Coming Home to Our True Sexuality
About the Guest
Our bodies are a gift from God. Andrew Comiskey, founder of Desert Stream Ministries, talks about the same-sex attraction that began as a boy and influenced him in young adulthood. Through the love of his family and even greater love of his God, Andrew tells how he began to understand the beauty and power of his God-given sexuality and how he could become a good gift to the opposite sex.
Andrew ComiskeyAndrew Comiskey (M.Div., Fuller Theological Seminary) is an American conservative Christian political activist and is the founder of Desert Stream Ministries, a former ministry of Exodus International. He has written several books based on his experience with avoiding homosexual relationships and behaviors, and gives seminars to those who wish to be free from such relationships and behaviors. He is considered to be a prominent ex-gay leader, and has appeared as a guest on The 700 Club.
Our bodies are a gift from God.
Coming Home to Our True Sexuality
Bob: What is more true about you – your spiritual identity or your sexual identity? Here’s Andrew Comiskey:
Andrew: The gay self is a powerful, diabolical construction that does resist the grace that could be an individual’s who is willing to say, “You know what? I’m going to lay down my gay self for the sake of coming to know Jesus Christ.” I am so sick of all my fabrications, of all the selves I have constructed. Yes, in light of my woundings. Yes, in light of the deprivations. Yes, in light of the neglect. Whatever!
You know that’s true for every one of us, but at the end of the day, what are we clothed in – Jesus Christ or our own constructs?
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, September 3rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll talk today with Andy Comiskey about what it means for a man’s sexual identity to come under the Lordship of Christ.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I guess if you’d have told me twenty years ago that a robust discussion of issues related to human sexuality would be a part of our regular cultural conversation, I would have been surprised, but we are in that place. Whether it’s the political arena we’re in or the spiritual environment we find ourselves in, this issue is front and center in the minds of Americans.
Dennis: And it ought to be front and center for those of us in the Christian community to unashamedly be able to engage in dialogue about human sexuality and how that is part of reflecting and honoring God.
In fact, I was thinking as we were preparing for today’s broadcast, I was thinking about Genesis, chapter one, verse 26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” Then in verse 27, it says, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God, He created him; male and female, He created them.” If it’s a part of the image-bearing responsibility of us as human beings, we ought to be able to have a healthy discussion about this and be able to talk honestly, but at the same time, biblically, about how God made us to reflect who He is and how sexuality is a part of that.
A gentleman who’s going to help us do that is the author of a new book called Naked Surrender: Coming Home to Our True Sexuality. Andrew Comiskey joins us on FamilyLife Today. Andrew, welcome to the broadcast.
Andrew: Thank you. I’m so happy to be here.
Dennis: He is the Executive Director and Founder of Desert Stream Ministries and he lives in Kansas City today.
Dennis: You’re really making a case for how we, as believers and followers of Christ, need to engage in these conversations. Why is that?
Andrew: Because something as profound as being called by God to represent Him in these bodies and in how we relate to our own gender and the opposite gender is crucial to our spirituality and to our being faithful to the call to reflect Him.
So, something as profound and important as that requires a place – a context – within our discipleship as believers to come together and say, “Hey, this isn’t working for me!” Or, “It is . . . and let me help you.”
So I think as the brokenness of our sexuality becomes apparent – you mentioned how much we need a robust conversation. It’s not because we’re doing so great at it but because we’ve made such a mess of our sexuality.
Dennis: No doubt. No doubt.
Andrew: We need safe places to gather and say, “I want to be true and I’m not being true.” I believe that’s what the conversation could and should be about.
Dennis: My friend and mentor, Dr. Howard Hendricks, said to me early in my ministry -- I’ve never forgotten this statement. He said, “We should not be ashamed to discuss that which God was not ashamed to create.”
Dennis: And yet it seems like, to your point, the Christian community, at points, is pretty confused.
Bob: And if we don’t have the conversation, then the brokenness stays broken.
Bob: Part of the way the brokenness is addressed is through dialogue and through story and through sharing what’s gone on in our lives. You had a background of severe brokenness that started when you were very young, didn’t it?
Andrew: Yes. My story involves same-sex attraction and from pretty early on I became aware that there was, at the very least, a vulnerability – a shameful nakedness – at the experience of my own gender. So, for me, the disintegration had to do with no lack of clarity in regards to biologically being a male; but my psychological and spiritual experience of being a male was one of shame, of feeling flawed and inadequate.
There are many factors that contributed to that, but the result of this exposure – I don’t quite know even how to describe it – was an awareness of same-sex attraction; of feelings mid-childhood, later-childhood that developed into a full-blown case of homosexuality, that in my cultural experience -- Southern California -- I began to act on fairly early.
Dennis: How early?
Andrew: Like eleven or twelve.
Then, pretty early on, between junior high and high school, I began to actually identify as a homosexual, so my experience of homosexuality was somewhat early because the culture then – 1970’s in Southern California – was also very precocious.
Andrew: That was kind of a “coming out” time – pre-AIDS. I had two brothers whom I had become disconnected with. They had become born-again Christians in Southern California – the “Jesus People” movement, not far from the time of Campus Crusade’s emergence.
Andrew: People were getting saved! You know, it was a good thing.
Dennis: Were you estranged from them?
Andrew: I was. Their first outreaches to me, though I couldn’t receive it, were very loving.
Andrew: Very warm. Borne out of - as awkward as it was, as they were, it was borne out of a concern for my well-being that I had never had. All I recall from them was them pointing out how freakish I was, you know? Or how unmanly I was; or how unable I was to be their compadre.
So when I could perceive them responding to me with mercy and with a care for me that I didn’t understand at the time at all, nor was I interested in their Jesus, but I could see their care, that spoke so loudly to me that I think it did prime me in a way and open me up a little bit more to them. On this college campus in Southern California – UCLA – there was a group of ministers or something that were meeting, campus ministers. It was called “The Bible and Homosexuality.” I thought, “Well, that’s interesting.” So I went.
It was essentially a talk about gay rights. They were all sort of liberals and probably believed everything or nothing – I don’t know what they were about. I thought, “You’re here representing this Jesus and all you can say is ‘It’s OK to be gay’?!” I said, “A, you obviously don’t know anything about homosexuality or you wouldn’t be saying, ‘It’s OK to be gay,’” as one who was kind of in the midst of a lot of conflict at this point about his homosexuality.
“And, secondly, if all you can say is that your God pats people on the back and says, ‘It’s OK’, what kind of a God are you serving?” That was my response to these ministers.
Bob: So you saw your homosexuality in college – I mean here you are living openly as a gay man – but you saw it as a broken sexuality then?
I’m thinking about the number of people today who would say, “There’s nothing broken. This is who I am.”
Andrew: Yes. Yes, well it may very well be, existentially, who you think you are, but it’s still broken. Hello? People tend to equate an authentic experience of being with “I’m OK.” In other words, if I’m experiencing this, it must be OK. Hello!? We can experience a lot of things. That may be the truest sign that I am not OK.
So even though I was free to express my homosexuality – I was free to go out with whomever I want; I was free to come home; I was free to stay out. I was away from home; you know what I’m saying?!
Dennis: Right, right.
Andrew: But at the end of the day, or at the end of the long night, whatever the case may be, you’ve got to wake up and say, “Where am I going? What is this about? Do I believe what I just said to that guy? Do I believe that guy can deliver on what he said to me?” I had to admit, “I don’t think I believe him, and I don’t think I believe my capacity to do that either.”
For me, this is all broken ground for the God-man to dive into. I think in a way, I was beginning to cry out for mercy. God was faithful to send good, winsome people who were working out their lives honestly; not people who were hiding behind religious veils and thick family Bibles. People who were saying, “This is my life and this is how Jesus can really make a difference.”
That was appealing to me. That was the beginning of my coming into a saving awareness of Jesus Christ.
Dennis: Andrew, on more than one occasion just as you’ve talked here, you’ve mentioned how God used your brothers who had become followers of Christ; some Jesus freaks on your college campus who did a better job connecting; and still yet, other people as well.
Dennis: You really took that in a direction that I didn’t think you would go. I wanted to ask you the question: It seems to me, Andrew, that the Christian community really doesn’t know how to relate to people in the gay community. I’m not just trying to stereotype us; maybe it’s a more of a commentary on where I’ve come from. I was pretty judgmental.
Dennis: I would have been in that camp. I think I’ve grown some in the last ten years in trying to realize that we’re all broken, to your point. We’d better not make one sin worse than another sin in the sense of saying, “You’re not worthy of being related to. . .”
Dennis: Or piously pointing our fingers. I just was going to ask you what coaching you would give a follower of Christ in relating to a gay person. Maybe they work with them; maybe they’re a neighbor.
Andrew: First of all, I would say to get rid of the labeling. Don’t call them “gay.” Paul says, “See no one from a worldly point of view.” So don’t fall into the labeling which has now become so popular. “Oh, they’re gay.” When you say that, you’re essentially saying, “Your essential nature is homosexuality.”
Now, they may say, “That is my nature!” But then we have to say, “Actually, that’s not true.” Beginning with what you just read in Genesis: God created us as male and female; He created us to bear His image as male and female, meaning that all human beings are under the divine command to work out their salvation in such a way that enables them to be good offerings to the opposite gender.
Now, we all know that we all mess up toward that end and we can also take on identities that seem to blunt that directive. But we as Christians should never see anyone in that light!
When I hear people say that: “Oh, he’s gay” or “Oh, my sister’s a lesbian,” I think, “Your sister is so much more!” Why are you agreeing with the box that she has put herself in or that others have put her in?
Dennis: So you’re saying we’re kind of authenticating . . . ?
Andrew: Yes, but I think your point is also really valid and that is: how do I keep the conversation going? How do I love this person? How do I see . . .?
Dennis: How do I live . . .?
Dennis: How do I live with this person? I mean in a really healthy way where I’m reflecting the love of Christ like your brothers and like your friends on the college campus.
I would see them according to what they need. What they need is the mercy of God; they need the mercy of God. I think here, just basic human empathy helps -- human empathy, now, under the power of the Holy Spirit. You know your own need to get saved, right? You know the ways in which you fail, the ways in which you blow it, the ways in which your wife mirrors back your cringing religious statements or whatever. I’m married now . . .
So the way that your colleagues mirror the horror of your Christianity sometimes when it gets off, right? If that’s true for you, how much more for someone who doesn’t even know the saving love of Jesus?
So immediately when I’m engaging with men or women that I know are dealing with SSA (same-sex attraction) and maybe have lovers, and you know, really don’t want to talk about my conversion experience, frankly, at this point in time – that’s apparent! I just think, “Lord, help me just to love them and, whatever they’re willing to give me, Lord, to see before and behind them, above them, beneath them, their need for the mercy of God.”
Andrew: So, for me it becomes – I’m just kind of present, trying to stay open in that mercy. And then, if the opportunity arises, honestly, I’m just an evangelist at heart. I just want to let them know how purely good God has been to me in light of what a mess I’m still making of it as a Christian.
So people are open at different seasons of their lives. I may not be the one to take them very far; usually I am not. I wish I were. I wish I was the agent of that precious moment when people go from darkness to light. I’m usually just removing a few weeds and realizing I’m passing through, right?
So I don’t take it all on myself, the whole thing, nor should parents of kids who are dealing with same-sex attraction or siblings or, in some cases now, kids whose parents have come out with false nobility saying, “I’m gay and I’m going to be authentic,” kids having to pray for their wayward parents. It’s a travesty, really.
At the end of the day, it’s still about the mercy of God. If it’s not going to be about the mercy, then it will be about the judgment. That’s God’s business. My goal is to do all that I can to seek to impart the mercy and hope for the best.
Dennis: After you became a follower of Christ and began to experience some sense of wholeness and healing --not that you became perfect; you’ve made that real clear . . .
Dennis: . . . you met a young lady to whom you became attracted?
Dennis: How did you meet her? How did God work that out?
Andrew: That is beautiful! I was working out these issues with my own gender. There came a point where I thought, “I’m ready to go beyond this. I’m ready to go beyond just working things out with same-sex friends.” There became this longing for a relationship with the opposite gender.
I was in this great community and there were several great women who I liked; friends and so on and so forth. But there was this particular woman that I was working with - actually at a Christian bookstore in Westwood – I just loved this woman! She was attractive to me; she was dynamic to me. We became good friends, better friends, started dating.
That was when my pastor said, “Why don’t you start helping people?” We started meeting with a group of guys in West Hollywood. There was kind of a well-known designer in West Hollywood who had just become a Christian, so he opened his house up and he died of AIDS soon after, maybe a year or so after. AIDS was just getting a name at that time, so there were a lot of sick people.
We were right there, you know, in the midst of it all, helping people to come to know Jesus. One group became another group which became another group, and we started putting together some of the keys that seemed helpful for people.
I was at Fuller Seminary at this time, studying psychology and theology, so all of that was helpful. This became the basis for a simple, but I think profound, offering that we were equipping lay people in our communities to run. We couldn’t do all of it, by any means. That was the beginning of Living Waters, this group that Naked Surrender speaks of.
What was really important, too, was that even though it began as a group particularly for people coming out of homosexuality, it was apparent that the church predominantly was dealing with heterosexual brokenness. So as people found out that there was this pretty good, safe, well-boundaried place where people were coming and working out issues of same-sex attraction, we thought, “Well, why don’t you come and work out your sexual addiction or your sexual abuse or marital infidelity or whatever?”
It began to become a slightly heterogeneous group as well.
Bob: And that’s the direction you’ve taken in the book is not to just exclusively deal with homosexual brokenness . . .
Bob: But to deal with sexual brokenness all around. All of us have that, don’t we?
Bob: I mean, it’s a part of the shared human experience that we’ve got parts of our sexuality or the whole of our sexuality that needs to be redeemed.
Dennis: You know, I started the broadcast by reading Genesis, chapter one, talking about how we reflect the image and glory of God through our maleness and femaleness.
Dennis: It’s interesting in John, chapter 1, verse 14, it speaks of reflecting the glory of God, and it’s talking about how Jesus did it. It says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen His glory; glory as of the only Son from the Father,” and then it concludes, “full of grace and truth.”
Dennis: Not just full of grace; not just full of truth; but full of grace and truth. I’ve been in a number of conversations recently with moms and dads, husbands, wives, business leaders about how we live out our Christian faith, being followers of Christ in a culture where issues of same-sex marriage and same-sex attraction are front and center.
I mean, the table is set on numerous fronts: politically, educationally. We, as Christians, shouldn’t make this a battleground. We should do it as Jesus did it. Jesus came full of grace – which is forgiveness and mercy and the abundance of God’s goodness toward us, as you mentioned.
But, also, He was full of truth. He didn’t back away from the truth; He didn’t bend it to the whims of the culture. He stood firm and as a result He had a great impact on people’s lives because He loved perfectly and He engaged and spoke truth to them perfectly. That’s my assignment.
Dennis: Now, I might not do a very good job of that, but that is my assignment: to call upon Him to live in and through me and relate to other people. Andrew, I really think you’ve done a great job here of encouraging our listeners to better understand the struggles of those who struggle with human sexuality – their own, their own conflicts.
I just appreciate you coming and joining with us and for your book, Naked Surrender, and all the ministry that’s going to have in people’s lives. Thanks for joining us.
Andrew: Thank you so much.
Bob: We have copies of the book Naked Surrender in our FamilyLife Today resource center. You can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY if you’re interested in getting a copy of the book. Again, our toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY or you can order online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
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