This is a testimony from a guy that used to attend ManAlive and is currently living in the freedom we talk about:
Hello Mark Peterson. This is a message coming to you about 9 years after the last time I spoke to you. Maybe so much time has passed that it’s hard to remember me – the worried, burdened kid from Australia who sheepishly wandered into your Group, ready to work and strive and beat himself up on his way to sexual wholeness. But I know it will be impossible for me to forget you. Or the time I spent in that group.
I’m back home in Australia now, and it’s almost 9 years after my time at Bethel, in 2009. I was battling my attraction to men, fighting to find some hope and re-learn my identity, and get whole. I cried my eyes out. Spilled my guts. Bared my heart to a bunch of guys I didn’t know, so they would know the real me. I heard the voice of God in their encouragement, their prophetic words, their listening and their actions. Their refusal to reject me the way I’d rejected myself. Their refusal to be afraid of me, the way I was afraid of the man I might or might not become. Their strength in not letting their ranks break when I tried to spiral out of control. Their fierceness in confronting me with the truth of who I was, their reminders of who I was not, and their wisdom in pushing me towards my Father God, until I could hear from Him again who I would be.
I was there in those Monday night meetings. With Justin Byrne, and Paul Turner, and Matt Murray. Listening to Jason Vallotton, and Mark Lex and William Paul Young, and you, Mark. All those words hitting the deep places in me, burning inside a heart that was being radically restored. Made whole. Dunked into unconditional love and grace and truth until it could beat fiercely on its own again, pumping out that same love and grace towards other people, in the context of healthy relationships.
So that was 9 years ago. Why am I writing this to you now? Well Mark, it’s been a month since I married my wife. A month since I committed to a lifetime of pursuing this woman whose story God has interwoven with mine. Since I stood in front of hundreds of people and showed them what hope looks like. Told them what marriage really is (and is not). Committed to jump into this scary, exciting, vulnerable, hilarious, challenging and unknowable adventure God designed for me and my wife. A month since Justin Byrne stood by me as a groomsman, bearing witness (along with family and close friends who have walked this journey with me) to the incredible grace of God. It’s been two years since I trusted God urging me to jump into this relationship. Not to trust fear. To follow the spark of feeling and attraction growing in me for my incredible wife. To risk. To be a man. To explore. To be brutally, painfully honest, and let her love me. To allow God to reward our faithfulness, and the purity and honour we chose to establish in our relationship.
Today I remembered Group. And I suddenly realised I needed to tell you this part of the story. There are men in your group who believe that there might be something fundamentally, irreversibly wrong with them. Men who believe that God can fully heal and restore sexual brokenness… for others. Men who think they might have to white-knuckle their way through life, live a life of sacrifice and joyless love, out of will power. Men who feel that if anyone really knew their story, if they ever told their woman the truth, that they would be rejected outright. These are dumb lies. And I wanted to add some fuel to the fire that’s starting in a few of them right now. The hope that’s beginning to burn in them.
Fear tried to convince me it was real. That I would end up as a gay man, fighting to stay within God’s will, in church circles that couldn’t understand. That I’d always be on the outer. That I’d never be fulfilled. That I’d break people’s hearts. And I nearly believed it, many times. But the thing is, if you walk through your fear, and come out the other side, you see it for the illusion it is. None of that was real. I wasn’t just attracted to men. I wasn’t headed for a life of sin. This was a lie that Satan would love to have derailed me with. I am actually a man, created in His image. I can love my wife wholeheartedly, and lay down my life for her.
I’m letting you know that the devil is a liar. One I almost believed. I almost followed his suggestions of the life I’d have to live. But the Truth is so much greater – it is for freedom that Christ set us free. We are made in His image. He makes all things new. He gives us the desires of our heart (and he even reshapes the desires we’ve bent, giving us even better ones). He also delights in defeating the devil through really good sex inside the covenant of marriage.
This is an unusual letter, I can appreciate that. But if there’s even one man in that room who thinks or feels or looks like the boy I was in 2009 – with the weight of sin on his shoulders, struggling to stay afloat, desperate for healthy male relationships, fearing connection, but fearing rejection even more – and this gives him a spark of hope, then this has been worth it. I will probably send you a letter like this every year. And tell you the ways that my love and attraction for my wife has deepened. How much better the sex is. How glorious God’s healing is, and how incredible His victories in my life are.
I know my marriage is only a month old – it’s young and untested, and we will go through much in the years ahead. My battle is not magically over. I will continue to walk out this healing, towards wholeness. There are still giants in the land to slay. But my wife and I have learned how to fight. Not in our own strength, but in His. I’m walking this thing with one hand holding my wife’s, and the other firmly grasping onto Jesus’ hand.
Mark Peterson – bless you. I speak a blessing of complete freedom, deep intimacy, brutal honesty, sexual purity, white-hot passion for the presence of God, revelation of identity as sons — and really, really good sex — for every man in that Group. Feed your soul with hope, men. Hold on to Truth. Swing it like the weapon it is. Destroy the works of the devil. Be strong and courageous. You are not alone. You are not powerless. You are not who Satan says you are. Your greatest strength is on the other side of your greatest weakness. And as I said, when I left that day in 2009: Keep doing what you are doing there, on Monday nights. I honour you for it. The battles you fight here in this room are what they are writing about in Heaven’s history books. Thank you, from Melbourne, Australia. 31. Married. Living proof that God is good.