Psalm 139:8 ends by saying "If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there." That is one scripture that my life has put to the test too many times to count. The curtain rose on the stage of my life in December of 84', and what began was destined to be an unpredictable romantic comedic musical tragedy.
For as far back as I can remember, abuse had always played a major role in my life. I was six-months old when physical abuse became a common occurrence for me, shortly after; emotional and verbal abuse became daily rituals that were never skipped. By the time I came to know sexual abuse at the age of nine by a schoolmate, I was completely resigned to the fact that my role in life was to serve as a whipping post for anyone who saw fit. By the age of twelve I was convinced that I would undoubtedly go to hell, I didn't believe there was anything redeemable about a boy who had tried killing himself at the age of six.
My mind and soul were scarred with feelings of worthlessness and self-hate. As if the plot wasn't complicated enough, my same-sex struggle rushed to center stage with the arrival of Junior High. Junior Hell as I like to call it, was the time in which I really began to address the fact that I wanted a leading man in my life...not a leading lady. Now if growing up in a spiritually abusive church had taught me nothing at all, it had at least taught me that being gay was so wrong it couldn't even be talked about. So I stayed silent and began to pray God would take away my homosexual desires.
At age 14 I began researching homosexuality, what it was, what it looked liked, and how I could "conquer it." I had always been a high-spirited tenacious fighter, and this was one battle I wasn't going to surrender in. Little did I know that the most wounded part of my life would prove to be my emotionality, not my sexuality...I truly believed I was unlovable. In between the time High school ended and College began I had raised the white flag of surrender and whole-heartedly embraced the gay identity I had tried so hard to escape. This decision immediately began to devastate every part of my life. When I shared with my Pastor what I was dealing with, he decided to give me three days to change my mind or he would have to expose my sin to the church congregation from the pulpit. Wanting to save my family the embarrassment of public humiliation, I decided to leave the church behind and pursue as healthy a life as possible.
What began to unfold in my life was anything but healthy. I began a lifestyle that selfishly catered to every desire, and every hurt. I quickly fell into a pattern of inappropriate sexual encounters spurned on by a dangerous addiction to pornography. Before I knew it, the lack of self-worth that was nurtured in me from a young age began to push me towards even more dangerous and destructive habits. I began experimenting with drugs and abusing alcohol in an attempt to silence the anguish and pain that loudly echoed in my heart and mind. Through out the next five years I would have many futile attempts to reconcile my destructive lifestyle with the God I still longed to feel connected to. I was clawing around in the dark for any way possible to find the peace that I knew only Jesus could give, but I wanted the way to be one that didn't require me to change the abusive way I was living.
The abuse I was suffering was no longer at the hand of others, but by my own hand, I was now the most abusive and dangerous person in my life. By the age of 22 I was so deluded into thinking that my end would be destruction that I began to purposefully engage in encounters that would put me at risk for contracting the AIDS virus. I wanted to die, but still so desperately wanted to be loved. In 2007 I entered into a relationship with a man who was HIV+ believing that If I knowingly contracted HIV from him, he would have to love me. I was going to be loved...no matter the cost. Like any unhealthy relationship eventually does, this one came to a bitter end and I was once again left on the empty stage looking for love. By this point in my life I was devoid of any sense of healthy boundaries or appropriate relating. My main objective was to seduce people into loving me, and my body was my currency. My attempts to find love and acceptance became a means to feel alive and continued to perpetuate a cycle of constant danger and self-debasing behaviors.
Life continued to spin me and in a last ditch effort to try to find some sense of solace and peace, I cried out to God one day and said, "If I’m meant for more than this, show me a way out." That day I came across the Portland Fellowship website and began to entertain the idea that this could be a door of opportunity that would lead to a better life. That fall I began the two-year Taking Back Ground program. I wish I could tell you that my life changed overnight and that I entered into a perfect relationship with Christ; but this was not the case. After finishing my first term in the TBG program, I dropped out and went back to pursuing dangerous encounters and crumbs of affection.
My tenacious attitude, which during childhood had kept me alive despite my abusive upbringing, had now turned into a disobedient, defiant and prideful spirit. Without humility and acknowledgment of my sinful nature, all the "programs" in the world wouldn't substitute a life changing encounter and sustaining relationship with God. I didn't want to accept the fact that the hardships I had experienced in life could not serve as an excuse for me to blatantly live outside the will of God.
Almost a year had passed and I found myself once again praying, "If I’m meant for more than this, show me a way out." With a broken heart, and a wounded spirit I began an authentic journey of seeking wholeness and restoration. In humility I returned to the TBG program and allowed it to serve in my life as a means to draw closer to God and encourage me to keep pursuing a life changing relationship with the Lord. While some of the horrific experiences I have been victim to and/or allowed myself to be part of may appear to be the most monumental parts of my story; I assure you they are not. The Lord has been present with me from before I was conceived; he was there every time I was being abused, and every time I tried to destroy myself. God made himself manifest to me through the prayers of a faithful Mother & Father who have been able to walk along side me in my journey to wholeness. The Lord was with me the day I took my last HIV test, and found out that I had not contracted the virus, despite my self-debasing willfulness. He is with me now as I share my story with you, and he has continued to order my steps. The Lord has begun a process of redemption that permeates every aspect of my life. Broken relationships have been mended, I have been granted the strength to accept the things of my past that cannot be changed, and most importantly I can finally see myself as Christ sees me...worthy of love, flaws and all. A major part of my healing has come from the chances I have had to share my experience with others, and to encourage others to come to know Christ in a life changing way.
I am currently working for a non-profit ministry that offers a faith based solution to men wanting to overcome substance abuse, and am serving as an intern with The Portland Fellowship. I no longer have to settle for crumbs of love, but I can now accept the lavish love of Jesus that knows no end, and has the power to change us all. The most monumental parts of my story are not the experiences that have scarred my soul or the times that I have made my bed in hell, but the times that I have made my bed in hell...and the Lord was there, which has been every time.