After Europe, I moved into a UCLA fraternity house crammed with conservative Christian men. They were Republicans, I was the on the lunatic fringe of the Democratic party, as was my hair, which resembled a Benjamin Franklin fright wig; their crew cuts and manner were clipped and practical while I was emotional and spontaneous (remember, I used to be fun), tending toward the absurd.
A match made in heaven? Precisely. I needed the limits imposed by a tight community of guys who loved me in spite of our differences. We were one people in our love for Jesus and in our desire to make Him known.
Living there identified the desert of my detachment from regular guys and from the regular guy I was. I aimed awkwardly to explain who I was as a Christian seeking to overcome homosexuality. I tried to convey my commitment to holiness while still confessing my weakness and need for their support; what many heard was that I was still in sin.
Ah well…Semantics matter, and I was still trying to find the words. Yet beyond words, these guys loved me. I drank in their acceptance, which freed me to accept my own masculinity in some new ways. Mercy flowed out from most of the guys and satisfied my soul in a way that gay relationships never did.
That next summer, I joined an outreach project aimed at reaching a beach town in Southern California for Christ. We sought to extend mercy to the unsaved yet learned more about mercy in our team relationships than in evangelism.
There I grew in trusting people, both leaders and peers. One of our assignments was to share our testimony before a large outreach meeting. I asked God throughout that summer to distill what I had learned thus far in my journey out of homosexuality. By the time I shared, I was ready: clear, unashamed, grateful for the mercy that had become my freedom.
I was amazed at what happened next. Team members came to me in quiet, like Nicodemus, asking for hope and help in deep areas of personal brokenness. (Not homosexual per se; most were good old idolaters of the traditional kind.) They were hurting, locked in shame. Mercy alone drew them out of the desert.
Having drunk deep of mercy through Christ’s body, I had merely held out a cup of cold water to them. They wanted more. They needed more in order to go further up and into Christ’s purposes for their lives. Throughout that summer and into the next year, I continued to receive requests for help as a result of that one testimony.
That summer confirmed my calling to release living water to those in the desert of sexual and relational sin. God was multiplying my little offering of mercy. Desert Stream had informally begun.
‘As You have shown us mercy, O God, in the desert places of our lives, would You show mercy to the beleaguered state of marriage in the USA? As the Perry vs. Schw. case wends its way to the National Supreme Court, prepare for Yourself a victory. We shall render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but we shall prayerfully fight for what is Yours, O God. Prepare the hearts of each justice, especially Justice Anthony Kennedy, to uphold marriage according to Your merciful design. Remember mercy, O God.’