“Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” – Mark 4:19
This post has tested my courage, my intellect, my memory, my identity and my purpose for living. I have wrestled for months whether I should post it or not. It contains the source of some of my deepest fears. My lips must shout, Glory be to God, as He has done so much for me and this is what he asks of me, to share how much He has done for me with you.
“Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys.” – Billy Graham
Very truly it is said that we learn about ourselves and grow the most in the valleys of our lives. In the valleys of our lives is where we are confronted on an intimate level about our assumptions, our insecurities, and the deepest questions pertaining to life. In the valleys we contemplate suicide, contrarily they are where we experience the deepest healing moments of life.
Your behavior is a reflection of your beliefs.
- I believed I was not smart.
- I believed I was weak.
- I believed I was not important.
- I believed I was homosexual.
- I believed I was an accident.
- I believed happiness was the meaning of life.
- I believed God cared less for me because I was born out of wedlock.
- I believed God was a big lie, therefore that He didn’t exist.
These beliefs lead to needs, fears and anger that trapped me and held me in bondage to myself through my thoughts. My beliefs kept me in an ongoing state of feeling shameful, guilty, and depressed.
- I needed everyone’s approval.
- I feared what would happen if I talked about my struggles with homosexuality and pornography.
- I faced times of not wanting to be here anymore, but was too afraid to die.
- I was angry at my parents and God.
- I feared that faith in Jesus was a foolish belief and a vain effort.
Living an authentic and genuine life was a desired change of mine when I left home to join Mercy Ships in 2013. I wanted to stop being the person I thought everyone expected of me so I could truly be me. I wanted to stop living a fake life. I thought it would be an easy achievement by moving away from home. Considering that there wouldn’t be anyone who would know me, I could simply slip out of the “costume” I was living in and be the person I really am inside, right? Unfortunately authenticity and vulnerability go hand in hand and I have many years of vulnerabilities that I was guarding with the many costumes I wore.
I wasn’t a very big or tough guy when I was growing up. I was very sensitive and gentle. You might have called me a softie. I didn’t want to fight or bully or behave irrationally – and as a result I was harassed with the expressions: “What, are you gay?” and “Don’t be a fag, Ryan! join us.” How did this affect me? It formed the thoughts in my mind that I was different. With words like “gay” and “fag”, as far as I could understand from the context, “different” guys liked guys. If I was a real man, I would join in with their mischief. Because I had no desire to do that, I must be, well maybe, who really knew, gay. That’s what I began to believe. If I’m different from the other guys and, well, they are the ones with all of the girls then I must be the gay one. On the inside I really do like women too, so what does that make me? My mind was filled with lies that led to confusion and I didn’t have the truth to prove or falsify those lies. What these kids were saying must be true because to me they felt true.
Around the same time, I was introduced to the world of pornography. This content made it even easier to believe a relationship with the same sex was acceptable.
In my mind it wasn’t entirely strange to like guys. Guys are good and bad-looking, just like women. They are capable of loving and caring and accepting, just like women. At this stage of life, I had believed life was all about personal pleasure and it’s quite possible for guys to try to fulfill those desires. But, people who were gay, from my perspective at that time, were thought of as strange.
My life was built around those beliefs. Included in those beliefs was the fact that gay people were not liked, and I didn’t think anyone would like me if I admitted I was gay – even though I liked women too. So was I fully gay or just partially gay? I grew up believing that guys liking guys was worthy of discrimination, verbal and even physical abuse. Me being gentle and hating confrontation, I didn’t want any of those things to happen to me so I hid all of these thoughts deep in the corner of a dark place in my mind. I continued to hide it by being someone I really wasn’t and ultimately not being everything who God made me to be.
Apart of those insecurities included the assumption that if anyone found out about the hidden Ryan, they would consider me worse than a deceiver. The hidden Ryan liked guys. He watched porn. He was very deceitful. I truly feared that people would see me as a child molester, an unsafe guy around their children, never to be trusted again. It made me feel shameful and scared.
Ultimately, the struggle with my sexual identity lead me to date many women trying to find fullness and some form of masculinity. I was looking for my manhood that hadn’t developed in my life. Those relationships went to every extreme trying to prove I was a man including an outpouring of time, money, gifts, and sexual activity. I did anything to protect those relationships. I went to all extremes to be the “man” those women desired because they were the closest thing I had to fullness in my desired identity. Little did I know I was using them for my selfish desires.
As I mentioned a bit ago, pornography made my sexual identity struggle even more difficult. What began at a young age continued into these relationships. Women drained me of everything I had, so I returned to my pornography addiction because the sexual activity didn’t provide everything I desired. The things that I exposed my mind and body too have brought me to tears many times. This addiction added to, and solidified, the lies that I was believing. Pornography made my desire to be with a guy even more real. I found myself thinking that it was possible and that I should.
With a mind full of guilt and shame, can you imagine how badly I wanted to be accepted?
When I was in high school I was introduced to a foundational friend in my life who truly and fully accepted me. This time of my life shaped me significantly because, unknowingly, I wanted acceptance more than anything else. I wanted someone to look at me, without judgement, and love me. And this person did that. Not only was there complete acceptance, there was trust, care, patience, grace and overflowing love. She is not your average person. She poured into my life and contributed to a major time of my development. But this relationship caused even more confusion in this battle with homosexuality, because she was openly in a same-sex relationship.
“After a storm comes a calm.” – Matthew Henry
Healing comes through the storms. While chasing after the last women I’ve ever been in a formal relationship with, I landed in a Christian young adult group. I was tired and I wanted to stop breaking hearts and having my heart broken. She invited me to church and I began to find out that there was something else in this world that I could not see. There is a Creator, and He has a story. I began to learn about that story and how my life fit into it. Learning about that story taught me how I should desire to live my life. Furthermore, I found out that I was apart of an even bigger story! And through that small group, I began a relationship with my Creator, my Savior, my Redeemer. I did not know just how significant it was at that time.
“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but he one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” – Proverbs 28:13
“Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” – Genesis 2:22
So how did healing begin? I brought my hurts to God and invited God into my darkness. I shared my pain with trustworthy friends who listened. I was prayed over. I began to read about God’s creation and by faith I began to believe the truth of His word. There’s a creator of this universe. He created things with a distinct design. Well-being is fully achieved by living within His complete design. I’ve learned that if I try hard enough, I can have feelings for anything. People have feelings for their animals, but they don’t desire to marry their animals. So, if I have feelings for a member of the same-sex, I should evaluate it with the Truth and see if it’s the best plan God has for my life. For instance, if we believe in God and we believe in Jesus then we must believe in Genesis 2:22 – that God made woman out of man and for the man.
You might be wondering what happened to the shame, guilt, and depression? Honestly, it is not completely gone. This journey is not over. But I can say that when the truth began to replace the lies I believed, the shame was replaced with honor. Sounds strange, right? The shame is reversed by believing I am a child of God through knowing Jesus Christ. The guilt began to be healed when I knew that I was forgiven. The depression began to be healed when I died to myself so God can (present tense) live in me. I live for a much bigger purpose and now I’ve gained hope. When I brought my life to the cross of Jesus and asked Him to heal me, I began to find and receive healing.
As referenced in Jeremiah 4 verse 3, “break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.” I can look back at the hard soil and thorns that my life was built upon to see how the lies played into my false identity. Homosexuality and pornography are some of the thorns that the Lord has revealed to me. Please realize that lust has not been completely eradicated in my life. I confess that healing is a process and I am a work in progress. The healing from these things has only began, but I am beginning to be freed from the bondage that they caused. I know that this is a major step forward in wholeheartedly serving the Lord. I now know what being authentic and genuine is. God knows all of my secrets and not one of them is too difficult for Him to bear. What peace that brings!
The healing process has not been fast. With the support of my brother Tim, I faithfully asked Jesus into my life on September 18, 2011, just over 4 and a half years ago. It was just over 2 years ago that I shared this struggle with my parents. It was a few months prior to that when I first confronted these issues with a counselor onboard the Africa Mercy.
Over the last 3 years I’ve been one of the patients on a hospital ship in Africa. My experience with Mercy Ships, the incredible friends I’ve made, and the life spoken into me are memories I’ll forever be thankful for. I’m so appreciative of the full experience, the highs and the lows – and even more grateful that God would use me to extend hope and healing during this process of transformation.
My recovery to an addiction with pornography has also not been fast. I am accountable every day to a group of men who are praying for me, encouraging me, and supporting me on the journey of recovery. We are currently working through a series of DVDs called the Conquer Series. I’ve been challenged and have grown through this group of men, but am also grateful beyond words for how they have loved me. Each day is a miracle, and a constant reminder of God’s unconditional and unfailing love for me.
Four big things I’ve learned…
- Living without a foundation for truth (God’s Word) creates a world of relative truth. Without it, I could be persuaded to believe anything anyone told me.
- Pornography twisted my thoughts of everything true and beautiful about relationships. There’s a lot more than what’s on the outside!
- When I tried to find my fullness in others, I was not loving them. I was being selfish. Love doesn’t take, it gives.
- Faith is an equation of believing in God and knowing Jesus. The difference between believing and knowing is experience. I had to experience Jesus to begin to know Him. You can too! Invite Him into your life, to be your Lord and savior, and share your life with Him. You will experience Him and begin to know Him.
Thank you for sharing in this journey with me.
Love you so much,