Just Another Miracle
by James M. Gentile
What seems to be an
insurmountable, life-gripping problem to us, in God’s loving
eyes, is just another miracle waiting to happen!
My life was pretty normal “run-of- the-mill”
suburbia until age six, when my parents were divorced. From
then on my world was turned upside down, and I experienced
many things children should not see until much later on
in life. I left my childhood home and moved to several
apartments (changing schools often) before my mother remarried
and purchased another home. I was able to see my father
every other weekend and vacation with him during several
weeks in the summer.
While my parents and step-parents were generous
people, they were struggling themselves with many of life’s
issues. Even if they would have recognized my struggle,
they had little or no resources left to minister emotionally
to my needs. The way a parent showed they cared back then,
was to provide their children with things to live the good
life, and that necessitated full time jobs. We all learned
to do, not simply be. Perfectionism “ran wild” in my mother
and expectations for good grades and behavior were paramount.
My father: was a gentle, humorous man who
never quite recovered from the divorce and sought others’
approval by helping anyone who asked. Consequently, on
my weekend visit, he was absent more than present, and I
was left to fill my time with friends and neighbors. I
grew up with an ache of loneliness, over-sensitive to the
world around me, always feeling like an orphan because of
the lack of emotional attention from my parents. No grandparents
were living, and all other relatives lived six to ten hours
At age eight I found a large supply of pornography
in my old bedroom in my father’s house. He had rented that
room to a co-worker, and when I was home alone, I happened
to come upon it. From that point on, I would develop hunger
for fantasy and a compulsive habit of masturbation that
would enslave me well into my adult years. Involvement
in sports became a nightmare as I had never hit, caught
or thrown a ball (both my father and step- father participated
only in spectator sports – watching TV sports). Name calling
by other kids only added to my confusion, and soon I began
feeling so lousy about my self that I began to make vows
that I never wanted to be like my parents, while at the same time
desperately desiring their love.
A defensive detachment occurred with my parents.
This means I put up an emotional wall around my heart to
keep the pain of rejection out, not realizing that it also
kept love from coming in. I also began experiencing an ambivalence
toward other boys. I wanted to be like them and be included,
yet hated the way they behaved (tough and teasing). Inadequacy
at sports added to my withdrawal. Silent confusion fueled
my need and set me up for the sexual abuse ahead.
My sexual abuse
was non-violent and seemed to meet a need I had for feeling
close to an older male. Although I knew intuitively at
age eight that it was wrong, it was as if I were dying of
thirst in an emotional desert, and someone had offered me
a glass of water. True,
the water was polluted and poisoned but to someone in my position,
"dirty" water was better than none at all.In this my search for intimacy, I became stuck developmentally and unconsciously
bought the homosexual lie. Well, “I must be born this
way.” All my young life, all I was drawn to was men. Of
course, I was operating out of a reparative drive to meet
a legitimate love need for the same sex parent. When puberty
hit, this drive became intensely sexual, and I experienced
my first orgasm with a man. I was hooked! While not a conscious
decision, I chose sex because it was the closest thing to
intimacy which I had known.
Unconditional love was a foreign concept,
and this also laid the roots for my driven perfectionism
that attempted to compensate for my mounting guilt and shame.
I was catapulted into the adult sexual world inside, while
wrapped in an exterior of squeaky clean, proper childhood
behavior. I learned early on to act the part that was expected.
My young heart yearned for love and acceptance. I learned
to live with the secret and the shame; believing I was a
“black sheep” and somehow the cause of the dirty desires
in my heart.
In tenth grade, at the age of fifteen, I
attended a public school for the first time. Prior to that,
I went to Catholic schools. A classmate of mine invited
me to her teen Bible study. I thought she was so beautiful,
both inside and out, that I could not help but say, “yes.”
I intuitively knew that she had something that I did not.
She had a certain calmness about her that enabled her to
handle teenage crises almost effortlessly. I figured if
she got that from this Bible study, I wanted it too! After
all, my life was far from calm even though I had gone to
church every Sunday since I was born and did all the “right
things” I was told. My secret behavior forced me to live
a double life, driven by sexual fantasy and guilt.
I remember sitting at this Bible study, amazed
at these other kids who really seemed to believe what they
were saying and praying about. It was like they were best
buddies with God or something. Could it be true that I knew
Jesus only as a distant, historical and conditional Savior
and had missed the truth about His ability to be intimate,
real and in- side me?
Within one week, I asked Christ, “If You
are real, and this can actually happen, please forgive me
for all the junk I have done, take away these sins, and
come into my life. I am desperate and ready to let go of
the rope I have been hanging on to for years.” Well, with
a warmth and tingling that started at the center of my chest,
and ended with tears streaming down my face, I knew He had
answered my heart’s cry. I could not explain it, but I knew
beyond the shadow of a doubt, that He came into me and He
was real and this was true.
Since I accepted Jesus, my life has never
been the same! I have learned to forgive my parents, myself
and others. Although this process took longer than I care
to admit, it has been a thorough process of healing that
continues to this day. The Bible has become a living source
that I am able to understand. Prayer has become vital communication,
not an empty ritual that seemed to watch requests bounce
off the ceiling and land on the floor. The fellowship of
other Christians became a surrogate family.
The man who led the teen Bible study belonged
to a small United Methodist Church that was experiencing
the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
He and his wife opened their hearts and home to me, and although
they knew little about homosexuality, they knew lots about
love. They held me and cried with me and, yes, even
admonished me over a period of several years. This was true
discipleship. As I grew up in Christ, the pastor and his
family also came along side of me to continue the work God
had for me to do. Again the process took time and tears,
but the benefits were unimaginable. These two families loved
me unconditionally and taught me how to reach out and love
my natural family like never before. They gave me the support
to stand up and be counted and to tell my story. With their
encouragement and the Lord’s strength, I now have faith
to believe what I cannot see and know that my existence
is not an accident.
The years of depression
are over. Joy that is inexpressible has replaced it.
joy that comes not from doing, but from simply being. But
this is just the beginning of the miracle. I know that there
are many more to come – that is the way my Heavenly Father
is. Each phase of my life seems to bring another miracle.
I am becoming what I was created to be.
Finally, I have love; love to give, and love
to receive. God has restored the very thing that was destroyed
in my life, FAMILY and sense of belonging! My life verse
is Psalm 40: 1-3:
“I waited for the Lord;
and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
He brought me out of a horrible pit,
out of the miry clay,
and set my feet upon a rock,
and established my goings. ”
And he hath put a new song in my
even praise unto our God:
many shall see it and fear,
and shall trust in the Lord.”
Perhaps the most unexpected miracle to date
is that now, both of my parents have a relationship with
Christ. This was a twenty year old prayer that has been
answered. We are all together in church on Sunday, loving
God and each other sincerely like never before. They are
both there for me and my children. God truly has kept His
promise to me to “…restore the years that the locust has
eaten…” (Joel 2:25). The years of waste and rejection
are gone. Love has healed the wounds!
From sexual, emotional and spiritual brokenness
to a life that is abundant is no small miracle! As I look
into the eyes of my beautiful wife and three sons, I realize
the loving promise of God to make all things new. By His
grace, “…all things work together for good to those who
love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
(Romans 8:28) With God all things are possible. What seems
to be an insurmountable, life-gripping problem to us, in
His loving eyes, is just another miracle waiting
The author lives in the Philadelphia suburbs,
and serves as the Executive Director of Transforming
Congregations. He is a Registered Nurse, but has given
up his nursing career to engage in full time ministry. He
also has earned degrees in ministry and a Masters Degree
in Counseling. He was a lay delegate to the Northeastern
Jurisdictional Conference in 1992.