by Sarah, 31
My first event with Living Hope was the banquet in 2012. At the banquet I heard the stories of men and women whose testimonies were not too different from my own. Stories of terrible pain and abuse – wrongs that should never be done to any of God’s children. Stories of rebellion and running from God. Stories from men and women who simply wanted to be loved, seen, and accepted and who wanted to love in return. Stories of God’s grace being poured out on unsuspecting, and undeserving sinners. And as I listened to these stories I noticed a glaring difference in the lives of these men and women and that of my own. They weren’t chained by shame, living a double life, and hoping no one would discover their past. They were vibrant and full of life! That evening the Lord began something new in me.
I was raised by parents who prayed for me. They longed for me through years of infertility, finally accepting that my older brothers would be their only children. Years later they discovered they were pregnant – with identical twin girls! They loved and treasured my sister and me. We were raised in church, and I grew up loving Jesus. Having come to faith early, I loved the Word. I loved God and His church. As a teenager I knew I wanted to serve Him overseas. From the outside looking in, everything was fine.
But there was emptiness in my home. My parents weren’t able to emotionally engage me or communicate their love for me in a way that assured me I was loved. Things began to go awry early when I was sexually abused by various people. As I grew and others continued to use me for their pleasure, I kept these things secret, not knowing how to communicate what was happening to those who were supposed to protect me. Consequently, the lines for appropriate and inappropriate relationships were blurred.
From my teenage years on, I found myself working hard to live two lives. One life as a leader of my youth group, loved, accepted, and respected by parents, teachers, and youth leaders. With my family, I was the “quiet, easy, good” child. I excelled in my sport, academics, and band. Other leaders saw me as a leader and invested in me.
In college I traveled, speaking and presenting the research I’d conducted under the supervision of one of my professors.
After college, I went on to seminary, became a missionary, and lived among an unreached people group in the Middle East until I was deported by the local government. I moved to Texas because I loved God’s Church and church planting and could be a part of a church plant in Texas. I led a home group and served in a variety of ministries. All of this to insure others perceived me as “good.” They loved and accepted who they perceived me to be. I mastered the art of being in control of others perceptions of me at the cost of really being genuinely known by anyone.
People in my community never had the chance to love the parts of me I kept hidden. During my teenage years and twenties, and even while I was on the mission field, I was in church on Sundays, but the rest of the week was spent attempting to manage my double life. I struggled to fit in among healthy circles, but found acceptance among others who would help me perpetuate my sin. I found myself seeking out girls in high school and college with whom I could have physically intense, but emotionally empty and spiritually anemic relationships. I immersed myself in their lives and they in mine, all while manipulating and lying to keep it hidden. Various forms of sexual addiction became rampant in my life and I vowed that no one would ever know.
The Lord graciously moved me away from every one of my lesbian friends when He called me to seminary. The pain of that break was unbearable. I felt so alone, unloved, and awkward. Being a lesbian in a Southern Baptist seminary doesn’t really win friends, so I chose not to tell anyone. I continued to hide my addictions, yet found myself in a season of respite from lesbian relationships. I studied Missiology, moved overseas, and eventually to Texas. I assumed that because I wasn’t acting on any homosexual desires and because I’d gone on a handful of dates with men, I was “fine.”
Fortunately, the Lord desires so much more for his children than being satisfied with being fine. His desire is abundant life!
When the Lord put LHM in my life I began to see the hope for deep, lasting healing. Hearing Ricky preach the Word weekly has been a tool used to keep me focused on Scripture. Darrell leading in worship is a powerful tool in softening my heart. Meeting with the ladies of LHM, being challenged by D’Ann and the small group leaders, and having a chance to confess my brokenness openly has been life-giving. Being reminded weekly to walk toward Jesus, to talk to Him about what I am or am not feeling, and being encouraged to invite him into every aspect of my life has been refreshing.
I’ve learned that my attractions, my wounds, and my brokenness do not and cannot define me. They don’t have the power to overwrite the truth of who I am in Christ! I’m learning how to live, breathe, and do life as a loved and treasured child of God. I’m learning to use the way God made me as a woman, a leader, and a person passionate about His kingdom to glorify Him rather than using those gifts as tools to cover up and hide my sin. I’m learning how to invest in relationships and allow others to invest in me. I’m seeing the beauty of allowing my community to see my wounds and brokenness and I’m seeing them love me. I’m seeing myself grow in my ability to love others and to receive love from others.
Living Hope Ministries hasn’t taken away my homosexual desires; it hasn’t fixed all my problems or saved me. But LHM has diligently pointed me to a Savior who passionately loves and pursues me. LHM hasn’t healed the wounds in my heart left by emotionally unavailable parents and sexual abuse. But I’ve been met there by a loving Father who delights in me and calls me child, whose desire is to show me all I am in Him and all that is available to me in Him.