Tuesday, March 2, 2010
De-Sexualizing the Deeper Need
This is one of my favorite Alan Medinger articles. It reminds me that my deepest needs can not be met by acting out sexually because my most basic needs, i.e., affirmation, acceptance, and affection are not sexual in nature at all.
"Homosexuality is more than sex, and there were other parts of me that needed to be healed and changed."
by Alan P. Medinger
Twenty years ago, God set me free from homosexuality. The nature of my healing – an instant release from sexual fantasies and compulsion – was certainly a miracle. Usually, I don’t share this with people who come to us for the first time for the simple reason that this is the type of healing that everyone would like to receive, but few do. To encourage people to look for this kind of miracle, when in fact, for them the road out of homosexuality may be long and difficult, would be to set them up for discouragement.
At the time of my healing, I assumed that I had been “totally healed” of my homosexuality. After all, I no longer wanted to have sex with men, I desired my wife physically, and I simply did not struggle with lustful thoughts. Over the years, however, I have seen that I needed much more healing and change than I had experienced in that one evening in 1974. Homosexuality is more than sex, and there were other very significant parts of me that needed to be healed and changed.
Unmet needs and sex
Over the years, I have asked myself and the Lord, “What exactly did God do when he set me free from a lifetime of homosexuality?” This is an important question because most often a miracle is an instantaneous occurrence of something that could have happened more naturally over a much longer period of time. For example, the body does occasionally, through something called “a spontaneous remission,” rid itself of cancer – over time. People prayed for my mother-in-law after bone cancer had spread over more than half of her body. In a matter of weeks all vestiges of the cancer were gone, never to return. My wife and I and a friend prayed for my father’s debilitating depression, a state he had been in for almost 40 years, and he was instantly healed. Over time, this might have happened anyway, but through prayer and deliverance, God worked this healing in a moment.
What I believe God did in me in an instant in 1974 was to break the link between my deep unmet needs and sex. The needs did not go away, as I was to discover in coming years, but they were no longer sexualized. What God did in me very suddenly can, and I believe will, be a part of the gradual healing of most men and women who struggle with homosexuality (and with other sexual disorders).
After the healing I still had a powerful longing for some man to take care of me. I still felt like a little boy looking for a father. My sense of my own manhood was so undeveloped that I longed for some strong, together type of man with whom I could connect, and from whom I could draw strength. But, it wasn’t sexual; the thought of sex with a man had become sometimes disgusting, sometimes stupid.
I believe that breaking the sexual link to our needs is an essential part of the healing of most men and women overcoming homosexuality.
As the years have passed those extraordinary needs have gone away to the extent that I don’t believe my needs for male relationships could be any more normal than they are today. In fact, today I see this long, slower moving change as being as extraordinary as the sudden miracle of 1974.
However, in 1974, my needs were still there, and they were extraordinary, but they were no longer sexualized. What happened in my life in an instant can, I believe, happen to you over time. Furthermore, I believe that breaking the sexual link to our needs is an essential part of the healing of most men and women overcoming homosexuality.
Let’s look at this link and at how it may be broken.
Sex as intensifier
First of all, why do we sexualize our needs – or the solution to them? I believe we do this because sex is one of the most intense experiences most people have, and whatever sex touches becomes more alive. Just as salt enhances the flavor of food, sex intensifies the power of any experience. Feeling lonely and tired? Whatever release you find will seem much more immediately satisfying if it has a sexual element.
Sex empowers feelings. It is interesting that we use the word “ecstasy” to describe both sexual and religious experiences.
We use sex because our needs are fundamentally relational, and sex is a relational experience. Some people use food or drugs as a means of dulling the pains that arise out of unmet needs, but the numbing quality they offer is much less satisfying than the vicarious relationships that sex or sexual fantasy offer to those whose needs are primarily relational.
Sex has a power because of its symbolic qualities revolving around touch, control and nurturing. There is a tremendous symbolic power in coming together with another person, when they enter my body, or I theirs. Being enfolded in the arms of another offers feelings of security, nurturing, desirability. Sex can give me a sense of worth, even if I am only being used by another person.
For a man or woman who deals with homosexuality, some of the most intense needs can be met temporarily through sex.
Lonely? Sex makes contact with another person. Bored? Sex is exciting. Feeling worthless? In a sexual encounter (real or imagined) someone wants me. Lacking a sense of gender identity? I can make contact with the masculinity or femininity that I crave. Someone wants me as a man or woman.
The links are powerful and over time, through years of sexual contacts or masturbatory fantasies, they become stronger and stronger. Our needs and a sexual expression of their fulfillment become bonded as by a super-glue or a solder.
How to break the bond
If this is so, how do we break the bond, the link? It is difficult but it can happen – for any of us. First, we need to acknowledge the link. Many people already do. Many first timers come into my office – even some of the most promiscuous – and they will say, “You know, it wasn’t the sex I was after; it was someone to love me.”
Second, we need to pray about it daily. This daily prayer will not only keep alive in us the reality of the link, but where we cannot break the link in our own power, it may release God to provide the solvent that will start to dissolve it.
Third, we need to prayerfully and intentionally determine what the real needs are and then seek to find legitimate ways of meeting them. They are going to be somewhat different for each of us. We should not focus on a need because it is stereotypically present in a homosexual person.
We use sex because our needs are fundamentally relational, and sex is a relational experience.
To identify a need and then to try to find legitimate ways to meet it, is a major life undertaking. If, for example, you are lonely, it is usually not because of circumstances of your surroundings or environment; it probably is because of things in your nature or in your whole pattern of relating to people. To say, “Go out and make some friends,” is worse than cheap advice; it trivializes your problems and needs. Learning how to relate to people in life-giving, non-sexual ways can be a major effort in your life. Nevertheless, it may be an important key to your healing.
Likewise, if your problem is a deep sense of worthlessness, I can tell you that you are of inestimable value because Jesus died for you until I am blue in the face, but until you encounter that reality in your own walk with the Lord, my words are almost no use. To find our worth in who we are in the Lord, rather than in our sexual desirability, may only come about through some years of quiet special times with the One who gives us value, but it may be essential for our healing.
When needs are extreme, often it is only the Lord who can meet them initially. He may, therefore, be your first means of healing. Then as the intensity of the needs diminishes, He will place you where other Christian men and women can start to meet them.
A sense of purpose
A way that may speed the process of breaking the link between our needs and sex, is to seek to find a purpose in life. So many of the needs that drive us sexually – loneliness, boredom, a sense of worthlessness – can be met as we discover a sense of purpose in our lives. A sense of purpose implies living for others or for some higher cause; it means living focused outside of ourselves. Many of the people in our ministry advance their healing greatly while they are serving as group leaders or teachers. Discovering a purpose for our life and facing the inevitable challenges that arise out of trying to fulfill that purpose will increase our awareness of our true dependency on Jesus. A dependency on sex will offer nothing.
As we break the link, time enhances the process. Old patterns of responding are broken. Immediate sexual responses to stimuli become less frequent. Our way of using sex to meet non-sexual needs definitely had addictive qualities. Abstinence breaks addictions. Sometimes our addictions were physiological. After my initial healing, one thing I was conscious of missing was the excitement of cruising, of being on the prowl, the thrill of taking risks in what I was doing. To a certain extent, I was hooked on my own adrenaline. I don’t think anything but the passage of time was needed to take care of this.
At some point in your healing you may be able to think about homosexual sex apart from the real need that was driving you, and you will see that it is not what you really wanted. As with me, it may seem stupid or disgusting.
Don’t worry if an awareness of a need brings to mind a potential sexual “solution.” You are not going to forget that this once brought temporary relief, but as time goes on, you will come to know at the deepest levels of your being, that the sexualization of your needs was a dead-end street.
God wants to heal you. Most of the time He won’t be doing it with the sudden, dramatic miracle; it is going to take a while. But, the process will be speeded up as you are able to unlink your needs and sex. As this happens, He will start meeting those needs, and He will start showing you how other relationships can meet them. Sex never will meet them.
About the author
Alan Medinger is the founder and director emeritus of Regeneration, a ministry to the sexually broken in Baltimore, MD and Fairfax, VA.