Click Part 1 to read from the beginning.
Justin is fortunate in that he was able to share his same-sex attraction (SSA) struggle with his parents just before his 18th birthday. Those that delay disclosure much longer risk experiencing increased depression, interruption in their life goals and a rise in suicidal feelings. In taking such a bold step, young people must trust that God has a plan for them. Within days of Justin’s courageous act, he felt a deep release of anxiety. God’s presence powerfully flooded him for the first time in his life. “I just felt God saying – ‘Everything will be ok.’ This was not explainable – God’s presence was just so strong.”
While the deep spiritual peace he experienced was wonderful, Justin did feel a bit over-exposed in having shared all this with his parents. “I just did not know what would happen. Would the feelings go away? Now I had opened Pandora’s Box. I did not have any idea what the future would look like; what healing might look like.” Despite these unknowns, Justin knew one thing for certain: “I knew I could never pursue a gay relationship, and this realization did not torment me.”
Today, at age 26, Justin is thankful for God’s presence in his life. When he recently joined his father in front of his home church, he no longer felt any shame about his struggle. He felt nervous about being in front of so many people, but sharing his life was not a huge deal. He no longer worried what people might think. Justin felt it was important to share his story to help encourage others who may be silently struggling with SSA. The congregation responded with a lot of love. Justin felt relief – and even healing – from this opportunity to be honest.
As we finished up the interview, I asked Justin one last question: what advice can you offer evangelical teens and young adults who struggle with SSA? “I think the most important thing young people can do is share this struggle with their parents – this is at the top of my list. As I say that, I recognize that I had a great experience while some of my friends have had tough experiences. If you cannot share with your parents, you need to find a counselor or youth pastor who will respond gracefully and assist you in getting more help. This may feel like the end of the world, but sharing is so critical – you do not go anywhere by not telling those who care about you.” He finished adding, “Also, it is helpful to get involved with a ministry that deals with this issue where empathy, understanding, and wisdom can be received.”
Over the past eight years, Justin has developed a strong network of support that includes his parents, friends, and mentors. He receives encouragement from leaders and participants at Living Hope Ministries where he is also able to encourage others. Justin lives an integrated, holistic life in his local church. In other words, this one area of his life does not limit the vision of his greater calling to be a Christ follower. This kind of support network and spiritual identity offers Justin acceptance, encouragement, fellowship, spiritual growth, service opportunities and accountability.
With this kind of foundation in place, young people like Justin can live a purposeful and satisfying life – today and into the future. Justin’s story illustrates that a faith-based view of freedom – involving spiritual surrender to God and meaningful fellowship with God’s people – does allow life to get better. If you would like additional guidance, read my For Pastors’ Kids (PK) series – whether you are a PK or not. Please feel free to contact me if you need further guidance. God bless you!
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