"Aw, Mom, it's just first grade!" My attempts at reassuring her fell on deaf ears. My leaving for school must have brought back memories of my father departing for World War II. Soon afterward, my mother had a nervous breakdown. She was hospitalized for the next six years. Then I learned that this was her second episode. She had been hospitalized for the same condition immediately after my birth. I began to struggle with a terrible guilt, tormented by accusing thoughts. I caused Mommy's illness. It's my fault. If I didn't exist, she would be fine. I began to regard women as weak and unstable.
I began to perceive myself in two different ways: the public person, for whom a rugged home life forced an early maturity; and the private person, sneaky, insecure and immature. The beginnings of my double life were taking root.
During my mother's long years of illness, my father cared for me-except on Friday nights when I stayed with neighbors. "Friday is your dad's night out," they explained. Every week, I pressed my nose against their kitchen window and cried for him to come home. The neighbors didn't make the connection between my tears and my habitual bed-wetting, so they just wiped my nose in the soiled sheets every Saturday morning. Later, I learned that my father was being sexually unfaithful to Mother during those nights away. That knowledge increased my feelings of hurt and betrayal.
I was aware of homosexual feelings from my earliest years. As a preschooler, I repeatedly tried to get a neighbor boy to urinate in my back yard so that I could watch him.
During elementary school, my sexual curiosity continued to grow. When a teen exposed himself to the girl who was my best friend, I talked him into doing the same thing for me. The painful awareness of my problem was one of the things that drove me toward Christ.
I became a Christian at age ten. I was reading a Gideon New Testament in my room on Saturday when, all at once, three years of Sunday School fell into place. From that time on, I never doubted that I was a child of God, despite all the struggles still ahead.
At the age of 15, I was baptized and continued growing spiritually, primarily through two summer camping experiences and through my local church. That same year, however, I learned from a cousin how to masturbate. He was heterosexual and rejected my attempts to touch him sexually. But from that time on, I began moving from sexual fantasy to activity.
My sexual contacts in my 20's were all with younger fellows who lived away from my home town. With some kind of twisted logic, I wanted to nurture young men in the way that I had not been nurtured. By choosing boys younger than me, I felt in control. And by choosing friends out of town, I hoped that friendship and distance would assure silence.
The church wasn't any help at this point. The first mention of homosexuality from the pulpit-I was keeping track-did not occur until I had graduated from college. My pastor was preaching through Romans verse by verse, so he was forced to comment on Romans chapter one. He zoomed over the part about homosexuality with a brief reference to a booklet on sex. Later, I read the booklet and was disappointed; it was no help at all.
"I'm sorry," my pastor said when I talked to him. "I've never met anyone else who admitted that they are tempted homosexually. I've never thought about it. All I can do is pray." However, in another sermon, he made a comment that was very helpful: "Everyone has a background." Something clicked inside me.
His statement put things in perspective. I realized that other Christians struggled with problems. In that respect, I was no different from everyone else. I still thought, however, that I was the only Christian on earth facing homosexual temptations.
My church had solid biblical preaching. I heard about claiming my identity as a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), but didn't think to apply that truth to my situation, until someone mentioned it in the specific context of homosexuality.
That happened when I was 23. By then, I was firmly entrenched in a double life: active Christian evangelism and teaching at my church-and furtive homosexual encounters out of town. That year, I was greatly helped by a message I heard at a Christian weekend conference. "There is someone here who is a Christian, but who is calling himself a homosexual," said the speaker during his sermon, and I leaned forward to hear his next words.
"On Christ's authority, I urge you to name yourself by your new identity, and not your old one. You are a new creation in Him." My eyes filled with tears. Yes, I was ready to do that-but I wasn't ready for what happened next. Through tear-filled eyes, I looked at my date for the weekend. She was sitting next to me. I saw her as I'd never seen any girl before-I felt sexually attracted to her!
I knew something profound was happening deep in my heart. From then on, I saw myself as a Christian who happened to have homosexual temptations, rather than a homosexual who happened to have a Christian commitment.
Unfortunately, during the next five years, the battle for my mind got fiercer, occupying most of my waking hours. And I got bolder in seeking after sex that previously I had found offensive. But through it all, I clung desperately to God's promise: "He who began a good work in you will finish it" (Phil. 1:6).
There were only a few people who knew of my struggles. One summer during this time, my girlfriend from high school asked me to go for a drive. She told me about her growing relationship with another fellow. "Greg has asked me to marry him," she concluded. "I want to know where we stand before I give my answer."
"I'm not prepared to marry you," I told her, "because I'm struggling with homosexuality." We discussed it further, and she felt released to marry Greg.
Some time after that, another man asked me to pray for him in his problem with homosexuality. "Yes," I responded, "if you will pray for me for the same reason." Gradually I was learning to be more open about my struggles. My double life was coming to an end.
Then I attended the 1972 Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts. Through Bill Gothard's teaching, I learned how bitterness and anger can lead to sexual sin (see Job 36:13-15, Heb. 12:15-16). I learned also that I needed to ask forgiveness from my parents and from God Himself for blaming them for my own choices. Later, I asked vaguely for forgiveness from my mother, who was hospitalized again. I asked more specifically from my father. In neither case did I expect them to forgive me, and neither of them offered it.
But God saw my heart and honored my obedience. During the following weeks, I discovered that my homosexual compulsion was gone. I was able to exercise choice in refraining from sex. I had only one homosexual contact after that. About one year later, I asked Emily, a woman I'd been dating, to marry me. She said no. I was devastated and sought a one-night stand. Afterward, I asked God's forgiveness and He gave me the strength to keep going forward. I remained friends with Emily, and our relationship deepened. A year later, I proposed to her again and she said yes. We were married that summer.
I was never apprehensive about marriage, except on the wedding night, since Emily and I had talked about my background during our engagement.
Marriage was a step of faith, but it was faith on firm evidence that the Lord had not let me down so far. And God has been faithful. Since 1974, He's given me the joy of learning about love within the context of a lifelong commitment to my wife.
Years ago, I did make a practical commitment that helped ensure that I would never return to the old life. I resolved that, if I ever sinned sexually with another man, I would go back and ask his forgiveness.
For example, I asked forgiveness of the fellow that I picked up on the rebound after Emily rejected my first proposal of marriage. Later, God brought others from my past back into my life just long enough for me to ask their forgiveness, too.
Today, same-sex temptations exist for me, but they are incidental, not fuel for compulsive behavior. Flashbacks to past relationships occasionally invade my bedroom, but they are not the secret means by which I am able to relate sexually to my wife.
God has given me control over my mind as I have sought to obey a favorite verse: "We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5).
Early in my marriage, I wondered about the principle of a father's sins being visited on his children "to the third and fourth generation" (Numbers 14:8).
My mother's father died of alcoholism, my mother committed suicide while hospitalized for schizophrenia, and I was involved in sexual immorality. At times I have worried that my children might turn to homosexuality, but God gives me peace that, through His blood, the power of generational ties has been broken. Since my children range in age from 14 to 7, the last chapter hasn't been written, but I face the future with confidence.
My wife and three children are the second greatest blessing in my life. Of course, the biggest cause for thanksgiving is my relationship with Jesus Christ, through whom I have forgiveness for my past sins. By his power, my double life is over.
Dr. Gene Chase is a professor of mathematics and computer science. He worships at West Shore Evangelical Free Church in Mechanicsburg, PA, where he leads a support group for former homosexuals. Copyright 1991 by Gene B. Chase. Distributed by Love in Action, P.O. Box 753307, Memphis, TN 38175-3307; 901 542-0250.