A Journey Towards God…
“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go” (Isaiah 48:17). This verse implies such a journey to me. In my own life I see homosexuality very much as a journey, a spiritual journey for me.
My journey started when I was very young. When I was five years old I recognized that there was something different about me. I can remember playing a game where a friend and I exposed ourselves to each other. I can still feel the powerful emotion and anticipation I felt when I realized what we were going to do. Even at five years old I recognized that this made me different. I can still feel the fear … the fear that came from realizing that I was not like other boys.
I had this same emotional experience twice more in my childhood. Both times centred around sexual experimentation with other boys. Those instances may have been fairly benign for the boys that I was with, but for me they confirmed my worst fears … that I was different … that I wasn’t like the other boys. As a result I felt more and more excluded from my own gender.
From here my life was fairly uneventful until summer camp at the age of 16, when I accepted Christ as my Saviour. Unfortunately I didn’t allow Christ or His Spirit to help me understand myself but rather I hid behind my Christian experience to avoid having to face what I was feeling. This is one of the biggest regrets of my life. Instead of getting to know Jesus Christ in an intimate way, I simply adopted an outward Christian appearance. I threw myself into becoming the best Christian guy I could be. I participated in everything at church, did hours of prayer and Bible study and volunteered for everything I could think of. Unfortunately for me it was not driven by my love of Christ or desire to serve Him but rather by fear. Really fear of being known – that I might know myself or, heaven forbid, that someone else might know what I was thinking or feeling. This worked for me in the short term. I appeared to be a good son, a good Christian and a good student. Everything looked good but it was all an act.
I managed to keep this act up until my third year of university – the first year that I was away from home. Once I was away from home, keeping up this facade became much more difficult. I became confused and frustrated. I knew something was the matter, but I still just couldn’t name it. It took me most of that first year away from home and my first adult homosexual experience before I could even come close to admitting to myself that I was sexually attracted to men. Unfortunately that honesty didn’t last. I say “unfortunately” because you can’t deal with something that you won’t admit is true, so I ended right back where I was before … hidden and scared.
I returned home and spent a few years working and then returned to university. While in university I felt that God was calling me to become a medical missionary, so I applied to medical school and was accepted. I ended up training to be a physician and considering going to the mission field yet still having a secret life of sex with men. I kept these two parts of my life very separate: the possible Christian medical missionary and the active homosexual. Those two realities never came together in my own head. I saw or confessed no contradiction. God, though, was not so easily fooled. After two years of medical school I left – confused, hurt, and disillusioned, and feeling totally abandoned by God.
Shortly thereafter I moved away from home and started to talk to a physician to explore my rather confusing life. He was the first person that I had ever been truly honest with and he helped me face up to what I was feeling and doing. He also suggested that I go out in the world and explore my sexuality. From his perspective, that was the only thing to do. In my state at that time I agreed with him and that is what I did. I finally had accepted what I was feeling, and I acted on it. I had been sexually active before, but this was the first time that I had started this quest in any open or aware manner.
I remember during this time feeling so stripped by God. I remember saying to God, “You led me into medical school and then you took it away. I don’t understand that, and now I have nothing left but to explore this other side of my life. Lord, I need this, please just leave me alone and let me do this.” To be honest, I believe that is exactly what He did.
It wasn’t long after this that I met someone. He was a Christian guy and we became good friends and deeply attached to each other. Our relationship was emotionally intimate in ways but never sexual. I knew him for only a year and then he moved away. Despite that, he gave me something very valuable. He was the first person to ever touch me in a non-sexual but caring way. He was the first person who ever said “I love you” to me. He was as scared and confused as I was, but despite that, he made me feel included. He helped me realize that I was a person worthy of being cared for. That it was possible for me to be loved. I honestly don’t think I knew this before then.
After he left I decided that it couldn’t be too hard to find someone nice since I had found him so quickly, so I jumped into the gay community with abandon. I think I spent the next five or so years looking for a replacement for him. Unfortunately it wasn’t as easy as I had thought. I eventually stopped looking for love and just settled for sex. During those years I became more and more out of control. Sex became an obsession.
I can remember so often arguing with God about what I knew I was going to do. I would say, “God, I have to do this. I need this. Please just leave me alone.” Every time God would speak to me and say the exact same thing. In a gentle voice He always said simply, “David, I love you.” That was it. No judgment, no anger, nothing … just simply “David, I love you.”
After a few years of being completely out of control and of hearing God’s gentle voice, I knew something had to change. I started attending conferences run by the Vineyard Churches. At the end of one of these conferences, the speaker said something that touched me deeply. He said that there were people in the audience that felt their whole life like they were on the outside looking in. He made the comparison to someone standing out in the cold with their nose pressed against the glass watching a warm family celebration going on inside. I felt those words cut through me. For the first time someone had put words to what I had been feeling my whole life. The total sense of being an outsider, of being different from everyone else, of trying to fit in, or trying to decide who I was. His words warmed me and I think led me to go forward during an altar call at a later Vineyard conference. That step forward was probably the beginning of my journey out of an active gay identity.
My next step came a while later when I told the assistant pastor of the church I was attending. He was very understanding, and it was through him that I came into contact with New Direction. I started attending the New Direction support group but dropped out after a few meetings. I just didn’t know why I was going. I was a homosexual, and I thought the purpose of a support group was to turn me into a heterosexual. The problem was that I completely misunderstood the process – it wasn’t about becoming a heterosexual. It wasn’t about exchanging a homosexual identity for a heterosexual one. For me it was about accepting my Christian identity, confessing the claim that Christ had on my life – and at that time I just couldn’t see that. It probably took me a year or so to return to the support group and start the process for real.
I believe that that process continues up to this day. In one way my journey concerns homosexuality, but more deeply I think my struggle has been with God. Really my struggle has focused on deeply searching questions to God such as “Who am I?” and “Do you really love me?” Those have been huge issues for me, and at times they still are.
I wish homosexuality hadn’t been my struggle, but to be honest I am also thankful for it. I might not be a Christian if I hadn’t been homosexual, because it so deeply revealed my need to me. It also continually calls me into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ because of that need. This struggle continually reminds me of how faithful God has been to me. God never abandoned me, no matter what I did. It also helps me see how much God loves me. Not an easy give-me-what-I-want love, but a more realistic this-is-what-you-need love.
I believe that my struggle with homosexuality has been primarily a spiritual struggle – maybe not unlike the struggles many Christians have. I think it is a journey that I am still on, and to be honest I am not exactly sure where it will take me, but I am confident, as I continue this journey, that God will do as He promised in Isaiah … that He will indeed “teach me what is best for me and direct me in the way I should go.” Of that I am sure.
The Story of David Colpitts, MDiv appears in printed form in the booklet Transformed by an Encounter with Christ: A contribution to the ongoing discussion on same-sex blessings in the Anglican Church of Canada, published in 2006 by the Zacchaeus Fellowship.
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Story copyright © 2003 David Colpitts. All Rights Reserved, used by permission