I grew up in a fundamental Baptist church in Indiana, where the legalities of religion were constantly drilled into my head. Rules existed over God’s grace and love. Fortunately, my parents showed grace and love to my siblings and me at home. My father led me to Jesus at age six. I always wanted to be just like my dad.
I was the middle child, and sometimes felt like the odd man out. I never quite understood where I fit in my family. It didn’t help that I was a sensitive kid; general teasing impacted me to the core. I constantly longed for the love and comfort of those I loved, especially my dad. It was a legitimate need that was not always fulfilled. My dad worked long hours, and I didn’t understand why he couldn’t spend more time with me.
Then, in 1991, my dad’s secret struggle with homosexuality was revealed. For a while, my parents tried to salvage their marriage through counseling, but hope of restoration disintegrated when my dad left us for another man. Mom and Dad divorced, leaving me, an awkward adolescent, feeling totally abandoned.
Not long after that, my best friend, who was the same age as me, sexually molested me. I was starving for male attention from my dad, so my molester was able to sexualize my unmet emotional needs. I was confused, yet I wanted more. A male was willing to give me attention, and even though I knew it was wrong, it satisfied something deep within me.
Those unmet emotional needs of my 11-year-old heart followed me into adulthood. Abandonment plagued my future relationships, and I soon found myself actively engaging in the homosexual lifestyle, just like my father. I played the role of provider and caretaker with my younger partners, trying to meet their needs so they wouldn’t abandon me. With older partners, I searched for protection, guidance, and comfort. I gave to others what I desperately needed myself.
In 2000, after years of struggling with my sexuality, I came out. For the next 15 years, I immersed myself in promiscuity in the gay community. I had finally found a place to belong. Being gay was my identity. It influenced where I ate, how I dressed, and the events I attended. It determined my circle of friends and even my choice of doctors.
I was in and out of relationships, always seeking gratification through sexual activities. When sex failed to silence my needs, I turned to drugs and alcohol. Drug-induced comas were not abnormal. Sex and substance abuse were my constant companions, and they led me down dark paths that almost took my life.
Each sexual encounter robbed me of self-worth and fed my insecurities. Lust became an insatiable desire that birthed an addiction to pornography and self-gratification. I was lost in a cruel world of sin and imprisoned by bad decisions. I needed to be rescued.
Fortunately for me, Father God had devised a rescue mission I call “Operation Lost Sheep,” long before I ever entered the seductive world of sin. He heard the cries of my soul before I even thought to make a sound.
Luke 15:3–10 gives us the parable of the lost sheep. Jesus was sharing it with His disciples, and He said: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (NIV).
I was a lost sheep who had gone astray and turned to my own way, but Jesus came looking for me. I am so thankful for my mother and her friends, who prayed me back into the arms of the Good Shepherd. I am certain they were instrumental in the successful completion of Operation Lost Sheep. My mother has never stopped praying for me.
I began to sense the Lord’s rescue mission in 2011 when I moved to Orlando, Florida. I had just experienced yet another bad relationship and was on the run. I was an unemployed, extreme alcoholic with no family by my side. Loneliness and depression were my companions.
But during this low point of my life, the Lord began to show me how much I needed Him. Everything I had put my hope in had failed me. People. Relationships. Careers. Drugs. Alcohol. Nothing satisfied the ache in my soul. So God moved me to “the happiest place on earth” to show me that I was the most unhappy person on earth.
There, God began patiently pulling down the walls I had built around my heart. Many of them had been there since the rejection I had felt as a child. The divorce of my parents and my father’s homosexual lifestyle had left so many questions, but rather than ask God for answers, I had self-medicated with relationships, alternative lifestyles, alcohol, and drugs. These things, of course, only brought more pain.
For the next several years, God continued to graciously interject Himself into my life. I could sense His love drawing me, but I resisted Him and continued to participate in my old ways.
Satan would not go down without a fight. He sent an evil presence to pursue my soul that tormented my mind with fear. He told me God would never love me, that I was doomed for hell.
He gleefully reminded me of 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 that says, “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (NIV).
I was on this list—surely I was doomed! But then God showed me verse 11. As I read it, the inexplicable peace of God flooded my spirit. It says: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (NIV).
Paul was talking to Christians in this passage, believers whom God loved. Sheep who, like me, had once been lost but now were found. God had sent His Son, Jesus— the Good Shepherd—to give His life for me, to rescue me, and to bring me back home. This verse was written for me, and it was written for anyone else who will leave their life of sin behind for Jesus.
I’m so thankful that I finally responded to the subtle voice of the Holy Spirit that beckoned me to Himself. I can still hear Him gently whispering my name early one morning in the spring of 2015. There was no judgment or condemnation, only grace and mercy. I fell to my knees and surrendered my heart to Jesus. I called out for Him to be my Savior, and He came to my rescue.
On Easter Sunday that year, I walked through the doors of First Baptist Orlando, a new man in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). The music pulsated through my heart as the greeters welcomed me with a smile, and right beside them, the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart, “Welcome home, Philip.”
I have to admit, surrendering my life to Jesus was scary at first. God was asking me to give up everything, to exchange my broken identity for a new identity in Him. This only made sense when I began mourning the loss of my former life. A part of me had died. I had to surrender over to Jesus 15 years of memories and friends, and as with any loss or death, I grieved. Yet, like any loving father, the Lord was by my side. His promise in Psalm 34:18 carried me through those difficult weeks. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Being gay was all I knew; it was comfortable. I knew my whole life was about to change. But the Lord gently took me by the hand and walked me through the process. At First Baptist, He gave me a community of believers who loved me to wholeness. Staying connected with other believers has been crucial to my success in living a victorious life in Christ.
I continue to find support through my life group and the creative arts department at church, as well as through Exchange Ministries and Big Fish Ministries. Both organizations provide support for individuals struggling with same-sex attraction, as well as support for their families. I also have a wonderful mentor who personally understands my struggle and constantly points me to Jesus.
This community of believers has helped me realize I’m not the only Christian in the world who struggles with the concept of identity. Some people turn to money, success in athletics or their career, or the praise of man to find their identities. Some turn to drugs and alcohol. Others, like I once did, turn to unhealthy sexual relationships. Unlike many of these things, though, homosexuality is a taboo subject in Christian circles, so many people fail to get the love and support they need to live a victorious life in Christ.
I pray my story will encourage the body of Christ to come alongside those who are seeking relational and sexual wholeness in alignment with God’s Word. They need Christ’s love, not judgment, so they can find their new life and identity in Christ Jesus.
My story has already affected at least one person in my life—my dad. As he watched my life change, the Holy Spirit used my story to bring my dad back to the Lord. Dad rededicated his life to Jesus last year and is now on the same journey. After 27 years of living as a homosexual, he has surrendered his life to Christ. Now tell me that isn’t awesome. Glory to God!
The Lord has redeemed our relationship and brought everything back full circle. To think how Dad led me to the Lord when I was six, and now God has used my story to lead him back to the arms of Jesus—it is nothing but a miracle.
People often ask me, “So does this mean you’re straight now?” I respond that my true identity is found in God, not my sexuality. I live as a child of God, knowing that I am loved. Accepted. Enough. And chosen by Him to be a witness to this world.
Today, my focus is on holy living and pleasing God, not myself. It’s a daily surrender of my will to His, but God gives me His strength to walk in obedience to His will for my life. I’ve learned to recognize my triggers, and I try to avoid them. And when I am tempted, I look for the “way out” the Lord promises to provide in 1 Corinthians 10:13. Since choosing God, my temptations are less frequent.
Maybe you’ve wandered from the truth of who you are in Christ. Maybe you’ve forfeited the identity He gave you. It’s not too late to come home to Him. You’re not so far that He won’t come find you. He loves you.
Isaiah 53:6 says, “We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on [Jesus]” (MSG).
God knows what you’ve done. He knows who you are. But still, He reaches out His hand of hope to you. Grab it. Come home today and discover the peace, freedom, and love you’ve always longed for. It’s available to all who believe and call on His name (Romans 10:13).