I’m Michael, and this is part 2 of my story; check out Part 1, “Imprisoned for Being Gay.” I’d like to believe that 60 is the new 26 though my body tells me otherwise. Over the years two things have remained a constant for me: enjoying nature and Batman (don’t hate). In all my years as a Christian, at least four decades of that has involved doing my own thing. I have so many stories to tell; most of which, you won’t believe are true. I still have trouble believing them myself, but all have been part of God’s plan for me.
Every morning in prison felt like I was still in the Army with routines and structure, but my surroundings quickly snapped me back into reality. Some nights I had nightmares of someone staring at and touching me. Multiple days I’d be propositioned by other prisoners just like the movies show.
How would I go through this every day for ten years just because I was gay?!
It turns out I didn’t have to. Even though I wasn’t aware of it, God was looking out for me. Instead of serving the full ten years of my sentence, I ended up doing only three-and-a-half for good behavior. I can’t tell you how relieved I was, especially because the Army didn’t even entertain my three requests for appeal.
The Army processed me and flew me back to Florida and my home of record. Once I got home, I could feel the shame and embarrassment from my mom and stepfather.
After just a couple months back home, I couldn’t take it anymore. I moved across the country to Seattle because it was the only other place I knew outside my Floridian hometown. I found a new church there with a singles group. They held a retreat one weekend, and I decided to go.
Once there, we broke into groups. One of them said, “Anything said in this circle stays in the group.” I believed them.
I shared my story, including my time in prison and why. The group thanked me for sharing and didn’t treat me any differently during the retreat. It felt great.
We returned home that Sunday. When I showed up Wednesday night for church, someone stopped me at the door. Apparently, someone from the retreat had shared my story with the church staff and I was asked not to return. A little over a decade later, I found out it was the youth pastor; he had found me on Facebook and asked for forgiveness, which I gave him.
But at the time that was the third church to turn me away for being gay, even though I’d never done anything inappropriate with anyone in the church.
At that point, I was done! Done with God, done with Christians, done with church, done with praying, and done with the Bible. I threw every Bible I owned into a dumpster and decided to embrace a gay life even more than I had done previously.
For four years, I had sex with as many guys as I could and didn’t care. In my mind, since God and the church didn’t care about me, why should I?
I was determined to die. We were in the AIDS epidemic, and I was certain I’d get AIDS and die. If that didn’t happen, I’d just try other ways to die. All I wanted to do was get rid of the pain, rejection, shame, depression, anxiety, and loneliness I felt daily.
After those four years in Seattle, I moved to San Diego and decided to go back to church — I really wasn’t happy. Since I never did contract AIDS and none of my suicide attempts followed through, I figured God still wanted me around.
I started attending church regularly while also continuing to have sex with men. After all, I was in a new city; that meant new men.
Years later, I had my first heart attack. I thought it was God’s way of telling me to stop having sex with men. But I didn’t stop. A few months later I had two more heart attacks, but I still refused to stop. Because I was being stubborn and wouldn’t listen to God, He always did what He always does:
He forced me to listen.
One day while watching television I felt some chest pain, certain it was a fourth heart attack. I went to the ER and collapsed in the waiting room. I was taken back for x-rays and other tests. They found blood clots in my lungs and left leg, and I needed surgery. I then got an infection which required another surgery.
After yet another infection I was homebound and hooked up to a machine that collected the drainage from my leg. After a full year of that, I realized God was telling me to stop doing what I doing because He had other plans for me.
Eventually I found myself back in Florida, where I currently reside, but this time around I’ve accepted the things in my past and have actually ended up wearing it all as a badge — not necessarily of honor, but one of survival. Of showing others that with all I’ve been through (believe me, there’s way more to tell), God was with me the entire time.
For decades, I blamed God for every negative thing that happened to me. Only recently have I accepted responsibility for the choices I’ve made. I recently heard someone use this quote:
“All the decisions we made in the past inevitably lead us into the future.”
That’s so true. God gives us free will, and every single minute of every day we make decisions. Last month marked my 42nd year of being a Christian. But as you’ve read, the majority of that was spent doing my own thing.
Though I’m at a better place now in my walk with God, I can’t wonder how it would’ve been had I not strayed like I did. Would I have been another Paul, Martin Luther, Billy Graham, or someone altogether different? I don’t know. Whatever the case, He brought me to this point to be His instrument.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”
1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)
Have you also been cast out of a church community for being gay/SSA? How has God spoken to you or used you despite your straying?
Thank you so very much for sharing your story. For those of us who are younger, these stories, the good the bad and the ugly, and the Faithful God involved in all of it, are much needed. Appreciate you brother!
Thank you for reading it. I really appreciate it.
Thanks for sharing your story.
Thank you, Vic!
Great story and GOD loves one and don’t gave up on GOD he has plan for u 🙏
Thank you, Dyk!
Thank you for sharing your story Michael! I have great respect for your resilience and commitment to God. You have not had an easy life and your faith strengthens my own. Your experiences give us all a lot to think about and to learn from. I’m happy to see you are in a much better place now.
Thank you. This past Sunday I was telling my pastor about the 2 blog pieces (he already knows about my story) and the positive feedback I’ve received from people. It’s been great seeing them.
Michael, you’re a gem. Thanks for continuing to share your story with us! You’re on my personal Mount Rushmore of guys in our community who have shown such a level of faithfulness to the Lord despite the setbacks. Know that your story means so much to us. Maybe we can get a few more posts out of you. 😉
I can not tell you much your words touched me. I actually read them multiple times. YOB has been such a blessing to me. I’m so grateful to be part of such beautiful, caring, prayful and supportive men of God.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. I read your previous blog, too, and my heart really goes out to you. The way that those three churches treated you is just awful. I am old enough to remember the rejection which many gay men received (as well as love and support) at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the UK in the early 1980s. Most sexual acts in private between two men were decriminalised in England in 1967, but that was a full 10 years after the Wolfenden Report had recommended such a change, and gay men were still often thrown out of the British Army on the basis of their sexual orientation until the year 2000.
I am so glad that your relationship with God is now better than it was. I know the ‘what ifs’ can be frustrating, but, in my experience, God can cope with mess, help us start afresh and use us positively wherever we have landed up.
I pray that God will continue to bless and lead you.
AIDS was so horrible. I try to explain it to the younger generation, but the majority of them just can’t phantom it. Though churches were part of the organizations that ostracized the gay community, the 3 that kicked me out weren’t really part of that. The first 2 were in the 80s and the 3rd was early 90s after prison sentence and I mentioned, that was because the youth pastor broke a confidence.
Everything DOES happen for a reason (something I hated people telling me). I’m closer to God than I ever was.
I left the church for 21 years because someone at the pulpit screamed out that all gays go to hell. It took a stroke to bring me back, a stroke that occurred on the anniversary of my best friends death. He was my first love. It still took a long time for me to tell God I loved him. He understood. So many Christians acting unchristian like.
Thank you taking the time to read my 2nd piece. So many of us left the church because we were forced out because of shame or we couldn’t take the hypocrisy. But if we’re being honest, there’s not on church in the world that’s perfect. Being a new Christian, I made the mistake of thinking that just because you called yourself a Christian, you actually acted like Christ. Like I mentioned in my piece, I’m glad God continued to pursue me just as He did you and so many others. He wouldn’t do that if He didn’t love us.
Thanks for sharing your story! God never wastes our pain! While we make mistakes and when we walk away God isn’t done with us. Receiving grace includes sharing grace. So many Christians are quick to judge and despise because they haven’t truly accepted God’s grace. I question if most people in church are actually followers of Christ. Those who are loved by God tend to love others from the overflow of what is coming into their hearts. Jesus tells us that we will know who are true disciples because of love for God and others. Also God uses our broken dreams to draw us closer to Him. I write an encouragement blog to encourage others–been writing about what true joy is. https://www.wordsofencouragementinchrist.com.
Thanks reading my story. You’re right. He never wastes our pain. I remember telling people that probably wouldn’t like part 2 of my story because of subject matter, but it’s just another part of what I went through. And even though that, God was will working in my life as He does for all of us.
went back and re-read your post tonight–it reminded me to always be gracious to those we encounter–never know what he has been through or is going through. God delights in working in us broken vessels and we have the wonderful promise that we will spend eternity with Him!