I was raised in a Christian home. A home where the Word of God was honored and the Gospel of Jesus Christ was proclaimed. From a very young age, I knew that I wanted to give my life to Christ and become a follower of Jesus. My childhood was happy and incredibly blessed, but around 11 or 12 I knew something was wrong.
While the guys around me had begun to take notice of our female friends, I started having a very different experience.
I remember feeling inexplicably drawn to my male peers. I felt longings for physical and emotional intimacy with other men, and it terrified me.
While words like “gay” or “homosexuality” weren’t commonplace in either my home or church, I knew one thing for sure:
Gay people were not a part of the Church, and they definitely weren’t followers of Jesus.
Entering high school marked the beginning of incredible duality in my life. Unconsciously, I knew there was no way to reconcile my faith and sexuality, so I proceeded to divide myself into two very different persons.
There was the good, “Christian Jacob” who people liked, respected, and admired. And there was the other Jacob who had discovered gay pornography, drowning in sexual lust and fantasy. The divide was so great that I remember talking about homosexuality with other people in insensitive, almost cruel ways.
It was a very dark time in my life, but God would use my own sin to bring a part of me to light that had never been exposed.
I vividly remember the evening my older brother confronted me concerning stuff he had seen on the family computer. I feebly tried to deny it, but that didn’t last long. For the first time in my life, the two halves of myself collided, and I was faced with the reality of what I was doing and who I had become.
But even in the middle of that horrific night, I saw a glimmer of hope as my brother spoke these words to me: “Jacob, you’re still my brother, and I love you.”
I was known, and yet I was loved.
A couple years later, my parents found out about my same-sex attraction in a similar way, but the echo of hope continued to ring: “Jacob, you’re still our son, and we love you. We will walk with you as long as it takes.”
I was known, and yet I was loved.
For the majority of my college years, I had the privilege of attending a Christian university. At college, I finally began wrestling with the big questions concerning my sexuality.
What does it mean for me to live faithfully as a follower of Jesus who also experiences same-sex attraction?
I had the option of altering my convictions of God’s design for sexual expression within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. I could join a church that would celebrate my desire to be married to a man.
But at the end of day, I could not reconcile that option. From what I knew about Scripture and orthodox Christianity, I would either have to abandon my faith entirely or figure out how to live with the real possibility of my exclusive romantic desires never changing.
Through a combination of friendships, mentors, books, blogs, counseling, and prayer, I came to the conclusion that for me to honor God with my sexuality, I would commit to remaining celibate with the possibility of long-term singleness.
I even began developing a network of supporters who would keep me accountable to that commitment and walk with me on that path. People who knew everything about me and still wanted to be a part of my life.
I was known, and yet I was loved.
While my college years brought significant growth in my relationship with Jesus and authentic community, I also experienced plenty of pain and anguish, often leading to prayers like this:
My spirit is crushed, and my heart feels broken beyond repair. I can’t go on with this pain. I absolutely need you, because I have nothing left inside me. This seems very selfish, but I simply don’t want to be alive. Please hold on to me and don’t let me follow this dark road of depression. Please draw near to me and speak life into my hard heart. Please be my joy when I have none. I need help from people around me, but I don’t know how to ask or who to ask. Please be my strength.
Even to this day, I get weary and overwhelmed by what this calling actually means. If I’m honest with myself, I still really desire a husband / partner / companion. Even though I know this isn’t the ultimate solution for loneliness.
I’ve cried myself to sleep more times than I can count over the impossibility of my desire.
All of this has led to the overarching feeling of being tired. I’m tired of struggling. I’m tired of fighting. I’m tired of long-distance friendships with other guys.
I’m tired of trying to compete with women. I’m tired of people at church trying to set me up with their daughters. I’m tired of being the only single person in my family.
I’m tired of feeling like no one would ever choose to live with me long-term if they have the opportunity to get married. I’m tired of being afraid that I’m not going to remain faithful.
I’m tired of feeling weak and selfish. I’m tired of being angry and jealous. I’m tired of feeling such intense passion, knowing it will never be reciprocated.
I have felt seasons of difficulty and loneliness, of heartbreak and sorrow, but through everything God has been incredibly faithful and gracious beyond measure. In another prayer, I wrote:
Freedom from the bondage to sin is what I so desperately long for. Freedom from the endless struggle to satisfy my own desires. Freedom from the consistent desire to be romantically involved with a man. Freedom from lustful fantasies. Freedom from pursuing my own sexual pleasure. Freedom from arrogance, pride, people-pleasing, and showmanship. Freedom to pursue healthy intimate relationships. Freedom to love other people in selfless and sacrificial ways. Freedom to live a life of true worship in which the Holy Spirit sets my heart aflame.
Freedom to love you, fear you, treasure you, long for you, hope in you, wait for you, be in awe of you in the way that you deserve. Freedom to lay down my life for other people and for the sake of the Gospel. Freedom to feel content in all things and not be anxious about anything. Freedom to walk in a manner worthy of my calling. Freedom to never be ashamed to be called your child. Freedom to love well in all things. Please fill every corner of my being with this freedom.
God has shown me time and time again that true intimacy and wholeness are found in Him. He is the bread of life and the living water that satisfies the deepest longings of my soul.
He has given me the Church — the place I find community, friendship, and belonging. He has made me a part of His family where I’ve been given mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. God has promised to never leave me or forsake me. He promised that my hope in Him will never put me to shame.
I am fully known and fully loved.
Have you felt fully known and fully loved? Is is harder to practice true vulnerability with God, other people, or yourself? What masks do you hide behind for fear of being fully known?