Archive for the ‘Mailbag Responses’ Category
Friday, October 7th, 2011
I have been reading your posts since the beginning. Every week I have more questions. I’m sorry, I don’t understand where repentance fits into all of this. I don’t mean to be harsh….I just honestly don’t understand.
Are you saying homosexuality isn’t wrong or are you saying it is wrong, but we have to be patient while God’s goodness brings the homosexual to repentance? I see that you are saying homosexuals can be Christians, but can they remain that way…never expecting a change?
A Dear Friend
Thanks for your question. I know you have been reading through the blogs and appreciate your willingness to read them.
You have asked a very difficult question to answer. In order to understand homosexuality, and Christianity, it is important to look at the much larger picture of our faith.
Repentance from something means it has to be something you can control, like actions.
So often people will say someone needs to “repent” from homosexuality. It is something that actually cannot be repented of! People are, or they are not, homosexual. It is an intrinsic part of their being or personally, my being. One cannot repent of something that is unchangeable. I have gone through a tremendous amount of grief over the many years that I spoke of change, repentance, reorientation and such, when, barring some kind of miracle, none of this can occur with homosexuality. The article today is a great example of how we as Christians pervert the gospel as it relates to homosexuality as though homosexuals aren’t welcome in the kingdom unless they repent (which many interpret to change). But since homosexuality is not “repentable” then we put homosexuals into an impossible bind. (I’ve written another article that also addresses the subject of repentance – Click Here to read it.)
Surely, indiscriminate sexual behavior, stealing, gossip, and other “behaviors” are things that need to be considered when we speak of walking in the kingdom of God. God desires to transform us into His image more and more each day. But in the larger story of the gospel, biblical repentance means to turn our lives to God’s kingdom and away from the kingdom of the world. To change our allegiance from the god of this age, to the Lord of Lords! In this repentance, it allows God to be in the forefront of our lives and we decide to allow His kingdom to reign in us. Therefore we enter into a road of change, transformation. The issue then is what will that change look like for each of us. Yes, there are homosexuals that make dramatic changes in their lives as they walk through the transformation process with Jesus. I have heard story after story of changes that have occurred as men and women find the grace of God in their lives as homosexual people. But, I’m sorry, this transformation process may not meet the expectations of many Christians. I also want to reiterate here that the transformation for the vast majority of homosexuals will not include a change of sexual orientation. Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual. I have met some women who claim that is the case but then again, male sexuality and female sexuality are vastly biologically different so this would not be a fair comparison.
I have met men who find their transformation to include marriage to a woman and having a family and it is something for them that is a wonderful life experience. I’ve met some who find their transformation to include satisfaction in living a single life in Christ and His calling. But, I’ve also met some who experience transformation from sexual promiscuity to a faithful gay relationship that is truly, in their experience, a great blessing to their relationship with Christ. Oh, I understand the controversy in all of this.
How would you answer the question: “Which is worse, two men who have been in a faithful committed relationship for 30 years, or a heterosexual who has been married five times?”
Well, often the Christian would immediately go to the homosexual couple. But, I would say neither is worse. First of all, I cannot judge one from the other because Jesus needs to judge the heart. But on a practical level, I would say the homosexual couple show a tremendous amount of work on maintaining a relationship, through faithfulness and sacrifice, to remain committed for so long. Any relationship that lasts 30 years is an amazing feat! The person who has been married five times shows some significant issues with unhealthiness. Five marriages is certainly on the fringe of a lot of damage personally and with many who are family and friends of this person. How would you prescribe these two scenarios to repent? Do you know what the person who has been married five times needs to repent of? What does the homosexual couple need to repent of?
From a spiritual standpoint, I also believe the homosexual couple could be more faithful in their walk with Christ than the person married five times – and yet……
The person married five times could also have a walk with Jesus that might be very intimate even though they exhibit relationally unhealthy practices.
We cannot grade homosexuality in its own separate category. It’s a shame, as followers of Christ, that we’ve been so judgmental and arrogant with so many people that we deem “unrepentant” because of our homosexual prejudice.
When I was in San Francisco this year a man made the statement: “John, you know who most of the gays are in San Francisco, they are wounded Christians.” Oh, my gosh! I think he may be right! They have been thrown out of most churches and have sought out someplace where they would feel connected, wanted and maybe loved.
My dear friend, this is a very tough issue and I am trudging through some very deep waters trying to better understand God’s heart on this matter. I have now gone around the world listening to Him, listening to the stories, seeing the tears of rejection in some, and the peace of God’s love in others. This is so different than I always thought in my small world of ex-gay ministry. And yes, it was a small world because I made it small. I was completely unwilling to hear anything that didn’t fit my paradigm. I blocked out anyone’s life story or biblical teaching that didn’t match up with what I believed.
When I was at LiA I never taught a session on the scriptures regarding homosexuality that I understood. I know that sounds strange but it is true. I didn’t teach them because I really had never studied them for myself. I merely quoted what I saw that others had written on the issue. I felt an obligation to at least teach something on what the Bible said, but every time I attempted to study it for myself it made no sense to me and I just went back to the writings of others within the ex-gay subculture.
Now that I am not submerged into one sided perspectives, I am open to studying and reading the scriptures for myself, I am finding so many rich truths that I wasn’t ever made aware of before. For the first time in all of these years, the scriptures that many have said refer to homosexuality are making sense! I am reading them in context. I am asking questions about who the passages were written to. I am asking what was being talked about, and why the words were written in the first place.
That illusive word – “Change”
Now to the other part of your question. If there is a change to be made, it has to be from Christ! If the gay man or woman is alienated from Christ because of the judgment they perceive coming from the church then we are placing a burden on them that they are not meant to carry. Many times the church community sends the message that homosexuality is dirty, perverted, broken, and at times even a psychological defect. So, many homosexuals come to think they have to clean themselves up according to “our” standards in order for us to receive them into our pews and nurture them.
I am facing a challenging season in my life, my friend. I am at great risk of believers who have known me for many years rejecting me because I am daring enough to ask the questions I never would ask before. To be honest not many within the church are open to these kinds of discussions without being defensive and reactionary. I stand to lose some very close friends because I have chosen to unconditionally love gay people and to support them now without pressuring them to “change.” Someone has to take the fall for these folks whom Christ loves and desires a closeness with. I am willing to stand in the gap.
As I said, for many years I was unwilling to hear the hearts, the stories of so many gay people who were lost and afraid. I repeated the message “you can come here (to our program) if you want to change” and yet the matter of change was so ambiguous that no one could possibly have met the mark that was expected. For the homosexual, the word change is deeply misunderstood and most often mis-communicated by the church.
Oh, I wish you could have been where I have been to hear the hearts and to experience what I have in the last two to three years. The sad thing is that many Christians would have not been willing to have walked the streets I have walked on out of the fear they would be “condoning” sin, or that they might have heard things they didn’t want to hear.
I was one of those Christians!
As I walked into a conference two years ago with Christians who were gay, my life flashed before me. I was very anxious and concerned about what others would think if they knew that I was there. I didn’t talk about having been there for a while and certainly not with certain people. My friend, what’s up with that? Why should I have such a deep fear of what others might think about me sharing space with Christians who are gay? What kind of legalism is that rooted in? What does that say about my own heart?
Now, to your second question,
So, John, are you a homosexual who lived as a heterosexual for all of these years or a heterosexual who was living as a homosexual?
I am on my own road of discovery in this area. I used to define homosexuality or heterosexuality in terms describing one’s behavior. I thought it made sense and through the years often wrote articles and talked from that perspective.
Today, I understand why the gay community had such an issue with my writings. My perspective denied so many facets of the homosexual experience. I minimized a person’s life to just their sexuality but homosexuality is much more than sex.
There are perversions that occur just because of one’s lust and a breakdown of morality. These are the perversions that I think you may be speaking of. Men and women are certainly capable of extremes sexually such as in prostitution, pornographic exhibitionism and others. However, today I do not paint homosexuality into that broad brush. There are surely men and women who act in homosexual behavior but may not be intrinsically homosexual, but I would say that the vast majority of those who consider themselves gay would not fit in the “perversion” category.
As to the question at hand, I would consider myself homosexual and yet in a marriage with a woman. My sexual desires, attractions and lifelong struggle with common factors relating to homosexuality are pretty much all in the classification of homosexual. Someone once described this type of scenario a “mixed orientation marriage”. When I heard this term it sent me into quite the internal process. In many ways it answered many questions that had plagued me for many years. Now I had something that finally effectively described my personal experience with being married.
I am who I am, she is who she is.
I am homosexual, my wife is heterosexual. This creates a unique marriage experience that many do not understand. For many years I tried to fit into the box of heterosexuality. I tried my hardest to create heterosexuality in my life but this also created a lot of shame, a sense of failure, and discouragement. Nothing I did seemed to change me into a heterosexual even though I was in a marriage that included heterosexual behavior. Very often when I am in situations with heterosexual men I clearly see that there are facets of our lives that are distinctively different as it relates to our sexuality, and other things as well.
There is no question, I love my wife. God has worked powerfully in and through our relationship. The fact that she married me in the first place knowing of my past homosexual promiscuity said something quite profound about her love for me. Which, by the way, was not an enabling, “I can fix him” kind of relationship. My wife has never tried to fix me or change me in that area of our relationship. She truly unconditionally loves me. But this doesn’t change the fact that I am who I am and she is who she is.
This is why I say things like “you can’t repent of homosexuality.” In traditional homosexuality it appears that it is intrinsic to a person’s fabric of life. Nature or nurture, it is far to complicated to have a definitive answer for the origin of homosexuality. However, I hear story after story of men and women who accept themselves as being gay, in Christ, and finally find that life makes sense to them. Many are able to then nurture an authentic relationship with Christ because they are being honest and authentic with themselves and finally are able to accept His love unconditionally which changes the dynamic of their understanding of Him. Far too many homosexuals who are seeking Christ perceive that they cannot come close to Him if they remain a homosexual. In this mindset they search feverishly for change that will not come to them.
This kind of searching can lead to deep depression, discouragement and often an alienation from God!
Commonly when a homosexual finds God’s amazing love for them as they are, their perversion diminishes, their promiscuity decreases or goes away completely, and at times they accept being single or they may find a God centered relationship that also seems to be healthy and faithful.
There is a lot of negative power in someone who feels ashamed of their homosexuality, guilt from misunderstood aspects of their lives that they have no control over.
I hope this helps.
Anyway, I hope you will consider what I have written. I have loved you as a sister for all of these years. I am really trying to gain God’s heart for all of this and I am willing to allow Him to show me His truth.
Friday, September 2nd, 2011
I received this question from a long time friend who had read my recent article “John, you have deviated from the truth.”
John, I still don’t understand what you are saying at times. I was involved in extra marital affairs, I lost my marriage and am attempting to start fresh with my sexuality, and in my walk with Christ. Could I have stayed in adultery, without repentance, and still been a faithful Christian? Help me understand this.
First of all, many of the principles I will use to answer your question are in articles I have already written about. (Articles on Homosexuality, and “God Suprise Me!) But, please allow me to try to compose an answer to your question.
What I am saying more than anything else is that we are all on a journey of transformation. Some people are what I would call “pre-Christian” and hopefully they will find Christ’s salvation to become real for them. Others have already been enlightened to Christ’s gift and have started on their transformation journey. But, none of us are on the same time line and it is very hard to compare life experiences as it relates to our relationship with Christ. And, we all know, no one has achieved perfection as yet. We are all falling short of God’s standards.
During Jesus’ ministry, he dealt heavily with the Pharisees. He constantly challenged their law oriented religion. Pharisaical thinking and actions are that of expecting people to satisfy the Law Code through good behavior and submission to the law. They attempted to teach that we could gain favor with God by being good obedient sons.
Many Christians still act like Pharisees today.
Within the church community many still function as though they can earn God’s favor through their good works, their clean living and expect others to follow suit. While Jesus told the Pharisees that underneath their polished exteriors was a cauldron of stuff that was clearly wrong and needed to be cleansed. Of course, Jesus was trying to show them their need for His salvation in preparation for His sacrifice for their sin. He was certainly not saying that He expected them to “clean it up” on their own. (Matthew 23:25-26)
Jesus came to fulfill the law Himself so that we are freed from the eternal consequences of sin. He came to give us freedom from condemnation of the law. In acceptance of His gift, He gave us a new heart. Those with His new heart are growing into the likeness of Christ.
What is a faithful Christian? Is it someone who’s behavior is perfect? Well, no, none of us is perfect. But can we be closer to perfect than others? Maybe if we are comparing our outward signs of life. But, actually I have known you a long time and I knew you when you were involved in adultery. You were representative of many wonderful manifestations of your walk with Christ. You revealed the fruit of a man who placed your relationship with Christ as an extreme importance. But during that time, you were struggling with your humanity. I never judged your walk with Christ differently after I found out about your adultery. You are a man, and a man who knows Christ deeply.
I think we really need to rethink what it means to be a “man after God’s own heart” like our old friend David. Was David a faithful God worshipper? I think we would agree that He was faithful to God even when his relationships were really messed up.
There are many people who would call themselves faithful Christians in arrogance while not being willing to look at their own lives honestly. They exhibit religious pride and practice. And there are many gay people who struggle with deep insecurities about their relationship with God because they love Him so much. How do we judge a “faithful Christian?”
The Complexity of Homosexuality
This is a huge can of worms because of the intrinsic nature of homosexuality. How do we define homosexuality? The word itself is really only good as it describes a collection of related items. It is vital to separate behavior from the person. Gay people hear all the time that they must repent of homosexuality. A person cannot repent of “homosexuality” if the understanding of the word is same sex attraction and a unique personal response to gender. For the majority of gay people, their life experience is unchangeable and not something that can be “repented” of. So, to say that a gay man or lesbian must repent of their homosexuality will certainly be confusing and challenging.
So, it is hard to compare heterosexual adultery with homosexuality and without clarifying our verbiage and context it can become quite mixed up. If on the transformation journey God moves a gay man to no longer engage in indiscriminate sexual relations then we can compare that to what you experienced with adultery. This is something that falls into the category of sanctification. But at the same time, we have to be very careful when judging anyone being a “faithful Christian” if we are only considering their behavior. We all know how flawed our lives are. The most powerful and influential spiritual leader goes home to their own human experiences and if we were to look only at their human behaviors, they would not satisfy the requirements of a perfect God in and of themselves.
So, why would we place a finer grid onto the gay community than we place on other human experiences? Are gay men or lesbian women under a magnifying glass that we are not willing to subject our lives to?
I recently had a pretty passionate discussion with some men about how many Christians can get so angry about homosexuality. I asked why we have not had such a heavy discussion about things like divorce, or greed? Why is the hammer so heavily aimed at gay people and yet there are so many other things that we ignore? We are either under grace, forgiveness, and God’s transformation process in each of our lives or we are not.
Why would the Christian community not want to see as much grace for the homosexual as we seem to have for those who are divorced, or the greedy? Why do I so often hear such negative responses about allowing God’s grace to be poured out on gay people who are so misunderstood by society and even more so, by the church? When Jesus began His public ministry, the things he point out to the new disciples were things like; anger, divorce and remarriage, prideful praying and fasting, selfishness, and worry! He pointed out our common temptation for hatred and bitterness with our enemies. He compared these to the law and revealed to the disciples that they desperately needed a Savior.
Why am I being told I have “deviated from the truth” with this issue and living through “cheap grace” when the hoarders of worldly goods are sitting in church with their hands lifted high? Shouldn’t the homosexual be sitting there too, under God’s grace? Well, I certainly understand that grace cost our Savior more than we can imagine, or think. But, He freely gave it to us. Some people respond to them as though they are the lepers of our society – that is unless they “repent” and even then, celibate homosexuals who say “I am gay” are mocked and rejected just because they are attempting to be honest about their sexuality.
When I was worshiping at a large church, without knowing it, I was barred from ministry within the church, rejected, scorned, and gossiped about. Oh, I never saw or heard it for myself. People didn’t come to me personally. And it wasn’t coming from the pastoral staff because they continued to embrace me completely. There was a continual encouragement from the staff to offer to do things within the church. But, there was the “old guard” who prevented me from serving within their church. I heard all about it later. I was involved in ministry to “the gays” that were unwelcome at their church. I represented the scourge of our society and they didn’t want anything to do with that.
The Real Message
Someone has to be willing to say to the homosexual, “God loves you intimately, He wants you in His house, He will not give you more than you can handle and along life’s path, you are free, totally free. Do not live under shame and condemnation that Jesus didn’t place upon you.” Who will be willing to be an ambassador of the gospel of grace for anyone who so desperately needs a deeper connection with God?
So, what would Jesus say to us? How would He minister to the gay community today? I think it is clear. Zacchaeus, (Luke 19:5), The woman at the well (John 4), The woman caught in adultery, (John 8:3-11) and there are so many others. What I see in His response to the fringe of the culture of the day, is that He responded to each one differently and always respectfully. There was not a “one size fits all” response from Jesus. He understood where each one was at and what the next step of their life would need to be. He was known as a man who would eat with sinners! (Matthew 9:10-13), The Rich Man (Mark 17:20-25). Jesus’ responses to the men and women around him were all unique. In listening to the deepest places of their hearts, He didn’t respond the same way to any of them.
One of the First Christians!
And, interestingly enough, one of the very first converts after Jesus’ death and resurrection was a black eunuch! (Acts 8:38-40) This shows you how much God does not discriminate and how much we do. Without question, the eunuchs of Jesus day were probably some of the people that fell under condemnation and criticism just like the gay people of today do. And we all know what black people have gone through in our recent American history.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18)
Sorry if this sounds a little strong, It isn’t about you. You just provided a question for me to flush out some more things.
I really appreciate you asking, my friend. I am open to questions and thoughts.
Friday, July 15th, 2011
I have been following your emails lately. You have talked a lot about the gay community but I am not sure that I understand what you are really saying about what motivates you within the ministry of Grace Rivers. You put out a recent ministry mission statement and I would like to know more about what you are really saying. Thank you in advance for more clarity.
Jim, I would love to help you better understand what I am doing and to convey more of my heart motivation to you.
First of all, I will be using the term “gay” in my statements. I have a desire to be as relevant to the gay community as I can be. In recent conversations with some people from the gay community I asked them about the terminology that best describes them.
One man said, “John, I don’t like the word “homosexual” because I don’t want my identity to be wrapped around the word “sex”. I am celibate and choose to remain that way for many reasons, but I am still “gay”. Being “gay” is not about sex. It is about part of my life experience that is intrinsically tied to how I connect to culture, community, and things about my relationships that are same gender connected. To say I am a homo’sex’ual puts more emphasis on sex than I relate to.”
I realize that for my generation, and for the Christian community that I am a part of to say “gay” brings all kinds of baggage with it. It may sound political, or bring up images of gay activism. Or for some, am image of a fringe collection of people that seem counter culture. Some people my age can’t fathom using the word gay because of historical images of certain stereotypes. But from my perspective, it is more important to relate to those I am working with and hope that those who don’t like the word “gay” will grow to hear my heart.
But, If I am going to share in the love of Christ with people from the gay community, it is important that I use words that are connecting, and not separating.
So, I hope you understand the terms I use here.
I have recently conveyed through articles and interviews on my website and in my email blogs some of the following perspectives.
You referred to a recent mission statement:
Grace Rivers is a ministry with the gay community that reveals the message of an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ and genuine community with His followers – because every person deserves to know that Jesus loves them.
All gay people deserve to know they are loved by God.
Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:39
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Gay people have often felt discarded by many, and often from church associations, as though they have no value.
I have met many people from the gay community that have emotionally separated themselves from God and from gatherings of Christians due to deep wounds they have incurred.
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? Matthew 18:12
Many gay people have received from Jesus the gift of salvation and are a significant part of our Christian family and are seeking to further understand what that means and desire more of God in their lives.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10
Gay people are worthy of my respect because of their intrinsic value offered them by God.
Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:11-13
Gay people have legitimate lives, cares, concerns, relationships, and many seek to feel heard, validated, and understood.
I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
It is also my conviction that without a growing personal relationship with Jesus, no man will ever know their intrinsic worth, nor will anyone truly know God’s heart for them as people loved by Him.
Therefore, I seek to work with the gay community to convey this redemptive, radical love from God to His people, and to those who don’t know Him. There is no other reason for anyone to seek God for His desire for their lives other than in response to His unlimited gift to them of grace and the journey of salvation as unto eternity.
Jim, I hope this gives you some more clarity about my heart for the gay community. This passage closely describes my ministry motivation:
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
It has been a tremendous privilege to see the amazing power of God’s grace in bringing healing and reconciliation to gay people who are hurting and need to hear that someone cares. During a recent opportunity this delightful young lady told me:
“John, we met 11 years ago when we ministered together at a conference. Shortly after that conference I walked away from God from so much hurt and pain from many people in the church. Two years ago, I found God’s grace for me and I have returned to Him. I want you to know that it was really hard to see you here today because you represent some of that pain for me. But, after we talked, God began to heal some more deep places in my heart. Thank you for who you are and thank God for what He has done between us. I can see more of Him today.”
After not seeing this next young man for 20 years, I arranged to meet him for breakfast and he said:
“I hired Jesus to heal me. He didn’t. So after many years of trying to get healed by myself, I walked away disappointed, believing that He cared more for others, who seemed to get healed, than he did me. John, as a result of our reunion today, I realize I need a new beginning with God. I am starting over in a new city and it’s a perfect time to start over with God.”
This last couple of months, I have had many of these “mountain top” experiences of reconciliation. God is showing me a brand new understanding of “reconciling grace”. I have seen the outcome of all of the work God has done during these recent years in my own heart. More than ever, I want to continue bringing this kind of freedom to others. As I am lead, I am pursuing people that God brings to my heart to bring them the good news of Jesus love.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
Links to other articles:
Articles on Homosexuality
Through the Windshield of My Life
Thursday, June 16th, 2011
John, I saw that there is a documentary on Face Book that is about the story of the protests that occurred many years ago against the youth program at Love In Action when you were the director there. I saw your picture on the FaceBook page of the documentary and wondered what you think about this film? – Joshua P.
Yes, there is a new documentary coming out called; “This Is What Love In Action Looks Like”. I am interviewed on this documentary. I will be attending the premier on June 18, 2011. I’d like to talk about my involvement in this film so that you will see what my role is and how I have been involved. – John
A phone call from Morgan Fox came into my office:
“Hello, Morgan? Yes, I know you are producing a documentary about the protests at Love In Action this year. What? Your asking if I will do an interview with you for the documentary? I’ll think about it and my Communications Director will get back with you.”
I had no intention of being any part of this documentary. The Love In Action staff discussed Morgan’s proposal and decided it would be best to remain silent and allow it to be what it would be without any words from me. I was frustrated about the fact that there was a protest and even more that it was being chronicled by someone I believed to be a fringe film artist in the gay community. I wanted no part of any of it.
Six years later here I am, interviewed on the film. What changed?
After an initial meeting with Morgan in 2005, while I was still the Director of Love In Action, we decided to meet again for casual talks over coffee. I began to hear his heart. I grew to have a different perspective of him, and learned new things about myself. I had begun to see him as a person with talent and a tremendous heart for people. After several lengthy talks, I grew to respect and admire his honesty and authenticity.
At one point, a few months after I left Love In Action in 2008, I began to further process the effects of the protests. I began to feel responsible for some of the negative effects on some of the youth that were highlighted in the protest. I talked with Morgan about being interviewed for his film. “Morgan, when I was still at Love In Action, our decision to remove ourselves from the film took into consideration my position and the ministry. But now, I am no longer with Love In Action. I feel an obligation to address some of the questions that linger. I will not speak “for” Love In Action, but am willing to share my own thoughts.”
The Filming Began
So, we began to schedule the interviews. I spent many hours with Morgan in front of a camera sharing my life story, answering questions about my 22 year work with Love In Action. We also drove around town to different spots for “B” roll footage for the documentary.
During one film session we were in my office for several hours. Towards the end of a tiring day, the person interviewing me began to ask me for my perspective about the day of the first protest. I looked over at Morgan and a bolt of nervous laughter came from both of our hearts. It was one of those “you had to have been there” moments where we just couldn’t gain control.
Morgan got up and left the room so that the interview could continue. But afterwards we talked about our reaction to the protest. We had stayed away from talking about the protest so it was somehow tucked into our memories and hadn’t come up. Our talks were about each other, about our hearts, our families and our passions. We realized that we both had uncomfortable feelings about June 6th, 2005, the day the protests began. We decided to have a meeting just to talk about those days and got honest about our feelings and how they had changed through the years.
A Unique Kind of Partnership
As the film was worked into a DVD, Morgan and I talked a lot about it. We discussed the different directions it could take. I shared my thoughts, Morgan shared his, and it became a kind of project that we both flushed out together. Of course, there were many advisers that I hadn’t even met that helped him with the project. But, I felt valued that he would allow me into the discussion.
A Preview Copy of the Poject
A couple of months ago this year (2011), almost five years later, Morgan gave me a copy of the DVD that was close to being finished. I sat down and watched it. I didn’t like it! I didn’t like it at all. I was surprised that I had the feelings that I was experiencing as I moved through it. It seemed to be hours long. I just wanted it to be over.
“Wow, now what am I going to do? I am sure Morgan will ask me what I think of it.”
I sat down and tried to write down all of my thoughts on what I had seen. I critiqued it with what I thought was an honest heart. I wrote a long detailed list of things I wanted to say to him about the film. Then I set a date to meet with Morgan to share what was on my mind. I wasn’t looking forward to our discussion. I believed that our friendship had developed an honest foundation and I knew I had to level with him about my review of the film.
As I looked over the list, I realized that I had one primary emotional reaction; embarrassment! I felt embarrassed to be on the film. I felt embarrassed about the negative light that was presented about Love In Action. I realized that in a way, the entire documentary was focused on “John Smid” and his actions. The interviews with those that had spoken negatively about their experience with Love In Action were glaring in my face. There were a couple of people who were positive, but vast majority of the film is challenging the very nature of the ministry that I worked with for 22 years.
Initially, I didn’t want anything to do with this film or its release. I just wanted to go hide in a corner and not be seen by anyone. As I reviewed my list, I wondered how Morgan would take my reaction? I wondered what this do to our growing relationship? Would this be the end of our friendship? Would all of our time together getting to know each other get washed down the drain? I had grown to care about Morgan as a person and looked forward to what may occur in the future.
Our appointment to discuss the film was postponed and it gave me more time to think about my reaction to the film. I realized now that it wasn’t that I necessarily disagreed with the content, or many of the challenges within it. I saw that there were changes in my own heart since leaving Love In Action. I was gaining awareness of where I had made mistakes that had hurt people and had produced some challenging outcomes. I wanted to be able to accept responsibility.
I Have To Get Real
The “Refuge Program” for youth was the highlight of the film. It had been laid out with some flaws in its design. As a two week “day” program it allowed parents to register their kids without their overall desire to be there. We just rationalized that it was a good thing for the kids and even if they didn’t like it. We believed it would be in their best interest to come if their parents wanted them there. I paid little attention to the things that some parents did to coerce, or to manipulate their teens to come.
There was no requirement for the parents to participate in anything for themselves other than a support group meeting once a week. This left gaping holes in the structure that was for some, destructive to the parent/child relationship. The kids did pretty well while they were with us during the day. But going home each evening, for some of the kids, became a probing nightmare of questions and expectations. Upon completion, some of the kids went home to a family dynamic that hadn’t changed at all. This left them with further wounding places in their heart and some didn’t survive this very well.
After the program had run for a couple of months, I was engaged in a staff meeting. We reviewed some things about the program and our staff discussed revamping the Refuge Program. We realized that it was all based on the wrong people. We designed a new program that was an intensive program for the parents. If their kids wanted to come we would do a thorough interview with them to make sure it was their idea and desire. This became our new program and the Refuge Program had ceased. I felt fearful of the protesters finding out that we had changed the program. I didn’t want them to think they had won this battle. I just rationalized that it was our observation and our idea to rework the program.
In review of the DVD I also felt conflicted about it’s content. Some of the information and interviews stemmed from the adult program. The programs were quite different from each other. The adult program was a residential program for man and women who were there because they had applied and been accepted through their own efforts. Though some of the same material was taught and some of the groups were together, the application process and mindset were distinctly different. I was concerned that the viewers of the film may think the reviews of the information would not separate the different programs.
I now completely agree that an underage teenager should not be manipulated or coerced into this kind of program against their own convictions and willingness to participate. To do so would be counter productive.
I Feel Embarrassed
So, after I had looked back over this situation, I realized that even though I felt embarrassed and conflicted, I couldn’t disagree with the documentary’s focus. Morgan and I got together and I began to share honestly the things that I had written down that were challenging me about the film. I started with, “Morgan, I feel embarrassed about being seen in the film.
“His face dropped into disappointment. He said, “I’m sorry, John. I didn’t mean……” I said, “No, Morgan, this is about me and my reaction. It isn’t about you or what you produced. His honest response to my comment allowed a very vulnerable conversation to come out. He was humble and yet honest himself. I went on to explain more of my agreement that I had been wrong and that we had done some things that needed correction.
My comments went on to more about things based on fact rather than the concept of the film. Our discussion was one more experience of two men who can disagree, grapple through things, and walk away with a respect towards each other. It was a good discussion with Morgan. I had feared this for nothing.
An Invitation to the Premier
Morgan went even further. He invited me to attend the premier of the film. It was to take place in San Francisco at the FrameLine Film Festival. FrameLine is a Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender community focused event. I had to go away and think about his invitation for sure. He also asked me to be a part of the panel for questions after the film is shown.
My first response was to not even consider going. I still wasn’t feeling so positive about the film and didn’t want to be further exposed by standing right there in front of the crowd who just saw the film.
But as the weeks have gone by, I realize that now I want to stand up in front, beside Morgan and say to the crowd, “this is my friend Morgan Fox.” I also wanted to be honest and take the heat of the film and be responsible for the mistakes I had made. I want the teens in the film, or in the audience, to know my heart. I want them to know that I hear them and to make amends for the things that lay at my feet of responsibility.
Friday, June 17th 2011, I will be flying to San Francisco.
I’ll be meeting with Morgan and his friends prior to the presentation of “This Is What Love In Action Looks Like.” We’ll see the film together with the audience. I’ll stand beside Morgan at the end to listen to comments and take questions. I am trusting that God, my Lord, Jesus, will be with each of us and that He will make a way through this difficult challenge.
I may still feel very embarrassed to be in that spot. I will probably feel anxious and curious to walk this through.
But, I do not regret for one minute the outcome of the protests of 2005. Those protests helped to set the stage for many changes that came into my life over the next several years. In 2008, I left Love In Action. I found a new sense of God, His grace, and His love for all people. I have met some wonderful new friends and they have taught me more about grace, God’s forgiveness, and how prejudiced I had been. So, in some ways, this film is a mark in my own life that I don’t want to forget. Morgan has helped me to discover more of who I am because of who he is as a person, and as a friend.
I’ll also be promoting my new book “A Journey of Grace”. The book is based on how to build and maintain healthy relationships through using nine core values. It contains a storyline that shows the history of how Morgan and I developed a friendship through the years. I also includes an editorial of the book by Morgan.
So, here we go! The premier will set the mark!
During one of our film interviews Morgan and I talked about how we had developed a friendship. One of the technical assistants said, “Hum. Morgan, isn’t this title interesting?”
Morgan and I looked at each other and realized that it has a great title. The behind the scenes victory is how we once were enemies, and now we are friends. Through my involvement with Morgan as this film has been developed it has shown me:
This — Is What Love, In Action, Looks Like.
by John J. Smid from Grace Rivers Ministry
Changes in My Own Heart
A New Life – a testimony by John Smid
A Letter of Apology by John Smid
Love Your Enemy
Articles on Homosexuality
Links of Interest:
This is What Love In Action Looks Like – Blog
Information for Frameline Festival Premier
Premier Announcement from “Live From Memphis”.
Friday, June 10th, 2011
I have supported “Love in Action” ministries over the years because I feel it was a source of help to those with same sex sins. I know you left there and started your own ministry, but I must say I am shocked by your reply to the question about whether someone can be gay and a Christian. (to see article click here) As a married man who experiences same sex temptation and has for many years, I have to disagree with your approach.
I believe that we as followers of Jesus Christ are instructed by the scriptures to repent of our sinful ways, not to accept them and hope we can grow out of them. How do you interpret Galatians 5:19-21? These verses are very clear to all sinfulness in our lives (which include homosexual fornication which is sex outside of marriage) and that we are to not practice these sinful ways any longer. How do you interpret 1 Corinth 6:9-11?
We know there are daily battles with the flesh and we are instructed to flee temptations and repent of our sinful ways. Homosexual sin is sinful and we need to flee from it and repent, turn away from our sinfulness. I would like your response if you would.
You are referring to the article I wrote entitled “Can my friend be gay and a Christian”.
Thanks so much for responding to my recent “Mailbag” answer. I’m not sure what drew you to find it but thank you for reading it.
I am not sure exactly what aspects of the article brought you to be shocked by my response. I am thinking through how to respond to your comments and questions so please allow me some time to compile an answer.
I have done a lot of work to learn more about 1 Cor. 6:9-11 since it is so commonly brought up in connection to the issue of homosexuality. Gal. 5:19 is also similar so I will attempt to respond to those two passages. It is really hard to do that quickly or in a few words.
When I said we must accept homosexuality as “it is what it is” I think we need to quit trying to change people and to allow God to do the work He wants to do. The crux of what I am discovering is more of what I am learning about how to respond to people who experience homosexuality with God’s grace and His redemption. I have seen how I have been like he Pharisees in presenting a “law” type of message regarding homosexuality. I also recognize that I have laid heavy expectations on people that have on some occasions pressed them into some places that maybe God may not have been leading them.
The passages you wanted my thoughts on were:
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
First of all, I can certainly appreciate your life experience since I am also a married man who has has experienced homosexuality for my entire adult life. While I have experienced it at varying levels, the way God has dealt with me has been a progressive process since I first discovered my own faith walk 35 years ago.
I believe sanctification (the life changes He brings on as a result of the gospel) is an ongoing process in all of our lives. None of us can say we are without sin. Many of us can say we have grown away from many sins as a result of God’s intervention in our lives. We are hopefully better today as a result of His work. But thankfully, I understand that Christ’s redemption has covered all of my sinfulness from birth and on into the future.
I do not believe in “completed work today” theology with regards to my temporal life here on earth. I am, with His help, improving each day. However, I will not be completely changed until I see Him face to face. Therefore, I will struggle with various sins off and on throughout the duration of my life. One of those sins may be rebelling against some things that I know are right but just don’t want to face them now! But I also understand Christ has forgiven rebellion too.
Having said all of that, I am NOT, hear me now, NOT saying that sin is ok, nor “sin – is what it is”. Sin behavior is harmful, negative, divisive, challenging, and God clearly warns us to heed His words and attempt to stay from it, with His help and our submission. But we must be very clear about what God does in light of the fact that we do sin.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
I am not saying to give hearty approval to something.
My objective is not to forget the scriptural truths about God’s desires for our life and relationships. And by the way, the jury remains unclear on some of the things we think are set in stone. I’m rather going through how to respond to people here on earth, which includes myself, who are trying to wrestle through our earthly lives.
I believe what Paul is saying is this:
To understand this passage we MUST first understand that Paul’s letter is addressed to the church in Corinth. This is VERY important! He is writing to Christian believers.
Secondly, in chapter 6, verse 9 he changes to address another audience:
“But to the wicked,(or the the unrighteous)” I say this.”
This means that through the next paragraph he is speaking about those who DO NOT know Jesus. This is VITAL to understanding the next few verses. In the context of the Greek language He has given a list of outward signs so as to say, those who do not know Jesus, who act in habitual patterns like this. It then says they will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Something else we must consider. The list of behaviors is not intended to be an “inclusive” or “exclusive” list. It is more of a list of examples of those around them who do not know Christ that exemplify the unrighteous people Paul is referring to. As humans, we want things in nice neat packages. If this list were an exclusive list than maybe I am off the hook if I didn’t do some of the things listed. I can also stare down at those that are on the list because their behavior is in the list. Paul didn’t intend it this way.
Another point is that theologians all over this issue tend to argue the issue of homosexuality with attempt to define the Greek words, “arsenokoitai” and “malakos”. This is problematic for many reasons. First, there simply does not seem to be a consensus on what either of those words really means nor how the many definitions seem to apply to our lives today. I am sure in Paul’s day he had something very specific in mind that everyone understood. But, 2000 years later, we do not clearly understand it. To attempt to define something that is not clearly understood and then apply our own interpretation to it can cause all kind of havoc. And it has. It seems that how these words are translated often has more to do with preconceptions and convictions of the translators than the sense of the original Greek language.
I think the main problem is that regardless of how they are defined, Paul’s list in this passage is not the point of the passage. Therefore we can argue about the list but never get to the point. We can also argue about what it means to gossip, how far is too far in adultery? We can try to define what it means to be a slanderer and when our back door discussions will cross the line. Our discussion about the real meaning of the list is all tied to “are we good enough” or “have we crossed the line”? We often want to know if we have gone so far as to lose our precious salvation. Which are all a distraction from the amazing message Paul has to give us.
In its original context and language it would be more understood like this:
“Believers in Corinth, there are those who don’t know Jesus around you and they act like this. They do things like lie, cheat, steal, and are sexually out on a limb. They don’t seem to know life any differently. You know people like that and you do some of these things yourself. Don’t hold on to an identity that hangs on your behaviors. If someone hasn’t imparted my gift of redemption to their lives, they will not enter my eternal kingdom. But for you, you know and understand my gospel. I really want you to live honestly through your new identity and restored image in Christ.”
Well, of course the “unrighteous” won’t go to heaven! He is using them as an example to make a point. But he goes on to return to his audience, the church. He says, “But, that is not who you are!” He affirms their relationship with Jesus, their salvation, and says to kindle their position in Christ as being washed, sanctified, by Jesus Christ. He is charging them to remember who they are.
We all know that Christians all over this planet still struggle with “habitual sin” patterns like those revealed in the list in verses 9 and 10. Knowing this, says to me, that he is not saying that heaven or the kingdom of God is only available to those who are NOT on the list. He is also not saying that those who wrestle with, or may even be habitually involved in the things he mentioned there, will not enter eternity with Him.
Paul is challenging their identity, not so much their actions. He is saying, “lose the sinful identity and recognize Who you belong to!” In doing so, you will nurture a relationship with the One who loves you so that your lives will continue down the path of sanctification. If we remain overly connected in the old identity we will likely continue to function out of the shame of the old identity.
The interesting Transition
He then says, “all things are permissible” but not “beneficial”. This is a profound truth. So profound that Paul repeats it twice. Think just a minute about the freedom He speaks of here. He is calling them to further maturity in their actions. As a more mature adult He is calling us to ask ourselves, “is this beneficial”? Christ still loves you, is still at work in your life and will complete the work He has begun. However, He is charging us to grow in making better decisions along the way.
In Christ, we are absolutely free.
Oh, boy this is where it gets sticky. Either God gave us a free will or He didn’t. I believe He did. I see this as one of the most amazing differences between God and humans. He is able to allow us total freedom and yet still love us completely. He will certainly allow consequences for our bad choices. It is through this that we grow into more maturity. He does not control our lives. So, we are absolutely free to do with our lives as we want to. None of our choices will in any way remove God’s love for us. This is one of the most difficult things for me to understand. We are so used to conditional love from other humans it is hard for us to embrace a God that loves us differently.
But in our freedom, we also have the freedom to choose to serve Him? Will we follow Him sacrificially? If we do not get that fundamental truth, our assumptions may lead us to stray from Him – fearing his retribution based upon our failed attempts to act appropriately. Moralism seems to please our human senses. We like to check off the boxes of what we do right and what they do wrong.
Paul comes back to the same message in his letter to the Galatians:
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
Our church communities are far too full of performance expectations and sin management. We are trapped in a legalism of expectations that keep us weak, immature, and fearful of a God that we believe may be a dictator. We may sense He is ready at any moment to remove His hand, close His heart, and maybe even shut us out – that is if we don’t act right.
I now realize that Christ does not hold a hammer over my head waiting to tromp on me if I make the wrong move. I have come to realize a fuller love from Him that is truly as the bible says, unconditional.
I’m starting to gain a better understanding of all of this. If I make the mistake of going against His desires, overt or covert, He loves me, accepts me and offers me His hand. He will be there with me to work with me along the way. No matter how long it takes. He is the divine surgeon who will remain with me through the end of this life and usher me into the next with His abundant grace. (please see my article, “I Have Failed”)
My only option at this point is to love others with that same love. This doesn’t mean I will not approach someone with a challenge to do better. If I have built a relationship with them, laid a foundation of trust, I will know when it is appropriate to speak with them as a brother to help them see things through the eyes of Christ that may help them grow.
Paul goes on in his letter to urge believers to consider their sexuality and to recognize that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. He lines out for us the deeper motivation to walk in righteousness that is imparted by the gospel. He is exhorting us to consider our lives and our choices.
He starts by saying, “acts of the sinful nature” are… I do not have a sinful nature any longer! I am a new creature in Christ. I have a new heart, a new identity, a new motivation for life! Oh, this doesn’t mean I don’t have the flaws of humanity. I do wrong things, but these are not because I have a sinful nature, they are because of the humanity I live in today. God’s new nature is working in me day by day throughout my lifetime. As I read this passage, I see it as a repeated message from Paul. Know who you are! Walk in your new identity! Recognize the differences that are in you as opposed to those who do not know Christ and walk them out! It is NOT a statement of conditions for salvation. And it is a call to maturity. But it is NOT a call to performance based religion.
Again, he is relating to what the unredeemed are like and if you take into account the entire chapter 5, it is saying what I am saying. We are free. Don’t take this freedom lightly, but we are free. It speaks to legalism as the enemy. Submitting to the law as though through it, you will be sanctified by doing the right things. It reiterates the message of the gospel:
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.
We Are Free in Christ!
Friday, June 3rd, 2011
I received this email from Europe from someone who had read a recent article on my blog called “The Gay /Ex-gay Divide.
In my ongoing discovery of the incredible freedom that we are provided in Christ this man’s story exemplifies changes in his life that have occurred.
He has received a loving relationship with Jesus as his church has accepted him right where he is with no agenda.
I appreciate most, the journey without an expected timeline of growth. This man is following the Lord’s leading in his life. The message here is that God will do His work, in His time, and in His way.
God’s work in any of our lives cannot be duplicated and sold off for someone else to follow. It is unique to who we are and where we are in life’s journey. For Robert, he clearly describes some of his journey below.
Thank you for writing the article on your website blog about the battle between the gay and ex-gay community!
I believe the church has missed a lot of chances to reach out to the gay community. Although I am on the “side” of literal interpretation of the scripture . I can still get angry about the judgmental and in my opinion totally stupid attitude of a lot of fundamental “straight” Christians who do not know WHAT it is like when one is dealing with same sex attraction. I get a lot of support in my church, fortunately.
When I dedicated my life to Christ about a year ago, after about 20 years of hedonistic plunging into everything gay. I told the pastor everything about me and my life and I did not hold back. Sometimes I told him to brace himself for what he would hear from me. But I needed to do this in order to have no secrets or secret places in my heart anymore. I learned that secrets can grow and take hold of one’s life after growing .
Now from my pastor and other people in church, there was no judgment at all…nothing….. When I recall the conversations with him I can only recall a listening ear and understanding…and then a hand on my shoulder during prayer. I was welcomed into his house his family. I had dinners at his place together with the partner I had at that time, because they wanted to welcome my partner too.
I knew If God would change my life…my partner had a right to know God as well. My conviction that homosexuality is a sin actually came from what I read in scripture and from the gentle voice inside of me from the Holy Spirit . My church friends never pressed me into anything.
This was such a relief for me, to be welcomed and accepted in the midst of this Christian community. Just people showing me Jesus through their lives, and their attitude. That love …..that unconditional love ….. broke me….. it tore down the walls around my heart ….. it is the most forceful power.
God has worked miracles in the past year. Although what I feel is the “thorn in my flesh” comes up now and then, and sometimes a lot, but I feel so free. I experience God so close, God speaks to me . God’s spirit shows me inner wounds that He wants to heal and take care of. Sometimes stuff I did not even know it was there. Sometimes walking alone in the woods or driving the car the Holy Spirit has His private pastoral sessions with me ) showing me all these things. I feel so privileged. Sometimes it’s like being in a desert. then it seems I am all alone. But then I hold on. I don’t want to give up. I don’t want to let go of this God.
I am still officially in a relationship with my partner. But the physical stuff between us has stopped. We are now good friends. We have been together for 14 years. Slowly and gently God is leading us into separate ways. We are not there yet. But I am so thankful for God’s grace in this.
A New Friend
Wednesday, June 1st, 2011
I saw that you have had some pretty profound thoughts on Oprah’s 25th Season Finale. I stopped watching Oprah years ago because of her liberal stance on life and felt strongly that she was deceiving people. How can you see anything positive from her worldly life?
No Oprah for Me
Dear No Oprah for Me,
I see Oprah’s life as not different from my own. I have walked a journey of life that I don’t want anyone to judge by where I am at “right now” because I am a work in progress in the hands of a living and powerful God. I am not where I was, and am not where I will be. But I am where I am right now. I want to share a letter with you that I recently sent Oprah that has many of my responses to her recent 25th Season Finale.
I am one of those unusual men who have followed your journey over the last 25 years with a very personal interest. In 1990, a godly lady, and sincere pray’er from Church of the Open Door (the church we attended in San Rafael, CA at the time) was talking about her observations about the then current trend in “Talk Shows” and their hosts. She was concerned about the negative direction they were taking and the moral digression represented through them. She said to me, “John, I’m praying that Oprah will turn the tide and become a more positive influence. I’m praying that Oprah will glorify God through her show.”
I have watched your show regularly all through the years waiting for the answer to her prayers. I took on her dream of seeing a turn through your show. I never forgot what I hoped to see. I saw, year by year, the positive turns that you took with the interviews and life lessons you and your staff took on. Very quickly at the time and through the years, you moved towards exactly what she and I hoped for, a more positive and redemptive approach to daytime talk show messages.
This last season was better than all the rest. Many of your episodes brought tears to my eyes and caused my heart to open up within me as I heard your ability to draw each person’s heart to the surface for us all to experience. On some days I would say, “Oh, that one probably isn’t something I want to watch.” I thought that largely because it just didn’t look really interesting. But sometimes I’d click on it anyway and each time I was impacted and impressed with the show because of how you made each one significant to the heart.
There have been some significant people that I had previously dismissed because of what I thought they conveyed through their life or values but when in an interview with you, the deepest part of their hearts came forward and revealed what was going on underneath their public lives. I was then able to see the positive sides of each one allowing me to embrace their humanness just like me.
For example I had judged Rosie O’Donnell to be brassy and just a “gay” activist until I saw your show that revealed the struggle she went through from her separation with her partner and the effects on the children. You revealed the real “Rosie” beneath the issue that opened my heart up to see her as a real warm blooded person! You showed me her dedication to loving her children and truly caring about their little lives and hearts.
The show with Ricky Martin where he talked about the battle of coming out in the public regarding his homosexuality and the way he had chosen to follow an honest life rather than to live beneath a facade. What I saw was how you could take a controversial subject that had great potential for judgment by many, and show the human heart beneath the “issue”. I could see that anyone with half a heart could embrace the person and leave the judgment behind. I saw his choice to be authentic and open about his homosexuality even when the potential was there to lose his whole career! Can we all make those kind of choices to be honest and authentic when a great risk is at stake?
Of course the dramatic representation of how child abuse had impacted the 200 men through the show with Tyler Perry was deeply impacting for us all. I have also watched Tyler Perry’s career and deeply respect his passion for the gospel of Jesus and those who see his movies.
I was awed at how you revealed the reconciliation between you and Iyanla Vanzant. For your to feel free enough to have that discussion live and in color was a tremendous act of humility. The AHA moment when you said, “I got it, I got it!” was profound. The lesson in that moment of how we need to dig for another’s heart rather than continue to react to the surface messages was significant. I have heard some people refer to her as the “crazy lady” but regardless of how she comes across, that day, her deepest heart cry was brought to the surface and I saw a person, broken and hungry for affirmation of her “self” rather than what she could give.
I could go on and on about how different shows affected my own heart but to keep this email within your ability to read its contents, I want to give most of my emphasis to the finale. Oprah, I have recorded the episode and have watched it over and over and tears come to my eyes each time. My spirit leaps within me through each point you made.
I have talked to many people about the show and how you “preached” an astounding sermon to millions that has included things that are very important to God and were deep in my own heart. Since you aren’t a “pastor” or representing a “church” the value of what you had to say was so much greater. They were greater because you preached from your very own experience, not just an intellectual ascent of the matter, but real life experience.
You challenged people to search for their own passions and calling, to embrace their intrinsic worthiness and to learn to be responsible for their own lives. These truths are foundational for us to live a life worthy of the calling of God! Your heart cry for them to listen for the voice of God in their hearts and call Him close (He’s closer than your very breath) to themselves was a pinnacle of the message from you to the world. You gave an “altar call” from the heart of God to his beloved children that I pray many from your audience would heed.
When you described “the God you serve” with such profound passion it was a crescendo that reached the heavens! Your comment that your answer to their question might not be popular and yet to go ahead with your description of God being, the Alpha and the Omega, the Omniscient One, G-O-D, the great creator of all life, I wanted to stand up and shout! I can’t think of many within the worlds renowned who would make that kind of public statement.
As you closed with your arms outstretched saying “To God be the Glory” I heard a resounding answer to my friends prayer from over 20 years ago. You became a profound positive impact not only for television, but for our world. And all of this from your heart, in front of millions, your last words gave God the glory.
Oprah, I was a significant leader within the ex-gay movement for over 20 years . I was a right wing, evangelical with plenty of judgment in my heart for those that “choose an immoral lifestyle”.
I resigned from Love In Action and Exodus International (as a board member) three years ago. In the last three years God has been doing a deep heart change in my own life. He has dug into the deep recesses of my own judgment and criticism of others and brought me to take responsibility for all of those things I have thought and said through the years that were critical and certainly unloving from the deeper sense. He has taught me what it means to be a representative of His love for His people.
I have taken to heart what God has said to us, “I have not come to condemn the world, but to save the world.” He is showing me how to love others into His arms of redemption and restoration in His time and in His way. I believe you also have followed that path.
Oprah, you have allowed us, your audience, to sit in the living room of your own journey as God has transformed your life. I believe I was so moved by your 25th season because it resonated with my own journey away from traditional evangelicalism into following the real path of Jesus into other’s lives. I am as passionate as you are to help people to believe they are “worthy” and that someone cares about what they have to say without judgment of where they are in life.
I could go on but will not at this point. I am not sure who will actually read through this email but I felt compelled to write it for whomever does read it.
Supporting articles I have written regarding my own process:
This is an apology to the gay community from my heart
This reveals the beginning of how God worked through some challenging circumstances to chisel away the judgment from my heart and revealed how many people are missing from our lives due to their own wounds and rejection.
This is an article I wrote to challenge the divisiveness between two primary entities within homosexuality.
Thank you for all you have done. I look forward to following your journey through OWN.
John J. Smid
Person loved by God, Husband, Father, Son, Brother, Friend, House Cleaner with Hollywood Homes, and serve as the Executive Director for Grace Rivers Ministry
Thursday, March 31st, 2011
I recently read a blog that appeared to say that there is a growing public disagreement between the gay affirming community and the “ex-gay” community. I know there has always been division there but it seems to be heating up.
Are they both Christian in focus? Isn’t the gospel the main thing we should be putting our energy into? It appears to me that they are more interested in how someone is acting rather than seeking to be at work in pursuing the “Great Commission.”
In our day, it seems there are many who are missing out on the tremendous grace of God as unto salvation. Doesn’t God’s word say something about division and arguing about these kinds of things?
I tend to agree with you and would like to address this in a more public manner.
The “Gay” – “Ex-gay” Divide
There is a great divide between the gay community and those who ascribe to the “ex-gay” way of thinking. The ex-gays are saying God will, and needs to, provide healing for their brokenness. The gay Christian community is saying there is nothing to be healed in relationship to their homosexuality. Some on the ex-gay side can even say that if someone doesn’t agree that homosexual behavior is a sin, they may not even be Christian!
Can Christians disagree on biblical definitions of what is sin and what is not, and still follow Jesus Christ together? Does ones’ definition of any particular sin determine whether or not someone is in fact in Christ?
This is Not A New Division
This is an age old divide that has kept the Christian community distracted for over 2000 years. Can we eat pork? Do all male followers of Christ have to be circumcised? Can a Christian regularly drink wine? Is slavery an acceptable way to work our fields? Can someone be divorced and remain in fellowship? These have all been issues within the church that have caused huge conflicts throughout the years.
Can someone be homosexual in heart and in action and still be an active, God glorifying Christian?
I am not the one who can make that decision. Whether a person identifies as “ex-gay” or “gay”, they have one thing in common, they both experience attractions and relationship desires for those of their same gender. These desires will very likely never go away and will be something they must learn to accept as part of their life experience. It is between them and God to figure out what to do with the desires that rage within them. You may not understand or accept this but for many, to come to a place of saying “I’m gay”, can bring them to a wonderful freedom from condemnation through Christ.
If a person is in fact “in Christ” then this is a spiritual reality. When a person is a Christian, I believe God says “there is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1), none!
Is there any distinction between those who choose to go the ex-gay route, or a gay affirming one that would void ones faith in Christ? One may say that an unrepentant perspective of homosexuality would clearly set them apart from a faith in Christ, but I would say not. While some may be in a posture of believing any homosexual act is sin, and some may embrace same sex committed relationships; if they are “In Christ,” are we not still one Church, one Body?
Sadly, many have lumped homosexual people into one big negative bag. There are those who believe that all homosexuals are sick, sinful and in need of “healing” for their poor broken lives. Think about this for just a minute. How might you feel if you were a believer in Christ who had felt His wonder and awe enter your life, and you happened to be gay. You hear that you need to be free of your attractions and become heterosexual in order to really know Christ, and begin to wonder if Christ is enough? I would likely feel helpless, discouraged, challenged and confused. On one hand you hear that salvation is in Christ alone but it seems that others are saying there are conditions to having a relationship with Him.
A Personal Experience
I recently had the opportunity to be in a gathering of people who celebrate Christ and believe that having a faithful committed relationship with the same sex is acceptable to God. Now, before you stop reading and try to judge this scenario, I want you to hear something I observed.
This crowd of people, about 180 of them, had one really important thing in common. They were proclaiming to know Jesus, his sacrifice and his resurrection. They were excited to know that He loved them enough to embrace them wholly and completely as they are. These folks were passionate about having experienced the gospel and its power in their lives.
I was invited to hear a report on their ministries and mission efforts. The summation of what I heard was that they were excited about, and praying for, their outreach to the gay community to share the gospel of redemption through Jesus Christ. I was humbled and amazed! I thought to myself, “What is it that motivates these people to be so excited about sharing the gospel?” I looked back over conferences and church meetings I had been to in the past. I was aware that there was a blatant absence of a passion to share the gospel to those who didn’t know.
In contrast, there was an overt message within recovery meetings and conferences where the message was predominantly “we are all broken and we need to get our sorry lives together so that maybe we will be able to minister to others.” Sadly, the emphasis was more on getting our act together than the thankfulness of how much Jesus loves us and wanted us to share His love with others.
I met a person named “Rene.” Rene was a male to female transsexual. Oh, through my history, I have made plenty of judgments about transsexuals. I have thought they could never be able to minister if they were dressed in “drag.” I ascribed to the theories that the only way they could possibly glorify God would be to re-embrace their “birth gender.” I even struggled with whether or not to use the word “she” or “her” due to Rene’s obvious size and deep voice. I decided to leave my preconceived notions outside this conversation and hear the heart of this human being who loved Jesus.
Well, Rene blew my human theories out of the water with her humility, her love for God, and her willingness to give sacrificially of herself to others so that they would know Jesus. In our conversation I asked how she felt about being so conspicuous in this meeting. Rene told me:
“John, I see my life in Christ as that of a “war-horse.” ” A war horse is trained to go wherever the rider says to go even if it is to run into danger or a wall. I don’t like to be seen as a leader or someone out front. But my pastor saw a deep need for the gospel ministry amongst the transsexual community. He was unsuccessful in his attempts and asked me to consider starting a meeting specifically for transsexuals
I resisted but remembered my commitment to Christ. John, I decided to be obedient and start a group on Sunday afternoons. Much to my amazement, they are coming! I am willing to do whatever I can to show them Jesus and His love for them.” I know we can appear to be a messed up crowd, but I also know now much Jesus loves me and want others to see that too.”
I have to say, I was deeply challenged with Rene’s commitment and her heart to reach out. But I thought, “Can God use a cross-dressing transsexual?” Well, if He can’t, then He can’t use me- or you either. If our ministry requires of us to reach a certain standard, which continues to be very ambiguous, then who of us would qualify? If He can’t use us while we are moving along in our own sanctification, than who can He use?
What Are We Saying to the Gay Community?
If a Christian is told over and over that their “heart is deceitful and wicked” and that they are “broken” where is redemption in Christ? Is it not a slap in the face of the torturous sacrifice and a victorious resurrection of Christ to continue berating ourselves and others who are believers in Jesus with this out-of-context quote?
I was involved in recovery ministry for over 20 years. I think one of the greatest regrets I have from those years is the many times I have tried to tell people they were broken lives and that they had a deceived heart. I did so thinking I was quoting Scripture and telling them the truth.
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jer. 17:9
Oh, I know that we make many mistakes and there are things we could use a good spiritual healing from. I also know that we are a work in progress. But, something I have come to realize is that when the Holy Spirit makes us new, creates in us a clean new heart, He has done an amazing and awesome work in us. As David cried out, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51) not only was his prayer answered, but our prayers have been answered as well, through Christ.
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value Prov. 10:20
But, who are the wicked?
Some bible versions refer to the wicked as the “unrighteous”, those who are not in relationship with Jesus Christ. But for those who are, God has given them the new heart. Therefore, to say that a believer in Jesus has a wicked or deceived heart denies God’s restorative work in our hearts and lives.
How does this apply to our response to the gay community?
It has often been said that homosexuals have a wicked and deceived heart. Some people even go so far as to say they are an “abomination.” Really? Can we say that this means they are not saved – any of them? If a man has a wicked and deceived heart, then that says to me that they do not know Jesus. If someone has come to salvation then God has softened his heart of stone into a heart of flesh. He has given him a new, healed heart. He is no longer wicked or unrighteous, but rather, he is righteous by the blood of Christ.
Having a tremendous burden for the gay community I can see how, as Christians, we can continue to wound those we say we want to help. When we continue to proclaim to them they are broken, deceived, unsalvageable, It is like putting poison into the medicine bottle that we are hoping will provide better health. We are inadvertently tearing down the work of Christ while we are proclaiming its value.
Where is Our Focus?
Are we so busy judging one another’s lives that we are missing the point! Is our focus on a Jesus that loves us deeply, saves us radically, renews our hearts miraculously, and asks us to tell others?
We need to get our act together and quit shooting each other with our critical, dividing ways. God can and will do an amazing work amongst us if we are willing. If not, then we can waste a lot of time and energy trying to do what only God can do. He, and only He, is the judge of our lives and the works best with those we deem have a deceived heart. His word is very clear about this kind of division.
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned. Titus 3:9-11
Take this as a warning! Stop arguing about this kind of stuff! This isn’t saying to have nothing more to do with homosexuals. It says to stop hanging around those who are spending so much time arguing and quarreling about it.
Are we trying to cut off the foreskins of those God says don’t need it done? Are we trying to grab the wine bottles out of the hands of those God says are free to drink from them? And what about those who say “I am gay?” Are we spending more time trying to tell homosexuals who know Jesus how sick they are? Or, are we embracing them, along with their gifts and talents, into the body of Christ with us while trusting the rest to God?
“Oh, boy, John. You’re really going off the rail now.”
Well, if I am, can you entrust me into God’s hands to work this out and continue walking alongside me? I’ve never been more excited about knowing Jesus than I am today. I’ve never felt freer in Him than I do now. His freedom doesn’t mean permissiveness, rather to me it means an opportunity to see Him more clearly, hear his heart more intensively, and respond accordingly.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36
I want everyone to know Christ, and Him crucified. I continue to pray that God sends me to share this good news with anyone who will listen. Do you have the same desire I do? Then we are of one mind and one Spirit regarding this matter. Let God work the other things out in His way, His time, and for His purpose.
To those who are gay – and to those who are struggling with these words; this is my heart and my prayer.
God loves you deeply, completely, radically and redemptively! He embraces you wholly and loves you with absolute abandon! He has given you abundant talents, amazing gifts, incredible discernment and wants you to explore all of the wonderful ways He wants to use you to share His love with others.
I choose to walk alongside you in this incredible journey of our life in Christ. I want to see the miracles He does through you. I want to pray with you, worship with you and embrace the Holy Spirit’s joy together beside you.
If we find each other to lack something, I pray we will share from our abundance with each other. If we find we are walking a crooked path I pray we will provide assistance in direction when needed. If we fall and need a stick or cane, I pray we will provide it for one another.
If either of us becomes quarrelsome, I pray we will gently warn each other and separate for a season if we don’t have the grace to stop. If we hurt each other it is my hope we will tell each other and seek to forgive.
Where Christ is uplifted between two or more of us, He is present and I pray we will enjoy wonderful fellowship.”
Friday, January 7th, 2011
John, how much of your ministry deals with homosexuality?
Interesting that you would ask. I think this will answer some of your questions.
Real lives, Real questions, Real faith, Real people, Real challenges, Real feelings, Real needs
Profiling and personal prejudice occurs daily for most of us. We make assessments of a person when we know of their career, their skin color, their gender, and many other outward physical attributes. When we look at other people or hear about someone, our minds make quick judgments as to who they might be or what they might be like. When we were children we were taught to judge. Black and white, tall and short, deep or shallow were often opposites that helped us to learn to compare and contrast things in our lives. This is just the way it is to be and it is a good thing.
But, when we judge, what do we do with our findings? Our filters get all clogged up with life experience, cultural teaching and schooling material. As a Christian, I find it extremely important to put Christ into the mix of my judging practice. I also believe it is significant to put myself into others shoes as I see them from across the room, or from across the street.
Over the holidays I have been doing some evaluation of my life, my time, my heart. I realized that I am often rapt with a burden for certain people. They call upon my heart often, in person, and in spirit. Yesterday I sat down and compiled a list of people that t fit a specific slot in life. I have met some of them in person, some of them over the phone, some through social media like FaceBook. These are people who are often pre-judged, profiled and laid aside from preconceived notions as to who they are.
I felt compelled to develop the list because I want to remember them in prayer this year. I want to bring them before the father in intercession. I have connected with them in heart, and in my soul. These men are questioning life at a very deep level.
Feeling alone much of the time, sometimes lost, and often confused but even in the midst of all of this they are survivors at the core. They seem to get up each day and make it through to their pillow that night whether or not they feel resolved with life. Some of the questions will never be fully answered. Many of their desires will go unfulfilled and their questions about faith may never find solid answers. But they continue on with life stumbling over rocks, tripping into the ditch sometimes and a times exhaustion that requires rest that doesn’t always refresh.
Some of these men are Christians. They believe deeply in the gospel of Jesus Christ and they know they have received His eternal forgiveness. Others are not so sure but they keep trying to understand God’s grace more fully. Then there are those who are searching for what God is really all about.
They range in age from 18 to 60. Living all around the world their cultures drive their lives with what seems to cause even more of a daily struggle. Some have great family relationships, others have ongoing battles that never seem to find an end. There are also those whose families are far away and not connected much at all.
Professionals, hard laborers, students, and the unemployed they are pretty normal in their daily lives. Trying to pay bills, manage their homes and life sustenance brings another level of struggle and conflict but each one on the list seems to eat, sleep, and move through the piles of daily needs. God seems to be providing for them even when sometimes it may be only like the manna the Israelites ate while in the dessert.
They all have one very significant thing in common. They struggle with homosexuality , Jesus, God and their faith. They are not “ex-gay” meaning they have resolved their homosexuality with Christ and have made a clear cross over the divide away from any homosexual associations. Neither have they come to a place where they have found peace with being gay and live in a gay affirming world. Most of them are in the mysterious and uncomfortable middle ground searching for some resolve to their quandary.
Aren’t They Just a Bunch of Queers?
In conversational circles I often hear people refer to “the homosexuals” or “gays” and it can be connected to thoughts of promiscuity, political activism, perversion and other negative associations. While there may be some who do some of those things. But to judge someone as extreme just because of their sexual orientation is to profile, to act in unreasonable prejudice.
I thought one of the best ways to break this observation would be to let you see a little bit of what I see in their lives each week would be to excerpt some of the things that they have written. A bird’s eye view will help you to understand a little bit of what I am talking about.
This guy wrote me with some questions and I replied back. This is what he said:
I have been thinking about what you said and I am ready to hear your view points on life, being gay, etc.
I am just so glad to have a trusted friend to bounce my random thoughts to. Thanks it is a great honor to call you a friend. I hope you enjoyed the holidays and look forward to hearing back from you.
One man shared some things and ended up with this comment:
All I could really do is cry and say “I need help. Whatever you can do. Thanks.” Too much to go into.
To be quite honest, I am a doubting Thomas. I guess I always have been. Not that it is a bad thing. I don’t think a deity wants a robot that doesn’t think. Just trying to find God or have it find me. Depending on the day, it seems to be harder for me I think.
I often refer people to things I have written when talking with them. A comment that came back showed me some of the heart issues that they faced:
I must say your last message brought tears to my eyes. It’s been so long that someone who claimed to be a Christian (besides my partner) talked/wrote something to me that showed any respect for me as a person. So many are willing to try and convert me but unwilling to listen to what I have to say. I don’t know how many books/novels are sent to me and when I say that I’ve read similar books many times, they tend to get mad. I can see their point, but when I bring up questions, they don’t want to hear it as I said before.
As I said, I ask some tough questions. This one you may or may not be able to answer. Many people see that I am a “realist” or “agnostic” and automatically thinks that means I’m an atheist. I have had many people who call themselves Christians say some of the nastiest things to me about me questioning matters of faith. Some of them have hurt so much that I don’t even want to discuss matters of faith since when I ask a tough question, I get attacked normally.
Now I realize that I’m in the minority and don’t expect a warm welcome, but I do expect people who call themselves Christians to show some basic honesty and respect. I’ve given up on expecting love and kindness. Any ideas on why this happens?
A young guy that is in college caught up with me on FaceBook. I knew him when he was just a teenager. I just asked him how he had been and he sent me a pretty thorough update.
I left Christianity because I couldn’t reconcile the inconsistencies that I have seen in scripture, Christians, and my life in general. I know that’s a pretty broad statement, but it took me easily three years to come to that conclusion, through all of my readings and such. Though it’s not perfect, I feel that Judaism gives me a belief system that is more rational as well as a religion that “changes” with human understanding…if that makes any sense. I find that organized “religion” does stifle relationship.
My parents on the other hand are an interesting story…they have at least opened up to allowing my partner to visit and meet the entire family, which is a very big step. But the relationship is still strained at the same time, since I am “living in sin” as they like to say. I sense their displeasure very strongly. My partner is pretty nervous about meeting them for that reason directly, as well as he isn’t too keen on being “witnessed” to…since as a Jew he has a lot of baggage when it comes to Christianity.
There are times when someone moves towards the desires to connect with someone who understands even when it goes against his personal conviction. This guy is a very conservative Christian who has fought for years to remain close to his convictions to remain celibate. He struggles terribly with loneliness and desires to feel connected to someone he can relate to.
I feel torn about this relationship but at the same time I want to be with him. I like him as a person and enjoy his company. However, he is “out” in the gay community, which is something I don’t really care for or subscribe to. I know that the end result, should I remain sensitive to my convictions, will be major hurt and pain for both of us. Maybe I just want some relief from the pressure I feel and this is the way I am seeking it. Maybe it’s just time to enter this world that has been knocking on my door for so long. I feel so selfish, yet it feels OK.
My response to him was to see Jesus first and foremost. I asked him to consider leaving all of this to Him and that he would find his way through this. In the end, amazingly, the new guy broke off the relationship sensing that there was a spiritual and emotional struggle. He just didn’t “feel it” so called an end to the relationship. My reply was to encourage my friend to look at God’s grace in this, protecting both of them from unhealthy ambivalence when engaging in an intimate relationship.
A Heart of Love
Some men really call my heart out. This guy was only 19 when I first met him. He is now in his thirties. He has wandered all around in his life but it seems he has settled into a same sex relationship. He told me that he is not satisfied being in this relationship but that is where he is at this time.
I’ve been in an 8yr relationship now with my partner (name withheld), and I knew going into it that it wasn’t what God wanted, yet my life HAS indeed changed for the better, and it hasn’t all been bad. I think God works even when we choose to go our way. Now, my mustard seed of faith is all that keeps me bound to God’s truths… Please just pray for me as I believe I’m beginning to question things a little more… Thanks John… and take care. Love, your bro.
This dear friend is someone who is really searching and trying to live a life of faith in Christ.
It is my goal to get to know God and his love. I’m enrolled in a 9-month ministry course that has me studying the word daily. So hopefully I’ll get to know Jesus through reading His word and by spending time with Him. I’ve found that I’ve looked for God’s love through people. For example my perception of God, in a negative way, is from the relationship I have with my father. For example my father is controlling sometimes and mean. Well naturally I assume that God is like that. Sometimes I feel like I love Jesus so much (especially with helping the needy etc.) and then sometimes I feel like I don’t love Him at all. For example when I seriously think about drinking a glass of wine I wonder if He is going to get angry with me. I do serve him with my WHOLE heart though.
You asked me about having a person that I can be vulnerable around and the answer is yes. I went out on a limb and shared with my friend, that I live with, that I have same sex attractions and that I feel like I’m living a double life. He said he accepts me for who I am. That made me feel good. There are times when I want to say to people….”man he’s cute or did you see that guy?” of course I never do. I just hold it inside and wonder what will happen.
It was someone’s birthday and I felt led to share this comment with them, “I just wanted you to know how special you are and that you are deeply loved, friend. I am not sure how often you hear that and just wanted you to know.” His reply touched me.
That is sweet of you! Thank you. I don’t hear it enough.
A couple of summers ago this man came to meet me with his dad. We had a rich conversation and he became very vulnerable about his conviction of being an agnostic. He was highly intelligent and I just listened to him. Several months later I contacted him to follow up and this was his reply:
I made one of my New Year’s Resolutions to give God another chance, and I got off to a fairly strong start by reading the book of Matthew. The problem is – and this is what I was referring to in my last email – that I feel like I need to spend a long time studying and thinking about this stuff to make any sense of it. There is so much in this book that confuses me. I’ve been so busy and there just isn’t enough time so I just lay it aside and dig into my daily work.
Real life, real stories, real people.
What is the answer? I struggle each time I talk to someone or write them to try to encourage them. What do I say? What is the word, or the response that will touch their heart in a place where they will move closer to Christ. I know He is the answer. I understand that He, and only He, will be able to set them free into what He has for them.
In truth, the best thing I can do is to show them I love them and that I will listen without judgment. I want so much to show them that I care about what they are going through and what they feel. And to add to that, I understand the struggle with homosexuality. I wrestle with it too. Sometimes I am on top of it and other times it really bothers me. There are times I have some of the same questions. What would Jesus have to say about this? What do I do about what I am feeling right now? Will this last until my dying breath?
I remember those days when I tried to give the simple answer. But today, those answers don’t fly any longer. Too often typical Christian answers are “repent” or “trust God” but in the end, those don’t typically bring the real hope needed in order to connect with Christ.
I want to spend extra time this year focusing on these guys and others that I come into contact with. They deserve to hear of Jesus love for them! I want to be one of the vessels to let them know that. I pray there are others!
Every homosexual man and woman deserves to know that Jesus loves them! We must learn to love each one and then trust Him to show them the way.
Friday, December 10th, 2010
Through the Windshield of My Life
The 1970 Galaxie was built bigger and stronger than previous models.
These cars were becoming more luxury oriented as the years passed. Ford engineers worked hard to achieve a quiet ride and luxury car comfort for 1970. The lineup was made up of 21 new models . There were several body style choices for 1970, to include: three LTD Broughams, five LTD models, two XL models and six different Galaxie 500 models. The different models were offered in several body styles to include the two door and four door hardtop, two door and four door sedan, sports-roof, and convertible.
This one is a 1970 Galaxie sports-roof.
Blue just like the picture, it drove up in our driveway one day. Surprised, my eyes bugged out like it was Christmas! A brand new car! It was beautiful with the sports-roof being extremely unique in design I was very excited to run out of the door to take a closer look. This car replaced the 1963 Galaxie that was my step dads. I wanted to go for a ride in it but was told it wasn’t going to happen at this time. I was so disappointed to hear those words. But it didn’t surprise me because the last five years were disappointing every day.
In my mind, at 15 years old, this car was just a reminder of the life I felt inside my heart that was separate from the life I had at home. We had a brand new car but it had nothing to do with me since I wouldn’t ride in it very often. I think I did a few times when my mom rarely took it to the store and I got to go along. I used to look at its sleek lines and noticed the cloth interior that was ribbed but soft. It had a vinyl roof which emphasized the double design of the slanted profile with the straight line of the back window. I thought it was really cool to look at.
Five years prior to this time, my step dad moved into our house. From previous writings, you may remember, this is the man who sexually violated me when I was just 10 years old! He began negatively impact virtually every facet of our home life. To say the least, it was very unpleasant to live there. On the first day he moved in I saw a huge, strangely red-stained, desk move into the corner bedroom that used to be mine. It had no handles on the drawers and was hand built by Gerb, as we learned he was called. It was short for Gerber. We heard he didn’t like his real name. He was named after his two sisters who were electrocuted by a loose wire on the wringer washing machine. No wonder he didn’t like it! So, everyone called him Gerb.
As the desk slid into place the rules began. “Don’t touch this desk or anything on it!” It had a door on the front that opened up to reveal a heavy black safe. I wondered what was so valuable that needed a safe hidden in a desk? This was another strange secret about Gerb’s life that brought so many questions to my mind. Oh, you can rest assured, I wouldn’t be touching his desk because the door on the bedroom also had a lock installed on it to make sure we never went in unsupervised.
The next exciting thing that came along was the installation of a “touch tone” telephone! It sat on the ledge in between the kitchen and living room. Oh, my gosh, these just came out! We had a touch tone phone. But soon the rules continued, don’t touch this phone because it’s Gerb’s phone and he needs it for work calls. Just another separation from the things that were so exciting to see, but just too far away to enjoy. I wouldn’t be touching his precious phone either.
Then, the arguments began. Night after night, week after week - yelling, screaming and broken things became the norm. I’d go to bed in my room in the basement with anxiety every night wondering if and when the fights would begin tonight. Gerb worked the afternoon shift. This meant he got off work around 10:30 PM. Many nights he would stop at a bar to drink before coming home but sometimes he came home earlier. But no matter when it was, my mom was ready for his arrival with cheese, salami and plenty of beer to settle the dragon that would arrive soon. Sometimes he would drink up to 16 beers in one sitting so the weekly shopping would involve cases of beer to be drank in the days he didn’t stop at the bar first. He would get extremely upset if my mom would fall asleep on the couch and this might be the trigger to begin the nightly battles.
I never really knew what most of the fights were about other than they seemed to always involve “those kids” which referred to me and my sisters. We were “lazy, good for nothing, irresponsible and worthless” and we belonged to “Old Man Smid” (our dad) which seemed to be the worst thing of all. Mom would often remind us that Gerb never had any kids of his own and he just didn’t understand how to relate to them. I began to see how much she minimized the real story.
After the nightly battle zone would seem to wane, I’d finally fall asleep. Often my sisters and I would go upstairs for breakfast and while we were getting out our cereal we would assess the damage. One morning we looked in the trash and found the dress my mom had been wearing the night before with dark red stains on it. We assumed they were blood from last night’s fight. We never knew what happened because the nightly battles were often referred to as “Gerb was on his “high-horse” again”. HIGH HORSE? Is that what you call it? There were times where the fighting would become viral and link morning, noon, and night together.
Coming home from visiting dad was often the scariest of all. Gerb had very strict rules on abiding by our court approved visitation hours of 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Sundays. If we came hope 30 seconds late by his watch that would inevitably begin a fight. One night when we came home we walked into the front door. Walking in I saw my mom’s friend sitting at the kitchen table and then looked over and saw Gerb holding gun pointed at my mom. He quickly put the gun down and the fight continued as we quietly went to our rooms.
There were so many restrictions on our life that we never knew which one we might cross over that would start the fighting all over again. If we winked just the wrong way, it might start a fight. One day I went to get my hair cut at the local barber. I had to walk about two miles or more to get there. This day at 13 years old I decided to get my hair cut a little different. Instead of getting it shaved up the back, I asked the barber to block it. This meant cutting it straight across the back. When I got home, Gerb lost it! I was told under no uncertain circumstances I would return to the barber and get it cut correctly or I wouldn’t come back into the house. So, back I went, two miles each way and got the expected shave up the back. I certainly didn’t expect that one coming!
Not all was bad.
Gerb was extremely talented with his hands and his mind. He completely rebuilt, from scratch, an entire car engine. When my little sister was ready to be born he built her a rocking crib from some sort of diagram with little spindles and a finish that was so smooth and shiny you would have thought it was sprayed on lacquer, but it had been done with a lot of sanding and a brush. He installed an entire sprinkling system in our yard. He was a brick layer, an electrician, a plumber and had a part time job repairing heating and air conditioning units. I don’t think there was anything he couldn’t do.
I remember him telling me, “John, a job isn’t worth doing if you don’t do it right.” I saw him use virtually every hand tool, power tool, and special tool you can think of. I watched his skills and learned, by osmosis, some very valuable lessons. He was a perfectionist beyond most I have known.
He was a Shriner and very involved in the organization. He started by being involved in a small motor cycle group. then he progressed into the place where he wanted to customize a little car to put into the parades. He got a 60’s Renault four door for the job. He completely custom designed the car. He cut the roof off, shaved down the doors and welded them shut. Of course, he rebuilt the engine, upholstered and painted the car himself. I would often stand amazed at his talent.
When it came to his daily life each day it would take him two hours to get ready for work. It began with a hot shave and a shower. His hair was longer than it looked, curly and light when it was wet. But when he put his special red oil on it to straighten it to perfection it remained in perfect form. His work mates teased him because he would go to the rail yards wearing starched and ironed shirts and kacki pants. My mom would dip his shirts in liquid starch and iron them and put the pants on pants stretchers to dry. She would also sew a crease down the front of the pants to add to the perfect image that had to be present. His shoes were “spit shined” each day to high gloss like he had learned in the Air Force. His regimen included a specialized packed lunch and all of the other things he would take with him every day to work. The man who left for work was a totally different man than the one that came home each night. I don’t know what happened in between those eight hours but coming home appeared to be quite painful for this man.
My First Car!
When I was getting ready to turn 16, my dad said he would go with me to buy my first car. As I pondered the reality of having a car the only solution I could think of is that it would be kept at my dad’s house or parking it down the street keeping the secret that my dad had been involved in the process. Surely Gerb would not have allowed me to have a car or the freedom that might come along with it.
So, dad and I went shopping. For some reason the Volkswagen “bug” seemed to stand out and my first car was a 1964 Volkswagen beetle. I paid $450 dollars for it. I took it to my dad’s and left it there. Since I didn’t have my driver’s license anyway it seemed to be the best solution.
My older sister had already “escaped” to live with my dad and my middle sister was getting married. All I could think of is what I would do without her being there with me. There were many nights where we would get into bed with each other shaking uncontrollably as the fights went on upstairs. Who would save me when she left?
My dad came to my rescue. One day with I was with him he asked me if I would consider moving in with him. What? I never even considered this as an option! I immediately said yes and began to plan my escape. That year my dad had gotten me a portable 13 inch television. But that had to be hidden in my closet so that Gerb never knew I had it. Living with my dad would mean I would be free to enjoy the things in life that had come my way. No more barriers around the potential of joy. Maybe I can laugh again like I had remembered before Gerb became a part of our lives.
So, the anxiety of the move began. But I used the energy to secretly pack my few boxes in preparation for the move. I didn’t tell anyone, certainly not my mom. She didn’t keep anything from Gerb, so this was a secret that had to be kept. I couldn’t risk the potential of my plan being sabotaged. As I looked at the TV in my closet I realized it would come out! And so would I.
All I could think of is getting to spend time with my cousins who lived in town, playing cards with my dad’s friends, enjoying pizza at the local pizzeria and doing all of the “normal” things that others seemed to get to do. Freedom was at my door! My dad was rescuing me and I couldn’t wait.
So, Saturday morning came. My dad was to arrive at 10:00 AM and I had to be ready. Boxes packed: Check. Clothes gathered: check. I am ready but how will I carry this out? I had to tell my mom something. So, at 9:50 AM I went upstairs and found my mom in the living room. Gerb was still asleep so I felt safer and had to get this done. “Mom, I am going to live with dad.” She just sat there and a couple of tears came down her face, “When?” “Ten minutes, mom.”
The Escape Vehicle
So I mustered up the strength I had to gather the last things into boxes. Than I saw dad drive up. It was a blue 1963 Chevy II station wagon. He pulled in and I started carrying boxes upstairs and out into the drive way. After about 15 minutes we were done.
I breathed a sigh of relief and we drove away. I am finally free! I can live! I can go see my car. After all, I was just 15 years old and that was important.
I didn’t see or talk to my mom for about a month. But, I began to find liberty to enjoy a little bit of life. I had to heal. I had spent five years of my life in the worst prison I could have imagined considering it was a house in the suburbs on a normal street of life. It just seemed that no one had noticed our pain. I had felt so alone and trapped. But not any more!
The power of my dad’s question was that it seemed he had heard me. He seemed to know what was going on and how much I needed help. I don’t know why he hadn’t done that earlier but it didn’t matter at that point. I was on my way to a new life.
I visited mom a few times each year after that. Gerb seemed to just stay in the garage when I came over. Sometimes he would come into the house and grunt something to my mom or to me but there was never any kind of conversation that occurred. I was glad to not see him anyway. I mean after all, he molested me, took my home away from me, imprisoned me from life. Why would I want to see him?
The Ketchup Packet that Heals
Later in his life, Gerb got very ill with colon disease. He had several bouts with cancer of the tongue and colon. He had a colostomy which unnerved him to no end because it was “messy.” At the end of his life he was in the hospital and my wife and I were in Omaha visiting. As we drove past the hospital where he was, I took a deep breath and said, “I think we are supposed to go see him.” It took everything in me to turn the car around and follow what I believed to be the right thing to do.
So, in we went. My mom wasn’t there to distract us with her typical non-stop talking, and we sat down in his room. We talked about a few meaningless things. The nurse brought in Gerb’s lunch and sat it on his tray. As I looked at him I saw a frail broken man. He was trying to get his ketchup packet open and he was failing miserably. Gerb had always been able to do anything he wanted. But at this time in his life, he wasn’t able to do even the simplest of things. “Gerb, do you want me to open your ketchup for you?” I timidly asked him. Even at this time, I feared his responses. But with some surprise, he said “Yes.”
He died a few months later. When the pastor who was to lead the funeral came to my mom’s house he asked about who this man was. They had no relationship with any pastors who knew them. I remember my mom saying “he has two children and three step children.” Then she went on to say, “Well, he wasn’t the best step dad in the world.” I couldn’t believe my ears! That was the first acknowledgment from her that there was anything wrong with this picture. Well, at least she did see that something wasn’t right.
So, the last memory I have of Gerb is me opening up his ketchup. Funny, isn’t it? God led me to a place in life where my final interaction with this abusive mean spirited man was to serve him. I still get tears when I think of that tender moment of life. I have no idea what he may have been thinking but God had revealed His grace to me through this unforeseen event.
There was really only a handful of people at his funeral other than friends of my little brother, who has down’s syndrome. As I look back at Gerb’s life I feel grieved that such a talented, competent man ended up to be so invisible. God had given him such incredible intelligence, coordination, drive, and potential kingdom purpose. At the end he was virtually invisible to the masses. It was a sad and lonely ending to his life. I felt relieved that my fears were finally gone forever and that there would be no more present pain from his life into mine. I was also glad that God led me to the hospital visit. It seemed that in the ketchup packet incident, all of the pain was washed away. There was a humility between us that seemed to heal the wounds for me. Strange ending of his life but I am eternally thankful to God for His leading me into His abundant grace once again.