Dave was a special guest at the 2016 NEA Ex-Gay Educators’Caucus booth. The following is his testimony:
My Three Dads
This is a story about my three dads. For most of my life, I felt as if I didn’t have a dad at all. Now, I realize that God has provided father-figures all along, including Himself. Let me tell you a little about them and about me…
In the 60’s an unwanted pregnancy was looked upon with much scorn and shame. So I came into this world feeling rejection from mom, dad, grandparents, the rest of my family and society. Many say that I was an illegitimate child, but now I know that there is no such thing–only illegitimate parents.
My biological father, Ray, never married my mom. Despite many efforts to meet him, Ray chose to shut me out of his life for 46 years. In the fall of 2010, I decided to try, once again, to reach out to him. So, I sent him this testimony. A week later, there was a strong prompting to pray for him, and I did for three days. A month later, he called me and we talked for two hours. I told him that I didn’t want anything from him—just offering the gift of resolution. I felt that he may have been stuffing emotions of guilt and shame for decades. I said that if I were him, I couldn’t live with the fact that I knew I had a son somewhere but didn’t know if he was dead or alive; a good person or a criminal. Nor, would I know what my son loved and hated, or even what he looked like. I told Ray I’d like to meet him and my biological family–but would wait until he was ready. For two years we talked on the phone. Then, in 2012, I went to Minneapolis for a conference and he finally agreed to meet with me. So, at age 48, I got to see my biological father for the first time when we talked for three hours at a restaurant. Ray stated that he didn’t believe I was his son, even though he had paid child support for 22 years. I think this was a self-protection mechanism to justify his actions in rejecting me. After we met, someone told me that he said that we really didn’t connect—but I think that he really didn’t want to connect with me. As a result, of this long-anticipated meeting, I left with a sense of resolution, but also disappointment. Since then, we talked on the phone a number of times, but little came of it. Ray died in 2014 of Leukemia.
My step-dad/adoptive father, Walter, married my mother when I was six months old. He was a Vietnam veteran who experienced the horrors of war. Walter suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and health issues as a result of the war. He used alcohol to self-medicate his emotional and physical pain. And, his violent rages caused a lot of trauma for me as a child. I’ll never forget calling the police when he pulled a knife on my mom. Or, the time he pried the hinges off the bathroom door to get at her.
The effects of growing up as a child of an alcoholic have been many. I tended to overreact to changes I couldn’t control, I had difficulty having fun because I took myself too seriously, I constantly sought approval, I felt different, and I was extremely loyal—even in unhealthy relationships, I also had difficulty finishing projects and I struggled with intimate relationships. Some of these things I still deal with daily.
I felt Walter favored my younger brother, his namesake. Only recently, have I realized this was a misperception on my part. Because my parents divorced when I was young, I never had a dad to play catch with, or to run to when I was afraid. Boys need three things from their fathers—affirmation, attention and affection. I didn’t get any of that from him. As a result, bitterness set in, and for over 20 years, I had nothing to do with my stepfather. Gradually, as I grew to know the Lord, I was able to forgive him and begin a relationship with him and my brother. Now we don’t see each other without an “I love you” and a hug. That forgiveness allowed me to help reconcile my sister with him as well. What a blessing it was to be able to take my nine-year-old nephew to see his grandfather for the first time! Now my family has been restored.
For many years I prayed about my dad’s alcoholism. In 2009, he went to a treatment center and then Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and he has been sober ever since. He even visits other veterans who are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism. I’m so proud of him.
A few years ago, I learned that he had always wanted to adopt me but my mom wouldn’t let him. This caused a lot of friction in their marriage. After waiting many years for him to initiate the adoption discussion, I decided to bring it up. This, I thought, was a way to publicly acknowledge the healing that had taken place in our relationship. So, on April 18, 2011, I was formally adopted at age 48 in a courthouse in Columbus, Ohio.
My mom was a very kind and compassionate woman who became a nurse in order to help others. Throughout her whole life, she was plagued with mental illness, with severe depressions and then bouts of mania. As a result, she was irresponsible and unpredictable in her love. Sometimes she wouldn’t communicate for long periods of time, and then she would be very involved in my life. This fed my sense of rejection and caused instability in my life.
Stability came from my grandmother who lived two blocks away. This strong-willed, kind and extremely generous woman not only raised me, but also provided for me financially and emotionally. In school, I became painfully shy and reclusive. Allergies and asthma kept me from gym class and sports. When teams were chosen, I was always picked last. I felt rejection, and I also rejected myself with feelings of low self-esteem and self-hatred.
Finally, someone really paid attention to me. He was an older second cousin who sexually molested me at age 12. I kept this dark shame a secret, for 13 years, telling no one until I was 25. This, and other factors, opened the door to homosexual attraction.
At the insistence of my devout grandmother, I was active in a lifeless mainline church. At age 15, I accepted Christ as my savior during an evangelistic seminar. While still attending the same church, I started to grow spiritually, on my own, by reading Christian books and listening to Christian radio. When it came time for college, I was blessed to attend a bible-believing Christian school. There, I grew relationally with others and began my journey out of shyness. My family couldn’t afford a private college for me, but God miraculously provided with a campus job and financial aid.
After graduation, I headed to Washington, DC to pursue a career in politics and began attending a vibrant church, where I was baptized. Becoming more aware of homosexual feelings, I got involved in Regeneration which ministers to those with unwanted same-sex attractions. My life was finally starting to click. I become a support group leader and began a serious dating relationship with a girl named Karen. I began to trust God, not only as my Savior, but also as Lord of my life. I was having a fantastic relationship with Him, myself and others and I was on top of the world.
Then, my world came crashing down. It seemed that every summer I was plagued by a persistent and deepening depression. That year, it became so intense that I experienced panic attacks and even began hallucinating. I lost my job, my girlfriend, and the peace I felt from God. I remember crying out to God but I felt the heavens were silent. Under the care of an incompetent counselor and doctor, I plunged into a suicidal depression and became obsessed with dying and going straight to hell.
Then, I found a new Christian counselor who rescued me with medication and therapy. However, my deep depression was followed by an equally unrestrained manic phase. I started many businesses, had grandiose ideas, and plunged head-first into the gay lifestyle.
My life became filled with anonymous sexual partners and hanging out at gay bars, beaches and bathhouses. I decided to seek acceptance from those I thought could relate to me best—other gays. However, more rejection, not acceptance, was what I felt the most. I was rejected by those who were more muscular, handsome and self-assured than I. And, I rejected those who didn’t measure up in my eyes. I allowed myself to be treated in ways I would never otherwise allow. And, treated others in ways I would never otherwise treat them. For seven years, I became the prodigal son with my “to hell with the world” attitude.
I didn’t choose to have homosexual feelings. My research and experience has shown the development of my same-sex attraction was rooted in a number of factors: an absent father, abusive stepfather, strong-willed grandmother, passive grandfather, sensitive personality and sexual abuse. These were things that happened to me. However, there were things that I did to contribute to my problem. I chose how to respond to what happened in my childhood, to act on my same-sex attractions and discount the power of God’s grace in my life. This choice to pursue the gay lifestyle not only endangered my physical life, but also my relational, emotional and spiritual life. It also led to a life-dominating sexual addiction that would take years of pain and struggle to overcome.
My Heavenly Father, Abba
Father God lovingly, and persistently, pursued me. And, in 2000, I started on my journey back home, just like the prodigal son did. I returned to Regeneration and began to deal with my overwhelming sexual addiction, as well as the roots of my same-sex attraction. I became accountable to a ministry leader and began attending and serving in a local church. I was also able to forgive my step-dad, mother and the cousin who molested me.
My journey to wholeness and holiness has not been quick or painless. Many times I stumbled along the way (and I still stumble!), but Father God has always been present. I let go of quick, fleeting counterfeit “love” (lust and sex) and slowly developed true and lasting love through deep meaningful relationships with others and God. Of all my fathers, Father God has been the most faithful and consistent.
He is a father to the fatherless… (and, He is a father to those who were fathered less!) Psalm 68:5
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow. Deuteronomy 10:18
The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. Psalm 10:14
The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow. Psalm 146:9
He also made them objects of compassion in the presence of all their captors. Psalm 106:46
And I will be a Father to you and you shall be sons and daughters to me. 2 Corinthians 6:8
Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God. 1 John 3:1
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. Ps. 103:11
For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but my lovingkindness will not be removed from you. Isaiah 54:10
I have loved you with an everlasting love. Therefore, I have drawn you with lovingkindness. Again, I will build you and you shall be rebuilt. Jer. 31:3
Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget but I will not forget you. Behold I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands. Your walls are continually before me. Isaiah 49:14-16
Even though I have a biological father and an adopted father, I know that my true father is the “Father to the Fatherless”. I have come to know what it means to have God as my father. Growing up without a healthy father figure hindered my growth into masculinity. Abba Father is continually healing many of these deficits. He has shown Himself as a strong provider, protector and caring dad, who adores me whether I perform or not. As I learn to be loved by Him, I am growing into the man He wants me to be. As Abba lavishly meets my needs for love and acceptance, I am able to love Him and others correctly and abundantly. My desire is that all of my holiness, giving, serving, loving and sharing flows from this supply of limitless love and acceptance, for I am beloved. I have learned to rely on God when I could rely on no one else. He has shown me, through promises in His Word and through my experiences with Him, that He is faithful. As I step out in faith, trusting His promises, I have seen that He will encourage me, equip me, protect me, provide for me, and bless my efforts.
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived, neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, not adulterers, nor those who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9
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The views expressed in this document are those of the caucus. The caucus has no authority to speak for, or act on behalf of, the NEA.