In the fall of 1981, as an 18-year-old aspiring artist with a dream and a freshman at one of New York's art colleges, I reached one of the darkest periods in my life. On a cold, rainy night far away from home, I acted out on feelings I'd had throughout my entire childhood and teen years—I had my first homosexual encounter with another student. After drinking alcohol at a school party and getting drunk for the first time ever, something I swore I never would do because of my family’s past, my life literally changed in one night. I was plummeted into the world of homosexuality.
After only a few short months in art school, I suffered from a very severe depression, dropped out of school, and returned home to my family in Connecticut.
I found many of my old high schools friends had also "come out" as homosexuals, and I became very active in the homosexual bar scene. I lived for the night—my drinking became worse, I started using cocaine to help alleviate my mental turmoil, and found much love and acceptance by other men.
I had numerous one-night stands. I felt I was finally "me." However, my drug addiction got worse, to the point where I became a cocaine dealer just to support my habit. I lost my art business to drugs, as well as my dignity to a life based upon a perverse, sensual, and decrepit lifestyle I couldn’t break free from.
It was at this point that many of my friends and one-night encounters began to get sick, and no one knew why. Tragically, many of these friends became so ill, they died. This sickness was the beginning of the AIDS epidemic.Things only grew worse and, for a period of six years, I declined morally, mentally, and physically.
It was in the winter of 1987 after a three-day cocaine and alcohol binge that I cried out for help. After being up all night and running out of cocaine, I looked in the mirror and was shocked at the reflection. Due to my cocaine abuse, as well as years of bulimia, at almost six feet tall, I saw a 135-pound living skeleton staring back at me, and I began to cry. I ran down to a pay phone on the corner and called for help. I admitted myself into an intensive drug rehabilitation program and began my recovery as an impatient for three months at a local facility. It was at this point that I began to see the Lord working in my life.
Within a few short months, I was alcohol and drug free, as well as freed from my bulimia. I had gained about 25 lbs. and was feeling great. However, I still had a deep, dark secret past hidden inside of me. What was I to do with my homosexuality? Deep down inside, I knew it was wrong, yet I was just suppressing my feelings. After dating a few women, I found myself one night back again at a local gay bar. I didn't drink—but that night I met a man that I fell in love with, and began a three-year live-in relationship with him.
It seemed I had it all—my homosexual lifestyle and love, without the drugs, alcohol, and bulimia, a great job, abeautiful home, and great homosexual friends. I even attended church faithfully every week—and felt I was living a dream. But God wasn't done with me yet—in fact, He had just started.
My doorbell rang, and it was my friend, Kathy, a very dear friend for years who had seen me through the good and badtimes of my life. Kathy held a Bible in her hand and asked if she could come in and talk with me. She told me she had left her religious upbringing and had become a real Christian. She told me how Jesus Christ changed her life and how, according to the Bible, homosexuality was wrong—it was a sin and an abomination in God's eyes—how according to the Bible, I was not "born gay"—and that Jesus could indeed change my heart, my life, and set me completely free—today. I listened intently as she spoke with such authority and conviction, and something inside of me told me she was right. After almost an hour of listening to her and debating with her, she asked me if I wanted to pray with her and ask Jesus Christ into my heart. I told her no. I told her I would take the Bible she offered me, then she left.
That day, as Kathy read many of the scriptures to me—Leviticus, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, and Romans, the Word of God cut right through me. I clearly saw my homosexuality for the first time as God saw it—as sin. Thereafter, anytime something happened between me and my partner sexually, I found myself praying for forgiveness to a God I didn't know—on my bathroom floor. The Lord was tugging at my heart strings and I knew it.
The tugging became so hard and clear, a little over a year and a half later, I left my partner, my job, my family—everything—and I headed off to Provincetown, Massachusetts—a homosexual subculture—to live for a summer, to see if I could reconcile this pull between being a homosexual and a Christian. Did I have to choose one or the other, or could I be both at the same time in God's eyes?
Well, in that summer of 1991, God opened my eyes to the truth and perverseness of the homosexual lifestyle. I saw it all in full swing, in all its glory—transsexuals, transvestites, sadomasochists—men and women doing things one could never even imagine.
After five months in Provincetown, I returned home to my former partner begging for his forgiveness for leaving him. I was sorry, and I was going to put this "Christian" business aside. After only four short months in his home by myself, while wrapping Christmas presents, I happened to flip through radio stations and came across a Christian one. A man was singing a song and I heard the lyrics about "men marching for their right to sin." I knew exactly what the song was talking about—it was talking about me. I may have put God on the back burner—but He was still chasing after me.
On New Year's eve in 1991, I attended a homosexual party with my partner and, for the first time ever in my life—I felt"dirty." I hated myself. I hated my lifestyle. But I just couldn't break free...
It was a new year, and I was going crazy on the inside due to this emotional struggle. I couldn't take it anymore—not for even one more day. I phoned my friend, Kathy, and told her I was going to move back to Provincetown, MA for good and completely give myself over to the homosexual lifestyle. I would be a "gay" Christian. And if God didn't accept me the way that I felt HE made me...then I wanted NOTHING to do with Him.
I felt as if I had lost my soul to my homosexual lifestyle and, on the telephone with Kathy, I was really crying out forhelp on the inside.
That's when Jesus Christ stepped in.
As usual, Kathy read to me from the Bible one last time, from the book of Romans, how God will "call" you—and if He keeps calling you and you hear, yet harden your heart, it may come to a point where He will make you a "reprobate" in His sight, give you completely over to your sin, and allow you to believe "the lie." At that point, according to the Bible, you have basically sealed your destiny away from God forever.
Her words once again pierced through my heart and scared me so much, I asked her what I needed to do, and she told me right now to pray to Jesus—ask Him to deliver me from the homosexuality—ask Him to forgive me for my sins, and to come into my heart and life, be my Lord and Saviour, and to take control.
At that moment, I prayed to the Lord and completely repented of my homosexuality—I agreed with God about my sin for the very first time. At that freeing moment of repentance and salvation, I physically felt the peace of God upon me—the heavy load of bricks I carried on my shoulders for my entire life was removed from me. That day in January of 1992, on the telephone, I asked Jesus to come into my heart—and He set me free from my sin. That day, God changed my life forever, and I will be eternally grateful to Him for what He did.
Within two weeks of that time, I moved out of my partner's home and was on my way and walking with Jesus Christ.
Within a few months of accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior, I knew deep down I had to deal with the main root causes of my homosexuality in order to move on with my life. For me, it was so clear: it was my broken relationship with my father, and finally addressing a painful experience I never shared with anyone: being molested at the age of 11.
For years, I desired only one thing: my father's love. I craved his attention, his affection, his approval, and, most importantly, his acceptance. I knew that just as Jesus had forgiven me for all of my sins—past, present and future—I now needed to extend that forgiveness that I received to the man whom I hated and, at the same time, loved: my father.
After confronting my father one day in his home, pouring out my heart and really talking for the very first time—my father opened up and shared some very deep things with me he had never told me—or anyone. He asked for my forgiveness, I forgave him immediately, and our broken relationship was reconciled. In addition, I let go of the deep bitterness and anger I held toward the individual who molested me in middle school -- another male student. I felt that individual ruined my life and I carried that pain, guilt, and disgust for over 17 years. I finally let it go and forgave him in my heart.
True forgiveness was extended and the chains that had bound me for years were unshackled. And something more incredible happened that I never expected: for the very first time that day, at 28 years old, my father told me, "I love you."
Today, both my mother and father are gone. My mother died in 1998, and my father passed away in 2008. Our father-son relationship was reconciled, and my father and I shared many wonderful years together until the day he died. I loved my dad, and from that day in his kitchen in 1992, he always shared and showed his love for me. I realized for all of those years I struggled with homosexuality, I was vainly looking for the love of my father in the arms of other men. By God's grace, I was able to obtain the real thing.
I must say, it has been an incredible journey with the Lord. Within that first year of becoming a Christian, I was engaged to a beautiful Christian woman, Irene, who knew me as a homosexual and had been praying for me for years. We were married on June 13, 1993, before 200 family members, friends, and guests. Today, more than 20 years later—and very happily married—God has blessed us with two other miracles—our first child, our beautiful daughter, Chloe Catherine, born in 1998, and our wonderful son, Blake Stephen, born on Chloe's birthday in 2000. Chloe's middle name is in dedication to my friend, Kathy, who never gave up on me—a vessel of God whom He used to change my life and my destiny forever.
Today, life is wonderful! I have been set free, and it is all because of Jesus Christ and His love for me. Jesus is the answer for all of our needs, no matter what they are. You may be or know a homosexual individual. Understand—God deeply loves the individual—He just hates sin—all kinds of sin. And I tell you this with everything that is within me: Jesus Christ is our ONLY HOPE!
Remember, with God, nothing is impossible! Believe me, I know. I do believe in miracles—I believe in miracles, for I've seen a soul set free...for that lost soul...was me.
God's Amazing Grace: The Testimony of Stephen Bennett
MountZion Believers Church