Lessons Learned, Lessons Lived

by Former LHM Youth, Now Youth Pastor

That moment won’t be fading anytime soon. Like an odor that lingers on the air long after the source is removed, or like a stain left on a shirt after many wash cycles, the memory of sitting on my bed wondering, “What did I just do?” will continue to linger for years I suspect. Like Icarus in his aerial crash-course, how did I fall so far? With so much hope, such lofty goals, and such potential, how did this perfectionist, performance-driven young man wind up in such a pathetic place? Simultaneously juggling a college education, a small group Bible study, and a dissatisfied girlfriend, how did I end up lying in a bed one afternoon with another man?

I remember pushing him out the door, putting on a heavy sweater to cover up and heading out late to meet a group of friends for dinner. It was almost painful to conjure up insincere smiles while my insides were melting away in shame at what I’d done. My cheeks were flushed and burning all night, feverish almost, from anxiety at what I’d done. I remember thinking nothing would ever be the same from this point forward, but knowing that something had to change or I would be plunged into a bottomless abyss of hopelessness.

God’s story with His People resounds with a common theme: He faithfully delivers His People, and always in the fullness of times.

Out of nowhere, I began a friendship with a guy from the local campus ministry and began spending large amounts of time with him, processing through life and where we felt the Lord leading us. I was yearning to connect with someone, anyone, to lean on and find encouragement in Christ. After a month or so, he revealed to me his struggle with same-gender-attraction and his nearly-desperate search for something out there to offer hope. Unbeknownst to him, I had the same struggle, and after a week or two of gearing up for it, I finally made him the first trusted person in whom to confide my “struggle.” God’s hand was on our situation, and He kept us safe from any mutual attraction. We finished our college career as brothers in Christ, supporting one another in accountability, though both of us were still searching for some kind of truth that might offer hope in the midst of our seemingly endless struggles.

We had split ways and I was living across the country in my home state of Texas when I got the call. It was my buddy. He had learned somehow of a ministry that, amongst other facets, had a vibrant and active online support forum. He had been involved for awhile and was finding community, understanding, and best of all, HOPE. I was living in the very same home base city as this ministry, this “Living Hope.” With his prodding and encouragement, I gingerly stuck my toe in the shallow end of this intimidating and frightening ocean of possibilities that would require me to come face to face with my struggle instead of attempting to bury it away and work harder and harder to please God with my outer life.

What began as a timid and cautious attempt to investigate what Living Hope had to offer quickly grew into an all out, passionate adventure that I jumped into headfirst with abandon. Before long, I was posting on the forums, attending weekly support group and accountability time, and meeting with the director, Ricky. I was learning why I struggled with same-gender-attraction, what the current triggers of my inner sin life were, and how I could begin to turn around some of the unhealthy mechanisms I had constructed to cope with the stressors of daily life and relationships.

Within six months, I had shared my struggles – and my greatest new hope and joy – with a select number of close friends and even my two parents. That was unheard of! I always thought I would take this secret to the grave, and now I was experiencing the freedom that comes from releasing the secrets that had kept me for so long. Through the ministry of Living Hope, I was growing, maturing, and taking hold of some of the tools that would help me become a secure, confident, and healthy man seeking the Lord instead of relationships that would never satisfy my greatest yearnings.

After four years, it was time for me to move on. I had finished my graduate degree, I had found a job a few states away and planned the big move there, but more importantly, I had finally experienced the great hope that LHM had to offer and was daily walking in faithfulness with God. Not finished. Not “arrived.” But definitely on the path of hope and righteousness.

Now I have the pleasure of working in ministry with youth, the career pathway I felt God leading me into for many years. It would have been my greatest downfall and disaster had I not spent these years allowing God to heal my soul. It is so rewarding being able to mentor and disciple people in that critical phase of life where they are making their faith their own. And I constantly find opportunities to bring the lessons I learned from Living Hope into play, helping my students to understand where true identity comes from, how to develop in security and confidence, and the appropriate place for relationships in our lives. To God be all the glory, for He has done great things, and LHM has been one of His most effective tools in my life!