Jesus is Real!
Jesus is real! He has power to change lives! I know this because He has changed me and healed me of my deepest hurt - the experience of incest - and the sexual confusion that resulted. I pray that this testimony will give hope to others struggling with a similar problem.
I was raised in a conservative, religious, rather unemotional Midwestern family. I became a victim of incest in my early teens when my school teacher mother left me in the role of "little mother" in the household. The encounters with my father were mostly during the night , when I would feign sleep, but I was also approached during the day. His behavior confused me. I could not reconcile the conflicting emotions of guilt and pleasure, desire and dread, trust and betrayal. I knew his actions were wrong, yet I still loved him and did not want anyone to think ill of him. So I did the only thing I could do - I tied those feelings up into a neat little bundle and dropped them through the trapdoor of my subconscious.
About this same time I went forward at an evangelistic crusade and asked Jesus to come into my heart as Lord and Savior. I may have forgotten about my commitment soon after, but I am convinced that God did not, and that He began at that moment to make everything in my life work together for good.
Through the next six years of high school and college I avoided contact with men as much as possible. I found myself attracted to certain types of women - the pretty, casually feminine types and the warm, nurturing, motherly types. In hindsight, I realize that my desires were not sexual, but rather an attempt to get the security and protection I had lacked earlier in life and to find my own identity as a woman. Of course, I did not know this at the time. All I knew was that I was different, and I made the common, but erroneous assumption that, because I was not attracted to men, I must be gay. Now I had two deep, dark secrets to hide.
I also struggled with masturbation, which I tried to rationalize as a harmless release of pent-up sexual energy. But the self-condemnation, shame, and guilt that always followed after were not harmless and drove me further into myself and away from God and others. To assuage some of this guilt and to compensate for the deep vulnerability I felt, I poured my energies into other activities, hoping that if I were competent in enough other areas, it would make up for my utter defeat in my sexuality.
The trapdoor to my subconscious was finally cracked in nursing school when I shared the memories of the incest with another person for the first time. A nursing instructor, teaching a class on self-awareness, shared some details from her personal life, and the memories came flooding back. I'll never forget the almost electric sensation that coursed through my body as I choked out the words for the first time, and I'll never forget her compassionate response: "This has affected you greatly, but it doesn't have to affect you forever". I held on to that hope, and opened myself up to her and to God in a new and fresh way. I re-committed my life to Him and joined a campus Christian group and a Bible-teaching church.
Six years later I was living and working in New York City, still active in Christian ministry and leadership, and preparing for a career as a missionary. I had lots of friends, an extensive correspondence, and a position of respect in my local church. Outwardly, I was a model of success, but inwardly, I was not doing so well. I side-stepped queries about my love life, assuming that my lack of interest in men was God's way of fitting me for the mission field, where the prospects for marriage for slim. I still had an "eye" for certain women and still depended a lot on my "mother figures" for support and affirmation. And I was still bound to the habit of masturbation, which I engaged in with a bold rebellion that contrasted sharply with my exterior control and conformity.
I also knew that things were not as they should be in my spiritual life. I had no feelings for God, no joy, and I studiously avoided telling unbelievers about the Lord. I assumed I must not have the gift of evangelism and would have to be satisfied with meeting people's physical needs through my profession of nursing. But in fact, I did not understand how the Gospel was relevant to people who were hurting. The Christian life seemed workable only if you had motivation, talent, and good social skills. How could people do it without those resources? The best I could do was consign the whole salvation story to the realm of mystery and hope that if I said the magic words, people would somehow get converted. Then I could teach them how to "work" for the Lord.
I might have proceeded to the mission field as a faithful but miserable servant of the Lord, and probably returned with a nervous breakdown, but God graciously intervened. Six months before I was to leave for Nepal, I found myself in a work situation that was unbearable. The pressure to perform was intense, and finally I exploded:
"What do you want from me anyway, God?"
"Haven't I done enough for you?"
"Isn't there anything in this for me?"
The irony and hypocrisy of my situation hit me with full force. Jesus was not real to me - how did I expect to make Him real to anyone else? I did not understand grace and had never really experienced God's love. I was hurting and God was no comfort. He was like medicine kept up on a shelf - powerful to heal, but useless, because I did not know to apply Him to my deepest hurts. I knew I could not go on until I had resolved these issues. My plans for the mission field came to a screeching halt as I gave God permission to begin a healing work in the deepest parts of my personality.
With the guidance of a competent Christian counselor and the prayerful support of a few close friends, I was enabled to begin the painful process of uncovering a buried past. One of the first things I had to do was experience for the first time the comfort and healing Jesus had wanted to give me all along. I had to confess the resentment I had carried all these years - my sinful response to my father's sinful act. I wasn't asked to excuse his behavior, but I was expected to relinquish my right to punish him. I had to forgive my mother for not being there when I needed her. I also had to renounce my dependency on the older women I had substituted for her and for God all these years. In short, I had to accept the family God gave me and make it my aim to honor them and love them.
Healing of these memories made it possible for me to think about relating to God and others in a new way. Those years of perfectionistic over-achievement had warped my concept of God. I was bowed under a heavy load of "should" and "have to" and perceived Him as an unpleasant taskmaster. Even Bible reading and prayer had become measures of my inadequacy instead of means of grace. The solution in my case was to abandon all these forms of religion for a time. I skipped church in favor of ballet lessons, read romance novels instead of my Bible, and took in movies and shopping in place of prayer meetings. No one was more surprised than I to discover that God did not condemn me. He welcomed my participation in His program, but He did not demand it. He wanted my service motivated by love, not fear.
As I began to sense that God really was on my side, I became even more eager to cooperate with His plan for my life, and the rest of the healing progressed more rapidly. The next thing I had to settle was the issue of my identity as a woman. I met Ron and Joanne Highley, directors of L.I.F.E., a ministry to people overcoming homosexuality. Through counseling with Joanne, I learned that the homosexual condition is not an identity; it is a misguided desire to meet legitimate, God-given needs for love, worth, and acceptance. God offers compassion for this condition and He has the power to completely deliver someone from its grasp. I saw and met living proof of this, and I realized that if He could do it for them, He could do it for me! I experienced the Holy Spirit in a new and fresh way in this group, and basked in the fellowship of love expressed through affirming words and embraces. As I rested in this picture of God's love, and as I began to dress and act in a more feminine way, I received the desired affirmation of myself as a woman. The attraction to women and the struggle with masturbation disappeared on their own.
Additional healing came with the recognition of the role of Satan and his demons in keeping me bound to my past. The Enemy can oppress believers; he can gain a foothold in those areas we hide from the Lord - e.g., lack of forgiveness and unresolved anger - and make it difficult for believers to walk in victory. I had to renounce the lies of Satan that had taken root in my life, and confess all the sins the Holy Spirit brought to mind. Then, acting in the authority of Jesus' name, I and a small group of believers firmly and specifically ordered Satan and his demons to get out of my life. The Holy Spirit was invited to fill those places formerly occupied by Satan, sin and self. I was no longer a victim, but a victor in Christ!
I felt lighter and freer; my depression was gone and I had enough energy to consider the future. Would the good feelings last, or was this just a lot of positive thinking? Would the old feelings and habits return as soon as the euphoria wore off? I couldn't bear that thought, and I desperately began to seek after a "sign" to confirm the completeness of my healing. Finally, after much reading, praying, pleading, and impatient waiting, I went to a charismatic revival church, thinking surely I would get "zapped" there. Nothing happened, but on the way home, I turned to my friend and said, "I think it is time I started to believe." Before the evening was over, I was on the phone to my mother testifying to God's personal love and healing power in my life. Within two weeks I was home in Iowa for a visit, sharing freely about Jesus, and experiencing a reconciliation with both parents that I never dreamed was possible. Jesus is real!
Some of the euphoria has worn off, but the old feelings and habits are conquered foes. God did a big work of healing in my life, and I know He will continue it, in a more quiet way, for the rest of my life until I am completely conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is real! He can change lives! He will change your life if you give Him a chance. Praise Him. Hallelujah!
A new woman.