EDITOR'S NOTE: This monthly column about the issue of homosexuality by various authors is a partnership between Baptist Press and the SBC Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals.
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)--"Get up on your feet so I can knock you down again!" I stood horrified in the hall as my father yelled at my mother lying on the floor at his feet. Their fighting had awakened me in the night.
This is one of my earliest memories. I was 5 or 6 years old. I believe I subconsciously decided at that moment: "I will not be like that man!" Thus began my rejection of masculinity.
Chaos characterized the place we called home. The atmosphere was so tense that I began to sleepwalk. According to my mother and brother, I would walk into the hall, kneel facing my parents' bedroom door, grasp my throat and make choking sounds. My nightly routine horrified my mother; my father slept through it.
Several decades have not erased another memory of a summer afternoon when I was playing alone on a hill beside my house, wanting to be held by a man. There were no erotic feelings, just a God-given desire for male intimacy and protection. I was no older than seven.
Rarely did I experience my father's approval and love. And my mother, who was desperately unhappy, openly expressed to me her disdain for my father and her disgust for sex.
On reaching puberty, I recognized an attraction to guys at school. "Oh God," I asked, "why is this happening to me?" I had given my heart to Jesus and knew He died for my sin, but even that did not stop the turmoil that characterized my every thought. For years I carried a piece of paper on which I had written, "Lord, I am trusting you for healing."
Several years later I gave in to that same-sex attraction. We had gone to school together for years, and his approving smile fascinated me. For the first time in my life, I felt that another male really liked me. I quickly found that homosexuality provided excitement, but not fulfillment. My sporadic homosexual activity continued until my early 20s, when I decided that although I honestly did not know how to be heterosexual, I did know how to be obedient.
Although the Bible gives no explicit steps for coming out of homosexuality, it is filled with principles that I could apply to my life. The Psalmist wrote about turning his eyes away from temptation (Psalm 101:3), so I refused to look at pornography and avoided the people and places that stirred temptation. Because God's Word extols the love between and husband and wife, I asked the Holy Spirit to teach me the right way to love a woman. More important, I asked the Holy Spirit to teach me the right way to relate to men -- and He did!
At age 22, God led me back to college. Living in a men's dorm had a healing effect on me. I was forced to interact with other guys on a daily basis, to become their peer, to learn appropriate relationships with them. My parents divorced during that time, and although the news shook me, it did not deter me.
After college I attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where I felt like a dry sponge thrown into a lake. I soaked up everything, and the Bible became increasingly alive to me. Not only was I receiving a great education for a future ministry I could not imagine, I also was learning to apply biblical truth to my sexual brokenness.
Homosexual temptations continued throughout college and seminary, but to a lesser degree. I remained steadfast in refusing to yield, and my revulsion toward heterosexuality diminished.
After graduation I was called to a pastorate in my hometown. During that time, my alcoholic father went through foreclosure on his home, separation from his second wife, and a near suicide. With all the responsibilities of a young, single pastor on my shoulders, I brought him into the parsonage and cared for him until he could enter a treatment facility. I didn't feel I could share any of this with my congregation.
I eventually resigned, disillusioned and depressed. I cried out to God: "I've followed You as closely as I know how. I've been celibate for over 10 years. What more do you want from me?"
I was about to find out. A female friend from seminary visited my town, and we spent time together. For the first time in my 33 years I felt attracted to a woman. For years I had prayed, "God, change me and I'll do whatever you want me to do," while all along He was saying, "Tim, do what I want you to do and I'll change you."
Five years later, I met Lisa, who was everything I longed for. Before we were engaged, I sat down with her and said, "You need to know something about my past because it may influence our future. I used to be gay." Even after hearing my story, she never wavered in her love for me. We married in 1993 and are the proud parents of three daughters: Clare, Grace and Ellie.
I'm happier today than I've ever been, and I owe that to Jesus Christ. When I was obedient to God, He reached down to help me and poured blessings overflowing into my life. My passion remains to "go and tell what great things the Lord has done for me and how He has had mercy on me."
Tim Wilkins is the founder/director of CROSS Ministry, an organization that equips churches to reach out to, evangelize and disciple those within the homosexual community. He speaks and teaches across the country and will be in The Way Out booth at the SBC's annual meeting in Indianapolis. For more information call 919-569-0375 or visit www.crossministry.org.