The ExGay Deception and God’s Grace

The ExGay Deception and God’s Grace

ShadowmanbyriverThe ExGay Deception and God’s Grace

By John J. Smid

My heart is grieving today for all of the men and women who have spent the majority of their lives praying, seeking, and hoping for deliverance from their homosexual attractions. For over four decades there has been a faulty message conveyed that people can change. A deceptive message that most often caused many to believe that they could experience a change in sexual orientation from gay to straight.

Begging at the altars of their churches, praying on their knees at their beds, crying themselves to sleep night after night; all to come away time after time with no change. They didn’t experience freedom from attractions that have often been said to be against nature, against God’s desires for their lives and often referred to as an abomination. Many have listened to sermon after sermon about the evil of homosexuality. Hearing that God’s desires for one’s life is contrary to their experience which is to them as natural as the desire for good food, or peace in the heart. These messages can be so deeply destructive.

Some people believe that homosexuality is merely a sexual desire. They believe it is simply a sexual appetite that can be controlled by repentance and self discipline, and that it should be. This mindset often comes from people who have never been gay. From straight people who have their own natural sexual orientation.

For my entire life I have had deep needs for an intimate connection with another man. The kind of connection that finds peace and fulfillment in merely holding one close, or laughing freely in such a way that can lead to an intimate hug without fear. It hasn’t been about an orgasm as much as it has been a connection of the heart of another man, something that transcends a sexual climax.

To be told for over two decades that this kind of connection is against God’s nature, sinful, and that one can never have this kind of fulfillment has been disheartening. It has led me to depression, sadness, and has caused many years of feeling separated from my very soul. The only way I could find to cope with that message has been to shut down my intimate life, to foreclose on any hope for being fully the man I have so desired to be. I’ve lost laughter, joy, and peace. I got married thinking that somehow, God would bless my decision and in faith believed that it could be a very satisfying alternative to my nature.

To believe it is merely a sexual desire minimizes the intimate nature of who we are. It can bring us to attempt a fleshly sexual practice that is unfulfilling. This is where so many gay men end up. Since the culture, especially the religious culture, says that within the context of their faith, they can never hold another man close or connect with him intimately. Many have lost their heart and soul. They have found themselves with only genital connections, or cold abstinence without the true fulfillment of embracing something that is a desire deep within them. I’ve known some who have given up any hope of a relationship and live alone which can exacerbate the problems of lonely sexual encounters without intimacy or a bitter contempt for life and people.

For women who are lesbian and desire intimacy with another women in relationship the cultural message is that this is wrong and will cost them their relationship with God and others. This has also been deeply destructive. This can heighten an anxious distortion of their search for intimacy that has led to emotionally codependent relationships and for some an erratic life experience. This has also been harmful, destructive, and has cost many women a total loss of hope in their hearts and their faith. For some it has created a hardened legalism for their own lives and towards others. A ministry peer once said that it is more common among ExGay participants to live in emotional dependency than almost any other culture. This pattern is more common in ExGay circles than it is in true lesbian relationships. I tend to believe him! Just like many things in life, when we are told we cannot have something that is so deeply natural, and needed, it can quickly become something that is distorted and fueled by disappointment and shame.

For over twenty years I worked diligently to help gay men lay aside addictive practices with sex and pornography. Some found abatement for a season, but many never found the freedom they desired and only went on to even more one night stands or anonymous sexual encounters. The ongoing shame often led to a complete separation of their souls from God or anything spiritual.

This is until they finally release themselves from the cultural message that would refuse to acknowledge the deep need within them. Once they went on to find the true intimate connection with another person that matched their nature it seemed somehow that their road of life began anew. Life entered into them. After time, they opened up the door to a timid seeking of God once again. As they peeked through the door towards God’s heart the fear of disapproval often kept them outside that door but at least they did open it a little.

As I’ve reconnected with a large number of those who were involved in some sort of ExGay experience I’ve discovered that quite a few of them have gone through this transition. As I’ve talked with them I found that many have found partners with which they now share their life. In most cases, they are no longer living in a frantic practice of one night stands and anxious dependencies rather, they have found peace with someone they love.

I’ve discovered that a major key to resolving the addiction of encounter after encounter has been for many, a release of the bondage of legalism and a decision to walk free in the love of Christ. This is the kind of love that allows them to embrace a relationship without shame. These folks are no longer trapped in the cycle of anonymous sexual encounters or the anxiety of emotionally dependent relationships.

The ExGay message of God’s deliverance from the homosexual orientation has been destructive! It has created a dangling carrot of change without any real outcome of freedom from homosexuality. The damage has occurred in the subsequent loss of one’s soul, or the destruction stemming from serial fleshly encounters that only leave one void and searching for the next one.

In all of my recent studies of scripture, I conclude that there is nothing that would forbid a gay or lesbian from a satisfying intimate relationship with another gay person. There is no prohibition of same sex intimacy with someone they are committed to and love from their heart. The forbiddances appear to come from fear, and an unwillingness to discover what homosexuality is truly all about. They come from a biased study of the bible. It seems there is a huge disinterest in many to truly study, and listen to the hearts of gay men and women.

I believe much of my grief today is also from how I played a role in furthering the message of deliverance from homosexuality. I used to teach that hope for their eternity would come when they found freedom. I conveyed a message that God would be more pleased with people who were not gay. I spent a tremendous amount of energy attempting to help men and women find a life of freedom of their natural homosexual desires.

Today I realize that it is far better to help men and women accept their homosexuality is innate, and an authentic reality. Regardless of where it came from, it is what it is. There is freedom in Christ for someone to hope for intimate connection with anther compatible human being if they so choose to pursue it. For those who are satisfied with a life of singleness, there’s a place for them to accept being gay and feel accepted and loved within that life experience. But neither choice can be made until they accept their homosexuality without shame.

I believe that in this they will find contentment and peace as a child of a loving God. Sadly, this acceptance may also cost them in their relationships with those who cannot accept that reality with grace. It may bring about human rejection and conflict with those they have known.

I also grieve about the way that homosexuality has become such a divisive issue within people of faith. The imbalances that occur in judgment and criticism towards gay people within faith communities is sad and unnecessary.

man_yellow_jacket_hands_raisedI am hopeful. As I watch the world around me, more and more people are choosing to act upon love and grace even when they don’t fully understand homosexuality. Those within faith communities are making the choice to practice the law of love, rather than trying to hold to a legalistic perspective of the Law.

I’m working my way through this very process myself. I’ve discovered the freedom from compulsions and facades that plagued me for many years. I’m finding the delivering power of the grace of God. I’m opening up my heart to an authentic soul experience. I’m seeing the freedom that I always hoped I’d find, but it’s not through being delivered from homosexuality – it’s through accepting it.

It’s a scary thing to expose myself to the very thing I believed for so long would destroy me and could cause me to lose God, and to bring me to fail in this life. It’s fearful to see those I’ve known for years abandon their connection with me because I’ve chosen to accept something about myself that has always been there. They appear to be resistant to follow my reality. I feel sad about my own separation from people who have become critical and have attempted to draw life away from me. I feel grieved that my marriage of 24 years ended because it was also built upon the false hope that someday it would be a natural marriage.

Deconstructing the facades that I used to hold up a false realty can be quite disconcerting and unsettling. But I do feel the anxiety levels decreasing. I can sit more quietly these days without feeling the need to make more noise. I breathe more deeply. I can also be silly and laugh uncontrollably more often than ever in my life. I am committed to continue helping others find this kind of freedom.

(C) 2014 John J. Smid

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18 Responses to “The ExGay Deception and God’s Grace”

  1. Michael Watt says:


    I believe this is one of the best, if not THE BEST, article you have written. It shares so much of not only your story, but my story and many others who tried for years/decades not to be gay. Thank you!


  2. Michael Bussee says:

    Thanks for this excellent article about the experience of waking up from decades of legalism and shame perpetuated by the ex-gay myth.

    You describe very well how I also felt when I finally accepted that God loved me just as I am — a gay man who loves the Lord, loves his husband and loves life.

    “Once they went on to find the true intimate connection with another person that matched their nature it seemed somehow that their road of life began anew. Life entered into them.”

    That’s exactly how it felt.

  3. Brian Hager says:


    Most of us were involved in some way or another in our churches’ attempts to control issues of sexuality. Our faulty understanding was a consequence of our church leaders’ (we trusted) faulty reading of God’s word. When one leaves out the understanding of the key portion of scripture – that God is the essence of Unconditional Love – then the only possible meaning left is a mirror image of the EGO (Easing God Out).

  4. Not Going Back | The Gay ChristianThe Gay Christian says:

    [...] I was reading my buddy John Smid’s post over on his blog. (It’s a beautiful post. You should give it a [...]

  5. Wally says:

    Thank you for this. It is lovely. A great read for me as I’m on the journey of self acceptance and reconciliation with God.

  6. Former Love In Action Director John Smid: Homosexuality Is Not a Choice and Can’t Be Changed | Truth Wins Out says:

    [...] Rivers pastor and former director of the “ex-gay” live-in ministry Love in Action has an excellent new article I encourage you to read. Here are some excerpts: The ExGay message of God’s deliverance from the [...]

  7. Joseph Mathews says:

    Thank you for s eloquently and wonderfully laying out your thoughts. I pray and hope many more will read this. I have struggled with many of the issues you have identified. However coming to accept the fact that who I am is who God created has given me an inner peace and confidence that I did not have before and calmed my soul. If anything it has strengthened my fellowship with God.

    For as the Psalmist says in Psalms 139: 13-18

    13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

    14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

    15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

    16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

    It is my hope and prayer that our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community will come to know this truth.

  8. Jerry Reiter says:

    Very well-done article. I agree it is your strongest piece of writing yet. And your words will help many people understand. I am glad you have found peace in your life.

    Please remind people Love in Action ex-gay no longer exists. The lists from LIA were given to 2 counselors who call themselves ‘Restoration Path,’ but they have no way to change a homosexual into a heterosexual and there are no ex-gay meetings or live-in facilities anymore.

  9. Mykelb says:

    Why are Americans so damn gullible to religious bullshit. Tell those idiots to get out of your life and live.

  10. Bruce Strine says:

    Wonderful article, John. I know this will bring hope and promise of a happier life to many men and women struggling for acceptance.

  11. David Shelton says:

    John, thank you so much for sharing this. I’m honored to know you and call you a friend.

  12. gentle lamb says:

    May Gods grace abound in your life. As sin abounded in your exgay involvement even so God’s grace.

  13. Chris McCrea says:

    John, thank you SO MUCH for writing this. This is absolutely the best articulated and most powerful statement of it’s kind I have ever read. With overwhelming grief, I have ended a 20-year marriage to a wonderful woman whom I care for deeply, but sadly realize, in your words, “because it was also built upon the false hope that someday it would be a natural marriage.” I have also deeply hurt 4 amazing children that I continually strive, with the grace of God, to nurture and grow within the current context of damage control. 30 years ago I was radically converted to Christ but at the same time also introduced to a new reality, thanks to my new-found church, that I was an abomination to God and that he WAS going to change me through suffering and prayer. Marriage was to be part of the “healing” from my abhorrent sin. And, as the cruel joke would have it, I was shamed INTO marriage…and I was shamed AFTER I declared to my church family I could no longer abide in such tyranny in a well-performed “mixed marriage.”

    I have since lost most of my close friends to “Theology trumps all” and I have a devastated family shrouded by pious claims “He was never really believer after all” and “he needs to be sifted by Satan” and “he is hell-bound and blind and deceived”. I never had any idea how awful the Church could be. Instead of grace there was judgement. Instead of empathy there was dismissal. Instead of hope there was fatalism.

    How tragic that I am not alone, but it has drawn me closer to God as I walk with Him in this new reality of “No one knows what it’s like to be the bad man…”

    I am grateful for God to finally giving me the strength to “come clean” to Him and myself and I am forever a changed person in Christ. But what a price it was.

    Thank you again for this wonderful testimony. I will be sharing it with many.

  14. Thomas says:


    This is beautiful and precisely summarizes exactly how I’ve felt (but couldn’t put it into words until reading your post).

    Thank you for saying what’s screaming inside many of us!

  15. Quentin says:

    Sadly, my experience is just the opposite. I tried embracing my homosexuality and surrounding myself with affirming people, but I never felt emotionally fulfilled. It was only when I started working on the ex-gay thing that I really found any kind of lasting happiness. I am glad you have found your happiness, please don’t take ours away in the process. :-/

  16. DrewTwoFish says:

    I’m not sure what to say.

    I’m nearly 53, abandoned the ex-gay movement some time ago, and have emerged from Christianity in the last few years.

    Most of the time when I read anything from anything associated with this movement (though you’ve disavowed yourself of it) all I can feel is grief and white hot fury. Some of the latter is directed at myself. No one held a gun to my head. I was never promised I would get straight, at least not explicitly. But there were promises of God filling in the gap. I think those promises were almost worse than any guarantee of achieving heterosexuality.

    I don’t know if I’ll ever come to terms with wasting the best years of my life waiting for a God that doesn’t exist.

  17. Jeremy Marks says:

    Brilliant article John. I agree with all you say.

    Great to see you writing again.

    So glad we are singing from the same hymn sheet again.

    Much love to you my dear brother

  18. Will says:

    How can you flaunt your pictures? How many kids have committed suicide because of you? I get that you want to show your freedom and happiness. You have blood in your hands and should quietly atone for the damage you’ve done. Irreparable damage.

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