I remember understanding from a young age that I thought girls were very pretty. I remember wondering if I thought about that more than my friends that were girls but kept that to myself. I lived in a small town and understood the consequences of things like that. Even looking back at myself as a young child, it was abundantly clear that my desires were already quite sinful. Apart from an attraction to my female friends, I displayed that nature in lying, disobeying, and bullying my younger brother.

Although I’d always been the type of kid to push boundaries and reject authority that I thought was unjust, it was at 15 that I started really acting out. I experimented with drugs and alcohol some. This is also when I first came out, publicly, as being gay. My understanding of faith was very shallow at that time. I saw no contradiction in my actions and in my profession of faith. I believed with my head that Jesus was God, that He’d come to die die for sin, that He was raised on the third day, etc. I would think to myself, “Everyone sins, so sin must not be a big deal.” During the rest of high school, I got into much more trouble. I was suspended more than once for alcohol and narcotics and began to act more boldly with the girls I was dating. While living at home, I was grounded if I ever displayed anything that even remotely suggested my homosexuality, whether that was something I said or a note in the laundry from a girl. My senior year I moved out. I gave my dad an ultimatum and he didn’t budge so I felt I had to leave. I begged him to accept my lifestyle and the girl that I was then altogether obsessed with and he refused so I packed up in the night and left. I lost everything I had, including the new car I’d gotten just a week before for my 18th birthday. I viewed it as honorable that I would forsake it all for ‘love’; that money and possessions didn’t matter but love did, and I was showing my entire family that in my actions. I was fully convinced that this was, in fact, a civil rights issue, and that the cause needed defending from those that would endure what I perceived as actual persecution.

The next couple of years I spent only going further into drug use and exploring more taboo behaviors privately. I eventually met a woman, who was in the middle of a divorce at the time, and we immediately started spending all of our time together. She had two kids, a boy who was 5 and a daughter, 3, when we started dating. Though we would drink some and I would occasionally smoke marijuana, I slowed down a lot out of respect for her and her kids. After about a year, I asked her to marry me. I never once felt out of place with her or them or in that lifestyle. I felt like I’d found a family I fit nicely into. I had responsibilities and people who were depending on me; I felt I had a purpose for the first time. Just 6 months before I would come to know the Lord, we parted ways after being together for 2 years. I was devastated, but all the more convinced that my role in life would be to marry a woman, raise children with her, and help to provide for a household.

In March of 2014, I was invited to a Bible study that my coworkers were doing. My aunt and I worked together and she was participating so I felt I should go, too. I expected my ‘lifestyle of sin’ to be brought up relatively early and that I could use that as an excuse to stop coming. The book we studied was “The Real God” by Chip Ingram. It’s an ‘attributes of God’ book, so I was learning about things like His goodness, holiness, and sovereignty. These were things I had never considered before. My views about God began to grow. The bigger He got in my mind, the smaller I was by comparison. Until that point, what felt right to me was right, whether that was sexual immorality or sleeping in on Sundays because I’d rather rest than go to church. I remember the nights before I was born again, I would lay in bed asking myself, “Is this really me?” The following mornings I would wake up and scoff at myself for such a question. “Of course this is me! I’ve always been gay!” On April 9th of 2014, I got off work and headed home. As was our routine, I had my friends meet me at my apartment to smoke marijuana. We smoked and nearly immediately after, I looked to my best friend, who was also in the LGBTQ community, and said, “What if it’s true? What if we really are in sin against God?” She told me she didn’t want to talk about it. I responded telling her that I couldn’t think about anything else. I told her, “You’re in the same boat I’m in. We need to figure this out. If we’re okay, I want to know if so I can stop thinking about this. If we’re not okay, I want to know now and not later.” She said I was “killing her high” and she left my apartment. I immediately grabbed the book from the Bible study and began to read. Even stoned, I could not let it go. I can see now that the Lord was drawing me. All I wanted was to understand Him more. That night I was reading about what the author called a “salad bar religion.” The whole concept perfectly described me. I was taking in the parts of religion that I liked and disregarding the things that I didn’t favor as much. You could’ve called it anything but because of my region, I’d called it ‘Christianity,’ although nothing in my life truly showed I was His. In a matter of a few minutes God connected all of the dots and truths I’d acquired before that point, along with what I’d come to understand about the nature of God while in the study. I realized my faith wasn’t real. Despite my cross necklace and my use of the popular #GodisGood hashtag on social media, it wasn’t real. Apart from some of the things I would say because of the lingo I’d picked up living in the south, if you had just looked at my life, i.e. the things I was doing and things I wasn’t doing, the choices I was making, etc., you couldn’t tell I’d ever seen a Bible. If scripture and I agreed, I obeyed it. If we disagreed, I went with what I wanted. I was my own god. At this point my identity as a lesbian was one of the biggest ‘parts’ about me. Immediately, I grabbed my phone because I owned no Bible at the time. I googled “verses on homosexuality” and began reading. Although I had argued those particular verses before and had twisted them to suit me, I could no longer see them as flexible or relative. They were black and white to me for the first time.

I came across 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men 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, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

As I read the passage, I became heartbroken. I was in the “will not enter the Kingdom of God” line up and was terrified. In those three verses, I understood my need and His ability to save me. I understood that it didn’t list those who “have been sexually immoral or who have been drunkards.” It’s talking about people that are ongoing in their sins. It’s talking about people who haven’t been born again; verse 11 is proof that they didn’t stay there once He saved them.

The people being discussed there by Paul aren’t going to be in hell because of the specific sins listed; they’ll be in hell because they never turned from them, and they never turned from them because they’d not yet truly believed. Being “saved”, to “be born again”, “having believed”, “obeyed”- all of those expressions are used interchangeably in the gospels and epistles. Those that are believing and obeying are those that are His. The lost are those that do not obey Him because they still desire sin more than God. I knew that good works, like obedience, don’t save; I didn’t understand though, that they do show that you’ve truly been changed. In Matthew 7, Jesus said, “On that day, many will say to me ‘Lord, Lord. Did we not prophesy in your name and cast out demons in your name and do many mighty works in your name? and I will declare to them, “Depart from me you workers of iniquity. I never knew you.” Jesus affirms that those who truly know Him have turned from their sins and are actually following Him with their lives. Those who have not don’t truly love Him. In John 14:23, Jesus said “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with them.”

I was grieved that my whole life I’d been sinning against Him, not only in my dating life but in every other way, too. My drunkenness, my haughtiness, my refusal to submit to what had been plain in His word all along but that I’d denied because I didn’t want to give up my autonomy; I claimed faith but had no concern with what God actually said or wanted of me. I was overwhelmed with the love and mercy He was showing me in letting me live long enough to repent and truly trust in Him. I didn’t know what my life would be like or what I was going to do, but I knew what I was not going to do anymore. It was incredibly clear. That day was the day the Lord granted me eyes to see Him as holy and righteous and myself as a sinner desperately in need of His forgiveness and grace. In the coming days, the Lord would make very clear to me that apart from my outward depravity and external sins, I had sins like pride and anger and those were even deeper ingrained in me; I still battle those today as well, but I trust God to complete the work He’s begun in me. Php 1:6

I’ve been very fortunate to be able to share my story with believers and help the church understand homosexuality with a biblical worldview intact; rather than viewing this sin as an identity, we’ve got to see the sin, “practicing homosexuality”, as a fruit of unbelief and treat it and the sinner like we would any other lost person. Those still in the LGBTQ lifestyle have yet to have their sin and their need for a new heart and heart made clear to them. It is my hope that in sharing the things the Lord is teaching me, via articles or other projects, the body of Christ can take away that I wasn’t saved any differently than anyone else who is saved, and that this group of sinners is in need of the same mercy and grace that His church has already been shown.