|The NEW Tom, a Promise Keeper|
correspondence. His email address is from Genesis 2:23
NEW Tom, a Promise Keeper
I'm in my mid-forties, married for 19 years with three nice kids -- two teenage girls and a pre-teen boy. My wife and I met on a blind date, got engaged 5 months later, and married 4 months after that. I have been a reasonably good father, successful in business, and prominent in my church -- most people thought I really had it together. Most people wanted to BE me.
What they didnít know was that I was leading a double life. The other side of me was involved in periodic homosexual encounters. No one knew or even suspected.
I was the youngest of five kids, born when my parents were 41, when my older siblings were 17, 15, 13, and 5. I was always told I was a "Surprise" (but not like Christmas morning, more like, I wrecked the car. . . .)
The year I turned five, my life started to spiral out of control: My Father dropped dead suddenly of a heart attack; and my three oldest siblings married or otherwise moved out on their own. My last living grandparent died. Because the older siblings would periodically return, for three years I waited for my Father. I was eight before I realized he wasnít coming back.
In 9 months, we went from a family of seven, to a rather dysfunctional family of three -- Mother, my sister and me, and I didnít understand. I took care of my Mother, (in effect becoming her parent), discounting my own needs, trying to stop the hurting I saw in EVERYONE around me. My family was (and is) Christian, and there was love around me, it was just mingled with a lot of pain. It was hard for me to tell it apart.
Either right before or right after my Father died, some older neighborhood boys had some "fun" with me. It wasn't so much about sexual abuse as it was about power. Afterwards they treated me differently, and I began to isolate. (I couldn't talk to anyone -- there was so much pain around already I couldnít add to it. Besides, I was the "Fixer", not the "Fixee".)
To compensate, I became funny, and an overachiever. People loved to have me around. Youíd find me a blast at a party! To protect the scared person inside that was me, I became very manipulative. Not only could I make people do what I wanted, I could usually make them WANT to, and even forget their original agenda. No one got closer than I allowed.
When I was about 11, Mother and I went to pick up my sister at a Bus Terminal in a nearby town. While there, I saw a man attack and stab another man directly in front of me. I saw the knife flash -- it was so brutal. The attacker looked directly into my face, got up and ran away. I rushed inside to my Mother to seek help. Disbelieving, she put me off. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the injured man came into the station. He was bleeding a lot; was in shock; to me looked apologetic. I watched people part in front of him like the Red Sea. I kept begging Mother to call for help. Finally, she went to the ticket counter and asked them to intervene. I expected an ambulance. Instead the police arrived, cuffed the man, and took him away.
This said a few things to me; 1) People that are hurting are an embarrassment, 2) If you need help, no one helps, 3) If forced to help, they donít help; they arrest you, take you away.
As we drove home, I anxiously looked back for the attacker, certain he would find and kill me. I had no Father to protect me, and watched enough TV to know what happened to witnesses! I was so terrified, it took me a month or more to bury this memory so far I knew it would never come up. No one even knew I was afraid. The memory was not available to me until about 4 months after my healing began, when it came up in total clarity. I have now put it to rest, am glad it did not show up a month or so earlier when it might have pushed me over the edge.
About age 13, I went to spend a few weeks with my sister & her husband in the summer. I hung on my brother-in-law like a leech. To give him some relief, they sent me to church camp for a few days. There I met a young, very wholesome, strong counselor. He asked about my Father (something no one ever did) and I bought into him, big time, as his vibrant, wholesome manliness spoke to the emptiness inside me. I was there only three days, but in my mind, I made him my "Dad". For several months, I would test my actions against what I thought "he" would want me to do. Then, my sister wrote that someone broke into his house and KILLED him. One more person ripped away. . . . one more betrayal. No one even knew he had been important to me. I withdrew, sealed my emotions tighter.
Around age 15, I dedicated my life to Christ. I had read enough of the Bible to feel I understood where God stood on things. But, there was just this one nagging problem . . . . .
Either shortly before or after, (probably before, but Iím not sure), there was an encounter with a 40 year old man at my summer job -- he molested me. I was so hungry for male attention. But he betrayed me on two levels -- intimacy AND self-worth. He took my self-respect; and he caused an adult, male violation of the boundaries I had tried in vain to create from the vacuum of my life. I made the event seem insignificant. I thought I had caused it Ė that I was responsible. What followed was a tortured time as I wrestled with the "me" everyone knew and the "me" I feared was inside that I felt no one (including me) could accept.
There were sporadic homosexual encounters. Exciting, but none fulfilling, always a terrible sense of guilt afterward. I tried to live a Christian life, to reconcile how I was with what I believed God wanted. I watched others struggle with "lesser" sins, and was at times pious and strict with them, thinking I was loving them (much the same way I was "Loving" myself Ė just grit your teeth and hold out as long as you can). I became a control person to protect the image I projected, for I thought there was nothing else. People looked up to and praised the "me" I had created.
When all this broke, I saw that "me" as a hologram -- a surface with nothing underneath. I was afraid Iíd spiral endlessly into the dark nothingness inside me.
In spite of my attractions to other men, I always knew I wanted to be married, with a family. I have always loved kids. I had prayed for God's perfect compliment to my life for about five years, before I met my wife, before I even thought I COULD be with a woman. I met her, it was love at first sight. For the first time, my physical machinery stirred to life -- and I thought the nagging question had been settled. Things were fine for a few years. My career took off. Then, a baby girl! :-) Stress! :-( My wife split her attentions; hers and the babyís needs became overwhelming, and, my father deficit issues started bouncing up. My behavior slipped, then again. Two years later, (the same week I turned 30), my wife miscarried; and my Mother entered a nursing home. A year later, a second baby girl. Three years later, my mother died two weeks after the birth of our third child, a son. As she had been both parents to me, my identity suffered from the loss, and having a son set off my father alarms again. My behavior slipped again.
Each encounter I vowed would be the last, each time knowing bitter defeat. I would seek God, confess and draw near, yet reserve this area as a dirty secret between God and me, thinking no one could understand or love me, since I couldnít seem to. Behavior would be controlled, a little easier for a year or two, in spite of the raging war inside me. Since I had never heard of anyone changing, I felt my family and the church would reject me when I inevitably failed -- I had no hope short of the miracle I prayed for each day. I couldnít stop the nearly continuous lustful thoughts inside my head, and believed that merely having those thoughts condemned me. I didnít understand the difference in temptation and sin, so I was doomed before I started.
Since at that time I felt God had made me this way, I couldn't see how He could expect me to do otherwise. I even congratulated myself on balancing yes, even THIS problem. I was a control freak's control freak, and NO ONE knew or even suspected. Can you imagine how controlled you have to be to pull this off for this long? Looking back, I am amazed.
About age 40, I discovered contemporary Christian music, and my church of 40 years died on me. We changed to our present one. Several people there were more real about struggling with sin in their lives. Then, at age 41, I attended a Promise Keepers conference. I longed to rededicate my life to Christ, but felt I couldn't uphold my end of the bargain. There was a desire to go, but no strength. The speaker talked about getting REAL with God. I had begged God daily for 30 years for a miracle to "fix" me. That day, I realized that, deep down, I did not WANT to change -- that my body enjoyed the homosexual behavior that disgusted my soul. So, I asked God for the DESIRE to want to change. It was all I could pray with integrity.
IT WAS ALL GOD NEEDED. Over the next two years, He moved countless people into and out of my life like chess pieces; each showing me another piece to the puzzle I was trying to assemble, each cementing stronger in me the desire for change.
The next year again, Promise Keepers conference. Again, stronger desire, but no strength to commit, no understanding that I need not be a victim of my thoughts.
Finally, I attended a Contemporary Christian music festival. They asked anyone struggling with any issue to simply stand. I did. They asked those around to lay hands on those standing. It was as though a shock went through me. Instantly, I KNEW God loved me and would take care of me. My deal before had been "God, fix me, I'll serve You." It was now, "I'll serve You and trust that You will take care of me." (Since then, it has evolved into, "If You are never in a position to fix me, I'll STILL trust You.") I knew I had to come home and take some hard steps. I told my wife; my minister; about 5 of my close Christian male friends; and two couples at my church. I knew that by myself, I couldnít promise anything. I knew this was big, and I needed help to stay accountable. (I really didn't know HOW big -- I cried almost continuously for about three months over my sin -- my rebellion, my playing God, and my lack of trust). Since then, I have cautiously told three of my four siblings, and my wifeís parents. They all love and support me (how could I have not known? -- Pride, again.) We have not yet told our children, as that remains a source of stress for my wife. And, we wonít until she agrees with the peace derived from her "Motherís intuition". Until that happens, I remain known here simply as "The NEW Tom". Others here who know me can and will vouch for my story.
Has God "Fixed" me? YES! In that I now desire Him to be near me, to care for me and I trust Him (mostly! Some days are harder than others!) NO, in that I still have some attractions, though less frequent and less intense, and I can almost always link them to some prior or pending stressful event. I still have a five year almost total gap in my age 0 - 5 memory that I worry about. As I canít remember my Father at all, his death is very hard to mourn, and I struggle with the pain of that grief; and my marriage is still fragile. Yet, God sustains me, changes me. My whole life is summed up in Psalm 13's six small verses. I read them over and over.
I am hopeful of full healing and total freedom, but I no longer DEMAND it of God. Iím learning to let Him be God, I no longer have to. I know in my weakness He will sustain me.
This has been the hardest time of my life. But, by far, the BEST. It is wonderful to rest in God's arms; to finally understand the real freedom and peace in OBEDIENCE to Him. To understand God doesn't have false expectations of me, and He will help me obey, when I in my strength cannot. With God's help, I am more confident of my ability to keep promises to my wife. The old perfectionist me is gone. I am much more loving, forgiving. I wrote in my journal last October, "For the first time in my life, I LIKE me!"
All my life I have been fighting for my masculinity. Perhaps because in the short five years I had my Dad (even though I canít consciously remember) he imparted something to me? There WAS an easier way, I was just too stuck in where I was to see it; too prideful to accept the help; too damaged to be able to trust. Itís different now. It started when I realized God valued ME, warts and all. Not the unfeeling hologram I created, but the me He designed originally, at the moment of creation -- BEFORE the fall. You see, He still has my original set of blueprints, and together weíre now in the historic preservation business!
I know this will sound weird, but I canít say Iím "happier" now (I used to have behaviors to "make" myself temporarily "happy", when all else failed). BUT, now I have peace, and Iíll take peace over happy any day! Ultimately, I believe the "happier" will naturally return, as I get further beyond the stormy turmoil of this past yearís events and the 15 years or so of childhood terror I washed through me. Itís already gotten better.
Godís love is a gift . . . . . nothing that can be demanded; bought; earned; or bargained for. It comes from Him, and sometimes is shown to us through the testimonies of other men and women. I hope something in mine speaks to your heart, and offer it with my gratitude and praises to the Risen Savior. If I can pray for you, please click on the link to e-mail me.
GOD LOVES YOU, and waits, with the patience of , well, God, :-) for you to come home to Him. No condemnation, just joyful reunion.
I appreciate your prayers -- for me, my wife, and my children.
James 1:12 "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him."
text © 1997 Tom, Maggie Heineman
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