Born in England in 1952, I was brought up with two sisters by caring Christian parents. I have much to be thankful for, including a good education and a caring family of upright moral standing. Sadly, my parents' marriage was difficult for them. Being a rather insecure and sensitive child, the resulting conflict and pressure reinforced in me a poor self-image and deep feelings of inferiority.
I was afraid of being misunderstood and not attaining the standards required of me. I was surrounded by strong and demanding women, with no balanced male influence. This made me fearful of women and later on, of marriage.
In my teenage years, I recognized my jaded and unbalanced attitude towards women and had some success in correcting this. But, to my dismay, from the time of puberty I was aware of a growing attraction towards men. I knew from my Christian upbringing that marriage (or celibacy) is God's plan for our lives. I also knew homosexual practices are an abomination to God, but I had no idea how to change my feelings.
I bitterly concluded that if God was real, He was utterly callous. It seemed that His sole concern was that my life-style should be exemplary in every way, and it was up to me to make sure I conformed!
Believing God to be a tyrant and knowing society's rejection of the homosexual, I completely repressed my feelings. Then the testimony of a school friend brought me to the Lord at the age of 21. I hoped that I could forget these fears and lead a normal life.
At first, the excellent teaching from my new church absorbed my interest, but there were deep unmet emotional needs God wanted to reach. When my longing for closeness with a man began to resurface, my conversion experience was challenged to the roots. I was convinced that my "failure" to conform to God's "norm" could only result in God's total rejection of me.
Within a year or so, I found the courage to tell my pastor and another friend in the church of my homosexual feelings. To my relief, they showed real concern. However, they had no idea how to deal with this problem. They concluded that I must keep my feelings under control and be positive about a life of celibacy.
However, my constant preoccupation with homosexual feelings could not be swept under the carpet. The vicious circle of fears and the sense of hopelessness in my predicament was severely painful. I had been brought up to exercise self-control, but although this made life easier for other people, it was torture to me.
After a number of unsuccessful attempts to get helpful counsel, I began experimenting with my homosexuality to discover if it was real. When I briefly became involved in a physical relationship with a man, the relief was overwhelming. It seemed so good to relate to someone who understood how I was feeling.
To my astonishment, the Lord drew very close to me at this time, not in approval of my sexual sin but to assure me that He fully understood what I was going through. I saw that I could trust Him with the problem. This was a revelation to me, since I thought it was solely my responsibility to sort it out. God's gentleness turned me right around and instead of pursuing the "gay" life, I resolved to find His answer.
When I confessed my sin to the pastor, he realized the serious need and committed himself to regular counseling. Together we sought God on every issue we could think of, praying for deliverance, healing of past hurts, checking out my family and Christian background.
Despite the thorough counseling, my emotional needs seemed largely untouched, to our mutual disappointment. However, his friendship was very precious to me and kept me out of trouble.
Two years later, I had to move to a new area due to my job. During this period, my commitment to working this problem through was challenged several times. The breakdown of a close friendship with a lovely Christian girl discouraged me greatly. It was clear that even with the best intentions, I was not ready for marriage.
Following this, I became very impressed by a homosexual relationship between two Christian men. The closeness, faithfulness and spiritual quality of their friendship suggested a convincing looking alternative that challenged my understanding of Scripture.
Only the faithful prayers of my Christian friends kept me from looking for a similar relationship. They realized it was vital for me to see the deception for myself. Ultimately it was the spiritual shallowness of the "gay" church that revealed to me the deception offered.
However, the greatest lesson I learned from my "gay Christian" friends was the value of the deep friendship they obviously had. Clearly the quality of their relationship had been profoundly healing in their lives. But I saw that their acceptance of sexual union as "valid" undermined their spiritual life.
I knew that my problems were caused by deep unmet emotional needs from early childhood. God showed me that if I could be honest and open about my feelings with a few genuine Christian friends, He could rebuild and mature those emotions through close same-sex friendships, something I had so lacked in my childhood.
Trusting in the goodness and mercy of God, accepting His prohibition of sex outside marriage, and walking with integrity proved to be the framework in which God provided really close and demonstrative, yet pure, same-sex relationships.
I moved to a new church in 1980, and God quickly provided an exceptional group of Christian friends around me, with whom I prayed on a regular basis. They were genuinely committed to me, and I was able to share in depth the problems I was struggling with.
When the Lord provided an especially close friendship with my roommate Chris, we determined to be accountable to our prayer group to avoid getting into trouble. Chris had experienced homosexuality in his early twenties, but had later made a successful relationship with a woman. He had completely put homosexuality behind him and was not afraid of it, unlike most "straight" guys.
As a Christian brother, his warm and affectionate nature gradually broke down many of the chronic fears I had of getting close to other men. It seems amazing that such a close relationship as I enjoyed with Chris could remain pure. I would not have believed it possible if God had not proved it in my experience.
Fortunately, the men in our prayer group had the faith to believe God was in this friendship. We were pioneers and had to be prepared to take the responsibility if things went wrong. But I learned that when we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, we can walk with God in purity without being ruled by fear.
Just as Chris ministered to me, I was able to encourage him. He struggled with fear in his job and the financial responsibilities that marriage would bring. These were areas I could really help him with, which was valuable preparation for his marriage a couple of years later.
Chris' committed friendship did much to heal me of the image of God as a demanding and uncaring tyrant. Through him, I experienced some of the tenderness and love that reflects the true character of God.
Today I am able to walk free of the struggle with homosexuality, experiencing a good relationship with God and able to relate well with men and women. Chris and his lovely wife Ruth continue to be a valuable support to me. Although there is still more healing to be done, I can live a celibate life without the miserable frustration and difficulty of the past. In God's timing I hope to be married, but am content to wait until God knows I am ready.
Over the years, the most discouraging thing for me was constantly going round and round in circles as I sought God for an answer to my homosexuality. The Church had nothing to say to the Christian with this problem. All they could offer me was their fears that I would fall into immorality if I risked getting close to anyone; they had little faith that God could change me. I do not really blame them. It was my responsibility to seek the Lord's answer to the problems, and I found the way through Jesus Christ.
In the end, I had to stop fearing the opinions of others and break out of the limitations of our Western culture that so influences our concept of relationships in the Church today. We have been systematically robbed of the kind of love clearly exalted in the Scriptures, seen in the friendships between David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, Jesus and John. Satan's strategy is to interpret what is good and God-given as something perverse, while exalting the immoral and perverted as the "answer" to our problems.
As the disciples of Christ, we need to see what the Devil has done. We must learn to trust in the goodness of God, and walk in the light with one another, so that the needs of hurting people can be met and healed. Then we can once again fulfil the calling of Jesus to be the light of the world and to bring good news to all people living in darkness and fear.
God has worked all these things together for good in my life. The years of frustration and misery have borne good fruit, equipping me to help show the way out of homosexuality to others in similar need. Praise God!
Jeremy Marks trained with Love In Action's leadership training program and now directs Courage Ministries in London, England with his wife, Bren. Distributed by Love In Action, PO Box 753307, Memphis, TN 38175-3307; 901/542-0250