QUESTION: I am a Christian woman in my mid-40s dating a pastor who is seven years younger than me. We have been dating for five years. Two years ago he revealed to me that he has a past history of homosexuality (after hinting at it a year before the revelation). He says that it was a long time ago and during that period in his life he was confused and had many issues he was dealing with due to being sexually molested as a child. He says that he is fully delivered from his homosexuality. (We have not had any sexual relations as we both entered the relationship with a desire to honor God.) I want to believe him and he has not given me any indication that I shouldn't believe him. However, I remain skeptical—even fearful—that this will crop up as a problem somewhere down the road. This relationship is leading to marriage, and I feel like I've been frozen in my tracks. Do I continue in the relationship or do I avoid the risk?
HE SAID: With every relationship we enter into there are many issues inherently related to dating, a number of "societal" concerns we must contend with and things we naturally bring from our past experiences. From what you have shared, yours is no exception and carries with it many unique obstacles of its own.
Dating a pastor, a man who is seven years your junior and one who has professed to have had struggled with homosexuality are not insurmountable challenges, however since you remain skeptical if he has fully overcome his past struggle, it is an area that needs to be addressed before moving on in the relationship.
Apart from how the media often portrays homosexuals, many of those who engaged in the activity in the past can be and have been successfully delivered and go on to lead a complete heterosexual life.
Since your relationship of five years is leading to marriage, communications with your boyfriend must be fairly substantial. If you haven't shared your concerns with him, he needs to hear your heart and understand your reservation. Approach it as your issue, not his. It is something you need to find peace in before taking the next step.
Since he was forthright to share this with you, ask him for help in trying to understand what happened and how he was able overcome this problem. Try to have him enlighten you in order to put your mind at ease.
If you haven't done so already, research and educate yourself on child abuse and homosexuality in order to try to understand how each relates to one another. Learn the most you can by speaking to others who have battled with it and find out ways a person can help to encourage those who do.
Given his struggle took place a long time ago and has since become a pastor, I would guess he has been through a scrutiny of interviews and questions from a number of people associated with his church. He must have had to disclose and discuss this to the pastoral selection board and or the elders at his church. Ask if he would have any hesitation if you, in able to get some clarity and closure on the issue, were to discuss your feelings with any of them.
If your boyfriend has received help in coping with his childhood abuse, if he has asked God for forgiveness of his transgressions as a youth, if he has accepted the grace God offers all of us for our mistakes and sins, if he has made amends and has been living a righteous life from then on out, he has done all he can.
Oftentimes we look for a quick answer or want someone to tell us what to do in a difficult dilemma, but you need to pray and ask God for the direction you need to go. Search your own heart for the answer.
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results (James 5:16).
Only you can decide if you can live with this knowledge of his past. It is your choice to observe and accept the actions of his heart and wholeheartedly trust him or not.
In the end, it is your decision whether you are going to further the relationship or not.
SHE SAID: As someone whose family has been affected by the devastation that homosexuality can wreak in a marriage (and in a family), I can definitely understand your hesitation in going forward in this relationship—and even toward marriage.
This is a very difficult question to answer with just a "yes" or a "no," as I think the answer will be different for anyone reading this. What may "freeze" one person in his or her tracks in a relationship may not be what freezes someone else. If someone has a past of promiscuity or drug dependency or crime or abuse or pornography or whatever, the issue needs to be weighed very carefully by the other person in the relationship. The baggage that results from any of our past or present sin issues or struggles (whatever they may be) is brought with someone into a relationship. And so each person must decide what he or she can handle. Two become one in marriage and will bear each other's burdens. Ask any married couple with a healthy relationship who you know, and they will verify that.
In your situation, I will first answer by cautioning you to not move forward unless you have a sense of peace in this situation.
By the time someone is in his or her late 30s to mid-40s, then the mold is pretty much set. We are who we are by that point in life. That is not saying that God cannot do a miraculous work in our lives, but it is to say that something we struggle with today will likely be something we struggle with for the rest of our lives. You can confirm that fairly easily by just doing an informal poll with elderly people you might know (family or otherwise) and ask them what is something they've struggled with for long periods in their lives (if not their entire lifetimes).
Personally, I know what I struggle with in regards to sin issues, and it hasn't changed in many years and crops up just when I feel like I've "conquered" it or am not tempted anymore. But when I stumble, I find that I am humbled and am once again seeking God's continuing cleansing and restorative work in me. In times like that, I realize how much I need a wonderful, merciful Savior and his redeeming blood to cover me and my transgressions. Amen?
In any type of serious life struggle, many believers look to the Apostle Paul as an example of someone who dealt with something that continually afflicted him—a thorn in his flesh. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, we read:
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in my weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
We don't know for sure what Paul's thorn was—whether it was a physical ailment, spiritual attacks or just what. But we do know that he greatly struggled with it, and it caused him to cry out to the Father for relief. Paul was humbled, and because of his weakness Christ's power was displayed mightily through his life (Also, think of all that Paul accomplished for the Kingdom in his work of spreading the Gospel and in writing a large portion of the New Testament—God was still glorified through Paul's life, thorn in his flesh and all!).
And so I would ask if you feel like your boyfriend has reached this same stage that Paul describes in these verses. Yes, he says that he is "fully delivered" from his homosexuality, but what does that really mean? Has he never again been tempted with feelings or desires? Has he never been attracted to another man? Has he implemented safeguards or measures in his life to help protect him against acting out? Does he have close, trustworthy friends who are providing a safe place where he can open up and share and who are also keeping him accountable?
You do not want to enter into a marital relationship if you will constantly be wondering and thinking and worried about whether or not he will want to return to the homosexual lifestyle. While I'm thankful he has been honest with you—as many might have kept this hidden and gone ahead and married someone without sharing this important information—I am wondering why you are still only dating after five years. Why has the relationship not progressed further after such a long time period? As I'm sure you know, dating for this long "later in life" is a lot different than in your late teens or twenties. By this stage, you should be emotionally mature enough (and know if you desire someone enough for marriage) earlier on in the relationship process. You must also ask yourself how long you are willing to wait for this man. Is it worth it or is God telling you otherwise and that it's time to move on?
At this point, all you can do is bring the matter before the Lord and ask your brothers and sisters in Christ to join you in praying for direction, so that you will know what to do if or when what is keeping you "frozen" in your tracks begins to melt away and no longer becomes an obstacle in your heart and in your mind.
HE is … Cliff Young, a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and a veteran single of many decades. He has traveled the world in search of fresh experiences, serving opportunities, and the perfect woman (for him) and has found that his investments in God, career and youth ministry have paid off in priceless dividends.
SHE is … Laura MacCorkle, Senior Editor at Crosswalk.com. She loves God, her family and her friends. Singleness has taught her patience, deepened her walk with the Lord and afforded her countless (who's counting anyway?) opportunities to whip up an amazing three-course meal for one.
DISCLAIMER: We are not trained psychologists or licensed professionals. We're just average folk who understand what it's like to live the solo life in the 21st century. We believe that the Bible is our go-to guide for answers to all of life's questions, and it's where we'll go for guidance when responding to your questions. Also, it's important to note that we write our answers separately (we think they sound eerily similar sometimes, too!).
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**This column first published on October 28, 2010.