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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

God still loves me - even if you don't!

One of the commentators on my last post encouraged me to tell a personal story about a friendship which had been adversely affected by the Philadelphia Church of God. After acceding to his request, it occurred to me that many of my readers will have never heard the story surrounding my own experience in leaving the Worldwide Church of God. As a consequence, for whatever it's worth, I've decided to tell that story here.

I had listened to Garner Ted Armstrong on my father's transistor radio as a child in the 1960's. Later, as a young teenager, I had made the decision to complete the Bible correspondence course offered by the WCOG and was eventually baptized into that church at the tender age of seventeen. Even before that decision, my grandmother had read the Bible to me when I was a small child and had instilled in me a strong desire to please God and do what was right in his eyes. Now, I believed that God had called me into "HIS ONE AND ONLY TRUE CHURCH," and that it was my responsibility to answer that call.

All of this, however, was complicated by the fact that I was a very naive and closeted homosexual who couldn't even admit the reality of my sexual orientation to my own self - let alone anyone else. Thus, over the years that followed my baptism, I attended festivals, paid my tithes and fervently prayed to God that He would take away my evil desires.

In the meantime, I was much too timid to ask anyone in the church for a date, and no one seemed interested in asking me for one either. Then, one day, I met a beautiful and very kind young lady in the state college which I was attending at the time. She was easy to talk to, and (much to my surprise) she seemed to like me.

I knew that I wasn't supposed to date outside of the church, but I wondered if God was providing a way for me to overcome my unnamed affliction. "Maybe this is my chance for a normal life and family," I reasoned.

Nevertheless, I felt compelled to tell my minister about the relationship. That was a big mistake. I was immediately and unceremoniously disfellowshipped for dating someone outside of the church. I was told that I would have to break off the relationship and "repent of my sins" before I would be allowed to return to services.

I was devastated. I had been cast out of God's one and only true church. "What am I going to do?" I asked myself. I was trying to fight my perverse tendencies and do what was "right" in God's eyes, and my minister had excommunicated me! The Lake of Fire yawned before me.

Although I loved the young lady and knew that I would miss her terribly, I ended the relationship. I cried and moped around for a week. I was in torment. Worse yet, when I informed the minister about what I had done, he wasn't impressed. He informed me that I would have to "demonstrate the fruits of repentance."

Fortunately, my dad had already started attending the Church of God International by then (he had never joined the WCOG). And, when I informed him about what was going on (I didn't admit my homosexuality to him until many years later), he reassured me that God still loved me and that no one could separate me from His love.

The young lady and I were eventually married by a minister of the CGI (ironically, she wasn't averse to my religion), and we had two beautiful children together. Over the years that followed, we attended CGI, Church of God Seventh Day and Seventh Day Baptist services and attempted to raise our two daughters in the Lord.

Although I continued to deny the reality of my own sexual orientation and remained physically faithful to my wife, we both knew that something was not right. My wife craved the kind of intimacy and fire that I could never offer her. Sure, I was able to perform the mechanics of sex, but the intense longing and desire could not be faked or manufactured. Eventually, that created too many problems for the relationship to continue as it had, and we divorced.

Fortunately, the rift between us was eventually healed, and we forgave all of the hurts which we had unintentionally inflicted on each other over the years. I was finally honest with myself and with her about my sexual orientation, and she decided to love me anyway. She remains my dearest friend, and a shining example of what God's unlimited love really looks like.

Anyway, that's my story, and I'm proud to stick with it and share it with all of you! And I now know beyond any shadow of a doubt that God still loves me - even if you don't!

6 comments:

  1. I love how your story turns out. And I love you. I have such respect and admiration for you. I'm happy to call you my friend.

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  2. Who is "you"? It's not Cathy apparently. And it's not me.

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  3. I love you, too, Lonnie. I'm glad we're friends. -Dean

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