Friday, April 15, 2011

Shattered Walls

Sorry for not posting about my big night of sharing sooner. Ok here it goes.

Ok so that night I was sort of hoping my small group leader had forgotten that I had asked to share that night lol. But he emailed me a few hours before the meeting to ask if I still wanted to share so I was like oh man this is it I am really sharing. I was now in panic mode a bit and was like wow this is really happening. I then just spent a few quite moments with God telling him I am going to obey and do this even though it is very scary and that I trust Him that its for my good.

So I get to my small group and I am a nervous wreck. I just say hi to everyone and try to act normal. We sang a worship song after everyone was settled and I could not really even focus on it. Not sure what song it was. Then the leader asked if so and so wanted to share. I thought it was going to be me but no someone else wanted to share something too. So while she shared I was hoping that the time would run out or something and I would not have time to share lol. It was a cool story but I could not focus to much on it as I was to nervous about me sharing very shortly.

After she was done sharing the leader was like "AJ did you want to share something?" Gulp here it is! I replied softly yea and got written notes out of my pocket that I had written to read to the group since I knew I would never be able to be coherent and explain everything right without writing it down. Everyone seemed excited I was sharing as I am a pretty quiet guy and they have been interested in knowing more about me.

I got pretty emotional right away. Before I even started sharing. I told them how hard it was for me to share this but that I felt God wanted me too. And that I have never told anyone else about this struggle I have. So the first 2 paragraphs were about my history and about this being really hard for me to talk about and something that I have never shared and has filled me with shame. So I got through those and then got to childhood stuff and how I have always been sensitive and shy and had not many male friends and could not connect with guys and have had a lonely childhood.

Then I got to paragraph 3. This was the big one where SSA was mentioned and me having to say the words that I have kept hidden from everyone my entire life. I broke down again and they passed me the tissues :).

I recovered and said the words that I have dreaded saying my whole life it seems. I was like "I struggle with SSA and have since I was 12 or 13. I quickly glanced up to see if anyone had a horrified expression or whatever. But all I saw was love, care, and concern on their faces. So I continued and read the whole story. I told about all the pain and confusion I had growing up. The overwhelming shame and guilt. The wondering if God could love me or if I could even be a Christian and struggle with this. The loneliness. Everything. I threw it all out there. Of course I got emotional many other times while reading it.

And then the last page or so was about the ways God is working in my life and I told them all about that too!! And how I know God never abandoned me and how he gave me courage to share tonight and the truth I am learning about how much he loves me and how he choose me even knowing I would struggle with this. I mentioned getting support online from fellow SSA strugglers and how God used them to help me realize I am not a unique sinner beyond His love but just a sinner like everyone.

I then ended it saying I am sharing this because I want to be real for the first time in my life and hope to gain freedom by sharing. And that I would love to be able to count on them for support and prayers when I am feeling down. That I want to let them in and learn to love them better as Christ loves us and that I want to accept their love and not hide my struggles anymore.

Anyways to say there was a good reaction to my story would be an understatement! After I was done reading everyone just was sort of sitting in stunned silence for a few seconds. I saw several people where crying themselves at my story. Anyways then they all came over to me and hugged me one by one. Even the guys. I was afraid they would not do that once they knew but they hugged me longer then before they knew!! And it was so amazing and it was like God was hugging me when they all showed me Christ’s love like that.

Needless to say the rest of the meeting was about me. So we all talked and they asked me questions and they told me they love me and it has no effect on how they feel about me. One person even cried and apologized to me for the way the church treats people with this struggle and how its not right. I was like wow its not your fault but I appreciated her doing that and caring so much!

And one of the guys was like I love you even more now that you were so vulnerable and shared your story. That was a pretty crazy thing to hear. I am sure I teared up yet again lol. In my story I had mentioned I had pretty much accepted that I wont be healed of this the way I hoped and the leader after told me not to give up hope and just getting this in the open is a huge thing and God rewards those who take risks. He agreed with me though that its likely I will of least struggle with temptations for it even if I do someday experience some healing much like an alcoholic still struggles with being tempted to alcohol.

They all said how brave I was to share this and how inspiring it was to see someone be so vulnerable and honest. The leader said this is what Christian community is all about and that I was an amazing example to others in the group about being real and honest and vulnerable. Was so funny to hear him say that since my whole life I have been the opposite of real. And now suddenly I was an example to others on how to be real! Wow how one night can change everything.

After all that they then all prayed for me and laid hands on me and just spoke Gods love to me and how I am not a mistake. It was very healing and amazing!

Later that night afterwards several of the people from my group texted me later and thanked me again for being so vulnerable and real and said how proud they were of me and how my story actually encouraged them! And how it showed them that maybe they have to be more honest with the group about their own struggles. It challenged them to be more vulnerable and real. I was like wow who knew my own story could affect others who have totally different struggles? I guess thats why God asks us to share and be real so we can encourage one another on our journeys. Glad I finally obeyed God and did what He wanted. It was the scariest night of my life but also among the best too as I felt Gods love for me through his people.

I admit that several times since sharing I have felt rather weird or exposed you could say knowing that a rather large group of people know about me now. But I think that’s just Satan trying to make me feel shame again so I have been shaking it off. I know God is proud of me for sharing and it was the right thing to do! I am finally free with this group of people which feels amazing. No need to hide anymore they know all about me now and still love me not the same but MORE!! Satan had me convinced for so long they would judge and reject me. The truth was the opposite happened. He really is a master liar and deceiver. Thankful God broke through my shame and allowed me to see the truth!! And also amazed that my own story challenged and encouraged others who have totally different struggles.

So ya I dont know whats next but hopefully I become closer with them through this and learn to be honest when I am feeling down and get rid of the "everything is fine" mentality that I had for so long and just learn to be real. Its still a process as already at church when I saw them and they asked how I was I immediately went back to "Im fine" but I did manage to catch myself and said more after that. It does feel weird to be known struggles and all and I felt rather weird at church when I saw them wondering what they think about me. But those feelings passed quickly and so far its been great to be real. Will keep you all updated on things!


  1. hey man, that is awesome! I believe getting our struggle in the open does help. I'm not to where I can announce it to the world, but I have noticed it helps to tell people. Sounds like your group is a great one to be in. I'm envious - in a good way. Keep encouraged pal

  2. Thanks! Ya I definitely have no plans to announce my struggles to the world. Just sharing with my small group was hard enough! :)

  3. WOW.

    First, I want to say that I love the title you chose for the post. "Shattered Walls" is so descriptive of your journey and especially the event you described in the post.

    I'm sooo happy that you took this step! That took a lot of guts. I can only imagine the anxiety you experienced up to the point of letting the secret out.

    I think it's really awesome that everybody was so loving/accepting (the guys even hugging you!). It must be a very unique/special group of people.

    Anyway, congrats again!!! I hope things continue to go in a positive direction.

  4. Two terms stood out while reading your post - "I am not a mistake" and "I'm fine." "I am not a mistake," is crucial in being able to better recognize how God loves you/us. That spoke to me as I read what you said. As they demonstrated love to you that was another way of proving you are not a mistake. What you experienced was so powerful toward your healing. I am so proud of you and your courage (tissues and all). Sharing took away a lot of the power that your secret held, as time goes on I am sure you will experience that more and more. Thanks so much for sharing, AJ, we/I needed to hear that.

  5. Thanks gaypk! Ya wow I was soooo nervous! Almost shaking probably lol. Somehow I got through it and everyone said I did a great job telling my story so I guess I did ok! Ya its a great group and I hope to grow closer to them. I still have to battle my shy nature and not wanting to be a bother. But like you said this was a huge step that I am pretty amazed I took. Wow sometimes I think I must be crazy or of least the "old me" would think I am!

    Hopefully things keep going well! Anyways thanks gaypk I always so appreciate your comments and you caring!

  6. Thanks stan! Ya your so right about that! Like thinking God could not want us and we are a mistake is something I thought for soooo long. And to be re-reminded by them that I am not was so helpful and healing. I am glad my story of sharing was a help to you stan! Thanks for all the advice, comments, prayers etc... I appreciate it!

    Hope things keep improving.

  7. AJ, this is great news to hear!! How God must have been smiling down upon you as you spoke of His great love and work in your life; what a testimony you are to others!! I am blessed to have read this posting today. Way to go, brother!!

  8. I'm so happy for you!!!! :) And what stan said is very true. Secrets and shame have a lot of power. Now, God's led you to the place where you've been willing to start breaking down those walls, and you will realize the significance of that more and more in the future. There is so much freedom in honest, humble brokenness before God and other people in your life. :)

    And I can also honestly say that your sharing your testimony probably ministered to others just as much as it ministered to you. You've opened up to them a space to be vulnerable. You've given them a gift.

    Which reminds me that I need to start doing that more. I have at least three people in my life that I am almost certain struggle with SSA who have not told me. I think they're all at relatively healthy places, but I still have started wondering how selfish I am when I'm not more consistently open and honest about my struggles in small groups and bible studies, etc. I don't feel like I need to tell people anymore, but maybe I should for their sakes... I could use prayer for that. :)

  9. AJ,

    Woohoo! :) What an amazing and fantastic chapter in your life!

    As I read your words here tonight, I was reminded of the guy who first started posting here not all too long ago.

    He was quiet and shy and very doubtful of his future. He had no idea how, or if, God was ever going to use him and simply shared his life in small steps with those he was learning to trust...even a little bit. He longed for a circle of friends and people to do things with but had no idea if he was worthy, lovable or would even be accepted?

    To think that God can bring us so far from places we never knew were so dark and lonely until we look back and see the path that He lead us down.

    I am encouraged and overjoyed that you have found a circle of other believers to share your story with and that, in the midst of such vulnerability, you were met with love, compassion, grace and peace.

    God rocks! Huh? Keep us updated on how things are going and how you are feeling about the ongoing process. I am praying for you and am just flipping out in the progress and growth you are making as a person and as His kid.

    You are loved, AJ! Never, ever forget that.


  10. AJ,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I really want to share my SSA struggle with my small group, but I don't know if I should wait till we get to know one another better. Why did you decide at this particular moment to share your struggle? How long have you been with that group? I guess I'm just looking for some guidance on when is a good time.

  11. Hey Pablo glad my story was a help to you. Thanks for stopping by!

    Ya its a big decision there is no doubt about that and it is very scary too! I have been in my small group for about 5 months or so. When I first joined I thought in the back of my head at some point I would share but I was honestly thinking in terms of years and not months lol. I just felt God was nudging me to share and be vulnerable and eventually I got to the point where I could not ignore what I felt He wanted me to do. Also I was at the point where I had to share. I just had to know that they would accept me for me struggles and all and I was sick of hiding and pretending everything was fine all the time.

    Now before sharing I observed carefully how the group responded to others who shared. If others had not taken risks and shared deep hurts and struggles I never would have had the courage to share. I saw that the people in the group responded with love when someone shared their burdens and just got a sense this was a safe place. So I would advice that you listen and watch carefully to see how the group responds when people share deep pains and struggles. Also pray about it alot before hand for sure. I dont know the people in my group super well but even in the months I have been there I just felt this overwhelming feeling of it being safe. It is not something you want to just rush into though thats for sure without praying about it, observing how the group responds to others who share, and getting a sense its a safe place to be real and vulnerable.

    If you do decide its a safe place to share another thign you can do is talk to the group leader first and share your struggle with him. And then maybe he can tell you what to do next about sharing with the whole group. I decided to just share with the whole group at once but it may be easier to tell the leader first.

    How long have you been in the group? Have other people in your group shared deep hurts and struggles or has it been more surface level stuff? If they did share was the response loving and non-judgmental? How many people are in your group? Is it a group that will be together for a long time or is it the type that will be dissolved often and be replaced with all new people?

    Its been awesome so far being honest and I have a new sense of freedom from my shame but it was probably the scariest thing I have ever done I wont lie!

    Please feel free to post any other questions and I will do my best to try and answer!

    Will pray for you as you make this big decision!

  12. AJ,

    I'd say I've been with this group for about 3-4 months. Nobody in the group has really shared any deep stuff, it has been more surface level stuff. There has been some accountability going on like asking each other if we are staying pure with the girlfriends (for those that have one) and making sure that we are spending time with God one on one, but nothing much besides that.

    As far as feeling safe, I think the guys really do care for one another and want to get to know one another, but no one has yet to make that vulnerable step forward.

    God, has definitely been pushing me to share with people. There are some days that I just want to grab someone I know and sit them down and tell them the loneliness and pain that I have to deal with on an almost daily basis. I have been a call away from calling my friend in Dallas and sharing my story because he has known me so long, but doesn't know about my struggle. In other words, God is basically pushing me out the door to share! Just got to find the right place and people.

    Besides the fear of rejection and horror, I fear that nothing will happen afterwards. What happens afterward? Does my group just pretend that everything is normal and never talk about it again. I say this because I have shared my struggle with other friends, but unfortunately lost contact with them. Those friends always seemed afraid to bring up my struggle or ask my anything about it. Just became kinda awkward to bring it up. What do you want from your group? Accountability for P, M, lust, etc? Or just to treat you like one of the guys and never speak about it again?

  13. Sounds like a good group of guys. And one thing is for sure if you do share it should take the whole group to another level of vulnerability and others may share too once they know its safe to do so. Not sure when the right time is though in this situation. Maybe you could mention some issues like loneliness first to see how they take that? Not sure.

    Ya you sound like me with God pushing you to share. I still dont think the people I have shared with fully understand the pain, confusion, and loneliness I deal with on a regular basis. Its hard for them to understand I guess since to them their sexuality is so cut and dry and "normal". So they dont fully understand what it means to struggle with this and the way it affects your whole life.

    Thats a fear I have too of nothing happening after I share. Its only been a couple weeks so I dont know for sure but I too fear that people will eventually just pretend it never happened and never ask me about it. Part of the problem is I am not sure they know what to say. One guy asked me how I was doing at church last week. And its hard to knwo what to say. Is he asking am I still gay? Or am I feeling lonely or what? So I have to figure out what people mean when they ask me questions relating to my struggle and how to verbalize what I am feeling so they dont think I am fine all the time.

    I dont really even want accountability from my group as much as their friendship, prayers, and support. I pretty much told them the reason I am sharing is I want to be closer to them and be real. I admit I am not there yet with them . I hope and pray we get closer and that it does not get awkward. I do want to be treated as one of the guys but I also dont want my struggle to be ignored and never mentioned again like it did not even happen. Does that make sense? Since my sharing happened so recently I dotn have full answers to these questions. I am hoping for the best though and so far have been encouraged to see they have mentioned it in the meeting we had since.

  14. AJ,

    Yeah, I guess it might be too soon to tell. I just finished reading through a bunch of your posts and I feel like I could be writing them myself. The experiences we share are so similar. It is painful to read some of them because they strike so close to home, but at the same time they are encouraging because I know that there are others that struggle just like I do. I may just start a new blog so that I might also be an encouragement to others just as you have been to me.

    I saw that you enjoy reading. I just finished Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill. Hill is a Christian guy that also struggles with SSA and has made the commitment to celibacy. Book basically details his thoughts on the subject. I would highly recommend it. I will be praying for you as well.

  15. Thanks Pablo I appreciate the prayers! Will be praying for you as well. Ya it really does help to know we are not alone on this journey and others are going through the same thing. Not sure why God allows some of us to go through this great pain involved with this struggle but I am sure when we get to heaven we will understand it all and even thank Him for allowing us to struggle with it because of the lessons it will teach us about depending on Jesus just to get through the day sometimes.

    Ya I love that book by Wesley Hill! It was to me the best book I have read on SSA! I just so appreciated his brutal honesty on the subject and I think it would be a great book for all church leaders to read so they can better learn compassion for those struggling with SSA!

    If you start a blog please let me know! I would love to read it and get to know you more! I will update about how things are goin in my group as things progress so hopefully it will be helpful to you. Let us know if you end up sharing and how it goes!! Thanks again for visiting and the kind words and honesty.

  16. AJ,

    What a great testimony of your response to God's prompting. I shared in a similar way four years ago and it was extremely powerful for me and for many others.

    I want to challenge you though: as much as you can help it, don't allow your questions/struggles associated with sexuality to identify you. My mentor recently gave me a sideways grin and said that those things aren't the biggest problems I have. I think he's right. I encourage you to develop your personality and identity in Christ through your interests, talents, and strengths. And also to focus on growing up vocationally, spiritually, and socially instead of keeping track of failures and discouragements.

    Your blog is great and you're sharing so much of yourself when you write. I encourage you to seek God's comfort in maturing independent of these questions (perhaps "postponing" some of the fear/uncertainty about the future for another day).

    I was caught by a particular part of one of your comment responses: "One guy asked me how I was doing at church last week. And its hard to know what to say. Is he asking am I still gay? Or am I feeling lonely or what? So I have to figure out what people mean when they ask me questions relating to my struggle and how to verbalize what I am feeling so they dont think I am fine all the time."

    I think that this thought-process shows that there's room for you to grow relationally in terms of friendship-level communication. When a friend who knows my story asks how I'm doing I usually interpret that question through a filter: (A) Does his/her tone suggest care for an answer? If there is a sense of care, do we both have time for a short conversation?(B) If yes, I can answer: great, fine, ok, lost, a little lonely, tired, searching, etc. and then talk through it INCLUDING reciprocating with genuine care for the other person.(C) If no(care/time), I usually give a perfunctory response but I throw in some qualifier that matches my real state ("keepin' on" or "hanging in there") if I'm struggling.

    Above all, remember that you have a lot to offer others and that you can make them feel 'met' when you talk with them because you are responding to them out of a place of depth. Whenever we consciously struggle with tough (though common)emotions like loneliness or discouragement we tend toward greater empathy when responding to others.

    I encourage you to hold on to hope for the present and hope for the future. God gives us a lot to struggle through in life. Sexuality is one of the biggest but it doesn't have to take center stage all of the time.

    Keep your head up, brother :)



  17. Thanks Dan your comment and advice is really appreciated. Ya I definitely have alot of room to grow relationally. I have never had many friends really so I am not very good at the whole friend thing and have to learn the proper cues etc... I feel I am finally possibly starting to make some friends though so this advice is useful. Anyways I appreciate you taking the time to write this! I agree I too focus to much on my struggles with SSA and ignore my many other weaknesses. I do think I am growing though so of least I am starting to move in the right direction.

    Anyways thanks brother!

  18. Hey AJ:

    Thanks so much for sharing. This is the first time I've been to your blog and I couldn't help after reading this post crying for joy! What an incredible experience. It's so awesome to hear when the Church is the Church! Praise you, brother!

    Christopher Yuan

  19. Dear AJ,

    I just read your "Shattered Walls" blog rather belatedly. What a great title!

    I praise God for the experience you had in your small group. I'm sure you did a good job telling your story, because your blog demonstrates that you are a good communicator.

    How are things going for you now?

    You mention being a bit concerned that things might just go back to normal, as though nothing happened, as though you had not shared. Please consider that if they do, the people in your group accept you just the way you are. It's a good thing. Praise God for it.

    Something that could be helpful to remember in all this is that the vast majority of heterosexual men are just not emotionally wired to "share." Women are much more likely to share. It's not that men don't want to share. They don't know how, and maybe they don't even know they have something to share.

    A book on the differences between the male and female brain might be helpful. Most gay men tend to have a "female"-type brain. That's why women find them so appealing! They feel "understood," and feeling understood is very much akin to feeling loved.

    Now here's the problem I sense for you: You might be looking for the other men in the group to share similarly. If some do, that's great. But I suspect that few of them are up to it -- or even know they have something to "share." That's just because they are wired differently. So don't conclude that your sharing was for nothing. Your report makes it clear that you had a great impact for good on your group. If some of the other men share just a little bit -- that's a big thing for them.

    And I just had another insight: Women often look for a kind of emotional intimacy that most men can't give, and that can make for problems in marriage. They have to learn to live with someone who doesn't meet "all" their needs -- which might be a good thing, because it makes them/us lean on God more.

    The take-home for you? The kind of emotional intimacy you long for may only be available in little bits and pieces here and there in this world. Only God can meet all the needs of your mind and soul. And He is willing and able to do so.

    Remember that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

    Inge Anderson

  20. Thanks Inge I appreciate this advice!!