Ihave always had a heart for God. However, it wasn’t until my freshman year of high school that I began to understand the need to have a personal experience with Him.
I was into every activity the Church of God had to offer. VBS, youth retreats and church camp. Oh, church camp! That is where I really “Got it”. The altar services were deep and life changing. This is where I began to feel His presence in my life.
Later on in my spiritual journey, I felt there was something more that I needed, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I saw religious programming on television, but I didn’t really understand it. I almost felt what I was watching, was more like a carnival show than anything … this wasn’t it.
I went to school with Pentecostal kids and they looked different and seemed to act different than other kids. I don’t know why, but something inside of me said THERE … and with precise timing, God made it possible for me to attend a Pentecostal church with one of my dad’s friends. I was hooked.
I found people that were excited to serve the Lord. People that worshiped the Lord with all their might. Most importantly, I found the Holy Ghost—well, I’d had him all along, but I discovered him in a new and powerful way.
I graduated high school and started college. I began dating a girl and eventually asked her to marry me at a big church convention. That night as I got ready for the evening service, God spoke to me in an almost audible voice. “What are you doing?” What was I doing? I would often look over the congregation and dream I was there, praising and worshiping with my spouse—my husband—having a family and raising our children in the church I loved so dear. If I ever told anyone of that private dream, I would be kicked out.
Out the back door
Not able to suppress my sexuality, I quietly exited through the back door of the church and kicked the closet door wide open. I went from a no shorts, long-sleeved shirt-wearing Pentecostal boy, to a Madonna loving, dancing queen!
God never stopped knocking on my heart’s door. He never left me for a moment.
This was part of the problem, though. It was all or nothing with me. I began an almost two decade long spiritual roller coaster ride. I was either swearing off church, or swearing off men. Eventually the pain became too much, I was miserable. My soul felt defeated. I began to experiment with drugs and have numerous sex partners. I just wanted to feel good again.
Due to my illicit drug use, I found myself borderline homeless, HIV+, and infected with Hepatitis C virus. It was a wake-up call. I was not raised to be this type of person. Sometimes it is good to get away from people and places, so I packed my bags and moved back in with my parents.
The Hepatitis made me deathly ill. I needed relief, so I turned to the only place I knew to find help … Jesus. Of course I did the “cleansing ritual,” throwing out my TV and short pants. I began attending another Pentecostal church.
The genotype of the virus I had was hardest to get rid of, and I was only on the medication two months. I was supposed to stay on it a whole year. The pastor laid hands on me and prayed. Today, Hepatitis C is cleared from my body and no longer doing damage to my liver.
Of course, I still had to be me, even after God performing a miracle, and I left the church … again.
It wasn’t until I found an Evangelical, affirming Christian church, that I was able to make peace in the war of Christianity vs homosexuality.
I am learning every day that I am the beloved of God! With this new found freedom I am finally able to step into the calling that I spent so many years running from, this time as a gay man. I know now that it was the legalism I was trying to get away from, not God. I can see that it wasn’t the “Pentecostal church” that I was attracted to, but it was the Holy Spirit wooing me to experience a deeper walk with God.
Oh, I am still on a roller coaster ride. That is the beauty of it all. But now, I am just enjoying the ride. Come with me.
DAVID CATES is “40”… and loving it! He is a native Oklahoman who currently resides in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He has been a member of Expressions Community Fellowship, an affirming Evangelical church, for three years.