From my childhood, I suffered the cruel taunts and blows of the bully I now know to be OCD. Before I continue my story, let me just say that I am not trying to play the victim or get anyone to feel sorry for me as this was all part of God’s sovereign plan for my life. His word says in Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
To see grace, we all must be poor in spirit. OCD was just one of the main tools God used in my life to bring me to the waters.
Back to my story.
From childhood, my battles with OCD were many. It was the same gopher making all the holes. The next hole would go deep.
When I was an 8-year-old boy, I had some homosexual encounters with an older boy. He had talked me into it. I was confused and naïve and didn’t really know what I was doing. It went on for over a year and when I was 9, I told him I wouldn’t do it anymore. At 14, laying on my bed one night, a frightening thought popped into my head as I thought about those experiences: “You are gay!”
I was so ashamed of even thinking it that I decided I would tell no one. I wouldn’t tell them about what happened when I was 8, and I certainly wouldn’t tell them about the fear I had of being gay. Though I didn’t seem to have any homosexual desires, an inner argument began in my head that would last for seven years.
Am I really gay?
It would cause me to spiral into moments of horrible torment, anxiety, and panic. It seemed to be a paramount, though unanswerable, question, worthy of all of my attention. At times, the anxiety was excruciating.
First of all, I stayed active to avoid depression and to avoid having to ruminate on the thoughts.
Second, I debated this sinful thought in my head with Scripture, with reason, with evidence—anything that would help me to affirm my heterosexuality. That’s why I hated idle time. I’d have to think and continue the inner debate.
Third, since certain situations would cause a spike in anxiety, and I sought to steer clear of them at all costs. For example, I avoided being alone with any male—boys or men—if I could at all control it. If I did find myself alone, my anxiety would start to rise, the inner fears would rage, and the fierce debate would begin again in my head.
If I’m secure in my masculinity, why am I so afraid?
I don’t have any homosexual feelings right now, do I?
I also avoided any physical contact that I could, outside of sports, with boys and men.
When I prayed about this whole troubling question, the Lord repeatedly brought me back to John 15, where multiple times, Jesus said, “Remain in me.” Somehow, God’s grace gave me the confidence that I would outlast this affliction, though it continued—off and on—for several years.
When I was a college student in 1992, the battles with anxiety and depression seemed to intensify. Though my wife Heidi Jo and I had been dating at the time for four years, I’d never said a word to her about any of this.
One weekend, our InterVarsity Christian group took some time to fast and pray for personal growth and breakthrough. As I prayed alone one night for deliverance, I saw a picture in my mind of walking up to Golgotha where Jesus was killed. When I reached the top of the hill, the cross was empty, and God’s spirit said to my heart, “Even the greatest suffering in the history of the world…ended.”
At the end of that weekend, with my whole body trembling and my voice quivering, I finally told Heidi Jo what I’d been struggling with for almost seven years. She was kind, gracious, understanding, and encouraged me. She didn’t think I was a monster or reject me. That was the beginning of my freedom from that long round with OCD that began seven years before. Over the next 2-3 years, I found the anxiety less, and eventually, gone.
It seemed I’d found freedom. But in 2001, when I was 29-years-old, married with two children, in full-time ministry, the bully of OCD returned “with seven spirits more wicked than himself” and I entered the trial of my life.
More on that in the next blog.