It’s Independence Day weekend.  And all I can think about is how many people are out celebrating the 4th, with no clue of what true Independence genuinely feels like?  As we celebrate the freedom that we have in this country, I can’t help but think of the freedom that I have found in Christ Jesus.

For many years, I was locked in a world no one knew about. I was depressed and felt very alone.  I knew that something within me didn’t feel normal or right.  Everyone else seemed to have no trouble smiling or being happy about anything.  Yet, I was constantly told to stop scowling and to smile.  I hated family picture time, or even picture day at school, because I would have to force a smile that I didn’t genuinely feel inside.  No one understood that I was miserable inside.

I felt that it was my duty to pretend like all was well for everyone else, so that everyone else could feel okay, and they wouldn’t feel bad for me feeling bad.  I felt from an early age that I had to lock away the deepest parts of me from the people closest to me—to protect them.  I would be okay, I was strong enough to handle it on my own.  No one had to know the misery I felt inside.

As I got older, I began to feel tormented about death.  I was scared to die—scared to the point I made an excuse not to go on one of our annual summer family vacations.  I had this fear that I would die on that trip.  But did I tell anyone about my irrational fear?  No.  Even at that age, I knew it wouldn’t make sense to anyone else.  Looking back, I can’t remember if I ended up deciding to go, after many attempts by my mom to change my mind–or if I stayed with my grandma instead.  I just remember the terror I felt about going, and I was just a child.

As I entered my teenage years, things inside me took a turn for the worse.  I figured out why I must be so different and so far from the ‘norm’.  As a teenager, I began the process of trying to discover myself and who I was.  A terrible time in anyone’s life, but for those that discover they are somehow “wired differently” than everyone else, it’s a very fearful and dreadful time.

All the girls had started (if they hadn’t already been), dating boys.  And there weren’t any that were interested in me.  It hurt that no one noticed me.  But I could deal.  I just threw my walls up instead.  Who wants some guy from this small town anyway, I consoled myself.  When I got to college, things would be different, I tried to persuade my heart.

I had found, however, that when I spent time with some of my female teachers, I felt something inside me that just- well, felt good.  I didn’t know what to think of it at first.  I just knew that I wanted more of that feeling.  I began to desire to spend time around these women who appreciated me and loved me and wanted the best for me.  They had families of their own, and they took me under their wing like a little sister or another daughter.  I wanted to spend time with and near them.

One day, I had a shock that left me paralyzed in fear for what my future held for me.  As my teacher kindly put her hand on my shoulder when she was helping me with something after school, I felt an intense surge of electricity, starting at my shoulder, and radiating throughout my body.  I loved it.  I hated it.  I loved it.  I was terrified.  I didn’t know what to think, or do.  I think it was quickly after that moment that I ended up wrapping up what I was doing and headed home for the day.  What does this mean? I thought to myself over and over.  Any hope for a “normal” life was now ruined.

Later, I began to equate this feeling in my mind to lust.  When I realized that is what it must be, I dared not to speak of it or even mention it out loud to myself, much less anyone else—for fear of rejection, fear of chastisement and ridicule. I knew that I didn’t want to feel the way I felt, and I didn’t understand why I had to go through this.  Why couldn’t this happen to someone else?

As I grew older, there grew a gnawing at my conscience, at my gut, telling me to just set myself free of the small town mentality, and break free–free into the big city where no one cared about what you did or didn’t do. –or who you were, down deep inside.

For years, I hid in shame while trying to maintain the outer appearance that everything was fine. Looking back, I know people could see I was troubled, but they didn’t know what to do about it because I had sworn myself to secrecy. I had chains wrapped around my heart, and there was no one strong enough to break them.  I spent hours in my room, crying and locked away from the “real world”.   I only came out when my mom called for supper.  And immediately after, I would retreat.  Some days I didn’t even eat.

Years went by and I convinced myself more and more that I must have been born like this. I realized that my need for female companionship was something very sordid.  I craved intimacy with other females that I did not find -nor did I search for- in my small hometown.  After all, no one could know.  I was trying to pretend my hardest to be ‘normal’.  I even printed out pictures of guys with their shirts off, wanting desperately to train myself to like boys.  And to convince everyone that I did.

I felt so lonely, as there was not one person in the world I could tell this secret to.  I knew I had to hide it, because if it got out, my world would really fall apart. So, instead of searching out and confiding in my best friend, who was at the time so caught up with her boyfriend that I barely spoke to her, I got online—that new thing where you could talk to people all over the world from the comfort of your living room.  I got on there just to talk to people, not specifically about this, but as a way of escape from my life.  I wasn’t looking for anything abhorrent.  But, that’s when it happened.

The desire in me to just be loved, to be important, to be wanted and loved by someone other than my family, by someone who actually saw potential in me–well, that deep desire led to a string of conversations in which I bared my soul to another female who was well over twice my age at the time. In turn, she began to “groom” me for her own perversion.  And as desperate as I was, I fell headlong into her trap.

I had already felt these paralyzing feelings inside me that I couldn’t explain.  I already knew that I was different than anyone around me.  And I knew that what I felt was wrong, by the world’s standards at the time.  I didn’t yet know God, so His words on homosexuality did not enter my thoughts at this age.

But my dilemma with wanting to be accepted and loved by someone—to date someone, namely, a guy—well, that just wasn’t working out.  Obviously I just wasn’t cut out for guys, or they for me.  Apparently I was destined for a lonely road ahead–one that not many would ever understand.  I didn’t even understand it myself.  I felt so alone and so rejected that I was desperate for someone to show me what ‘love’ was.  I found myself telling a group of people in a chat room “I just want to be raped—I just want to know what love feels like.”  I remember saying that like it was yesterday.  I didn’t really know what to compare love to–I just knew what I saw at school, and how almost everyone my age was already sleeping together–or at least talking about it.

Someone stopped me and said “that is not love”—and proceeded to pull me aside in another chat room and talk to me about the rejection that I was feeling.  I did not realize that I had just opened the lid on a can of worms that I wouldn’t be able to shut by myself for a long time to come.  Halfway into our conversation, she began to tell me that she had always been interested in girls, but had never tried anything with them.

With my recent exposure to these crazy feelings within me, I figured “why not?” because I apparently was wired this way, through no fault of my own.  I immediately began a conversation that would turn into a 9 year relationship of manipulation and control.  Though I didn’t consider it so at the time, I look back on my 15 year old self now, and I can say that I was indeed “groomed” and set up to be sexually molested and abused by someone 24 years older than me.  (I took responsibility for my actions at an early age, even though I was honestly too emotionally immature to do so.  I didn’t see it as abuse then because she kept repeating to me over and over again things such as “I don’t want people to think that I am taking advantage of you”, thereby manipulating me into telling her “it’s my decision, and I am responsible enough to make my own decisions.”)  But honestly, as I write this I am 34, about to be 35.  And I am utterly disgusted by the thought of someone my age–or older–trying to convince a 15 year old to do anything that she convinced me to do at that age.

She drove across the country to do things that I won’t even mention, multiple times over the course of 3 years, until she could finally convince me to leave home and come live with her.  Really, it didn’t take much convincing to leave, because I was so tired of living a lie.  I was tired of pretending that everything inside me was okay when it wasn’t.  I was tired of pretending that I was “normal” when in fact I had discovered very opposing feelings within my own body.  But I dare not let anyone in my small town know, or it would be the topic of conversation until I could escape from that place.

I remember the very first time I met her, my gut warned me to get away and quick.  But I wasn’t used to listening to my gut, so I didn’t understand what those knots were and that feeling of nausea that welled up within me.  I mistook it for nerves, and figured that I would just bare through it.   I figured “well, if this is love, then I guess I want it.” Even though I hated it, I felt wanted by someone for the first time.  I think I internally gave up all my rights to ever having a normal life at this point.  I conceded that what I had told her early on—that I would take care of her for the rest of her life—would be my life’s mission.  Even though I hated myself for it, I had given her my word, and that meant everything to me.

9 years later, I was living with her across the country from where I had grown up, and I finally was pulled out of that controlling, manipulative relationship by a new friend who God put into my life to tell me about Him.

6 more years after that, I would find myself at the feet of Jesus, begging for Him to take my sins and set me free of the life that I had screwed up so badly.  I gave my life to Him that morning, and my life has never been the same since.

The love that I was longing to feel—that I searched and searched for all my life—came to indwell me on the morning of May 6, 2012 at the very moment I accepted Jesus as my atoning sacrifice for all the sins I had ever-and ever will- commit. The very breath of Jesus was right there in that room, and I felt it!!  The Holy Spirit was all around me, encapsulating me in His magnificent love, and opening my eyes to things in this world that I could have never, ever seen had I stayed behind that veil, my eyes and heart darkened to the things of the Spirit.  But that day, He tore the veil for me, as He had already torn it 2,000 years prior, for all who would ever believe in Him. The Father revealed His glory to me in ways unfathomable to anyone that has not yet surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ.  I saw things that I cannot explain to the human mind—they are much too magnificent and glorious to comprehend.

The freedom that I found in Christ that morning–and have had indwelling me ever since–cannot compare to any freedom found here on this earth.  The solidarity of His Love that He gave me on the cross 2,000 years ago, and indwelt me with on May 6, 2012 (to never, ever leave me)—that Love and that Freedom is unfathomably richer than the freedom that we as a country won at the Revolutionary War.  It’s only similarity is that as a nation, we gained our freedom from the mother country.  And on May 6 2012, I joined ranks with an unnumbered force—the army of God, and found out what it really means to be free of the cords of sin and death that had entangled me for 30 years.

I no longer have a dread and a torment about dying, because my eternity is secure now.  I no longer desire to be in a relationship that is against God—He set me free of that bondage of homosexuality since before I even came to Him and fully surrendered my life to Him.  I had cried out, asking Him to take that desire from my heart if he was genuinely able to do so.  And He did.  He set me free of that lie that I had been born “messed up”, and He gave me a freedom to discover who I really was—a child of the One True King!

He continues to work in me to free me of my past, to repair the dysfunction caused by a wounded heart.  He does that through honest, genuine, female friendships that He places in my life.  He is still healing the relationship between my mom and I–well, my entire family and I.

He is working on me to be bold enough to express to others what He has done for me. Little by little, he is helping me to reach out to others that need to find that freedom that I longed for so badly growing up.  For so many years, I had resolved myself to an eternal judgement of fire and brimstone, because once I found out that being homosexual was against God, I didn’t have any hope for an eternal future in heaven.  I had been convinced that I had been born that way.  And as much as I didn’t want to go to hell, I also didn’t have the power within myself to overcome the homosexual tendencies within.  But, God!  Jesus delivered me from the desire, and continues to deliver me from the wounding in my spirit–bit by bit, day by day.

Am I perfect? No.  Do I have days (sometimes months) where I feel distant from Him and I question myself—even question Him?  I would be lying if I said I didn’t.  But I can say that even in those dark times, my desire is to know Him better and to be closer to Him than ever before.

Am I good at staying close to Him in full surrender and submission? No, but I can say that the times when I come back to Him after being distant from Him for a period of time—and feeling Him lift the weights and encompass me with His magnificent Love—well, there just isn’t anything better than being in the presence of Almighty God, my Father.  Or knowing that Jesus Christ Himself goes before me and prepares my way, and prays for me to the Father that my faith will not fail.

It’s not some mental thing that I had to convince myself of—rather, it’s the change in the state of my mind and my heart since I have found the One who loves me more than I ever knew possible.  It’s an ache to be with Jesus, to be completely with Him in body and spirit.  It’s a desire that won’t be satiated until the day that I leave this earth and am present with Him.  I look forward to the day that I go to be with Him, and I want everyone reading these words to go with me, and to be with Him for all eternity too.

I hope that you are one that has found True, Lasting Freedom in Christ Jesus.  And if not, I pray that today you will find that freedom.

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