My true identity

By Richard Holloman
Feb 24, 2010

My father was an abusive, violent alcoholic. I was terrified of him and had deep hatred for him. He died when I was seven years old, and I rejoiced. I have no memories of my father or my mother ever holding me or expressing love for me. I grew up starving for love, nurture, acceptance and affirmation.

I was physically, verbally, emotionally and sexually abused by my father. To the best of my knowledge, the rest of my family did not know. I was introduced to pornography when I was six and molested by an older boy when I was nine.

I suffered from low self-esteem and was extremely shy. I felt a deep sense of shame about myself but couldn’t understand why. As a young boy I felt that no one cared about me or truly loved me. I did not relate to other boys or men and felt more comfortable around girls.

I began acting out sexually with other boys what I had experienced during early childhood sexual abuse. I was only seven years old when I initiated my first sexual encounter with another boy in my neighborhood. I continued acting out sexually until my exposure at age forty-five.

I made a profession of faith in Christ when I was seventeen years old, thinking that God would take away my same-sex attraction and sexual compulsion. Even so, I became deeply depressed. No one knew my secrets, and I no longer felt I could deal with my inner darkness. When in college I made my first attempt at suicide by taking three hundred aspirin tablets. I became gravely ill and was unconscious for two days, but I survived.

I married when I was twenty-one because I didn’t want anyone to suspect my secrets. Foolishly, I also thought marriage might change my desires. Though I married for the wrong reasons, I truly loved my wife and tried very hard to be a good husband and father. She was an incredible lady who expressed deep faith in God and was very loyal to me and to our son. She died in 1988 after a long battle with cancer. I was diligent to keep her from discovering my secrets, and I live with regret that I was never honest with her about my struggle.

I entered into vocational ministry as a way to medicate my profound longings for acceptance, affirmation and significance. As I continued in ministry I was living a life of duplicity. I was a pastor and a university campus minister while also acting out homosexually. Fear of losing what significance and value I felt I had earned was crippling and kept me paralyzed. I often would cry myself to sleep at night, begging God to either heal me or kill me. The enemy knew if he kept me in this unhealthy place I would never recover.

I do not use my childhood abuse as an excuse for my behavior. I take full responsibility for what I have done. While I did not choose my temptations and longings, I did choose to act on those longings; and I chose to not get help until I came to a place of absolute desperation. I believe the Lord loved me so much that He orchestrated my complete exposure to bring me to a place of submission to Him.

While serving as campus minister, I made sexual advances toward a student and was reported and fired. University officials assumed that I had suffered a mental and emotional breakdown due to my wife’s recent death. They also assumed that this was an isolated experience. I was too ashamed to be honest about the depths of my struggle with same-sex attractions and my life of homosexual behavior. I allowed them to believe their assumptions, and as a result I missed an opportunity to begin a journey of healing and recovery.

But God loved me and heard my cry and continued pursuing me. The biblical principle is that God will expose our secrets and bring things into the light (1 Cor. 4:5; Eph. 5:8-13). I always thought if I ever was found out I would end my life because it would be the very worst thing that could happen to me. But it turned out to be the very best thing that happened to me (Gen. 50:20; Rom. 8:28) because God forced me to begin dealing with my brokenness and sin.

God orchestrated the full disclosure of my secrets on Friday night, November 10, 1995, when a group of people confronted me. For the very first time in my life, at age forty-five, I confessed my lifelong battle with same-sex attraction and homosexual behavior.

I hurriedly left that meeting in total humiliation and shame. I pulled my car into the garage and closed the door. I wrote my son a note, grabbed my pillow, went back to the garage and started my car. I went to sleep on the concrete floor, fully expecting never to awaken. I slept through the night and woke the next morning with the car engine still running. I didn’t even have a headache from the fumes. I turned off the engine, threw the note away, loaded a rental truck with all my belongings and moved to Nashville.

I began attending church, and a few weeks later I found myself in the pastor’s office. With great fear and trembling, I began to share my story with him. This was a big moment in my life, and I didn’t know how he would respond. I really don’t know what choices I would have made if he had turned me away.

To my relief, he made arrangements for me to receive counseling. The counselor recommended the book Lifetime Guarantee by Bill Gillham, and it made a profound impact on my life. I also began an intense therapy program with two other therapists, a Christian psychologist assigned to me as a result of my suicide attempt and a counselor affiliated with Exodus International. We continued this counseling relationship for three years.

Another spiritual marker involved an evangelist who came to my church and began a worship service by asking everyone who had never known the love of an earthly father to stand. He then prayed for us.

This experience reached a deep longing in my heart. At the close of the service I found myself at the altar, crying and forgiving my father for the first time in my life. A few weeks later I visited my father’s grave and spoke to him as if he were there with me. This was a major step in my healing journey. The Lord was showing me that He is my Father.

The most important thing the Lord continues to teach me through my recovery process is that authentic Christian faith is not about law, works, flesh or self-effort but about having a personal love relationship with God. In Matthew 22 Jesus was asked, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” His answer: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This passage has become my life’s Scripture.

The other vital and life-changing truth the Lord continues to teach me is that I am to embrace and truly believe who God has declared me to be in Christ Jesus. The enemy is out “to steal and to kill and to destroy” (John 10:10). I believe one of his most destructive methods is getting us to a place where we believe his lies about who we are rather than believing the truth of who God says we are in Christ.

I have learned that I am not a homosexual, a fag or a queer. I am not gay, or even ex-gay. I have learned that, in Christ Jesus, I am a righteous son of God—justified, forgiven, holy and blameless, acceptable and accepted, lovable and loved, and a brother to Jesus. This is my true identity.

I continue in a process of change, healing and freedom as I grow in my understanding of these two fundamental truths; continually surrender my mind, will and emotions to Him; and submit to His truth and lordship in my life. I am becoming who the Lord says I am (Rom. 7:24-8:1; 1 Cor. 6:11; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 2:20).

As a result of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit in my life and the Heavenly Father’s grace and mercy, I am no longer controlled by my sexual appetites. In describing my sexual brokenness I can say that what was once a raging fire consuming everything in its path is now nothing more than a small flicker of a flame. This is the ongoing work of the Lord in my life. I have never known greater joy, meaning, hope and purpose.

I feel the Lord has called me to a lifetime of making amends to the Church in general, to Southern Baptists (the denomination in which I was saved and through which I have served in ministry since 1969) and to every individual I have offended and harmed. As I share my story my prayer is that the Lord will work reconciliation and healing in the lives of those I have hurt.

God orchestrated my exposure to bring about my healing and to bring glory to His name, but it still is not easy for me to share my story. I battle with shame and guilt, and I sometimes allow the enemy to discourage me as I think about what I have done.

I know who I truly am in Christ, however, and in that confidence I share what the Lord is doing in my life. My journey is not yet complete, which is true for all of us. But I am learning that my chief purpose is “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever,” and I know that I will never be the same again.

Richard Holloman is executive director of the Sight Ministry in Nashville, TN. He also serves on the SBC’s “Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals” http://www.sbcthewayout.com/.

Further Learning

Learn more about: Family, Sexual Purity, Homosexuality,

22 Comments

1 On Feb 25, 2010, at 3:07am, Barbara Merrell wrote:

Thank you for giving your testimony.  Thank you God for your life and for new real life!

I continue to pray that God would do in and thru me whatever is the purpose of what He has done in my heart
about all of this.

I continue to pray that God would make the churchhouse and His people a Safe place for youth, children and adults who want and need help. This prayer has come out of me verbally at 8:30 A.M. prayer at church.  I was not
knowlingly going to pray this outloud to God there—only one on one with him. 

I continue to pray that God would do in hearts of my brothers and sisters—what He has done in mine.  I pray that He would birth Outreach Ministry where I attend, which is also a Southern Baptist Church.  Please pray with me.

2 On Feb 25, 2010, at 5:07pm, Tommy Corman wrote:

I have counseled those who struggle with homosexuality and sex abuse at Love In Action for many years and appreciate seeing those that are called to share publicly their story so it can minister to others who are struggling with the same sin. 

Tommy Corman

3 On Feb 25, 2010, at 7:01pm, Cathey Leaver wrote:

Can I just say I am so proud to call you my friend.

I only know the new Richard - God bless you dear brother.

4 On Feb 25, 2010, at 9:50pm, Shahe wrote:

Richard, I count it a joy and an honor to call you my brother in Christ Jesus!  You ARE the Romans 12:1 “Living Sacrifice, Holy and pleasing to GOD!”

May each reader of the article be blessed by your authenticity, your faith in the One God who really does unconditionally love us.

Praise God, Praise God, Praise GOD!

5 On Feb 26, 2010, at 6:32pm, Jon Rushing wrote:

Hallelujah!  God has brought you (and me) a mighty long way since 1996 when we met.  He is so good and I am overwhelmed with our great Savior when I read this!  I love you bro!  ~Jon

6 On Mar 2, 2010, at 1:34am, Debbie Kring wrote:

Richard, I wish my brother were still alive to know you.  What a blessing you would have been to him as I know you are to so many others. God is using you tremendously. I am blessed to have you as my friend. To God be the glory.

7 On Mar 3, 2010, at 2:56am, Robert wrote:

Thanks for sharing about how God has worked in your life!

8 On Mar 3, 2010, at 3:41am, Jimmy Draper wrote:

Richard,
Great article, as you allowed the Holy Spirit to guide you through His understanding of the events you experienced as a child and young adult. Your story will bring healing to many who hear it. Proud of you for being so vulnerable. Love you and pray for you.

JTD

9 On Mar 3, 2010, at 4:04am, Kathie Hill wrote:

Thank you for your heart-felt testimony.  I have many, many friends who outwardly embrace homosexuality, but who are struggling inside with demons that are not of their own making.  Your honesty will go far to help so many who struggle with sexual sin and your ability to see God’s hand in yours and others lives will help everyone you meet. God bless you!

10 On Mar 3, 2010, at 5:37am, Ann Mobley wrote:

I agree with Cathey’s comment above:  “I only know the new Richard” and I am proud to call you my brother in Christ.  We kneel together humbly at the foot of the cross.  I had the priviledge of meeting you and working with you last summer at the SBC Conference in Louisville at the Task Force Booth.  I praise God for the powerful and faithful work He is doing in your life, and your testimony and committed relationship to Jesus Christ gives me much hope for what God can and will do in my son’s life.  Philippians 1:6 Ann Mobley

11 On Mar 3, 2010, at 5:57am, Susie wrote:

I have done things even my lifetime friend doesn’t know about. I applaud your courage. It’s true: Satan attacks us at our weakest, most vulnerable spot. Like you, I had never known love and wanted desperately to know it. Now I never will, and whenever that gets to bothering me, I just remember that thinking more about the love of a man means I’m not spending enough time on my relationship with the Lord. This I have learned also: the sensation I feel when the Holy Spirit comes to me is exactly the same type of feeling I had with a man, only it’s so much better, pulsatingly vibrantly better. That being said, I applaud your courage at your age, Richard. You dealt with your sin, and God blessed you. I still haven’t dealt with mine; I’ve just pushed it to the back of my mind, so I remain unblessed. But still: loved by God!

12 On Mar 3, 2010, at 5:59am, Bob Stith wrote:

Richard, thank you so much for sharing your story. I pray that many others will find hope and be encouraged to reach out for help.

It has been my privilege to serve with Richard for the last nine years and a real joy to see what Jesus continues to do in your life.

You are a true blessing to the Body of Christ.

13 On Mar 3, 2010, at 6:25am, Michele wrote:

“We are only as sick as our secrets.” This reminds us that in recovery we begin the process of healing as we discover the sin we are responsible for and how the sin of others affected us. We learn how to grow,how to finally become authentic, and we discover true community as we open up to others who are either on the recovery journey too, or who understand it and support us.  It takes a TON of courage to be honest about our struggles, to be real, to go below the surface of every day communication. Your article was very well written, Richard. My prayer for you is that as you continue to walk with your eyes on the Lord, turning your powerlessness over to Him again and again, that He will renew and restore you daily, and bless you in new and amazing ways!  May He also bless others in life-changing ways through you and your recovery. May peace and joy be yours!

14 On Mar 3, 2010, at 5:51pm, Laura wrote:

Richard, thank you for sharing your story of redemption.  I rejoice that you can say, “I have learned that, in Christ Jesus, I am a righteous son of God—justified, forgiven, holy and blameless, acceptable and accepted, lovable and loved, and a brother to Jesus. This is my true identity.”  Praise the Lord!

15 On Mar 4, 2010, at 8:53pm, Susan C. wrote:

God is truly at work in you having you witness against the great tide of cultural bias.  What God has done for you, he can do for others.  Continue to witness, it is truly a miracle that God saved you for such a time as this.

16 On Mar 5, 2010, at 1:06am, Jennie wrote:

Thanks so much for your honesty in sharing your journey.  I am sure your story is a blessing and a help for many who are struggling not only with sexual sin, but also other sins that are hard to share and therefore hard to receive God’s power to overcome.God bless you.

17 On Mar 5, 2010, at 4:31pm, Lillian wrote:

This was amazing. Thank you for being so transparent. That is such a hard thing to do. I have several friends to share your journey with.  May God continue to use your life to witness to others in such a strong way. May God Bless you and his ministry.

18 On Mar 6, 2010, at 12:00am, Missy wrote:

Thank you Brother Richard for sharing awesome HIS TESTIMONY! in your life! am glad I am not alone! and am sure many others agree! We as a family of GOD sure need each other to encourage (edify) each other and Praise Him for He in me and I in Him we are new person (creature)!
I can relate! I thank HIM too for transforming me!
Keep Faith all the way to the end! All the way with and for HIM! YESHUA! (JESUS) our awesome Lord of lords, King of kings!
love you!
sis Missy

19 On Mar 6, 2010, at 12:32am, Lisa wrote:

Richard, I pray daily that my son will know the freedom you have in Jesus. I love you, my friend.

20 On Mar 8, 2010, at 2:40am, Elaine wrote:

Thank you for this beautiful story of redemption in progress. I was also deeply impacted by Bill Gillham’s book, which helped me begin to walk in the truth of my identity in Christ. I admire your humility as Oswald Chambers once defined it (living as close to the truth as possible)!

21 On Mar 8, 2010, at 11:56am, Mary wrote:

Dear Christian friend,
    As I read “battle with shame and guilt, and ...
allow the enemy to discourage me as I think about what I have done,” the following immediately came to mind:
“...forgetting those things which are behind…”  Phil. 3:13, 14 and also Isaiah 1:18 and Isaiah 53:6.  The devil loves to remind us of past sins that are for- given, wants us to dwell on them, and hopes that we will feel guilty instead of forgiven. At such times, I find Isaiah 55:6,7 so comforting. Jesus said, “It is finished,” thereby we know our sins are covered. Do you suppose it would be helpful to stop talking about the past, remembering Phil. 4:8, and dwell instead on what Christ has done for us? “We preach Christ crucified…” 1Cor.1:23a May God bless you, from Mary, a Lutheran friend in Christ

22 On Mar 9, 2010, at 8:21am, Roger Helton wrote:

Richard,
God bless you! I was at Teresa Sullivan’s last March with John Swaim celebrating Passover with you and others. Praise God,we are free. Yes, I am who He says I am. Hallelujah! You have significance and acceptance with me, Brother.                                        Roger Helton

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