EDITOR’S NOTE: This monthly column about the issue of homosexuality by various authors is a partnership between Baptist Press and the Southern Baptist Convention Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals. This month’s column is co-written by Mike and Stephanie Goeke, who each give their perspective on Mike’s struggle with homosexuality.
MIDLAND, Texas (BP)–Mike: My childhood and family do not seem to fit the typical profile of men who struggle with homosexuality.
I was born into a committed Christian home, and my parents have a strong marriage. My dad was a loving leader, spiritual and otherwise, of our family. My parents were equally active in the lives of my brother and me. I experienced no sexual, emotional or physical abuse. While I know now that my family had its own issues, there were none of the “red flags” often associated with homosexuality.
Yet, in the midst of my very typical family existence, I developed an early attraction for men. I was sensitive, insecure and artistic, and the other boys treated me differently and made fun of me. I was first called a “fag” in sixth grade at my Christian school. I did not know what it meant, but the seed of a new identity was planted.
In junior high school, my intense desire to be like other boys turned sexual. I was mortified by my homosexual desires and vowed never to act on them and or tell anyone about them. I suppressed my feelings by seeking perfection in academics and leadership areas that seemed within my control. Suppressing my desires did nothing to stop the longings that grew within me. My heart began to look less like my exterior. As I became more “religious,” my relationship with the Lord became less real, and more contrived.
Following law school, I began dating Stephanie, a fellow Baylor graduate. We had been good friends and were active leaders in Bible Study Fellowship. On the surface our relationship was founded in the Lord, but it was also rooted in deception. My secret struggles continued to grow, and I became depressed. I pursued marriage with the hope that it would squelch rumors about my sexuality and that it might help “fix” me.
Stephanie and I married in September 1994. We lived in Midland, Texas, where I was an attorney and she was a teacher. We were involved in church and lived a “perfect couple” existence, but my secret homosexual desires continued to grow. In December 1995, I discovered America Online. AOL was the beginning of the end.
In the chat rooms I found gay identified people who seemed to be like me. I “met” people who claimed to be Christian and did not have a problem with homosexuality. I slowly began to withdraw from my marriage and other relationships. I told Stephanie I wanted a divorce but never told her about my struggle. I recanted my desire for a divorce, and instead I told her I needed a career change. I quit my job as an attorney, and we moved so that I could pursue an architecture degree.
My will to avoid AOL lasted about two weeks. I soon had an online support group of gay men who encouraged me to accept my homosexuality. Research of gay Christian theology had convinced me that being gay was OK with God.
On November 1, 1996, I left Stephanie a letter on the door telling her I was gay and that I wanted a divorce. I jumped headfirst into the gay lifestyle. I was out and proud. I went to the Metropolitan Community Church and was determined to be a different kind of gay man — moral, upright and non-promiscuous. I failed miserably and completely from day one.
STEPHANIE: I also was raised in a committed Christian home. Although our family had its flaws, I was taught the basic Christian disciplines of prayer, Bible study and trusting the Lord. During my late years of high school and college, I made some poor choices in regard to dating relationships. I realized how far from the Lord I had drifted, ended some unhealthy relationships and recommitted myself to the Lord and to the local church. When I first started dating Mike, I earnestly sought the Lord. So when Mike told me later of his desire for divorce and his pursuit of the gay lifestyle, I could fall back on the fact that I knew my heart was right with the Lord when I decided to marry Mike.
MIKE: The immediate rejection that I expected from Stephanie and my family did not happen. While no one accepted what I was doing as right, no one rejected me. Stephanie had known nothing of my struggle and had no exposure to homosexuality, but she refused to pursue a divorce. She said “God put us together. And I don’t know how, but I know He can repair this situation.”
I realize that the spiritual foundation I received in my youth held firm. As determined as I was, I had no peace. Yet, even in my state of disrupted fellowship with God, I still could not fathom how I could be any different. I continued to pursue my homosexual dream with gusto.
STEPHANIE: In retrospect, during the period of our separation, part of my motivation for not immediately divorcing Mike stemmed from pride: good Christian girls do not get divorced. When all my dreams were shattered, the Lord used the time to work His Word deep into my heart. The first few months that Mike was gone I pleaded with the Lord to change Mike and bring him home. After all of our attempts to lure him home failed, I finally surrendered to the Lord to work on me. I realized that I was either going to be divorced or married to a man I did not really know. Either way, God was going to have to change and grow me. The right words from a friend, the right book, the right counselor — none of these brought me peace. But when I spent time studying the Bible, God spoke and gave me peace and hope beyond my understanding.
MIKE: I went to my parents’ house for Easter. It was a tense weekend, and I vowed that I would file divorce papers the next week and never return to their house again. As I was leaving, my dad gave me the book “You Don’t Have to be Gay,” which I took only to appease him. I believe the Holy Spirit physically caused my hands to open that book, and within two days I had completed it.
It was the first testimony I had ever heard of someone who had left the gay lifestyle. As the author referenced Scripture, I saw the Truth. God did love me just as I was, but He could not leave me there. I sat on the floor of my sparsely furnished apartment and knew I was to go home to Stephanie. I argued for days with God and heard only one response to my arguments: “I love you.”
Stephanie was shocked when I showed up at her door, but she accepted me home. We moved back to Midland and began the arduous process of personal and emotional healing. We attended our first Exodus Freedom Conference and were filled with hope for change. There was no “ex-gay” ministry in Midland, but a wonderful Bible study leader and Christian counselor began meeting with me regularly and simply pointing me to Christ. He helped me unpack my true identity — as a man and a child of God. Though it was difficult, God began to work amazing healing and transformation in both of us. He changed our lives.
STEPHANIE: I was truly surprised when Mike asked to come home. God showed me that He had brought Mike home, that his return was not because of anything I had done or said. I accepted Mike and offered forgiveness purely out of obedience. Over the next couple of years, God worked true love for each other in our hearts and rebuilt the trust in our marriage. We have learned of God’s faithfulness in a real and true way, enabling us to stay committed to one another and to take the steps of faith to which God calls us. The verse that I clung to during the years following our separation is 1 Peter 5:6: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (NIV). The Lord is faithful.
MIKE: The church that I harbored such bitterness and anger toward became a huge part of our healing. Early on, God prompted us to quit looking for a place to have our needs met and instead find a place to serve. We became a part of a new church called Stonegate Fellowship, and it was where God called us into ministry. We started an Exodus Member Ministry and shared our testimony publicly for the first time. God showed us the beauty of being real, and our church responded with an amazing display of love, acceptance and support. Stonegate became the church Stephanie and I had dreamt of — a church that lived out its belief that Jesus Christ can change a life. They ultimately hired me as a senior associate pastor.
I know from God’s Word that He allows struggles in our lives so that His power might be displayed in us and so that He will receive glory. I can think of no better life than to be a vessel for God’s glory and power. It is not about coming to grips with who I am. It is about coming to grips with who He is. That is a life worth living.
We would not trade the struggles we went through for anything. Our “real” marriage is so much better than the marriage we dreamed of for ourselves. God has grown in Stephanie and me a pure and beautiful love for each other and for the Lord, and He has blessed us with three beautiful children. We know we have not arrived, but we also know that the end of the journey will be beyond our imaginations.
Mike Goeke is the associate pastor of counseling at Stonegate Fellowship Church in Midland, Texas. He can be reached at [email protected] Information on the SBC Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals can be found at www.sbcthewayout.com.