I grew up in a Christian family, but a very broken home. My parents were good people, but they also lived under the weight of past brokenness that was never addressed or brought to Christ for healing. They were taught to be silent and emotionally detached from their experiences of abuse and abandonment. As much as they loved us, their unhealed wounds leaked out toward their children. My dad and brothers did not take much interest in me. My mother and older sister were my deepest emotional connections, but I don’t recall our home being warm or fun.
As a painfully shy and uncoordinated boy, I was often ridiculed, teased and bullied at school and church. I had no sense of same-gender peer acceptance, so I spent all my time with girls. At 5 or 6 years old I was invited for the first time to play with some older neighborhood boys. During this visit I was introduced to pornography and homosexuality. My innocence died that day, replaced by a deep sense of shame and self-hatred. As I got older, I read my Bible, prayed often, and had a stack of memorized verses on 3×5 cards, but I couldn’t get control over my obsession with pornography or attraction to guys. For years I pleaded with God to take away the desires, and when that didn’t happen, I began to believe God actually hated me and I was somehow cursed. As much as I wanted help, church wasn’t a safe place to talk about what I was going through, so I wrestled alone.
When I reached the age of 15 I ended the sexual behavior that had been going on between me and an older boy for a couple of years. When I finished homeschooling I enrolled at our local Christian College. I studied hard until my fourth semester. I began developing some friendships and they became more important to me than anything else. I was emotionally starved for love and acceptance. I fell behind in my schoolwork and became an emotional wreck. I was eventually told that I had to leave due to concern that I might be suicidal.
I walked away from Bible College with a great deal of shame, bitterness and hatred. About a year later I discovered my first gay-bar. I felt obsessively drawn to the bar, walking around the block and past the door for weeks, trying to work up the nerve to go in – then one night I did. I had the powerful sense of finally belonging – for the first time ever. It wasn’t long before I moved in with a guy, began bartending and lived as a homosexual man for several years. I never imagined that I could walk away – or that I would ever want to. One day while I was driving to NJ, I was listening to some Christian music. I couldn’t outrun or stuff my emptiness and loneliness any longer. I began to weep over the rebellion and wreckage of my young life. I felt old, like my soul was decaying. I stopped on the side of the highway, finally ready to surrender, and told Jesus “if you want what’s left of me you can have it.” He took me up on that!
Several months after my conversion, I began dating a woman and shared my story with her. About 18 months later we were married. Tragically, we were only married for four years. The 15 months of separation, followed by divorce, was an agonizing season of my life. Old patterns of doubting God and self-pity began to take root in my heart. I relocated to another state, and quite by accident, heard of a local gay-bar. That night I went back to a familiar bondage. This began several years of off-again, on-again homosexual involvement and lots of degrading, nameless sexual encounters.
In 1999 I moved back home because a church in the area had earned the reputation of loving and ministering to very broken people. I came back home emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually “beaten and bleeding”. I emailed the Sr. pastor in advance and told him who I was and what I was involved in. He welcomed me into the church, counseling a small group, and eventually even men’s group. Slowly God began to change me. Two years later I began training as a lay-pastoral counselor. Not long after that, I left my sales job and was hired as the Business Administrator at my church. Since that time, I was licensed as the Pastor of Soul-Care Ministries – overseeing all counseling and support.
I was married to a wonderful woman who shares my heart for ministry, September 2007. In May of 2009 Melissa gave birth to our first son. In 2011 God gave us another boy. In 2013, we sensed God’s leading to start Love & Truth Network was established to equip Christian leaders and churches to develop safe and transformational environments for relationally & sexually broken people. The majority of Christians attending church week after week, are living double-lives. God has poured out more than we could have ever hoped for!
I grew up in a church-going family with an older brother and an identical twin sister. Despite attending religious school for 12 years, I did not have a personal relationship with God. My parents’ marriage was troubled from the beginning, and my father was absent. I held a lot of anger inside towards my father. I also saw my mother as weak, passive, and a victim for not standing up for herself. I vowed never to be like her—emotionally and financially dependent on a man. That vow profoundly impacted my relationships and my view of myself as a woman, because I put a wall between my mother and myself, rejecting everything feminine, both the good and the bad. I believed that it was not safe or advisable to be a woman. My violent encounters with my brother after school, and exposure to pornography confirmed this belief.
In high school and college I was involved in several long-term, emotionally-dependent, sexual relationships with men. I was searching for the love, affirmation, acceptance, identity, and worth that I had never received from my father. He wasn’t around to bless me as his daughter, and say, “You are beautiful, you are acceptable.” These relationships left me empty and unfulfilled.
In college I began to question my sexuality, and my senior year I entered a lesbian relationship. I felt like this is what I had been looking for my whole life! This woman would accept me and love me! Except she didn’t – she dumped me after a month. I was devastated, but God used this situation to bring me to the end of myself.
Here Are Their Stories (Melissa Ingraham)
Although I attended church regularly, it didn’t impact my sexual behavior – until my struggle with lesbianism. For the first time, I wrestled with guilt, shame, and condemnation. I was torn. I knew that my lesbian relationship was “wrong”, but it felt “right.” The deficit of feminine love caused by my rejection of my mother cried out to be filled in the arms of a woman.
About a month after my break-up my identical twin sister (who’s never struggled with same-gender attraction) invited me to a Christian conference, where I attended a workshop on sexual wholeness. I gave my life to Christ and repented of my lesbian relationship when I saw how I had been deceived into thinking that lesbianism was God’s best for me because it felt so right. After accepting Jesus Christ I knew I needed help to overcome my distorted patterns of relating.
I struggled spiritually and emotionally in shame and silence for about two years until I could join Living Waters, a teaching and discipleship group that helps the relationally and sexually broken find healing and freedom. Living Waters changed my life! I began to understand the impact of my childhood, and the damage of my own idolatry. I could be real about my own brokenness. I received truth about my identity in Christ—that I am a beloved, precious, beautiful, and cherished daughter of the King! I also came to accept my femininity as a gift from Him.
As a result of God’s healing work, He called me to pursue a Masters Degree in Counseling from Regent University. I graduated in 2006 and was licensed as a professional mental health counselor in New York in 2010. As I look back, I can see not only the faithfulness of God and His hand upon my life, but the fruit of a life submitted to His healing. I have wonderful, healthy friendships, and I am closer to my family. In the fall of 2004, I met my husband Garry. We were married in 2007, and now have two sons. Our marriage is an outward reflection of an internal reality. Being with Garry is about so much more than not being with a woman. God truly has restored my femininity and sexuality. I’m forever grateful! (Eph 3:20-21).