Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Lord is my Shepherd - A Personal Testimony

This is a personal testimonial of a fellow Courage brother, 'St. Pope', who has since returned to his hometown province of Antique. 

"The Lord pursues me all the days of my life and I will live in the house of the Lord forever!"

This is how I would describe my journey with the Lord. He always pursues me to return to Him and remain in his love.

In my early years as a child, I was raised by three significant women in my life - my mother and my two aunts. My father is a seafarer and I only met him when I was already five years old when he returned home. However, on his return, I never felt any affection towards him as a father. He was a stranger to me. Although he stayed with us for quite some time, our father and son relationship was not developed. He remained a stranger to me whom I fear for he never smiles.

I grew up in an environment of a family who are mostly devout Catholic and are active in parish and church activities. Their influences draw me to grow in faith to God by being involved in the works of our parish.

At school, I am also excelling as a student. Every end of the school year, it becomes a common practice already for me to go up on stage together with my aunt to receive an award.

I was a good boy. I always wanted to be a good boy. I asked myself, “And for what reason that I wanted to be a good boy?” I thought because it is the right thing to do. But then again, this question revealed a painful truth for what really motivates me to be a good boy. Deep inside me, I wanted this image to stand out to cover up the humiliation that I was experiencing from my peers and to older people who noticed my effeminate behavior. They labeled me with names and made fun of it. They call me ‘bakla’ or ‘bading’. I just could not accept that and I kept on convincing them that I was not what they are calling me. I was hurt not only because of humiliation in public that I was experiencing but because I know for a fact that there is a truth on what they are telling me. I end up convincing myself that there is no truth to what I heard from them. At a very young age, I could not also understand why people looked at gay kids with mockery. I did not want to be mocked; therefore, I do not want to be gay. The other sad truth is I could not open up to my family what I was going through out of shame and fear of rejection from them. I fear that they will not love me anymore.

Yet God is good. When I was in high school, he placed me in an institution where I could grow more in my faith to him. I studied in a Catholic school. There are still people who noticed my effeminate behavior and teased me and mocked me with dreadful names. However, this time, I attempted to become the man just like my peers. I observed, learned and imitated their language and behavior. What moved me for doing this is my longing for acceptance, that sense of belonging to other boys. I was grateful then that God provided me a group of friends where I felt I was accepted and belonged.

When I was in college, God again provided me with a group of friends who accepted and loved me. It was like as if God is telling me that I don’t need to be good at something in order for me to be accepted by other people or for Him to love me. I did not realize it at that time.

Ironically, I was attracted to one of my male friends. The attraction was too strong that I became emotionally dependent to him. My day was not complete if I could not see or talk to him. I did not confess what I was feeling for him and took advantage of our friendship in order to be with him always. But then again, God knows what I was going through. After graduation, our situations forced us to separate ways and we seldom see each other then. After sometime, the attraction faded and what remained is authentic friendship with him. I was eventually able to confess to him my homosexual issues and he accepted me for who I am. We are good friends until now.

My first job at work was in a dominantly male industry – a metal fabrication company where out of around 50 employees in the plant, there were only two females at work. God wanted me to interact and develop more friendship with men.

It was also during that time that I happened to read the book of Rick Warren entitled, “The Purpose Driven Life.” Reading it, God revealed to me this truth - being attracted to the same sex or having an effeminate behavior doesn’t make a person bad. It is the choices that he makes that would determine if his actions are good or bad based on what his Christian faith tells him. This was a liberating truth for me and I finally learned to accept my homosexual issues.

God was never tired of pursuing me. Even when I was working, he sends friends, relatives or colleagues at work who will invite me to prayer meetings and rallies of different Catholic communities like Love Flock, Elim and El Shaddai. While I was busy attending such prayer meetings, I was also living a gay lifestyle discreetly. I have been involved into series of flings and one night interactions with the same sex. I was living a double identity.

God still remained faithful that as He saw me at a loss in handling my homosexual issues, he led me to this Catholic support group called Courage, who caters for men and women struggling with same sex attractions and wanted to be right with God. My healing journey began after I joined this group. Finally, I do not feel alone anymore in my struggles. I have other people who understand really what I was going through and could relate to me. I started to understand myself and God just continuously revealed a lot of truth about his design to me as a man and how I could realign my desires to His will for me.

I have undergone more healing from wounds of the past that led to the development of my homosexual behavior and attractions when I attended the programs of Living Waters. It was a healing program for emotionally and sexually abused persons. I experienced cleansing from my sins and felt renewed.

In God’s perfect timing, He also provided me a community where I can develop and nurture genuine friendship and relationship with real men of God. It was a Catholic movement of single young professionals who wanted to have a personal relationship with Jesus. I became a part of Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon Catholic movement. Healing continued to take place as I grew in my relationship with my fellow brothers and even with sisters. Only then also I realize that I never really knew how to treat women with care and respect. The brothers, through their example, taught me how.

I thought I was already okay. I was wrong. The pressures at work, internet pornography and desires for flesh cause me to take for granted my prayer life and my commitments to my support group and community. Life suddenly becomes overwhelming and I could not take hold of it anymore.

Seeing my situation, God called me to retreat for a while. I resigned from work, left the life at Metro Manila, and went home in my hometown province of Antique. For almost one year, I was not employed. I focused myself in serving our parish youth ministry and in developing our backyard into a vegetable garden. While serving God through the youth ministry, my journey to manhood continued to develop when I became a gardener of our own backyard and front yard. I engage myself to manly activities that I have never done before like building garden boxes, digging and tilling soil, making posts for trellis of beans and ampalaya and many other carpentry works. I enjoyed doing that. It affirms my manhood. I enjoyed being a man. I appreciate the good of the masculine as designed by God.

At present, I serve the parish as a speaker in our weekly Bible study that we have established. God provided me another work to sustain me in my daily needs here in our province, away from the temptations of the metro but very near to my family. I have also re-established a quality prayer life with the Lord.

My journey with the Lord still continues as I strive to live as a good witness of His love for me. There are still issues in my life that cause me to sin and need cleansing and purification.

God has pursued me all through these years of my life and He never failed to show his great love and mercy to me. I may still have battles that need to be won and I believe that with God on my side, there is nothing but victory.

To God be the glory and honor for all that He has done and will do in my life.

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