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Jesus and my gay desires

Reuters/Kimberly White
Reuters/Kimberly White

I grew up in a Jewish household and knew nothing of Jesus Christ, saving grace, or Vacation Bible School. My religious childhood was attending synagogue, studying Hebrew, and celebrating Jewish holidays, such as Hanukkah and Passover. I even had a bar mitzvah at 13, which supposedly was meant to initiate me into “manhood.” It did no such thing.

My entire Jewish world was flipped upside down, however, when my parents decided to send me to a private Christian school for the academics and extracurriculars, not for the religious affiliation. Ironically, within weeks of beginning the seventh grade, after hearing the reality of the Gospel explained, I began to wonder if Jesus Christ really was the Son of the Living God. After wrestling with what I believed, it was at the end of the eighth-grade school year that I finally decided to turn my life over to Christ as my Lord and Savior.

In the midst of that new season as a newborn Christian, I was harboring a deep, dark secret. I was beginning to wrestle with my sexuality, finding that I desired men. As a new believer, I came to understand that homosexuality was sinful and that God had designed sexual intimacy for a husband and his wife exclusively. At some point, I’d made a vow to save myself for marriage, having always wanted to be a husband and father. This decision, however, didn’t stop me from struggling profusely behind closed doors with secret sexual sin. Shame-ridden, I vowed to never tell anyone about my homosexual desires. God, however, had other plans for my life.

In my novel, The Desire Tree, I used the image of a tree to describe the homosexual struggle. When you look at a tree, you see the leaves, branches, and trunk, but not the roots. Without the roots, a tree doesn’t have life. In my healing journey, the Lord began to reveal to me that my homosexual desires were finding life in an entire root system of wounds within my soul. As I grew in my relationship with the Lord, I came to fully understand that God had not created me with homosexual desires, but rather, in my sinful nature, I had misused my sexuality as a means to deal with nonsexual wounds within and had inadvertently sexualized what had never been sexual to begin with.

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When I look back on my childhood, I am not surprised in the slightest that during puberty, I ended up developing homosexual desires. It was my way of attempting to deal with what I eventually came to understand as the main root of my homosexual struggle: a crisis of masculinity.

God first brought radical healing into my life by fathering me in His love. “You are my father, and I am Your son,” became a habitual meditation in my 20s. Having God as my father made me feel I had the confidence to pray radically powerful prayers: to deliver me from my sexual immorality; to teach me God’s design for gender, marriage, and human sexuality; to renew my mind; to help me be confident like Christ when I was swimming in self-hatred; and to cry out to the Lord when I was in pain and have Him comfort me. With God’s help, I was able to begin doing the really difficult work of diving deep into my past so that I could better understand what my roots were and what was giving my homosexual desires life.

Homosexuality spoke to that little underdeveloped man-boy within and falsely gave me all the masculine love my little heart craved. It was an attempt at finally feeling protected by a masculine presence and loved in the way I had always desired. Homosexuality was my way of trying to find my masculine identity, of feeling a sense of belonging amongst men when I’d always felt like I was never masculine enough to be a part of the “man world.” It was my way of incorrectly dealing with that desperate desire to feel important, pursued, and wanted by another man.

One of the most significant things God helped me to discover was enriching, male fellowship. As a teenager, I would not have been able to fathom how powerful something as simple as godly brotherhood would be in healing my gay desires. Prior to the age of 22, all my best friends had been women. Around women, I felt safe; around men, I often felt intimidated and insecure.

I came to realize that it wasn’t sinful for me to want to find my masculine identity and to feel connected to the world of manhood. The sin was taking those unmet needs and trying to fulfill them in a sexual way. God brought healing, not by decimating the needs, but by giving the needs of my heart what they truly needed.

Behind closed doors, my habitual pattern of attempting to satiate the wounds of my masculinity crisis involved sexualizing men. Having close, male Christian friends gave me a context to bond with men in a healthy, platonic way, while simultaneously desexualizing my own gender after years of sexual sin. I was transformed by my first all-men’s small group at a buddy’s house, a hike in the woods with the guys, vulnerable conversations between me and another dude, a brother in Christ telling me that he loved me, a hug that said “you matter to me,” a hand on my shoulder during prayer while I wept, a phone call from another guy asking if I wanted to hang out, bros being bros around a bonfire. Having guy friends for the first time in my life helped heal my underdeveloped masculine identity, obliterated years of insecurity, and finally gave me the healing my childhood wounds needed.

I’d always thought that in the world of men, if my secret ever became known, I would be rejected. I couldn’t have been more wrong. In 2016, I confessed to my first male best friend my long-kept secret that had haunted me since childhood. Even after hearing my confession, he loved me like Christ and continued to embrace me like a brother. As I drove home that day, racing down the highway, I shouted out the window, “I’M FREE! I’M FREE! I’M FREE!”

My healing has been a hard, but worthwhile journey, and it is still ongoing. Healing has not just been repenting and praying for God to take away my homosexual desires. But also, healing has come from addressing the wounds within that were giving life to the gay desires in the first place. Through God’s counsel and guidance, I have looked into my past and used it to understand my present struggles. Through the Spirit moving in my life and in the midst of newfound male fellowship, I have found my heart transformed, my mind renewed, and most certainly an initiation into manhood by none other than Christ, my King.

Taylor Simon Maxwell is the author of The Desire Tree. He is a student at Dallas Theological Seminary. 


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