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Daren Mehl, President, Voice of the Voiceless
Personal URL: www.darenmehlblog.com
Experiences: Formerly Identified as Gay, Now Identifies as Disciple of Jesus, Received Healing through Jesus
A MIND RENEWAL JOURNEY
The journey from my mind to my heart took time, but has been the best journey of my life. Although I became a Christian in high school, I was living with wounds that I couldn’t even identify then. It didn’t matter because, for the most part, I had a relatively strong support system. I had a good friend Jesse who, with his mother, had befriended me and helped me to receive Jesus as Lord. As a new Christian, I believed wholeheartedly in Jesus and I wanted to follow him.
Throughout the time of living closeted and open in the gay lifestyle Jesse remained a loyal friend and is one of the miracles in my life. He continued our friendship regardless of my lifestyle choices and he chose to love me through the journey I was on. He would occasionally call me and ask me how God was doing in my life, how the Holy Spirit was working through me, how I was walking out the purposes of God in my life. Of course Jesse knew I was called to be an evangelist and share the gospel but chose for a time to live in the gay lifestyle instead. Of course Jesse knew I was in conflict deep down inside and had buried it. Jesse knew all this and believed for me, interceding for me, that my purpose would not be lost in my choice to live in a gay lifestyle. Jesse always, in the loving way I attribute to Jesus, encouraged my identity as a Christian.
Shortly after the day I graduated from high school, my step-mother, with whom I had had many conflicts, told me that I had to leave home or she would. I felt rejected, especially by my dad, who did not try to persuade my step-mother to let me stay at home while I attended a nearby college.
This is when a Christian family lived the gospel for me. The George family entered my life. Knowing I struggled with homosexuality was not a problem for them. They opened their house to me. I got to live as a roommate with their son. I felt as though I was adopted into their family. They were diligent to disciple me in our shared faith. Their son became a close accountability partner and friend. They demonstrated real Christian living through a dedicated commitment to a healthy family dynamic based on faith which would become a model for how I would one day lead my family.
I shared my struggles about same sex attraction with the George family and they lovingly supported me and my relationship with Jesus through regular prayer and counseling. We focused on holiness, wisdom and understanding of God’s plan for my life. They loved me through my journey. A foundation of encouragement for who I am in Christ that would last through my forthcoming struggle to find my identity.
I began to explore and attempt to understand the same-sex attractions I had been ignoring to this point by doing research on sexuality on the internet, chatting with gay men, reading stories of gay Christian life and the perspectives they had about scriptures related to homosexuality, and looking at gay porn. My family, the George family, and most of my Christian friends were unaware of my exploration as I kept it away from them out of a false fear of rejection.
During the 3 ½ years I lived with the Georges, I had an opportunity to work in volunteer ministry. Whenever I could, I traveled across the Midwest with an evangelist, Mr. Bassett and his family. My job was to help Mr. Basset with setting up his product table which had CD and DVD’s of his sermons, record his sermons and edit them, manage the offering, pretty much the administration work so he could just focus on people and preaching. I had the opportunity to preach during offering as well as the opportunity to be a main speaker on a mission trip to Trinidad. During the onset of my ministry however, I began to act out on my attractions to the same sex.
One time, I invited a gay friend I was hooking up with to go to feed the poor and witness for Jesus with the Bassett family’s evangelism ministry. After the second time I brought him however, the Basset family invited me over for dinner and sat me down and said, “Daren, you are like a son to us. We know that you struggle with homosexuality. Are you living this lifestyle?” I felt the conviction of God like a lightning bolt. In no uncertain terms I was told that I had to choose Jesus and denounce the gay lifestyle if I was to continue in their ministry. I loved and trusted this man and his family and came clean about what was going on. I “came out” to them and admitted I was going to bars and getting drunk as well as hooking up with guys afterward. Mr. Bassett told me in a loving way that I had to stop living a gay lifestyle if I were to assist him but to live as Scripture teaches. So, I did. I wanted to share Jesus more than I wanted to get drunk and hook up with guys. I quit drinking, quit going to the gay bars, quit hooking up with men.
I eventually moved out of the George family home. I continued to work for the Lord by helping Mr. Bassett. At the end of 3 ½ years, however, the preacher decided that he needed to work in a permanent location in order to give his family stability. In my journey, this ended a chapter of ministry work for me as well, although I thought another ministry opportunity presented itself.
My living arrangement soon changed. I had a close ‘Gay Christian’ friend who broke up with his partner and needed someone to rent part of his house. I thought I would come along side my struggling friend and move in with him and be his house mate. My thinking was that I could somehow influence my friend to drop the ‘gay’ from his identity by showing him how I lived for the Lord, how I gave up the gay lifestyle for Jesus. This kind of thinking that I could influence him based on my own efforts to be straight when I hadn’t dealt with my brokenness was like falling down, head first, on a steep slippery slope. Becoming his house mate changed the trajectory of my journey.
One late evening at the gay dance club my house mate left me on the dance floor to get himself a drink. While he was gone a hot guy took interest in me and moved in. While dancing with me he immediately became physical and that piqued my interest- my guilty interest. My house mate returned and introduced himself to my new dance partner, not as my boyfriend as was the script went to keep guys off me, but as my house mate. My house mate was clearly excited for me that this hot guy was interested in me. Several drinks later, lots of dancing with this hot guy all over me, the night began to wind down and I wasn’t sure where I was headed. My new found dance buddy engaged his charm and asked if I wanted to come to his place and hang out. I knew what that meant, and in my drunken stupor I was eager to take him up on the offer, but deep down I knew it wasn’t the right choice. I attempted to dodge the hookup offer by half-heartedly suggesting that my car was my house mate’s only ride home and so I would have to pass. A lame “Thanks but no thanks” attempt. My house mate quickly chimed in, seeming almost excited for me, that he would get a cab ride home and to not worry about him. That was all that it took for me to say “Okay, let’s go to your place and hang out.” My new friend drove us to his place. Unfortunately, we didn’t just hang out and talk for a few hours while I sobered up as I foolishly thought we would. Instead we had sex and I fell asleep in his arms. My journey took a turn toward internal conflict.
I have now compromised my faith and allowed myself to once again be physical with a man. I’ve fallen off the end of the slippery slope, off the cliff of my convictions. It was only a matter of weeks before we broke off and I found another guy to be my sex partner. This new found freedom to sleep with men was not going to be challenged for years to come. Even though I was going to gay clubs now and hooking up with guys, my desire to serve Jesus was still alive and close to my heart, although it was now buried. A small flickering flame hidden in the closet. My journey is not at an end but is about to take a turn toward God.
A couple years of loving me through conversations and frienship, Jesse invited me to go to the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, Missouri. On a whim, I took him up on it. I told my boyfriend of 2+ years it was just going to be a weekend church conference – for lack of better explanation- and I would be back in no time. International House of Prayer (IHOP) has a 24x7x356 prayer and worship service. It is a ministry center where Christians can go to meditate, pray, worship, and seek God in sober solitude. It is a sanctuary of holiness and peace. It was here that Jesse worked with me to pray that God would reveal his purpose for me.
I confessed I was lost in my struggle against same sex attraction. I told him it wasn’t fair that I had to go through life struggling against lust for men. It was his response that opened my eyes – like a scene where the clouds part, doves fly past you, the sunlight beams down, and angels sing a melodic song. He said that even though he is married, he is tempted with lust for other women. The Jesse that I equated to Jesus, who I though had it all together and couldn’t be tempted in any way, just admitted that he also is tempted with lust, but just with women instead of men. He told me he isn’t defined by the temptation to lust after women, that God gives him Grace to overcome the temptation. For me it became a moment of clarity. It’s just temptation. It’s not who I am. The temptation of same sex attraction doesn’t define me and I don’t have to give into it. If God gives Jesse the grace so he can live victorious over lust, then I know that God loves me as well and would give me that grace to live holy too.
Jesse then brought me to the next important question. He asked me if I believed that God wanted me to live sin free, to not live in the gay lifestyle. My answer was an emphatic “Yes!” I quickly rebounded from that excitement with fear and pain. I was in a 2+ year relationship with a man I deeply loved and cared for and couldn’t imagine life without. As my Christian ethic was getting the best of me, I told Jesse that I am “committed” in this relationship. I’m sure heavenly wisdom descended on Jesse at this point when he suggested we give that issue to God. I prayed to God that if He really did want me to be straight, that being gay really is a sin, that He needed to solve the quandary I was in- that God had to address my relationship with my boyfriend.
CONFESSION OF FAITH
Confessing I wanted out of the gay lifestyle wasn’t enough for Jesse. Jesse then asked me a final question. He asked me to tell him what woman I would want to marry. Being a bit surprised that he assumed there was a woman in my circle of gay friends that would even come close to marriage quality, I thought about it a second. Then I realized there was a woman that I was quite interested in being close friends with, and if I wasn’t gay, I would be interested in dating or even marrying. I had just never thought of our relationship in that context. I told Jesse, “If God wants me to be straight and not gay, and that I should get married, I would want to marry Rhoda.”
Little did I know God was more interested in my life than Jesse and would answer immediately.
When I returned from IHOP I received devastating news. My boyfriend decided to break up with me. No explanation. I was heartbroken over it, and furious at God for what I knew was His plan. I spent the next 2 years rebelling against what God was doing in me.
Of course, it’s hard to run from God. Even in my rebellion God had the path laid out for me. After our 18 month lease was up with my ex-boyfriend we parted our ways. Yes, that’s right, I had just moved in and had to live with my ex-boyfriend for 18 months. That was my punishment. The only mercy was that we had separate rooms.
I acted out my frustration by hooking up with guys and continuing to build gay friendships and looking for peace in all the wrong places. All the time Rhoda was there as a friend, hanging out with me, helping me through the struggle of being single, being lonely, struggling with my Christian faith and sexuality. The thought of marrying her was tucked back behind my priority of dealing with losing my boyfriend.
I ended up in my own place and Rhoda visited more often. Even though I had a regular on-the-side guy for physical attention, I found myself becoming emotionally attracted to Rhoda.
One evening two worlds collided. My journey started to get complicated. I had double booked Rhoda and the guy-on-the-side. Not wanting to cancel on either of them for fear of offense, I decided to give in and just have them both over. The dinner included small talk, and as Rhoda’s boisterous character came out things really lightened up and became enjoyable. As we transitioned to watching the show, Rhoda grabbed the chair and me and the guy took the couch but set apart. I was too afraid to cuddle him in front of her and he took note. Things were clearly going to be different tonight. Little did I know this scene was a juxtaposition that God had setup to make something much more evident to me.
Normally the evening would end with the guy and me going to my room for the evening. But tonight Rhoda was here. Now what? I would have to pick who I was going to ask to go home. Either Rhoda goes home and I have a great night with the guy, or the guy goes home and our relationship is over. There it was. I could barely pay attention to the show. The suspense of how the evening would end was tearing me up. It hit me in a surreal way. I looked at Rhoda for a while as she was facing the TV and in line of my sight. I realized that I want Rhoda more than I want to have sex with this guy. I want Rhoda more than I want to be in a gay relationship. I want to date Rhoda. How on earth? Inconceivable! What the heck just happened? After the episode was done my guy-on-the-side stood up and said, “well, what a great night. I think it’s time for me to go home.” That was the last time I saw him. Thank God it happened that way.
Rhoda and I ended up falling in love, and when I proposed she said yes, despite everything she knew about my past and where I was in my struggle with my sexuality. I told her that I could be faithful to her, and I meant it. After we got married God directed us to a new home church. Our faith grew in this church and God brought a man into my life. God’s plan for this man was for him to be an example of a godly man, to be a spiritual brother and friend, to be one who would come along side and encourage me in my faith journey to discover the identity God had intended for me. Our relationship becomes a David and Jonathan story. My journey takes on a new truth.
Jimmy had been hired as a grounds person and a technology tech problem solver for our church. I had been a volunteer on the core team managing the technology before Jimmy joined. Together, over several years, we had developed a very strong bond working technology projects and seeking Jesus together. We prayed together regularly, at least once a week, and we shared our everyday struggles with all kinds of issues. Jimmy and I thought of each other as accountability partners and spiritual brothers. We would pray for each other whenever we were struggling in our spiritual lives and in our everyday weaknesses, be it issues with anger, pride, jealousy, lust, bitterness, un-forgiveness, etc. When we would pray we would look to scripture for guidance. His support was crucial to helping me remain strong in my marriage, to be a humble servant leader to my wife Rhoda.
Rhoda became pregnant which was part of our dream to build a family. Life was good. I was true to her for seven years before I ultimately fell to sin due to sexual brokenness neither of us had addressed. I had been away on a business trip when temptation overcame me on the last day of the trip and I cheated on Rhoda by being intimate with a man. Not a good experience in my journey.
When I told Jimmy about what had happened, it was because I trusted him completely. That trust overcame the fear of losing him as a friend. We had been correcting and encouraging each other in love in Christ for so long, that I knew deep down I could reveal anything to him, including cheating on my wife. We had a spiritual brotherhood and love for each other which drove a determination to hold each accountable to the purpose of God in our lives. Together we prayed over this issue.
Our approach in accountability, friendship, brotherhood, was that we wanted to be like Jesus. For the years we practiced accountability, we discussed sins including lying, anger, and lust. We would then pray about the promises and commands of Scripture regarding purity and holiness. Now that I had cheated on my wife, things got serious.
The book A Covenant with my Eyes by Bob Sorge (See My Book List) gave us a concrete way to deal with temptation. Jimmy and I agreed to keep an eye covenant with God. This meant that if we saw someone whom we found attractive, we would not look again. This is the scripture basis for that covenant. “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?” Job 31:1. With this covenant I was able to reconcile with my wife and begin the rewiring of my brain to end the battle over lust.
Visit Job 31 Ministries The Wretched and Wrecked Podcast where I was interviewed and shared more about my journey.
But the battle Jimmy was helping me with nearly ended just as I got the eye covenant in place. The enemy tried to break me away from our friendship by using a horrible fear against me. I felt like I was about to hit a dead end in my journey.
A couple years earlier Jimmy had begun regularly going to the gym. By this point his efforts were beginning to manifest in a strong and defined body. I became afraid I would become attracted to him and the enemy would steal the pure and intimate brotherhood I had formed with him. I did not want to lose my friendship with Jimmy and so I wanted to beat the temptation to the punch. I did not want to lust over my spiritual brother. With humility and honesty, I shared my fear with Jimmy. We discussed the issue at length and prayed over it. Over the next couple days God revealed to me that I had been feeling inferior to men who were muscular because I wasn’t and that I had been made fun of for it. Well defined and muscular kind of men were the types of men who were tempting for me to lust over. God gave Jimmy the answer to how to help me get over this brokenness, although I wasn’t sure what to make of it. With the Eye Covenant in place for both of us, God is about to move us both into a new chapter.
FINDING MY MASCULINE SELF
Jimmy told me that I should work out with him. When I told him that the gym was a place I avoided because of the problem of temptation, he told me that I should still work out but keep faith in my Eye Covenant. Even with the eye covenant, I was a bit afraid. I often kept my eyes laser focused on Jimmy so I wouldn’t look elsewhere. I eventually became more comfortable with the gym as I was looking lean and seeing results myself. My self-confidence and masculine identity was being healed. I had power over my image and Jimmy was there encouraging me and helping me work out. The male affirmation of my masculine identity added to my confidence in who God created me to be. This confidence gave me a sense of masculinity that I had not felt before. I felt like any of the other guys at the gym, a guy who was out to look and feel healthy, masculine and handsome.
Jimmy had told me about a book that could help me. It was called Wild at Heart by John Eldrich. Frequently I would be at the gym doing my hour workout on the elliptical and I would listen to an audio version of the book. The more I listened to the book, the more I found myself tearing up. The book evoked memories of which I had been repressing for most of my life. It was like looking at a train wreck. I didn’t like what I was seeing, but I couldn’t help it. The longer I listened to the book, the more I visualized past experiences. It got so bad that I ended up leaving the gym and bawling my eyes out in the car.
MEMORIES OF BROKENNESS
One of the memories that came into play was a scene from my freshman year. I had felt pretty good about myself and my masculinity when one of the girls at school agreed to go to a dance with me. I remember feeling so awesome that I was going out with a girl and that everyone would know about it. I walked over to the girls house on the night of the dance and waited in the den and played Nintendo.
When my date and two of her friends came downstairs, I was immediately confronted by all three of them. “We’re going by ourselves,” they said. I dropped the Nintendo handset as they literally cornered me, pushing me down to where I was sitting with my back against the wall. As they were doing this, they were saying, “Did you really think that any girl would go out with you?” “You’re nothing but a queer.” “No girl would go out with you!”
I remember running all the way home. When I got home, I fell into the arms of my step-mother. Her comforting words were, “Go to your room. I don’t want to listen to this.” From that moment on, I looked at girls and women in a totally different light.
My journey of healing continued. Another memory that God brought to my attention for healing while listening to Wild at Heart was a vivid replay of a confrontation with my step-mother. I was 16 years old and my step-mother was out-of-control mad at me. She was yelling, and she also cornered me. “You’re good for nothing. You can’t do anything right. You’re stupid. You’ll never amount to anything,” she yelled. I was righteously indignant, and I said, “Shut up!” I pushed her away, and she said, “You can’t talk to me like that.” She commanded, “Go to your room. Wait until your father comes home!” I couldn’t wait for my dad to come home so I could tell him how mean, cruel and verbally abusive she had been to me. When my dad approached me, however, he told me, “You had no right to talk to your stepmother like that. You have to respect her.” That day, my masculinity died. I realized then and there that there that I was worthless. My mom had left me, my step-mom hated me, girls had ridiculed me, (I perceived that all women reject me) and now my dad had chosen to defend his wife instead of protecting me and stopping her verbal abuse against my character.
The book Wild at Heart had explained that men are supposed to go through life as the biblical David did. Men go through stages in life as being cowboys, warriors, lovers, king, and then sage. I learned that I had never been a warrior, I was still a cowboy. I had never fought for anything, not even for my own pride. I had been repeatedly told by my dad, “If someone punches you, don’t punch back. Don’t get into any trouble. Avoid confrontations.” So, I just took all of the physical and verbal abuse that came my way. Dad’s advice, though perhaps the “high road” was not instilling manly power in me, but robbing it from me.
Throughout this journey, I continued to share with Jimmy what the Lord was doing for me on the inside. We looked upon this release of emotions as a type of healing.
Jimmy continued being what he had always been towards me, a Christian man who held me as an equal and a friend, a man who was vulnerable enough to show me a man’s complete range of emotions. By being real and transparent to me, Jimmy modeled righteous anger, something I had never felt able to do. He modeled manly weeping about his grief for losses he had experienced. This affirmed me for having cried in the car. He modeled manly love for a brother with manly agapé-type hugs that reached down into the depths of my needy man-soul. He gave me the physical brotherly affection that I had craved as a child and teen. He affirmed by body image which returned my dignity to me. He modeled for me what it meant to be a husband, father, a strong man, and a godly man. I knew that my role was to serve and protect my wife and children. In short, he modeled what it was to be fully male.
As I look back on my transformation journey, I know that the Lord placed Jesse and his mother, the George family, the Bassett family, Jimmy and Rhoda into my life for a purpose. They were the helpers I would need to accept God’s Fatherly love for me. I love upon Jesse and Jimmy as my super-hero servants. Because Jesse, Jimmy and I relied on the Lord to lead us on our journeys to Him, I know now that my relationship with God is as his son, his real son. I not only believe this intellectually, I live it. My masculinity finds itself in my very thoughts, in my words and in my actions. I have been given grace over same-sex attraction as they no longer have power over me. That stronghold has been loosened by the working of the Holy Spirit and made powerless by God’s grace. I praise God who has healed me of my brokenness and brought me to the heights of gender self-actualization.
This portion of my testimony was presented in Achieving Heterosexuality by Marie Davidson, M.Ed.
This story was submitted from MY VOICE / MY STORY form on Voice of the Voiceless (https://www.voiceofthevoiceless.info/My-Voice-My-Story)