L.T. Miller shares another scene in a continuing story about his adventures in (and coming out of) an ex-gay ministry.
Lord’s Land is nestled on twenty-eight magical acres near the town of Albion on the spectacular northern California coast. Central fields are surrounded by dense forests of firs and redwoods as far as the eye can see. Rhododendrons and lush ferns lurk hidden deep beneath their expansive canopies. About a dozen unique cabins dot the landscape, each a work of true craftsmanship. In fact, one of the cabins was built entirely from a single salvaged old-growth log, constructed with no power tools, no nails, and no hinges. Biblical inscriptions are carved on almost everything – doors, furniture, and stairs – and from every angle one is greeted with inspiring messages of love and encouragement. Within the first few weeks of my involvement in the ex-gay ministry, we ventured there for our first spiritual retreat.
Big House, as I mentioned in one of my other pieces in this series, is where we all stayed during our time at Lord’s Land. From the main living room where we congregated for our devotions, meetings, and Bible studies was a winding stair case that led upstairs to a large open room with sixteen single bunk beds. At the base of this narrow stair case is where each of us was to sit and share our life story with the others – afterwards receiving the anointing prayer that was to propel us toward our healing during our time in the program. I’ll never forget that moment when it was my time to share.
I sat nervously on the third step up from the bottom, fidgeting, not quite knowing what to do with my hands. I didn’t know where to start, so I started from the very beginning, going back as far as possible. My voice trembled as I began to speak. Not taking a breath between words I began to tell my story.
“Shortly after my conception in 1968, my father, who was in the army at the time, was sent to Vietnam. He returned to the United States when I was four months old, and nine months later my brother Charles was born. My parents’ marriage failed when I was seven, and shortly thereafter my mother met my future step-father. From the beginning of their relationship I sensed that he didn’t like me. Perhaps he detected that I was ‘different’ and didn’t know how to deal with a needy child who was constantly attached to his mother’s hip. Maybe he felt threatened by her intense affections for me . . . whatever the reason for our discord . . . he was a force not to be reckoned with. I avoided him as much as possible, often retreating into the warm embrace of my grandparents’ humble house. There I was sheltered from the turmoil that often prevailed at home.”
I went on to recount highlights from my childhood and adolescence before finally pausing to take an inventory of the words I had uttered thus far. I avoided eye contact with my fellow New Hope buddies as I tried to gather my thoughts. I was reticent to share too many personal details about a bittersweet childhood laced with intervals of extreme unhappiness – at least for now. I figured I had a whole year to divulge in full the sordid details of a sometimes painful upbringing, so I decided to skip ahead to life after high school.
“When I went away to Bible College, I traveled in a ministry group on weekends, and often had the opportunity to share a bed with another male student – a tall handsome guy with dark hair, exquisite blue eyes, chiseled features, and the most adorable cleft chin I’d ever laid eyes on. I’d lay awake at night resisting the urge to caress his muscular body while he slept. I would wonder if he was aware of my longings or if he was completely oblivious. What if my sentiment was shared? The thought of that sent shivers of excitement up and down my entire body. Still a virgin, I envisioned myself having sex with him, imagining what it would be like to experience the warm embrace of another man.”
I looked out at the group of men before me, and was overwhelmed with gratitude. I was surrounded by others who could relate to everything I was saying, who understood the pain and turmoil I had experienced my whole life. So I continued to share. . .
When I had nothing else to say, I made my way to the center of the room. An intense warmth coursed through my entire being as my brothers began to lay hands upon me and pray for my healing. It was as if someone or something beyond my feeble comprehension – a force far greater than any of us there – had grabbed hold of me and was breathing into me an infinite, never ending supply of life changing power. I felt this presence as sure as I could feel the heat of the burning logs and glowing embers in the big rock fireplace; it was as real as the air I breathed. Some higher power had seemingly taken over my mortal body and was taking me to a place I’d never been before.
Frank was the first to speak. He began in earnest: “Lift the burden off of L.T., Lord. Encourage him. Pour out your grace. Just calm his spirit, Lord. Allow him to receive your love.”
Jake interrupted: “L.T., I get a picture of you in a big lake, and you’re drowning. You’re swinging your arms and kicking your legs in a panicked frenzy. You’re trying as hard as you can to do what only God can do – for only He can save you. You’re floundering needlessly. I feel as if God is asking me to tell you to stop – to just stop your flailing and allow Him to raise you out of the water and set you on firm ground.”
Tears filled my eyes, and I did nothing to stop them. I let them roll down my cheeks. The release felt good. Jake continued, “You’ve been wandering about aimlessly, wondering about your purpose. The Lord is telling me to tell you that you’re not forgotten, that He has not cast you aside. There is a harvest for you, L.T. You’ve set your hand to the plow, and it has not been in vain. A harvest is coming . . . ”
I allowed my eyes to open briefly and saw kneeling in front of me my precious Jason, his hands resting gently upon my feet. He looked so beautiful there, and I sensed nothing but love spilling from him – a love that seemed so pure, so innocent. He slowly began to speak out in prayer, “Father, I pray for L.T.’s healing . . . a verse comes to mind, it’s Isaiah 26, verse 3. God is revealing to me that the mind that is stayed on Him is kept in perfect peace. The word, MIND, is used to create an image, to form an image. And I believe the Lord wants to renew you in the spirit of your mind. And that new image that he wants to form is all that He’s preparing for you. Lord, please show L.T. that you will not forsake him, that he can always come to you, and you’ll hug him, hold him, encourage him, and comfort him.”
As he prayed, all of a sudden it seemed as if Satan had stormed into our midst and snatched away that sense of well being I had felt just moments before. While Jason continued to pour his heart out to God on my behalf, I was wrestling with my own tormented prayer, asking for forgiveness for the deep longing I had to be hugged, held, encouraged, and comforted – not by God, but by him. I felt such intense shame for my thoughts. Here I was in this wonderful place, surrounded by God, the Holy Spirit, and men who had grown to love me unconditionally, and yet I was overcome with an insatiable desire to reach out to one of them in a way that was vulgar, unnatural, and so against everything God wanted to accomplish in my life. I knew then that Jason was to be the bane of my existence that year – the thorn in my flesh – the greatest obstacle standing in the way of my healing – and all I wanted right then and there was for him to take his damn hands off of me and shut the hell up.
I was relieved when Chris finally took over, “L.T., just know that you have access to the Father every moment of every day. He’s always there, and wants to develop in you a boldness and confidence that you can do all things in Christ who strengthens you. I feel that God is saying to you that He is preparing you for something specific, very specific. He’s concerned about your heart more than all other things.”
Each of the guys took turns praying for me until finally Frank concluded with, “I pray for L.T.’s anointing, Heavenly Father; bless him, protect him, empower him, and heal him. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”
As soon as the obligatory hugs and small talk were over and done with, I made my exit as quickly as I could, ventured out into the cold foggy night, and went for a long walk among the towering trees – as far away from Jason as I could. It was just me and a God with whom I was extremely angry. What was supposed to have been a special moment – what was supposed to have been a highlight of the year at New Hope – was tainted. I was filled with bitter disappointment. As soon as I was far enough away from Big House and the other cabins and was sure no one could hear me, I screamed out as loud as I could into the piercing darkness, “How dare you! How dare you bring me into this program, promise healing, and then allow me to fall in love with one of the others!”
L.T. MILLER was born in a small southern town. While in college, he became involved in ex-gay support groups, and in 1996 was accepted into the New Hope Ministries residential program in San Rafael, CA. During his two year stay, he questioned everything until finally he completely abandoned a misguided ideology that made less and less sense. He found a gay church in San Francisco where he was accepted for who he was, and with the loving support of a lesbian pastor he was able to begin life anew as an openly gay man. L.T. Miller is the Ex-Gay Survivor.