By Randy Thomas
Fifteen years ago I was a very different man from who I am now.
All of my relational, political, and social needs were defined by a worldview that fed my appetites and met my needs, albeit just temporarily. My world was centered around the idea that the unholy trinity of me-myself-and-I was sufficient to provide vision, inspiration, answers … and even legacy.
I was gay.
I didn’t particularly care for Christians 15 years ago. During the 1980s I was an out and proud gay-identified man watching one friend after another die of AIDS. The Church said we deserved the horror. (Of course, if one deserves that kind of horror for their sin, the human race would have been long extinct by now.)
Being gay was the only way I thought possible of knowing and being known. According to everyone around me – both the condemning and condoning crowds – being “gay” was my only option. I had moved out of the closet only to find myself living in a pigeonhole.
Such a me-centric worldview was stifling my true self, the one that’s created to be in relationship with our Creator and His creation.
On my journey to Christ in the early 1990s, a friend of mine asked me, “Randy, do you take a bath so you can take a shower?” I shook my head and laughed at her silly metaphor and said no. She, undaunted and committed to the metaphor, said, “Well the Lord doesn’t want you to figure it all out before you come to Him … just come to Him. Everything else will be sorted out in due time.”
It just made sense to me. I asked the Lord into my heart, and I did have one of those experiences where I felt His presence in the room. I knew that my prayer for Him to be my Lord and Savior was honest, and heard. I knew that while I was desperate at that moment to know and be known, for years He had already known me fully … and loved me anyway.
‘It’ Changed My Life
A few months after becoming a Christian I prayed for the Lord to reveal why it was that I was actually calling Him Lord. I remember telling Him, “I know it means you are the boss of everything and I am supposed to run everything by you before I do anything but why ‘Lord?’ I mean, I know there is a House of Lords in England and my landlord, but why do we call You Lor-.”
Before I could get the rest of the question out, the Holy Spirit overpowered my thoughts and I experienced the single most powerful experience I have had in my life aside from salvation.
The Lord brought to mind the first man that I thought I loved. Not my first sexual experience, but the first man that I really thought I loved. His name was Ron. I had given him everything: my mind, my body, my possessions and even my dreams. I loved Ron with as much love as I thought I had. It might not be what you can relate to or understand, but please try to understand that it was very powerful to me, and since God was reminding me of it, He understood how impactful His reminding me of Ron would be.
The Father brought back the memory of Ron and me together as a couple. In my memory we were in an embrace and I saw the Lord standing next to us. We were oblivious to His presence and He was grieving. His grief was so bitter I could see Him shaking with tears as He looked upon us. I was immediately struck with grief that God was so grieved. It’s a grief I will never forget.
At that point I felt the Spirit asking me, “Randy … what is the sin?” The only Scripture I knew was Leviticus 18:22 (that’s only because it was on the signs that the Christians held up at pride parades and outside of clubs). I told the Lord that I didn’t like that Scripture. But He persisted, “What is the sin?” I thought through the verse again: “When one man lies with another as a woman it is an abomination before the Lord,” (emphasis mine). The word “it” jumped out at me. I sensed the Spirit asking, “What is ‘it’?”
I answered, “A gender neutral pronoun?” I was a little surprised that in the middle of this powerful time the Holy Spirit would be giving me an English pop quiz. I felt Him say, “EXACTLY!!!”
Then my world fell apart over one little word. “It” meant that I was not the abomination, Ron was not the abomination. It was the abomination – the act itself was keeping Ron and me looking toward each other and not to God for fulfillment of who we were and what God intended. For the first time in my life I knew that God is aware of every secret and not-so-secret thing I have done. Instead of sending hellfire and brimstone, He sent a grieving Savior to pay the price of my ignorance and sin.
He forgave and redeemed me.
Over the past 15 years I’ve gone from a seriously liberal gay-identified man arguing with pro-lifers and mean Christians to a seriously conservative Christian-identified man attracted to women, supporting pro-life causes and contending with gay activists. I’ve also learned to steward my sexuality and not allow it to rule my life.
While I might make light of the changes in my life by boiling them down to a series of contrasting labels, this journey has been and is difficult.
To Know and Love God
I was telling a friend the other day that there have been times in my Christian journey when I wanted to give up and go away. Each time I was dealing with serious issues that did not directly deal with homosexuality, but instead with abuse and trauma from my time before Christ.
In each of these situations, my mind, the world and the Adversary stripped me of every reason but one to want to remain a devoted Christian. At various times it seemed that everything and everyone was aligned against my faith. One thing remained true, though – I know Jesus. When the walls are crashing down all around, He is my rock. I remember the milestones, the long nights of anguish, the grief – but also the amazing epiphanies, the laughter, the joy and the worship.
It isn’t enough to know about Him; I fell in love with Him. Who can run away from the One Who, though He often does so in a still small voice, sings of His Love so amazingly? Others might, but I can’t. His Spirit has empowered me to persevere, which in turn has transformed my character and gives me hope. Trials still come, of course, but today I walk through those dark times holding the hand of an amazing God rather than fumbling around blind.
I know. That sounds so clichéd, like a cheesy greeting card. What about practical advice on how to actually meet God in those amazing ways?
I could sit here and write about the importance of going to church, worshiping the Lord, developing a disciplined life, seeking out mentors and accountability partners, and exposing yourself to edifying art and entertainment. I could make a list of all the authors and speakers who have been instruments the Lord has used to speak into my life.
While all of that is important, the theme that I keep coming back to in life is that we were created to know and be known. And if we want to know and be known by God and others in way that is true to who He is and what He wants, we have to do so selflessly.
Much of what I have seen in the Western Church before and after becoming a Christian is geared toward the believer and helping the believer be a more fulfilled Christian. The problem is that we’re so distracted in our efforts toward fulfillment that we forget the greatest commandments: to love our God with our whole being and to love each other as we do ourselves. That Christian axiom is the epitome of a selfless expression of knowing and being known. We live in a great time and place to be edified as much as we are, but such knowledge doesn’t become wisdom without selfless application in all of our relationships.
It is selflessness that makes me yearn to know a God who has His own opinion, an opinion that might be contrary to my wishes or desires. It is selflessness that makes me want to defer my agenda and be open to His. It’s selflessness that moves me to lift up others in prayer when my soul would rather worry about my own circumstance. It’s selflessness that refuses to view men as sexual objects and instead see them as Christ does, and to treasure women for how they uniquely reflect God in a way that neither I nor any man ever will. It’s selflessness that drives me to forgive and seek forgiveness.
Every time I come to what I see as the end of the road, I give up my self. I hand Him all of me. That is where every single one of my Christian “greeting card” moments have come from. This is what sustains my walk and transforms my life in so many ways. Romans 5:1-5 states
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
That passage provides a template for developing Christ-like selflessness. It helps us to realize that tribulation eventually leads to hope by transforming our very own character, a character expressed in our relationship with God and others.
I want you, dear reader, to walk away encouraged to know that God knows you and all you have done, and He loves you regardless. I want you to discover what I have discovered: that self-sufficiency never works; the only real freedom is a selfless approach to all of our relationships. By living this way, the Lord releases us to live up to our potential for which He created us.
Source: Exodus International