Saturday, January 19, 2013

Letting Others Help on the Journey

By Brenna Kate Simonds
I was born in 1975, the second of two girls. My mother was an alcoholic who stayed home with me and my sister while my father worked long hours. The main thing I remember about my early childhood is that I was always afraid my parents were going to leave me. I seemed to view life through this filter. I have very distinct memories of songs and stories that scared me as a child. I’d quickly zero in on any themes of abandonment in everything I heard, and I carried those feelings of fear with me into my adulthood.
Eventually, my parents divorced. My father received custody of my older sister and me when I was 15 and I lived with him into my early college years. I started having eating problems at age 14, leading to a full-blown eating disorder. I began experimenting sexually with girls when I was a young age and this continued until, as a freshman in high school, I found myself physically attracted to my best friend. Before our relationship became physical, it was already emotionally unhealthy. When we began to act out our attraction physically, I became totally dependent on her for my self-worth.
Introduction to God
During the summer after my high school graduation, I met a man in a coffee shop who asked me if I was interested in going to church with him. I said sure, but found out that this church is a cult. I began meeting regularly with this man’s girlfriend, who was quick to tell me homosexuality is a sin that would condemn me to hell.
She would pray with me about this every day. And every night, I would cry myself to sleep, praying, “God, change me! Why did you make me gay if that means I have to go to hell?” Was it true that God wanted me to be forever separated from Him? I felt so unlovable that even God didn’t want to be around me.
The church I was attending did not share with me the hope for change that the Gospel offers; rather, their stance was change first – then God will accept you. I eventually stopped answering this woman’s calls and got away from this church. I had asked God to change me and He didn’t, so I embraced my sexual identity.
Embracing the Identity
At college, it was much easier to be gay. My sexuality was affirmed and accepted. My girlfriend of three-and-a-half years and I broke up during my first semester, but within a year, I met a much older woman, and we began dating. I dropped out of college and moved across the country to live with her. During the time we lived together, I became even more involved with the gay community. I spoke out for gay rights and further embraced my lesbian identity.
Eventually, we decided I should continue my education, so I moved to Boston to attend music school. My struggle with my eating disorder continued and a year into my schooling, my health had reached an all-time low. I felt I’d tried everything to recover from my eating disorder, but nothing had worked.
Desperate for the Friend
One night as I listened to some Christian music a friend had given me, the song spoke of a friend who was always there with every tear cried, who would give everything for me. Through this friend, I could have new life. Though it was hard to believe that such a sacrificial love was possible, I knew it was the truth; I knew that this love was what I had been searching for. I remember sobbing uncontrollably because the pain in my heart was so great, the longing to know the friend this man sang about. I cried out to God, saying “I want what he has!” and God honored my humble prayer.
I was immediately convicted, without even looking at Scripture, that living as a lesbian was not acceptable to God. What I later read in the Bible only confirmed my conviction. This was easy to accept at first. I was not in a relationship, and I was so in love with God that I didn’t want anything else. About a year into my life with Christ, I met a girl who had been raised in a Christian home, but she had walked away from God. As a new Christian, I couldn’t fathom how anyone could do that, and I wanted to help her in any way I could.
My intentions were pure, but my strong resolve to live for God was quickly worn away as we entered into a physical relationship. During the time we were together, I knew our actions were wrong, but I felt it was my “last chance” before I would begin what could very well be a celibate life. Even the girl I was dating knew that I shouldn’t be with her.
After three months, she said to me, “Listen – you can’t be a Christian and be gay. The Bible says you must either be hot or cold – one or the other, but not lukewarm.” She was quoting Scripture to me! With that, she ended our relationship.
After that, I just threw my arms up into the air, saying “Fine, God! I don’t want to live like this. Please – take these desires away from me.” And in many ways, He did. My attraction to women lessened greatly.
However, I soon realized that the events and circumstances of my life that led me in the direction of the lesbian lifestyle had not changed. I knew I needed help.
Finding Help
I didn’t know groups like Alive in Christ (the ministry I now direct) and Exodus International existed when I was struggling. I somehow got my hands on a copy of “Pursuing Sexual Wholeness” by Andrew Comiskey. I just devoured that book and applied many of the principles presented to my life. I also opened up to my Christian friends about my struggle and asked for accountability. I committed to a few women that when I faced moments of temptation, I would call them, so that they could check in with me later and pray for me.
I came to a point about a year after leaving the lesbian lifestyle where I realized I needed more help than I could receive simply by reading books and relying on friends. One of the main things that made me realize this was dating.
I met a man through a ministry I was involved with, and he was interested in me! As ideal as the situation appeared, dating was much more difficult than I thought it would be! If dating was this difficult, I could only imagine that marriage would be exponentially more so. I recognized that though I could continue to survive as I was, I wouldn’t thrive without additional help. At that difficult point, I made the decision to start seeing a Christian counselor.
A Transforming Process
Visiting a Christian counselor was one of the best decisions I had ever made, and I’ll never regret our 3 years together. I was slightly skeptical when I began as I had been through more than 5 years of secular counseling, but I figured it was worth a try. God quickly showed me that though it would be a difficult journey, it would be worth it. The most important thing that my counselor did was point me to Jesus. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Looking back, I realize I needed my entire thought life to be transformed, but my patterns of thinking were so deeply ingrained that I couldn’t have identified them by myself. It wasn’t simply that I had moments of feeling worthless and unlovable; in the core of my being, I was sure it was true.
She helped me to recognize these faulty thought patterns, taught me to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5) and continually and gently reminded me what His word says about me. She also helped me learn how to relate to Roy.
Since I had been mistreated and abused by several men I had allowed to get close to me, I had a very difficult time trusting Roy and letting him in to my world. She helped me realize that Roy was a safe person, and that I needed to be willing to trust him and be vulnerable with him. Later, when Roy & I were engaged to be married, she helped us to prepare for that transition by meeting with us together.
Not Supposed to do this Alone
I believe that the majority of people who struggle with same-sex attraction are in that same place. Though they may be able to survive the struggle, only receiving support from a few groups, or by attending a support group, they could really thrive if they were willing to receive the intense, one-on-one help that therapy offers. Some people in recovery are hesitant to see a therapist or a counselor because they think that counseling is for the “world”, that they just need to pray harder, expecting God to reveal everything to them personally and healing them in their prayer closets.
I recently spoke with a young man that is struggling with same-sex attraction, but is ready to give up the fight. I asked him, “Have you sought help for your struggle?” He said he had been praying for years, and God hadn’t healed him. I again asked him, “But have you gotten help? Have you seen a therapist? Have you been to a support group?” If we were supposed to do this alone, then God wouldn’t have put us together with the body of believers. He wouldn’t have commanded that we confess our sins to one another, and in that confession and subsequent prayer, find healing and relief (James 5:16).
My journey to recovery has been long and arduous, but more than worth it. God has helped me in many ways along the path to recovery. Therapy played a key role in expediting my experience of God’s healing in my life. My own therapy taught me how to help others experience their own journey of healing and restoration.
Brenna Kate Simonds and her husband reside in Boston, Mass. She is a songwriter/worship leader and the Director of Alive in Christ.

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