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Change is possible!

I used to be gay. I am not any more. In fact, I have been heterosexual longer than I was homosexual. I have been married 32 years and have three grown-up children. I am 65 years old. I lived as a homosexual from the time I was 15 until I turned 29.

I come from a large family. My father was a farmer and I was raised in the country. I never liked farming, nor was I a sturdy or robust boy. I became convinced — and I believe this is one of the causes of my homosexuality — that I was not a man in the full sense of the word. When I was 13, I discovered that I did not become interested in girls as my friends did, but preferred being with boys. I also began to feel sexually attracted to them. Since I grew up in a Christian home, I knew homosexual behavior was a sin. However, my feelings were so strong that I began to give in to them. I had several sexual encounters with boys. Eventually, I decided to adopt the homosexual lifestyle. Occasional encounters did not satisfy me. I wanted a permanent relationship. During my last three years as a homosexual, I lived with a partner, but this did not prevent either of us from having encounters on the side. We lived together, did everything together, but there was neither love nor fidelity in our relationship. All this lasted until I turned 29.

It was then that I decided to break with my homosexual lifestyle. Not that the lifestyle didn’t suit my needs, but I was not at peace with God. I went to see a priest to discuss the matter with him. He told me I should continue living as I was. There was nothing wrong with it as long as I was faithful to my partner. It was not a sin  — he told me. Several other Christians (including a sexologist, whom the priest referred me to) told me to remain a homosexual. So that is what I did, and for a time I felt very good about this. I gave free reign to all my desires. All my friends were homosexuals, and I spent every free moment with them. Then I met some Christians who told me something quite different from what the others had been telling me. “You can change,” they said. “Change is possible.” These Christians began to pray for me. They prayed that my homosexual feelings would be taken away. That was the beginning of my change. Scripture told me that homosexual behavior was a sin. “You are not at peace with God” — my new Christian friends told me. “You will not inherit the kingdom of God if you continue living this way. There will be no place in it for you.” That was enough for me to break with my homosexual lifestyle. I wanted to inherit the kingdom of Heaven. Scripture told me that people who live this way will not go to heaven. In his letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul said that those who practiced homosexual acts would not inherit the kingdom of heaven. In his letter to the Romans, he also stated that these acts went against nature. I was mindful that my Christian friends were praying for me. But prayer did not change everything at once. My Christian friends urged me to believe that change was possible. When Christ entered my life, I was born anew. I knew I had become a new creation — in Christ. My old nature had been crucified with Christ. So I had to learn to treat my old nature as though it was dead. Homosexual tendencies were part of this old nature. The Bible told me that homosexual behavior was a sin.

At the age of 28 I broke with my homosexual past. At first I felt free. I was very glad that God had taken first place in my life. But my former feelings were constantly with me, and this was very hard. During that first year, my homosexual emotions kept coming back. At such times I became disillusioned with God. I wanted to change, but whenever I saw a man, I would still feel like a homosexual. So I had to struggle on, return to God, surrender my thoughts to Him. This was a struggle with my inner self. I was not yet experiencing heterosexual feelings, and this was truly difficult for me. The process required perseverance. After a whole year of living with temptation, I renewed my decision to soldier on. In five years I had only one homosexual encounter. This taught me that I could never be too sure of myself. I realized that I could have a relapse at any moment. After this setback, I resolved once again to follow God; I would not return to my former way of life. I would persevere. After that, the temptations grew progressively weaker. At the same time, I began to experience heterosexual feelings. Since the time I was married (five years after my break with homosexuality), I have never experienced an onset of homosexual feelings. When I compare my present family life with my past life as a homosexual, I see that I am much more fulfilled. I see how limiting the homosexual lifestyle was. There was so much betrayal in it. We were constantly changing partners. It was not at all as wonderful as so many people tout it to be. That is why I sought and found a way out. Now I can show people that change is possible. We should not base our life on our feelings. Our growth and maturation as human beings does not depend on what we feel. The key factor is the Word of God, which tells us that we find true happiness and fulfillment through obedience to God.

Shortly after my marriage, I wrote up my story in a book entitled I Have Changed. After reading the book, several people sought me out. They would knock at my door seeking help. After five years of providing such counsel at my home, I realized this was taking a toll on my family life. There were simply too many people to deal with. At that time I was working for a crisis center run by a private foundation. When I told the director that I could no longer counsel people at my home, he proposed that I do this at the foundation center. Thus we founded EHAH (the Dutch acronym for Evangelical Care for Homosexuals), which we renamed shortly afterwards to Evangelical Care for those Struggling with Sexual Identity. Most Christians come to us with the question, “Can you help me break with my homosexual lifestyle? Can you point me in the direction of change?” We say, “Change is possible!” We go on to point out that homosexuality is not an inherent natural trait. It is merely a tendency, an orientation — an orientation that is alterable. By change, we have in mind not just replacing homosexual feelings with heterosexual ones, but something much bigger — how to fulfil God’s expectations, how to realize His plan for us. Christian living entails an inner change and real spiritual growth.

At the center, we counsel individuals and hold group discussions. We encourage our clients to talk about their sexual past, and then give them pointers that can lead to change. We tell them that it is possible, that the process begins deep within ourselves. The answer resides in how we perceive ourselves. We focus on two things — the life of

faith, and the underlying inferiority complex. We are convinced that there are two root causes of homosexuality: first, a neurotic disorder, a person’s psychological immaturity; second, the power of sin, which predisposes a person to fall.

We have always encountered great opposition to our work. This tells us something about gays themselves. They refuse to consider that change is possible. Ultimately, gays suppress all thought that God might have planned things otherwise. This is a difficult matter that strikes at the heart of who we think we are. I too wanted to remain as I was. I too was reluctant to consider the possibility of change, for in a sense change is a process of denying one’s self. We tend to want to yield to our feelings. People do not want to hear that a path of change exists — a path open to all. They try to drown out the voice of truth.

The two ten-year reports, which our foundation has published since its inception 25 years ago, show that about 50 new individuals turn to us for counseling each year. Typically, about half of them opt for the path of change. The rest return to their old lifestyle and do not profit from our help. Sometimes they even turn against us. Of the one half which chooses the way of change, about 20-25 percent end up marrying and having families. The remaining 75-80 percent lead fulfilled celibate lives. Sometimes they still experience homosexual feelings and temptations, but they pursue the way of change through sexual abstinence. We do not say that people who come to us will necessarily change, but we do insist that it is essential they persevere down the path of change and live a life of abstinence. This requires great strength of character. And here we touch on a crucial point: carrying one’s cross. God wants to bestow upon us the strength to bear our cross. We believe that He wants to give us the strength, and this internal process begins when we give God a central place in our lives. This is the basis of living in faith: the centrality of God in our lives. It is not what we feel that counts, but carrying our cross, all the while saying, “Lord, I wish to follow you. All I want is to walk in your footsteps.”

Johan van den Sluis
(Fronda, Fall, 2003)

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