one that I would complete. With helpful advice and further input, the book changed its name to become the Journey of Grace. As my own life transitioned, the second title seemed to be much more personal and significant in the display of my heart.
I found a helpful ghost writer that was attempting to pull together my thoughts in some form or fashion that looked like a book. We had meeting after meeting as he tried to coach me in my writing skills. After a season of work, we came up with even another more provocative title, Unraveling the Knot.
I became so completely frustrated with the lack of some form of final idea and form and separated from the ghost writer and the project completely sank into the depths. I was so discouraged because I had worked for several years on this project.
I should tell my story.
Then, within a couple of days, it became clear! The story of my transition from Love In Action to where I am today. Still sounding like a Journey of Grace, I just began to excerpt articles from the weekly blogs I had written and somehow find a way to put them into chronological order so that it might show the progression of thought and the changes that had occurred in my life.
And, coincidentally, a friend mentioned I might look into Amazon’s self publishing connection, CreateSpace. I was on a roll! Everything I had hoped for became clear. People came out of the woodwork to help me dream, and plan. Kevin Diaz, Kevyn Bashore and Joe Thweatt all said they would help me make this thing happen. Joe said he would look over my manuscript for technical things, Kevyn offered to rent a picture of his for the introduction, Kevin said he would help me with the order of the book and anything else he could that would be of value to the project.
YES! This time it must be the right thing.
Within just weeks, we all collaborated and had a final manuscript in place. It must be what is best for a book right now. I contacted CreateSpace and soon had donations come into Grace Rivers for the publishing package and I purchased formatting and cover design elements.
As I talked with Kevin Diaz about this, we came up with several title options and finally, Ex’d Out was the best and I was thrilled at the provocative nature of the title. As we worked further, he suggested a cover design, the bold black with white lettering was just the right thing.
As I pondered the book, there were a few final chapters that had to be written and it would be complete. After long hours of work from many people, I sent off the manuscript to CreateSpace. Then I waited.
One proof copy came and corrections were made and I sent it back. A second copy came and it was full of errors! I couldn’t imagine we all missed so many things. The book went through so many hands to look for things that needed to be changed. I called and found out that somehow the wrong document had been pulled up so the second proof copy was awash.
We matched up files, corrected some more things and finally, it was finished and sent back to CreateSpace. I waited again for a final copy with anticipation that it would be the one I could publish. This took longer than the other two because they had become busier so a couple of weeks went by and finally! Yes! It came. The final proof copy was in my mail box and it looked great!
Do I press the button that says “publish”?
So now what should I do? Oh, my. I was anxious about setting this ball in motion. This would mean lots of stuff would occur. I asked myself if I was committed to the project, and the process that would come afterward! I wondered if there were more errors in the book and if I’d put the right chapters in place. Lots of questions came for the next couple of days and finally…. I pushed the button and off it went.
I received a message from CreateSpace that I would be receiving 30 copies of the book in the mail in just a few days. I went out and bought some book packaging envelopes and compiled a list of those who should get the first copies.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
The box came in the mail just as promised. As I hurriedly stuffed the packages so they could be mailed I received a phone call. It was from Natasha Chen, a Channel 3 local news reporter. As she said who she was I wondered, how did she know about this book? She said she was given the job of reporting on California’s ban of reparative therapy for minor children. She said she thought I’d be a good resource to help her with the story
I said, “Well, Natasha, interestingly, I have in my hand my book that talks all about the protest of Love In Action over their minor youth program and my process of evaluation of that program in the last four years.” She was thrilled and later that day I walked into the news station to talk with her.
As we entered the studio for filming I looked at the camera man and he looked at me and said, “John Smid?” He happened to be one of our house cleaning customers. I asked him if he already knew my story and he confirmed that he didn’t. So I said, “Well Terry, you’re about to hear the whole thing.”
The interview went very well. It hasn’t aired yet so I really don’t know what was captured from our 45 minute talk. I left her with my condolences for how she would possibly find the right things for a short two minute segment.
Gave My First Book Out
I met a man and spent some time hearing his story, his struggle. He talked about how challenging it had been for him throughout the years. His partner of over 20 years died from cancer and he was alone. I shared my story with him of the last several years.
I said, “Wait, I have something in my car.” I gave him one of my books and told him that my story was in the book. The next day I received a message from him that he had stayed up all night reading the book.
“John, I just got past page 37 and this chapter on grace made me cry to God. In there are some of my own prayers I have been talking with God about. So far I’ve cried out to God in prayer, and in praise three times. I am so thankful for this book and your story. I know God is speaking to me.
A New Birth
This blog is about the life of Ex’d Out. When the book came out I realized that a story was beginning. A new segment of life is being written.
September 15th, 2012
God’s A Great Navigator
Four years ago I left Love In Action and resigned from a job that had comfortably paid for our existence for many, many years. One year later my wife lost her job due to a change in the environment of the travel industry she had worked in for many years. With this severe downturn in our income we searched for what to do to make ends meet.
As I sought God for answers he apparently had things in His mind for us, as He always does. I tried to work in a car dealership selling cars (Car Salesman! Not anymore) which very quickly showed me that wasn’t going to be a permanent situation. I lasted two weeks and learned all kinds of lessons the short time I was there.
Soon after that Vileen talked about wanting to get into home organization and management. A friend who had a house cleaning business said she was taking a two month sabbatical. She asked if we’d like to earn a little money cleaning her houses while she was gone. So, I turned to Vileen and said, well, this may be an entrance into your desires, let’s get started. Maybe it’ll provide for us.
We established Hollywood Homes and gained many customers very quickly. Soon we were cleaning for 25 families. The service and ministry opportunities were fulfilling for me and it seemed we worked together very well as a team. I did all the bathrooms and floors. Vileen dusted and took care of the kitchens and we met in the middle to finish. Fast, efficient, and a good job is being done.
So as the time went buy it became even more apparent that more downsizing was necessary. The money just wasn’t keep us afloat financially and we knew something else needed to change. The larger home we had lived in for nine years was becoming a huge burden for us practically and financially. But, the market had taken such a hit we had become upside down on the house. We owed more than it was worth in the sales market.
We also had my daughter and grandson living with us. It has been hard for them to make it financially as well and providing a home for them was the least I could do. But as the years moved by it also became apparent that I may now have been over stepping and this arrangement was enabling her to stay stuck in dependence upon our provision. A good friend came to me and strongly challenged me to trust God with her life and set her free to discover it. I heard his challenge and believed he was right. But the high levels of anxiety entered my heart and I couldn’t imagine telling her to move out! I really struggled with whether or not she could make it. She had made the decision to go through school to become a respiratory therapist. This created even more anxiety as her son needed attention and this would mean she would be tied up even more. I thought it might be best for him to live with his dad right now but didn’t know how to tell her that.
So, God intervened again. Through wisdom and counsel I gained the courage to have the talk. The right time came to ask her to find another place to live and that I encouraged her to let her son live with his dad during her school process and his puberty! Phew, that was done. Now I had to wait and see what would happen. With little confidence and some faith I let it go to God’s work.
So, in just five days, my daughter found an amazing place to live and made the decision to let her son live with his dad. What? Did God actually come through? Yes, He actually did, in a big way. So that hurdle was over now what to do with the house?
So, we decided to list the house as a short sale. Amazingly, in just five days there was an offer on the house. In just a few more days, the bank began looking at the file. For those of you who don’t know, this speed of process is unheard of with selling houses, especially using the short sale process. The real estate ladies were shocked and said God must have us on the fast track! I agreed.
In just a few more weeks, the bank approved the sale. What? I’m not ready for this yet. They said it would take 60 to 90 working days to go through this. A huge level of anxiety came up. Where will we live? Not even knowing where to begin and with the uncertainly of the sale timing what could we do?
Well, God came in again. A long time friend who owns some real estate properties called saying she had seen we were selling our house. She mentioned one house that, again amazing, they had paid us to clean to help them prepare to sell the house. But, the house wasn’t selling so they offered to rent it to us. Well, the uncertainly of timing of our house sale was a barrier to making any kind of commitment to them so I just put it on the back burner for the time being.
But, then the closing date was set so we reconnected and accepted the generous offer from our friends to rent their home. It was apparently God’s provision. After all, this was one more way He showed me that He is leading the path and navigating through the deep and anxious waters of my life right now. We didn’t even have to look for a home.
But what do we do with 3400 square feet of stuff? Ten rooms down to six. What about that three car oversized garage full of stuff? The new house was only 1100 square feet and didn’t even have a storage shed, much less a garage. Craig’s List became our friend. Two garage sales and lots of individual sales began to downsize our things. I was thinking like I was in the end of life sorting process. Will I ever use this again? Do I really need that? Does anyone care about those things? And, out they went! Sell, sell, sell, give away. This became a way of life through this process.
As the moving date came closer I knew I needed to have some kind of storage for outdoor stuff. I found a good shed to buy but one clincher was that it needed two able bodied people to assemble it! I mentioned this to a friend and he quickly said he would travel from Dallas to Memphis to help me put it together! This would occur on the moving weekend. Just in the right time, we moved, he came, and the shed was built and the house and shed were loaded with all of the things we decided to keep.
Wow. We made it through that storm of decisions and activity. That’s what it felt like. A storm. It all happened so quickly. And it was very clear that God was leading the way. This is why I see Him as the navigator. I could have never done all of this alone. It wasn’t coincidence. That would be a ludicrous thought. It was clear that God pulled together people, opportunity, and circumstances to provide for us.
Last year it was very clear to me that we would need to cut our expenses. We were over our heads and needed a break. As I moaned, and prayed asking God for help He was already on it. I just followed Him through the water.
I’ve learned a very new aspect of living out the Lordship of Christ through this. He is a loving God. He is a Shepherd that cares for His sheep. He’s heard my voice, and my cries for mercy and that is why I will serve him all through my years. (Psalm 116)
There are still some tough waters ahead but I will continue to count on Him showing me the way. He’s building my confidence in His love for me.
I must say the real estate agents, Gay Young [email@example.com], and Myra McCaskill [firstname.lastname@example.org] with Keller Williams real estate here in Memphis were a tremendous help!!!
August 20th, 2012
Several years ago I went through a group study of a book called “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn. As we all opened our minds to ponder eternity in a perfect place, one of the things I thought about over and over was one of my greatest hopes for my life in the renewed kingdom.
I love reconciling conversations and healing opportunities for relationships. I weep when I hear of someone forgiving someone else and renewing the relationship. So, as I thought about heaven these things came to my mind.
God is a reconciling God. This is exactly why Jesus died, to reconcile our relationship with God. God is also a forgiving God, and He is intensely interested in relationships, with Him, and with each other. This is why Jesus’ command was to Love God, and to love each other as we love ourselves.
So, if God is this interested in relationship unity, then I believe there is certainly a major part of my eternity that will somehow include reconciling with others. If this takes place in an instant, or over time, that’s okay with me. However, I tend to think it may be a wonderful, godly, amazing work of God over time – eternity.
Can you imagine meeting someone in heaven that became a virtual enemy to you here on earth? I can. I’ve thought about just such a meeting many times. Not that I have THAT many enemies, but there are conversations, and circumstances that have occurred over my lifetime that I feel regret over, or wish I could do again with a different heart, or new motives. I’m sure you can relate to that. Most of us have those kinds of regrets.
There are those that I have had a hard time forgiving as well. In some cases I just couldn’t seem to get over the hump of hurt feelings, or disappointments in something someone has done to me that has been painful. So, what would it look like to see them on the other side of life?
Well, I also believe that God is truth, ultimate truth. In my eternity, I trust that I will find that kind of truth there. A truth that transcends my human perspectives. I also believe that God isn’t bound to time and that neither will we when we are in His eternal kingdom. I don’t’ think there will be a clock of life like we see it now. So, with full truth, and no time factor, I imagine meeting people I have known and that I’ve had some trouble with. I can foresee conversations and meetings that will be tremendously healing and wonderful.
I imagine meeting up with some of them and feeling some angst, but quickly the angst is replaced with an amazing new perspective on the previous experience from earlier on. I would understand my own motives within the circumstance, and I would likely hear their new look on life as well. With full truth, and humility, I can then picture a wonderful conversation that frees both of us from all of the previous judgment, hurt, and pain, and the relationship will encounter an amazing eternal restoration.
This thought of heaven excites me to no end! I can imagine many, many meetings like this with people that I’ve known, but also with historical figures that I’ve heard about, or that impacted my life from afar. Can you imagine a meeting with Adam himself? “Adam, what was going on in your mind when Eve handed you that apple?” Then a wonderful honest conversation with Adam might bring some new clarity to my mind and heart.
With this in mind, I think about heaven today, right now in 2012. Is it possible to get a slice of heaven now? Do you think God gives us glimpses of the eternal glory that we can hope for? I really do. The previews keep me going through the preparation time of this temporal earth that can be quite grueling at times.
This past couple of years have added up in my heart. It all began when I first began to write about my evaluation of ministry and how I believe I have wounded people through a judgmental, and legalistic mindset. I’ve thought about how I have cut people off out of my own disappointment in their decisions that I thought may be against what I believed was best for them. I can see how my tendency towards codependency has been really harmful for some people and have been dealing with more of that in my life.
So, as these communications have hit the internet, many people have called, messaged, and sent emails to reconnect. I have also pursued people seeking opportunities to make amends, to clean up the past and hopefully renew a friendship, or at least a connection.
There have been people I’ve thought of often that I have prayed for a chance for a redo of a past conversation or situation. Amazingly, many of those I’ve prayed about have come out of the woodwork and I have actually had opportunities for a new conversation with them based upon new realities in one or both of our lives.
I recently took a trip to Omaha for my high school reunion. While I was there I walked into a store where a friend from a very long time ago worked. I was looking for him just to say Hi. We hadn’t seen each other since 1988 and really hadn’t talked since 1984. I had no idea what I would find. I knew he still worked there and had heard a few things over the years from his sister, whom I remain in contact with. I’ve thought and prayed about meeting him again many times. I just wanted to talk again with him about the past that still had some lingering unresolved feelings and confusion.
As I entered the store I found him standing right in front of me. He was shocked to see me of course, but the greeting was warm. I asked if he might be willing to meet and talk a little bit. We arranged a time to be alone in a quiet space later that evening. As we talked, it was very clear that our hearts had softened and the honesty flowed easily as we talked about old times, friends, family, and it eventually got to our relationship. We were involved in a gay relationship for several years which ended abruptly without much communication.
I found something that was truly a move of God upon the situation. There was such a sweet reunion that I think it surprised us both. The kindness, openness, and honesty was so healing for us both. I am still in awe of what took place and we will remain in touch to follow each other’s lives in respect and support.
I also had the urging to talk with my sister about all that had been going on in my life since leaving Ex-gay ministry. I’ve changed a lot and have embraced such a different perspective on my life and reaching others that I was not sure how she would take my new reality. My sister and I love each other very much and have a very warm and affectionate relationship with each other. This has caused me angst that my changes might challenge her heart.
But, after I affirmed my love for her and appreciation for our relationship, I told her I wanted to hold nothing back from her. After I shared everything on my heart with her, she looked at me with soft eyes and said that she loved me completely unconditionally and that nothing would change that. After I left, she sent me a text message and said that after she thought about our conversation, she wanted me to know she loved me even more since I trusted her with the depth of my heart and life. Phew, I still can’t believe it. What an amazing love, an amazing sister! I am so fortunate!
I was called a long time ago by a family to meet with their son and brother that had just left his wife due to his homosexuality. I was still in Ex-gay ministry and went to meet with him with my traditional agenda to try to fix him, and to show him the way, as I understood it to be at the time. I really didn’t truly listen to his heart, and quickly launched into my own story hoping he might listen and heed my ultimate wisdom!
Several years later and with more experience I began to regret that meeting and I believe I had missed an opportunity to show him true love and an open heart. I prayed and prayed for this with hope that this man would find someone who would care enough to listen.
Lo, and behold, last week, out of the blue, I received an email from him. “John, you met with me 8 years ago. I found you today and want to reconnect with you.” Oh, my gosh! Amazing! I know I say that a lot, but I am at a loss for other words to describe my reaction to all of this. I got a once in a lifetime opportunity for a “redo” with that conversation.
Another man that I met in 1985 was a very significant man in my past. I met him through our singles ministry in Omaha. He trusted me with his story of being gay. After he talked with me, I began to search for answers because I wanted to help him so much. This search sent me on a twenty two year trek through my experience with Ex-gay ministry. I lost touch with him and tried to find him, but couldn’t I didn’t know where he’d gone.
Six months ago, I received a comment on a blog on my website from him. “John, this is Craig. We met in FOCAS in 1985. I’d like to catch up with you. What???? I had prayed for him, searched for him, and waited all of these years to talk with him again. Here he was, right in front of me! We can’t talk enough these days. He is such a wise man, and an genuine encouragement in my life today. I have missed so much through the years of not being around him. He likes the same things I do, enjoys people like I do. He is a genuine friend today. As a matter of fact, on my trip to Omaha I was privileged to stay with him the entire week. We talked into the night each night just about the day, our lives, interests, and family. He read me a page he had written several years ago just about me.
He wrote about what he saw in me, how I had impacted his life and how he was so sad that I had moved away before we really got to know one another. Oh, my gosh! You never know how your life might impact someone else’s! God once again gave me the opportunity to meet again a friend that was so important many, many years ago. I had lost him but now he’s found.
There are so many more stories that there aren’t enough pages to contain them. A slice of heaven? You bet! It keeps going on and on. This began when I got honest with myself and began to evaluate my heart for broken places, for pride, for arrogance in my past ministry life. I thought I knew it all. I was so sure I had the final truth. But then, like an adolescent I knew nothing before moving into adulthood!
God has given me an awesome gift to relive a part of my life. To do it over. To make amends, to cry, to care, to talk it all over again with a new perspective. As I look over these last several years in all honesty, I believe that there are close to one hundred people that God has allowed me to talk to “again.” Every week or so, I get another message. Some weeks, there are more than one.
Last week while I was in Omaha, there were six people that I talked with in such honestly that it tested the waters of loving friendship and we found true love for one another.
As I sigh, and take a deep breath, I am thrilled with heaven’s wonder today. I am also filled with anxious thoughts of tomorrow because I also know that I am not in heaven and there are rough waters ahead. I climbed to the mountain top last week and found an amazing vista of glory. But I’m back in the valley of the garden to till, plant, to maintain the challenges of the real world.
Thank you Lord, for giving us the glimpse of hope for your eternity. It is a promise that gets me through to the next glory.
August 1st, 2012
A Time to Be Thankful!
One of the most rewarding aspects of what I get the privilege to do is when I see the tears, or hear the comments from someone that I’ve worked with through Love In Action who is experiencing healing from the struggle of reconciling their faith with their life experience. I received a letter just last week:
I’ve been visiting Grace Rivers website since last year. At the least, I’ve been intrigued by your posts, and it’s probably not an overstatement to say that I’ve been fascinated by what you have written. I think you’ll completely understand what I’m about to say: My nearly two years in the Love In Action program were two of the most difficult years of my life, and simultaneously two of the best! I would not want to relive them, however, but neither would I want to undo them. Those on the outside would not understand, but I know you get it. Since then I’ve accepted that I’m gay, but finding my place within Christianity has been the greater challenge.
I want you to know how much I appreciate your honesty and transparency in talking about your own continuing journey with homosexuality and Christianity. I can imagine it takes continual courage to be in the thick of it in such a personal way.
You don’t speak of the issue as an outsider, a “healed one” or an aggressive crusader with an inflexible mission. Rather, you speak as a man who bares his soul. Your story invites me to also be honest, honest about my own struggles, all struggles wither related to homosexuality or not. Truth is powerful. Thank yo for not hiding in a corner. Surely your story will inform those on all sides of this messy, tangled issue.
I also recently had two meetings within the same week. Interestingly, both men said the same things. “John, I never thought in a million years that I’d be sitting at a table talking with you so personally and with such ease. This is extremely healing for me.”
These experiences speak with a far more effective voice than I can about how much we appreciate those who support us at Grace Rivers. I can get pretty down through all of this for sure. But every time I think of these kinds of meetings, which are not rare, I am encouraged to continue moving forward. It is worth it all.
Followers of Jesus Christ, Impacting our community one person at a time!
July 12th, 2012
Recovery From Homosexuality? Do these tools work?
In numerous interviews I have been asked to talk about what was taught to the clients of Love In Action in order to find freedom from homosexuality. As I was cleaning out some files this past week, I found several outlines from our teaching material that reminded me of what we used to tell people seeking help.
One outline called Tools For Victory, that included 9 basic principles was at the forefront of my former teaching. As I reviewed the outline, I could see some of the value in some of the principles laid out in them. I see the power of life change through them. But, there are flaws that are very significant when using these with men and women who are gay. When they were taught, I remember thinking how wonderful and useful these were in describing an overview of what a person could do to overcome homosexuality. This was under the assumption that is was possible to change ones sexuality.
I have attempted to convey below the way that broad-brushing these concepts into the lives of gay people was not so helpful at the least, and harmful for many. These principles have been used for helping people with compulsive destructive behaviors. But this is assuming that homosexuality is a harmful and compulsive thing. Take a look.
1. Have a bold determination to close all back doors
If someone is trying to quit using drugs, or smoking, I can see how it is important to change hang outs, and remodel your schedule of events and build new pathways into your life plan. However, the first flaw is contained in the message of closing all back doors.
With homosexuality, I do not believe it is simply a behavior and therefore, in general homosexuality isn’t something that can be stopped. When we talked about closing back doors, we often told people to cut off associations with gay friends and activities where there were gay people. This created a sense of aloneness and exacerbated the fears and anxiety about being alone for a lifetime. This became counterproductive to anyone becoming a healthy and well adjusted gay person. It left them to often feel even more like an oddity, or some kind of human freak. The isolation from those who truly understand also created even more shame and detachment.
In the end, it is very significant for people to find places where they feel connected and understood. This can be a tremendous place of peace of the mind.
I would agree that if a person finds themselves in behavior patterns that are destructive to living a healthy life then it may be important to change certain patterns, or to move away from people that are associated with the destruction. However, this does not mean it is wise to break all associations with people who are like themselves just because they are gay.
2. Submit to authority, even in their human weakness.
Submission to authority is certainly something we all have to learn how to deal with. Submission to police officers, government leaders etc. is very important in order to live in our society. But, submission to spiritual authorities is really tricky. Through our Christian history there have been very destructive authority figures that have certainly not had our best interest in mind.
Many church communities, especially the smaller ones, are built upon one pastor being the primary lead authority. Spiritual abuses have been experienced in some of these places and to teach virtual blind submission to aid in someone overcoming homosexuality has many potentially negative ramifications. With such a detrimental bias against gay people, many in authority have slammed the door on human dignity and required submission to the demands of the straight spiritual community. One of the most common experiences of abuse of the gay community is that of spiritual abuse by lead Christian authorities.
If an individual is seeking a healthier life and desires to grow in maturity it may be helpful to seek out mentors, counselors, and possibly those who have a religious maturity to gain insights from. It is important to listen, and possibly to follow some advice that may be against their normal patterns. But this is not blind submission. It is very important that people have an understanding of where they are going, and why they might be doing something that is new. It is also important that there isn’t just one person they are walking with through the process. Balance is key in seeking advice.
3. Forgive others, family, friends, and authority.
Some people get locked into bitterness, unforgiveness and patterns of behavior that are attached to a negative history with relationships. Forgiveness is key to moving forward from some cyclical patterns of unhealthiness.
Forgiving others is tantamount in all forms of growth into becoming a healthy human being. But teaching forgiveness of families, and leaders when talking about freedom from homosexuality can easily read as though they caused the homosexuality. This can lead someone to believe that forgiveness of family members or close friends will bring the potential that the homosexuality will go away. This line of thinking can also increase anger towards loved ones as they evaluate their homosexuality thinking that someone else’s actions caused the homosexuality in the first place.
4. When confronted, humble yourself and accept the confrontation.
It is very important for us to learn to receive confrontation in healthy and appropriate ways. It is also significant to learn how to have discussions that may be challenging in order to better understand one another. It is also helpful to learn how to receive confrontation from others who may be at odds with us.
However, many gay people have experienced hate abuse, teasing, and strong confrontation from those who don’t want to better understand what it is like to be gay. To teach that one must listen to, and submit to confrontation, can feel very threatening. Victims of abuse are often told by an abuser to just take it, and shut up. To continue to teach someone who has been abused to listen to confrontation and don’t respond continues the pattern that has wounded them so often in the past.
5. Healing is not a destination, it is a journey.
Healing, and life in general certainly is a journey. But I remember teaching that there is a long road towards change from homosexuality. There was always a dangling carrot of hope for change that I believed would come some day. Many withstand the pain, and isolation for years with the belief that someday their change would come and it would all be worth it. But now, after almost 40 years of the ex-gay message, far too many people are living in distorted lives of secrecy and pain while recognizing that their hope for change never came. Nor did it even reveal any sign of internal changes of the intrinsic quality of being gay.
It is very healthy to learn about life being a series of lessons and there is no instant change for any of us. We mature through a lifetime of events and experiences. But is it also very important to learn to be realistic about the flow of life along a path of challenges. In most cases, we may have a lifelong struggle that we learn to deal with responsibly and in self control. But to expect that some struggles will go away completely may be very unrealistic. It is very important not to give false hope as this can lead someone to feel distant, disappointed, and hopeless.
6. Change your labels. You are a Christian, you are not Gay.
We often talked about labels and the danger in accepting them. To define oneself as a Christian can even bring its own false identities. Today, if someone says they are a Christian they could be part of the Christian hate groups, a church goer, or it could just mean a connection to the American culture. Sometimes, it really means nothing.
For someone to call themselves Gay, can be greatly misunderstood by many who hear it. But to say someone cannot call themselves Gay, can keep someone trapped and far from an authentic life. The Ex-gay systems that don’t want to allow someone to take on the label of being Gay is something that has stifled the growth into maturity for many people through the years. It may close the door to someone finding a sense of peace in identifying with others like themselves and finally coming to a place of personal acceptance of being gay.
In his book, The Velvet Rage by Alan Downs, he describes one of the only ways a gay man can finally find peace and healthiness is to accept that he is gay. Living an authentic gay life may be the only way to heal and change destructive patterns of living like alcoholism or sex and love addictions.
So, to say someone cannot call themselves gay, may actually lock them out of living a healthy and victorious life. A dramatic contrast to the message in this directive to change your labels.
7. Run toward your fears, force yourself to break through and do things you may not find easy.
Running toward fears is a great idea in some situations. It may be one of the only ways someone can truly grow and mature.
But I know that this principle was often taught with a connection to gay man facing fears of sports, relationships with straight men, and fighting against co-dependent behaviors. It was believed that if you would fight against the fears of those things that may have wounded you in the past, you may find even more victory over homosexual compulsions.
With great anxiety gay men would surround themselves with anxious meetings with straight men and get into patterns of attending sports events that they had no desire to be at with the hope that through facing these fears would bring the solution to being gay. In the end, there may have been some diminishment of sexual lust, in the real world, this didn’t change ones sexual orientation at all.
Or lesbian women would go dress shopping, attend make-up sessions, or quit their softball leagues with the hope they might find normal lives outside of their lesbian desires. The tremendous anxiety that this could bring about caused confusion and a loss of hope because they may have had a lot of affirmation about how pretty they looked, they also may have felt like a circus clown and didn’t really find the peace they were told they would.
8. A failure is one who quits, not one who tries and finds it difficult.
Teaching that a failure is one who quits is especially damaging in these matters. It was often taught that someone who decides to accept they are gay and move away from Ex-gay therapy is viewed as a f-a-i-l-u-r-e! This is one of the most regretful things about all the years of my involvement with Ex-gay ministry. The mindset that someone has failed if they make a choice for themselves about how they will reconcile being gay is just another experience of a wounding rejection by those they’ve known and loved. This can often be by a close confidant, or counselor who separates from them if they no longer desire to continue the path of hopelessness from not seeing any changes in their sexuality.
9. Learn that your hope is in the Lord, and your future with Him.
I cannot deny that our hope is in the Lord! But this can also be problematic if someone is coming from teaching that if someone is gay, they are going to hell. And, where is the hope in that? If there is no change seen in the homosexual orientation, then someone can assume an eternity in hell is the end result for a gay man or lesbian. To simply say our hope is in the Lord can open up all kinds of insecurities for people who have been wounded by religion, or church communities.
It is vital that people who believe their hope is in the Lord that want to bring this message to those within the gay community, to make sure they are models of reflection of the real Jesus. It is so important that they do not over simplify quips about religion or faith.
No one can truly understand the largeness of an omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient God! To think that any of us has figured out a God that is immeasurable is arrogant! To say that we truly understand what God thinks, or feels about us is ridiculous! It is vital that we always convey that there is a mystery about God and what is in store for all of us in the future. And yes, there is hope in having a faith in a loving and forgiving God. But religion can also be a huge source of pain and fear. We must grasp this concept and tread carefully with people who are gay. Understand the tremendous religious abuses that many who are gay have been through may be first step in loving them.
July 9th, 2012
Exodus International gets honest, and experiences rejection from many founding ministries!
Honesty, Is It the Best Policy?
Exodus International now says there is grace for the homosexual and that reparative therapy is harmful! (click here for the story)
I started my journey with Ex-gay ministry. I was a staff member with Love In Action, one of the largest ministries within Exodus International. I had also become and Exodus board member. After over nine years of attempting to rid my life of my homosexuality I realized that my same sex attractions were not changing and that in order for me to continue with the ministry I felt a need to be more open and honest. After a challenging, and cathartic dream I realized I was being called to a public disclosure of my ongoing attractions.
Part of what drove me to this decision was also that all through the previous years I had not heard any other leaders talk about having lingering homosexual desires. I believed it was disingenuous to those we were leading to hide what was true.
During national Exodus conferences each year, board members were given the privilege of speaking at the general sessions. In 1995 I decided it was my time to be honest. So, I called my talk, Honesty, Is It the Best Policy? I spoke about my own ongoing same sex attractions. I challenged the attendees to not be dishonest about their own ongoing struggles. I encouraged honesty because I truly believed it was the best policy. I remember one of my statements in the talk was, Don’t say you’re Ex-gay, if you’re not Ex-gay!
After my talk, a young lady from Australia came up to me and said she was just about ready to give up on the conference and go home early. She heard my talk and it gave her hope to continue through until the end. But, not all reactions were positive. I found that many people were angry that I disclosed this information to the attendees. Frankly, it was the last general session I was allowed to teach at a national conference. Needless to say the leadership wasn’t ready for this message.
2008 – 2010
I left Love In Action and began a new part of my own journey. Not dissimilar from 1995, I had some more things to talk about that revealed even more honesty within my personal journey. I talked about the ongoing struggle and that I had not known of anyone who truly experienced a change in their orientation from gay to straight. I wrote extensively about my new understanding of grace for people who are gay in a very public forum.
In 2011 Alan Chambers, the President of Exodus International, called me to talk. i was a little surprised to hear from him. In our discussion I spoke with him about my new found belief centered in God’s grace for gay people. I was anxious about having this discussion with Alan because I thought surely he would disagree and I’d lose another friend. But my talk with Alan was probably one of the best and most cohesive discussions we had ever had in our lengthy time of knowing each other. He commented that he thought we were not so far apart in our understanding of God’s grace for people within the gay community. Needless to say, I was surprised and pleased to find Alan and I had found common ground to our relationship.
In January, 2012, Alan Chambers was on a panel discussion at the national conference for the Gay Christian Network. I was also on the panel and during the discussion, Alan entered into his own honesty. He commented that 99.9% of those who had tried to change their sexual orientation from gay to straight did not achieve their goals. This comment began to rock the Ex-gay world! Alan began to experience a deluge of negative comments from some of his fellow leaders. Many didn’t like his frankness. There were others who gained tremendous hope from his words. As a matter of fact, this is one comment that came recently from an encouraged individual:
Alan, you don’t know me. I’m a miscarriage of reparative therapy and ex-gay ministries back in 2006. For me, the faith was in unholy matrimony with reparative therapy. So when reparative therapy didn’t work for me, the faith started to not work, either: the two were so closely connected in my life and supportive communities.
Thank you for divorcing the two: that a faith can still work even when reparative therapy doesn’t. Thank you for your very bold comments and moves in regards to Exodus International. With where you are taking it, I think I may be able to engage with Exodus again, without the residual pain of RT. I know that you are under incredible pressure right now, but I support everything you are saying and doing. Thank you.
Now, in July of 2012, the organization that had trouble with my honesty in 1995, and again in 2008, is now disclosing their own experience in a very public way. (Alan Chambers’ Opening Session at 2012 Made For More conference) It is drawing headline attention and gaining many enemies while others are feeling very encouraged by the new honesty coming from Alan Chambers.
I find it ironic that eleven years later, the entire Ex-gay movement is at odds over the message of honesty. The reality is, a change in orientation from gay to straight is NOT commonly achieved and it is so rare that confirmation of any significant changes like this is truly hard to find. (Blog by Jim Burroway on Box Turtle Bulletin talking about Exodus changes and the subsequent splits)
Much like I publically wrote about a couple of years ago in my public amends, Exodus is also now saying that attempts to psychologically change someone’s sexual orientation can actually produce harm! Alan has denounced reparative therapy as a viable option for gay people and removed books and links to such organizations as Narth from their website. This is HUGE! Exodus gave Narth (National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) their start years ago by being a large referral source to Narth counselors.
During the last Exodus national conference I attended in 2008 I was sitting with a long time friend at lunch one day. We were having a private conversation about our lives. I had known this man for many, many years and we shared common ground with being Ex-gay men married to women. He looked at me and said, “John, I’ve never been sexually attracted to my wife.” I’m sure my eyes popped wide open at his statement. I was shocked, disappointed, and hopeful all at the same time After so many years I had believed this man was one who had found a dramatic change and a successful marriage including sexual attraction to his heterosexual wife. I had never heard a married man speak about this so openly.
This man’s experience and disclosure gave me the courage to become more honest with my own journey. After the shock and disappointment wore off, I realized I didn’t feel so alone. But I also was frustrated that my friend was just one of so many others that had put up the image of change for all to see, but in reality, they hadn’t changed and the outer presence was a facade of sorts. It was dishonest. How many others are really out there who have painted a picture of change that wasn’t true? How many others are living a lie and hiding it from public eyes?
Was my experience a prophetic message for the future? I don’t know. I can’t really say it was prophetic for me to speak in 1995 about my own lack of change experience. But, it was honest. I guess it may have been honest for others at the time as well, but they may have not been ready to throw in the towel on change. So, truthfully, we all continued down the path chasing the dangling carrot of hope for change.
I’ve paid a heavy price for my ongoing honesty. I’ve experienced a huge amount of rejection over these last several years. I’ve had some that I thought were great friends that have separated from me. I’ve also had those who have told me how much they disagree with me and yet didn’t really want any further dialogue. But, interestingly, I’ve also had some who have come back and apologized and have begun to reengage with conversations that have been wonderful and reconciling. It’s been a rough road and I think others like Alan Chambers are going through much of the same today.
Today, there is another battle coming forth. The battle of what to do with the truth. Does the truth set us free? Will we find some kind of release from captivity through accepting that a homosexual orientation is likely a lifetime experience for many, if not most of us who are gay?
Jesus promises us that there is hope in Him. I believe Him. But even more so, I believe there is hope in the truth that He also says will set us free. I believe honesty is truly the best policy.
What’s ahead for those of us who are on this path of lifelong homosexuality? Well, clearly it isn’t going to be a change within our attractions to a large degree. Exodus and many within the evangelical church culture say for gay people there are two options. They can find a way to be married to heterosexual spouses (Mixed Orientation Marriage) or they can remain celibate and find satisfaction in a life of singleness.
Frankly, for many, this would not be such an encouraging message. Many gay men and women are deeply wired for relationship, intimacy, loving relationships, and yes – sexual desires. Is there grace for them to be in a faithful, loving relationship? Does God have enough forgiveness through the cross of Jesus Christ for those who chose to engage in a gay relationship? Is there as much grace for them as there is for the greedy?
Questions will continue and I believe we have just seen the tip of the iceberg with this topic. With the changes in the “world’s largest Ex-gay network” I believe we will see waves of change coming ahead for the gay community.
It is my hope:
I hope we will see waves of acceptance within the American church for not only single gay people, but for gay couples as well. It is my hope that church families will also allow gay people into the fullness of service and membership.
Maybe way back in 1995 there was a prophetic message of hope that came through my own life experience and that cathartic dream. I hope so.
June 25th, 2012
It was 1982 and I was at the end of a deeply emotionally wounding relationship. I had nowhere to turn and someone suggested I attend an al-anon meeting for gay men. I heard it was a better place to go than to the local bars to find some solace and healing.
So I went. I found encouragement, safety, and others who could relate to me at the time. I also found personal prayer to a God who really did care about my life. Due to many connections during that season of my life, I was introduced to a living relationship with a God who saved me from my human circumstances. I also discovered new understanding in the Bible and enjoyed reading about the life of Jesus.
I was so excited about my new focus in life that I told everyone about what I had found! It was so freeing to me to learn that I no longer had to worry about where I would go when I died. I continued to engage in dating same sex relationships and often engaged in sex but in the end, I would also often tell them about Jesus!
I was gay. I was out. I was comfortable being gay. And, I now called myself a Christian! I felt released from so many things including healing from a lot of pain from the unhealthy relationships.
That is until I entered a church community. I was hungry to discover others like myself who understood my new faith. I was immature in my knowledge of the church and Christian beliefs. I just knew I needed to find others who could relate to me. I also knew that I needed a time away from places where I had been unhealthy and the association with other “bar flies” that I had grown accustomed to knowing. And, I needed a break from the unhealthy gay relationships and bar life.
I found a singles ministry within a church I was introduced to. It seemed to be a safe place for me to land. So, I began to listen to the teaching, and hear the messages from those in the community. Since I was coming from an identity of being gay, my ears often turned to anything that was said, or taught about my particular persuasion. The singles pastor and those I met were really awesome. They provided me a place where I could be honest with those closest to me. The teaching was helpful and practical and I didn’t hear too much there about homosexuality.
However, within the church at large, the messages began to come in clear. I was given a “Big Black Box of Shame.”
Since I had been in such pain, and was really ignorant, the lessons I began to hear and believe were that my pain was primarily from my being gay. I began to believe that if I could eradicate homosexuality and its entanglements from my life, that life would get better for me. At least that is the message I thought I was hearing.
I learned tools for overcoming what was referred to as life dominating sin and started to put them into practice. Things like, praying more, reading my bible more, and learning a life of self sacrifice. I heard that if I could deny my flesh more, I’d become more like Jesus. Lessons of becoming righteous in Him through changes in my behavior, and living obediently, also promised a positive outcome.
I came to believe that the life dominating sin in my life was homosexuality, I figured that all of these “tools” could be applied to find overcoming power. If I could overcome being gay, then certainly my life would be much better. I also heard that if I confessed my faults to others, then I would be forgiven from them. If I held them inside, I may not find the forgiveness and therefore not find the healing I was searching for.
My goal was to be the best Christian I could be. I took it that if I didn’t get over homosexuality then my goals would be stifled and I would never find the “overcoming power” I so hungered to find.
In my search for answers to overcome homosexuality, I found special ministries that were designed just for someone like myself. They were called “ex-gay” ministries. Well, if I was to become the best at being a Christian, then it may mean that I needed to immerse myself into them. So, through my search, I discovered one that was looking for a staff person. I thought it might behoove me to take advantage of all that was available. I mean, after all, I had been praying for full time ministry and this must be custom designed for me!
I took a buyout from my job, which funded me with $30,000. I sold everything I couldn’t take with me. I left close relationships including my two young daughters, packed up my car and moved across the country to find my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! I was now going to rid myself of this gay thing, and find a life worthy of the calling of Christ as I was told I should live. The $30,000 was my financial ticket to freedom and I volunteered for the ministry for two years on my own dollar.
I did it all! Became the very best I could become! I climbed all the way to the top. I was the director, the board member, the speaker, the teacher, and leader of the world’s most well known specialized ministry that promised help to rid people of homosexuality.
I also sought marriage! To a woman! This also seemed to be the highest achievement one could accomplish as an official ex-gay. If I was all of these things, and married too, I must find that life I was searching for, a life worthy of the calling. I would have accomplished the required goal of ridding my life of homosexuality.
I learned how to share my story in the way that best told others of what had occurred in me. I had the miracle story of being free from homosexuality. I counted the years of freedom just like Alcoholics Anonymous does. No chips for me, but I could count, “One,” “Five,” “Ten,” and I finally made it to “Twenty” years. I got all emotional every year around Valentine’s Day because it was that week in 1984 that I had my last gay relationship. I didn’t know how else to count the victory other than count from my last sexual act with a man and this marked the beginning of my freedom.
I tried to apply the lessons and thought that if I stuffed, and stuffed, and stuffed attractions, feelings, and anything within me that felt gay, I was doing what was right. Remaining clear of anything homosexual including any conversation that might glorify gay behaviors or mindsets promised that I might find deeper victory from the lure of any return to homosexuality.
I struggled with emotional attractions many years after my last homosexual sex encounter. I was taught that this was called Emotional Dependency and was also an idol to overcome. So, like other things I had learned, I became the expert in teaching on the destruction of emotional dependence upon another person. After learning how to protect myself from any emotional entanglements like that I had a new victory to talk about! I was now not only free from homosexual sex, but I was also free from emotional dependency!
Year by year, I gained pride, and self satisfaction that I had done what many had not, as seemed to be rare, I was experiencing the freedom from homosexuality, and emotional dependency that was sought after by so many. As someone who had a very public image, I had the amazing story and I had now made it over the twenty year mark! Wow! I was heading towards my “Silver Anniversary” of achievement.
However, comma, what was going on inside me was a cauldron of pain, confusion, and fear. I was so high up on the leadership ladder within my circles, I didn’t know who I could talk to? Who could I now “confess my faults” to? Internally, I knew that I hadn’t achieved the goals of being a good Christian. I hadn’t found freedom from my homosexuality. I was still as attracted to the hunky men as I always was! Everywhere I went, I found men that drew my eyes. It wasn’t just because they were handsome, but it touched a very deep part of my sexual soul and I knew the difference. I had also successfully shut down my emotional needs in order to maintain my victory over any desires for another man’s heart. I tried very hard to dismiss the momentary desires as temptation. I grieved, and grieved, thinking I would never again, ever, be close to a man like I had been before. I pushed it aside and just put one foot in front of the other trying to ignore my attractions, and desires.
Where could I go to talk about something that I believed was so strongly forbidden for discussion? We taught, and tried to practice not glorifying anything gay, so to talk about my inner desires, and hunger was not allowed as it seemed to glorify something from my past.
Therefore, as a leader, I certainly couldn’t open up that conversation. “Oh, by the way, I am marking my twentieth year of sobriety from homosexuality,” while I just held my breath as a great looking guy just walked by. I hadn’t changed one wit! Not one wit!
Recently I discovered that underneath my lack of victory over my homosexual desires laid that ”Big Black Box” of shame. I didn’t know I had been carrying this around from room to room, day by day, year by year. It was just a part of my life and I redefined it as being God’s conviction or His discipline and redefined it as protection over my soul. It was painful, scary, and overwhelming much of the time.
I cursed it and yelled at it in my heart, since I couldn’t talk about it. I was angry so many times when I perceived that it was blocking me from the victory I desired and I hadn’t become the best ex-gay I could become since it was still there. I discovered a tremendous practice of stuffing all of the feelings that lay inside my soul.
I learned another thing that I thought I could strive for that would help. If I tried as hard as I could and faced all of the paralyzing fears of the world of “straight men” maybe I could become as though I were one of them! Yes, maybe this would help me find true freedom from homosexuality. So this also was woven into the ongoing plan. The world of ex-gays taught us that hanging around men could familiarize us with our own hidden masculinity.
So, I did that for years with great anxiety most of the time. I tried really hard but always felt distant, and a great challenge to fully relate to many discussions. But like all of the other tools we were given, I used this one with great hope that someday the anxiety would go away.
I never knew where to go for help with all of these inner conflicts. I mean, where would John Smid go to release all of this pent up stuff that had been building for over two decades? I knew all of the counselors in town for the most part. And I figured that certainly a Christian counselor would never want to hear all of this. I thought surely I would be told to continue with the tools I had been given and ongoing stuffing would be the result.
I’ve recently found out that I did have some choices. I could choose to no longer listen to the shame that came from the religious system. I realized that I had not chosen to be gay. I had nothing to do with the deep inner feelings, and needs that have loomed inside me for virtually my entire life. I had nothing to be ashamed about. So I dumped shame.
As I began to learn to live outside the shame I realized how much I had been wounded by a religious system that seemingly had taught me to live in denial and suppression regarding my homosexuality. The wounds created a great need to find some kind of comfort but since I was such a good boy, I didn’t search the world for chemical comforts, and I certainly couldn’t act out my secret sexual desires since that would surely cost me any hope of peace.
So, I got on the treadmill of ministry leadership and received many accolades for my service, and my testimony of freedom from homosexuality. Yes, this became my drug of choice. I was the hero child of the family and gained many invisible trophies for my accomplishments.
Through my recent honesty, I found a counselor that seemed to be a safe place to begin to unload years of stuffing. Upon my second meeting he made a profound observation. He told me that I talked through my feelings, rather than experiencing the feelings that were there. What? I was the guru of feeling oriented teaching for hundreds of people! How could he possibly be correct. I know my feelings well! I have been called emotionally intelligent by a good friend.
But, inside, I knew he was right. I was afraid to feel my feelings. If I truly began to open up, all of those years of stuffing would be released and I would surely die from the explosion. He went on to ask me if I were willing to work on this. Since I went to him for help, I believed I had to move forward with his observation and do some feeling work.
Wow!!! I had no idea all of that was underneath! I attended a group healing session under his guidance and found more anger and rage than I thought I could possibly hold. It was attached to the religious system that I believed had short changed me through the teaching of the tools of denial to help me find freedom. One of the first statements that came out of my mouth in a rage filled “role play” in a small group session was “YOU LIED TO ME!”
The very leaders of this system had not found the freedom for themselves that they promised I could have. As I looked back over the years I was given a duplicitous system. I knew some of them very personally, I knew they were living in the same denial that they taught me to live in and called it self sacrifice. I also released strong rage filled emotions about all of the enabling others who were living falsely. I acknowledged that many of these men I had known were still as gay as they ever were and yet they said they had found freedom.
In the recent years, I have reconnected with several people that I used to serve next to in our organizational ex-gay conferences and small groups. Not surprisingly, these guys have told me the same things I am saying here. We have found deep re-connections in our common life experiences. A discovery of not being alone in all of this is extremely comforting. I have found deeper friendships than I have had in many years. These relationships are often pointing me towards God, only this time with honestly at the foundation. They are encouraging me with a deeper understanding of God’s true character of love and mercy than I have ever had before. They are also allowing me to grow in my own self discovery. I have people who are comforting me in my very personal grief, anger, and yes, they allow me to be enraged too. I have not felt any judgment, or criticism for my struggles in going through all this pain filled transition and have seen great patience from them as I waffle through this crooked path out of denial.
I discovered that I can own my own truth. I realize that it may not be “THE truth”, but it is my truth. My truth involves my life experience, my feelings, my thoughts and opinions. No one else has any place to attempt to deny that in my life. My truth evolves, changes, and can be challenged, but that is why it is “my” truth and not “THE” truth. I acknowledge that there is A TRUTH, that I continue to discover. But along the way I have permission to own my truth.
Today as a result of these profound revelations in my life, I have found a more solid ground to stand on. I feel more confident in myself, and more at peace with life as it is, not necessarily as I would have it. I find myself saying more and more, “it is, what it is.”
I also learned a new version of the Serenity Prayer that began this whole process in my life way back in 1982.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change – the courage to change the one I can – and the wisdom to know that it is me.
I fully realize that the things that have caused me such harm, and discouragement were not people but rather it has been a system that has blinded them just as it blinded me for so many years. I am learning that God never consigned us to secrecy and denial. He didn’t ask me to hide my inner person and to live in shame. He never set up a plan to cause me to have to stuff such significant things in order to be a better servant of Him.
God designed a salvation plan that promised to set me free from shame. He provided a way for me to release the inner turmoil in complete honesty and asked me to declare this plan to others who are bound.
He said that I can confess my faults, all of them, to others, that I would be forgiven . He also said that THE truth, and my truth, and the truth that I will discover in the future, will set me free.