I was the oldest child and only girl in my family of three children, which gave me a pretty special position. That is, until my position was threatened by the birth of my younger brother. I didnt seem to be as important anymore and it seemed that my Mom liked boys more than girls.
My family was a close, loving family who attended church together. But an aspect of that closeness included my parents belief in nudity. For example, I remember feeling uncomfortable around the age of four taking a bath with Dad, but I had no option. Also, Mom would have us kids rub medication on her body because of her problem with psoriasis. This was a familiar occurrence even when we were in high school.
My parents lack of physical boundaries caused problems in my life later. The sexual stimulation left me feeling horribly guilty for years and contributed to chronic, unexplained depression and low self-esteem.
At age 11, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior at a Youth For Christ rally. I experienced loving Jesus and being loved by Him, but I never fully grasped the idea of obedience and being able to live in victory over sin. Looking back, I think maybe I never understood the power the Holy Spirit gives us to overcome sin in our lives.
My family experience with nudity eventually led me to equate being special and being close to people with being sexual. In junior high and high school, I was plagued by masturbation. It seemed to control me. I was also sexually promiscuous through high school and college. This was all going on while I was trying to walk with God.
I also experienced disobedience in other areas of my life. Though I knew it wasnt Scriptural, I dated unbelievers regularly. I became serious about one of these men and married him in 1969. Eventually the marriage deteriorated as I decided to stop trying to work on the marriage and start putting myself first.
I began moving away from Christianity to get out of my marriage. Feminism appealed to me at this point because it promised personal power to women and emotional support at a time when I felt that no one but another woman could understand me.
The step into lesbianism from there was easy, as my determination to identify with women grew. I eventually became involved with my best friend of 10 years. I entered into the relationship thinking, This is just an adventure, it wont last long. Ten years later, to my surprise, we were still together. But this didnt satisfy that deep longing in me to be special in a way that I hadnt yet tasted.
About eight years into that relationship, my father confronted me one day when I was home for a visit. Your mother and I saw a show on Donahue about lesbians, he said, and, well, thats what we think you and Diane are. We talked for two hours. It was the best, most honest talk wed ever had.
We then shared the news with my mom, who told me, I always knew you were a lesbian. I was not blessed by her words. I was at once relieved that they knew and terrified at my exposure and vulnerability in the family. During that visit they were pretty icy toward me and I felt betrayed and alone.
My relationship with my lover eventually soured. Still seeking specialness and indulging my selfishness at any cost, I had a prolonged affair with another woman. That affair led to the end of my relationship with my lover and I was now out on my own.
Not long afterwards, I developed a breast tumor. I couldnt believe it. During my month of waiting for surgery, my brother, who was a Christian, told me that he received a word of wisdom from God I would be healed at a church in San Francisco. This whole idea of healing seemed foreign to me, but I was desperate. And although I had been away from church for many years, I would do anything. I went to Calvary Chapel in San Francisco where the elders there prayed over me.
After the prayer I was overwhelmed with the love of Jesus. I dont care what it takes, I thought, I want this. I experienced a renewed hunger for God. The tumor did not go away, but it was not malignant as the doctors had feared it would be.
As a gay person, I felt strange in a church of heterosexual believers. I tried a gay church for awhile, but sensed the Spirit of God was hindered there, and I wanted the Spirit in His fullness. So I returned to Calvary Chapel and started going to everything. Finally, in April, I asked the Lord if I were still saved after being away from Him for so long. I heard a resounding, Yes!
A week later, I asked Jesus to be Lord of my life. I dove into church activities to get all the teaching and fellowship I could. Testing the waters, I told people all along the way of my gayness. They still loved and accepted me without judgment.
On June 3, 1985, I went out to dinner with a man in my home fellowship. He told me that I needed to be healed of my homosexuality. That sounds strange, I thought, Yet, If God wants that, Ill certainly do it. But Hell have to tell me.
The next morning I woke up with a strong conviction of my need for deliverance. I called my Christian brother and asked him to pray with me. As he prayed, I trembled all over. I didnt understand what was happening, I just knew it was important.
All that day I felt empty, as though Id lost my best friend. About 3:00 in the afternoon, I was sitting at my desk, still feeling empty when the Holy Spirit brought to mind part of a verse I hadnt heard or read for 15 years: Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Cor. 5:17) The emptiness left me and I felt full again. I knew I was on the right track.
The next day I left for Oregon where I attended a New Age conference I had planned long before I came back to the Lord. I had no idea that my trip would turn into a divine appointment from God.
I walked into the main session and introduced myself to a man on my left. His first words were, Hi, my name is Paul and I just rededicated my life to the Lord.
Me, too. I said with astonishment.
And Im convinced that homosexuality is not from God, he continued.
Me, too! I sat totally dumbfounded.
During the ten day conference Paul and I spent a lot of time together. He really encouraged me and told me about Love In Action. When I got back to California, I called right away.
Over the course of the next five weeks I got to know Anita Worthen (the wife of LIA founder and then director, Frank Worthen). Paul was dying of complications from AIDS and Anita and I began taking care of him.
I became involved in a womens support group that Anita was leading. After eight months, I went to Texas for an intensive Christian training program. When I came back, Frank and Anita had bought a home for a womens residential ministry and Anita began dropping hints that she would like me to be a part of it. I Had no thoughts that I should be in such a program.
Then one day we were cleaning the house, getting it ready for the ministry. Anita left me alone to clean and called later that day to ask, How do you like the house?
I think its great. I replied, unknowingly.
Well, would you like to live there?
Eventually, I conceded and became part of the first residential program for women. At that time I had the most difficult professional job Id ever had and I was feeling the stress of the intensity of the program. I didnt want anybody at work to know about my personal life.
Finally, a close friend confronted me. Patty, I really feel you are living your life superficially, she told me. I didnt want to hear that, but it was true. I struggled to be honest about myself and my homosexual struggle. That confrontation was the beginning of honestly looking inside myself and getting to the roots of my identity struggles. Following completion of the LIA program in December of 1987, I became involved in ex-gay ministry in San Francisco for 3 1/2 years. That was a time of deepening my relationship with the Lord and continuing my healing of my homosexuality. When, in March of 1991, I felt the Lord calling me out of ministry, I sensed He had in mind the next step in my healing. I was excited to see what that might be. Two weeks later I met Steve.
Steve introduced himself to me at church on Easter Sunday. Two weeks later he came over again and said, Id like to have lunch with you after the service. From our first brief conversation, I knew my life was going to change drastically.
My marriage (of almost 4 years) has been full of delights. God has brought me a delicious husband who treasures me. He has a servants heart and anticipates my needs. We have a mutual desire for deep intimacy.
As much as my marriage strengthens me, however, it does not erase my identity struggles. Intimacy with God continues to be of utmost importance as I let Him redefine my identity. Bathing myself in His Presence is the cornerstone of my healing.
The 7 years I spent on my own, not in enmeshed or romantic relationships, was important in my healing. I needed time to learn to bond in healthy ways with both women and men, and to get to know myself apart from another.
Healing in my relationship with my mom continues to be the crux of my recovery process. Im realizing the necessity of letting go of my expectation of my mother for acceptance, blessing and intimacy. Just as important is holding on to the positive inheritances she has passed on to me such as love of life, nature, the out-of-doors, and a marvelous example of devotion to ones mate. These are treasures Ive received from my mom.
People often question whether complete healing from homosexuality is possible. For me, lifestyle struggles are no longer an active issue, though I need to watch and be accountable regarding emotional dependency and competition with women in my life. Thats part of the working out of my salvation that we are all called to do. But, ...old things are passed away, and passing away, as I continue to follow Jesus wholeheartedly and with great delight.
Patty is a Licensed Social Worker in private practice. She lives with her husband in San Anselmo, CA. Copyright c 1985, 1996 by Patty Graham. Distributed by Love In Action, PO Box 753307, Memphis, TN 38175-3307; 901/542-0250