Wednesday, January 12, 2005

An interview with Todd, Part 1  

If you haven't read about my friend Todd on this blog, please take some time to read his story (from his perspective and from mine). Basically, he confessed to me a year or two ago that he had been struggling with homosexuality and an addiction to pornography for most of his life. He had also confessed this to his wife, and they were doing their best to work through the overwhelming feelings of pain and betrayal. They are still on a journey of recovery, but the very fact that they decided to begin that journey at all fills me with a sense of awe and thankfulness that they love God's gift of marriage enough to honor the vows they made and continue to love each other. I recently interviewed Todd via e-mail.

We once had a conversation in which I used the word "gay" to describe you. You corrected me, saying that you're not "gay" but rather that you "struggle with homosexuality." Can you explain the difference?

I think it's a matter of identity and design. I have come to understand that God's original design for me (indeed, for all men) is to be authentically male. That includes the intended design of heterosexuality. Many factors went into making me have broken, same-sex attraction, from genetic and emotional tendencies to early childhood experiences and deficiencies. The MAJOR part of my healing has been coming to first understand, then internalize and live out the truth of who I was created to be.

To say I'm "gay" is to make my brokenness my primary identity. It was so interesting when the governor of New Jersey came out. In one sentence, he really pointed out the issue I'm talking about. "I am a gay American." Wow. Before he's a man, a husband, a father, a governor…even an American!…he's "gay." How sad that at the very core of his identity, he is defined by his sickness.

I am a child of God. I am a follower of Jesus. I am a man. I am a husband and father. I am a pastor. Yes, I have struggles…deep-rooted, life-defining struggles. But I'm not "gay."

(A really interesting aside: You can see where this is all going, can't you? A "Gay American" sounds suspiciously like a "Hispanic American" or an "African American." I sincerely believe that his statement was scrupulously crafted…and that it advanced the idea of homosexuals as a political minority group.)

You were raised in a highly conservative, church-going Christian family, and you've known about your tendencies for most of your life. I'm sure that caused quite a bit of internal conflict for you. How did you deal with it?

Well, I didn't. I lived as two people. On the outside, I was a perfect church boy, excelling in many things…especially "Christian" things. I was a leader in my youth group, I sang and led in worship all the time, I even preached a sermon one Sunday night. I excelled academically as well, and I was a gifted musician and actor. Oh yeah, and I fantasized about sex with other boys all the time, masturbated at least once a day, wrote my own porn literature and regularly checked out the men's underwear section of the Sears Catalog.

Of course I was terribly conflicted, but I had absolutely no language to express it and no place to go for help. My parents had a clue, but I think they were in denial about it, and subconsciously I just knew they couldn't handle the reality of my life…so I buried it deeper, hid it further. My addiction was fostered by the solitude.

I know that you love your wife as much as any husband does, and the fact that you married her shows that you value traditional marriage. Has that produced any sort of dichotomy in your psyche?

Sure it has. And I hope that now…especially as I'm walking in the light of healing and recovery…I love her even MORE than most husbands love their wives. There has been a seismic change in my thinking and world view between the day I married my wife a decade ago and now, though.

Back then, I valued marriage for what it could do for me. I wanted a life that was acceptable to God, my family and my community. I wanted children. (I always loved children.) I wanted a best friend. When my wife came along, I thought to myself, "If I can make a life with any woman, it's with her." I really DID love her, in my sick, broken way. I really DID want to spend the rest of my life with her. I just believed that she would never know the broken part of me. I separated my "gay" self from the rest of me and kept him hidden from her and everyone.

Now, as I've come into a deeper understanding of God and the freedom that comes from His plan, I value marriage because He does. I value marriage because I see it for what it is…a beautiful picture of His love for us, and an amazing covenant between two people who promise, with God's help, to love each other until death separates them. I see, again, God's DESIGN for men and women in marriage, and I see that ANY sexuality outside of marriage between a man and a woman is a violation of God's intentions.

This is a pretty elementary statement, but it bears repeating: God's laws are not to restrict our pleasure. They exist to protect us and help us grow into who He created us to be. We can only experience REAL pleasure when were living in His plan. Everything else is temporary or illusory.

I'll post the rest of the interview tomorrow.