by Craig, 25
I first found out about Living Hope four years ago, but I didn’t actually start coming until one year ago. I’d like to say that my delay was the result of external circumstances that hindered my journey into holiness, but in reality it was my own stubbornness and tight-fisted control over every detail of my life. You see, when I first heard about Living Hope, I was just beginning my senior year of college and I had just opened up my soul to my college pastor, revealing to him the secret of my struggle of which I had always sworn to keep to myself. So, when he told me about the ministry, my mind painted a rather elaborate picture of a group of creepy, older men sitting in a long-since unused church gym, huddled close together in a circle, sitting in tan colored metal chairs. I told him no thanks, I’m good.
Months passed and I began interning at a local church’s counseling ministry in order to get credit for one of my psychology classes. While I was there, I came across several Living Hope magazines, and to my shame, quickly stuffed them into my backpack while no one was looking. I was all about keeping my sin to myself, while wishing I didn’t have to. But, no one needs to know. I can fix this on my own. God, please help me, I can’t do this on my own. God, I’m trying to take care of this on my own, please stop dropping hints about Living Hope.
There was this back-and-forth struggle I was having with my flesh and my spirit. My flesh was telling me that I could tame the beast. My spirit was telling me that God was knocking, and soon He was going to break down the door if I didn’t open it.
Well, years went by, and I didn’t open it. My struggle went deeper; I became more depressed; I moved into my mom’s house; and life was not great. I had been going to a smaller church and was involved in a small group there, and I had been wishing for help and relief from this darkness. I knew that something needed to be done, but in my darkness, could not see the Truth and wasn’t really seeking the Lord for help. So, God finally broke down the door. A guy showed up in my small group who, on his first day, told the group that God had brought him to Arlington to be a part of a ministry called Living Hope. I was floored, and so was my jaw. The chance of him showing up in my small group was not a coincidence – I knew it was God telling me that it was time to trust Him and take the leap.
I met with Ricky and began attending group. It was weird – not in the old, creepy gym sort of way (thankfully!), but in the “Oh my gosh. I’ve never talked about this struggle so openly before!” sort of way.
I began to experience freedom in bringing my sin to the light, and not just by saying it, but by also being challenged to take it all to Christ, and it opened my eyes to a life that is far more than just my sin. My whole life I’ve focused so much on this secret – it defined me mind, body, and soul. I was same-sex attraction. But, God really began working on my heart through Ricky and the guys at Living Hope. It wasn’t about the struggle. Yes, we talk about it. Yes, we confess. No, it didn’t all stop there. I was challenged to push into Christ. I was offered advice on how to get into the Bible and make it a part of my daily life. I was held accountable each week to the commitments I had made the week before. Living Hope was not, and is not, a “we’re gonna fix these weird feelings you have” ministry. It is a home for me; a safe place that helps me see past my sin, and points me to the heart of God.
Since becoming a part of Living Hope, I’ve moved into the Hope House – a year long discipleship, accountability-heavy, living situation, under the guidance of Ricky. Moving into the House was a scary step for me. But, I had been convicted to let go of my control, and seek out more discipline for my life. I had been living life on my terms, and sin still had a heavy stronghold on my life. Moving into the House has been difficult. God has revealed to me my heart, and I’m seeing the ugliness inside. I fight against God so often, constantly choosing my ways over His. But, what I’ve learned over the past year is this: though my feelings come and go, God’s love for me does not.
Before coming to Living Hope, I felt hopeless. I had no real, authentic relationship with the Lord. I saw Him as an angry man who had His constant eye on me, looking for things I did wrong. My feelings are fickle. I can be worshiping God one moment, and then the very next moment, choose sin. But, I’ve begun to realize the love God has for me, and that’s changing my heart.
I cannot be perfect in this life. No amount of control I try to exert over my life, my heart, or my sin will ever change anything. I am a sinful person, and because of that I cannot make myself not be sinful. God is the one changing me from the inside out. It is in pursuit of holiness, of seeking Him, that the Spirit is changing my heart. I’m not being changed from gay to straight. I’m being changed into the likeness of God.