In March of 1992, I was a junior at Oklahoma State University. I was living in a fraternity house, barreling aimlessly toward a degree in Physiology in order to attend medical school in the fall. There was only one problem. Nothing in my life was engaging my heart. I went to my advisor on campus to try and salvage something out of my life and my time at O state. It was the hand of God that led me to that meeting. During that meeting I uttered the infamous words, “I really want a degree in Marine Biology”. He joked that there were no Oceans in Oklahoma, but he knew of a Tropical Marine Biology class being offered through OSU that summer, on an island in the Bahamas.
I left his office with a new mission. I felt passion well up within me. After years of searching for a purpose or something to fulfill me, I had stumbled upon the next, exciting leg of my journey. The cost of the class was around $2000. My parents weren’t going to go for it, so I took out a student loan. The semester ended. I returned home to begin the long wait until August. My spirit was already in the Bahamas. My body played the waiting game.
I wasn’t a devout follower of Christ back then. When I first started college I tried to keep up with my prayers, but college rendered me spiritually silent. The only time I did pray was those last ditch efforts for God to take away my attractions to other guys. Night after night, I filled the air with screams and tears. Night after night, God filled my life with silence. Later I would learn that God can’t take away what we are unwilling to surrender. My homosexual feelings ran far and deep, like they were a part of my very nature. However, in the deepest part of my heart, I knew that wasn’t true. I wanted to be free of them, but I didn’t ever remember choosing to have them, so confusion provided the perfect breeding ground for my sinful desires.
Eventually, God began to answer my prayers and provide vision for my future. In order to secure my place in the class I needed the signature of the one of the college deans. It was summer break and everyone was on vacation, or so I thought. Quite randomly I ran into a science professor, whose class I had taken 1 year prior. Her name was Dr. Deborah Meinke. At the start of every semester, she did something with every student that I have always found unique and amazing. She would walk every row, look at each student and say their name. She memorized us. She always called me by name in class. After hundreds of students and a year later, when I approached her, she called me by name. I was blown away. Dr. Meinke was also a dean. She remembered me and signed my permission slip. You can credit the entire occurrence to a good memory and coincidence. I credit it to God.
When August finally arrived, I was ready to board a plane and never return. I had always wanted to be a dolphin trainer, but had given up on that dream. This was the first, bold step in rekindling the fires of passion in my heart.
A delegation of 10 people accompanied me on my journey; people from every imaginable social class, culture and background. I was naïve enough to believe that everyone on the trip was also crazy about dolphins. I had banked everything on this trip. I had my entire world and all my eggs in one basket. Our last flight to San Salvador Island was in the tiniest of planes. The seating was close and it forced many of us to sit face to face. The girl across from me was Bahamian. She spent most of the flight sketching in a notebook. I kept trying to steal glances at the paper, rather than to ask what she was drawing. There was something about her that intrigued me. Most likely it was a spiritual connection. I know it wasn’t a sexual attraction. I was still gay at the time. My eyes had found another young, laidback guy on the plane, who exuded quiet confidence and had rugged, good looks.
The girl’s name was Calae. She and I would find ourselves walking along the beach later that day playing a game of name that tune. She would hum a few notes. I would guess the song. I would hum something. She would guess. Then by divine intervention, she began to hum amazing grace. I knew the song, but I didn’t know anything of it’s concepts. “Are you a Christian?” she asked. I fumbled around for an answer, which spawned a pseudo confession from my heart to this total stranger.
I told Calae about my struggles without ever mentioning the word “homosexuality”. I danced around the subject like I was walking on a bed of hot coals. I told her that I “have something big and terrible at work in my life”. I told her of my bruised emotions and rampant confusion. Yet, even back then, 6 years prior to the time I would finally leave homosexuality, God had planted hope in my heart. Even in the midst of being attracted to every guy on the street and feeling inferior to all of them, God was there. I told Calae that a day was coming when I felt I would climb over the mountain of my sin and find freedom on the other side. I told her that I felt that life would be stress free and my problems would be over once that happened. Her next statement was tempered with wisdom and love, but it caught me like a dagger, piercing my chest. You will overcome this, she said, but the truth is that on the other side of it there will be other crises and struggles. I felt my spirit yelling “NOOOOO!!!!” I couldn’t imagine a life of persistent life of struggle. I didn’t want to believe that after this, there would be more strife, more battles and more heartache. Yet once again as before, the truth surfaced from deep in my heart. I knew she was right. I also knew, it scared the hell out of me.
It would be many years later before I would reunite with Calae. I had turned my life over to God and had begun to climb the mountain of my past. She presented me with a painted tapestry of Irish Linen. The subject of the painting was “The Queen’s Staircase”, a Bahamian national landmark. Slaves carved the staircase out of the natural coral and limestone of the Island. It is also called “The Sixty Six Steps”. As Calae shared the story of the landmark, my eyes filled with tears. “These steps remind me of the all the steps you have taken to walk out of homosexuality and towards God”, she said. It was monumental for me. Not only did she remember and acknowledged my struggle, but she had seen it play over many years. She was also there from the beginning.
I have no doubt that God heard those desperate prayers from my bedside at Oklahoma State. He knew the tears I cried weren’t a superficial show of emotion, but evidence of a soul in deep despair. My homosexual desires had been shaped over a lifetime of hurt and pain. God knew that my family situation had tragically shaped my life and spearhead the development of my homosexual desires. God also knew that it was His process and not a magical healing that would lead me to discover the truth that no one in born gay. God ultimately revealed to me that I may have been born Sensitive, Artistic and Creative for His pleasure, but I was not born gay for men’s pleasure.
The trip to the Bahamas was less about my career as a dolphin trainer and more about the sovereignty of God. God planted a love for his creation in my heart. Then He used that love to teach me about his Amazing Grace. Lyrics that were nothing more than a catchy tune on a beach many years ago, have now become the words that define a life full of purpose.
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like me… I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now, I see.”
Thank you Jesus for choosing me so long ago. Please let your revelations rain down and flood the gay community with your love and grace. You are no respecter of persons. Do for them father, what you have done for me. Amen.