Continuing this great read—The Brain That Changes Itself
But before I continue in my mental digest, it is important to know WHY Ted Haggard gave me this book. The reason why I even attempted to meet this infamous man, is I’m afraid to become him.
I was raised in Ted’s old church–New Life. At the age of 12, I began looking at gay pornography, and I was terrified.
It’s the sin unspeakable, the permanent moral stain, the unforgiveable. Scared of judgment, I rarely reached out, telling my story to rarely anyone. When I did, the looks came, the words cut and often I was prayed over like a someone demon-possessed child. One such traumatic moment is still very vivid in my mind.
“You struggle with what?” The self-proclaimed small group leader responded. “Brandon, this is demonic! We need to pray over you right now.”
I was taken out of the house where “people wouldn’t hear us,” and told, “Now, when we cast out this demon, it’s natural to feel the need to throw up or cough. It’s a physical manifestation of that which is happening spiritually.”
The man then proceeded to “exorcize” me. I don’t remember the prayer. I don’t remember what happened next. I was left dumbfounded, feeling so contaminated and dirty. I had a demon?
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I didn’t tell anyone. This is the reason I’m not the only petrified sexually confused boy muted by fear of the congregants. EVERYONE freaks in the church, unable to handle/understand the situation at hand.
It wasn’t until 16 that my parents found out, and it was NOT my choice. I was “perusing images,” a.k.a. looking at hardcore gay porn, when my dad happened upon me.
Food for thought: at that moment in time, I had recently returned from a mission trip to LA, helping the homeless and destitute within our own country, and a youth conference about the pursuit of God. I was raised talking to God on a regular basis. But NONE of that mattered in that terrible moment with my dad.
After yelling at me, dragging me downstairs, exposing me to my family, asking “Why, why, why?” he took me to the local prayer house where I was prayed over in a janitor’s closet, because talking about it in public was too humiliating. That night was simply the coronation of the most difficult year of my life.
My parents kept me under consistent surveillance, and yet I still managed to feed my lusts. I was caught “perusing” again while babysitting, and the parents freaked. I was immediately fired. Moment by moment, I was consistently reminded of my “dirtiness,” whether from outside sources or my continual self-loathing that initiated long before I was “discovered” by my dad, but was now “firing all cylinders.” To top it all off, my pastor, the man I had looked up to for truth, love and, above all, integrity, was caught in a massive scandal–the man had received a hand job from a local male masseur.
My world came crashing down, while my fears piled up. I loved ministry. I had been involved in some way, shape or form since I was kid. As my addiction (for that’s exactly what it was) to male pornography grew unmanageable, my greatest fear grew with it to a paramount–I would go into ministry and this addiction would be my downfall. And there, in front of my very eyes, I saw my fears manifested first hand. I was doomed.
However, something happened that year. May 20th, 2007. Crying on my bed, begging God for mercy, I heard the Uncreated One speak in my heart of hearts. This may sound absolutely ridiculous, but in that moment I was Neo and God was Morpheus. And just like Morpheus, God had two hands outstretched before me. But instead of a blue and a red pill, it was life or death.
“Brandon, I love you. I want the best for you. I don’t make sense all the time, but I have your best interest in mind. You can come with me, and trust me, leading to a life of abundance, or you can have your own way, lead your own life, which will ultimately result in a death of mind, soul and body. What do you want?”
In that moment I put my faith in Jesus, and in that moment a five year addiction was broken.
Fast forward for sake of time.
Finished high school. Went to a crazy “Bible College.” Became a youth pastor. Six months after I began my pastor role, I started looking at gay porn again. My fears were beginning to become reality. But instead of being kicked out of not only the church but the state, like Ted Haggard was, life was spoken over me, and I was surrounded by love and support.
Went off to missions for a year. Came back. Guess what? I’m still looking at the stuff, and guess who’s church my family is now attending… the very man that instilled so much fear. The man I saw plummet from “soaring spiritual heights.”
Sitting across from him with an oak desk between us, I’m looking for answers. I’m looking hope. I’m looking for my God that I once knew so well as His Neo. What does Pastor Ted give me? A book. A book about how the brain is not born a certain way; how it’s not a pre-programmed machine, nor a stagnant unalterable force that persistently propels me forward to its pre-programmed auto-pilot destination. It’s malleable.
What does this mean for me?
I’m not trying to change myself to “make it through the narrow gate.” I’m in. I understand that now. Christ died for ALL. No exceptions. The only difference between me and some “non-believer” is just that–they simply don’t believe. Doesn’t change reality.
Ted asked me a very daring question, one that would NEVER be asked within the confines of the stereotypical church. “Well Brandon, what do you want to be? Do you want to be gay, bi or straight?” Not, “What does the Bible say?” Not, “You know that’s wrong, right?” As if I can be cured by rhetorical questions. But, “What do you want to be?”
That’s just it. I WANT to be straight, and guess what? I can be.
The reason I’m reading this book is because I know this attraction/addiction doesn’t satisfy. It’s left me void. I’m in a fantastic relationship with a beautiful girl inside and out. I don’t want to fuck this up. I want her. I want this feeling, and it can by mine. We’re not “born this way.” The brain is ours to form, and this is what I want it to look like, so screw Lady Gaga. Yes, true, “God makes no mistakes,” and, yes, “Love yourself.” But we’re not born this way. We are made daily by the choices we make.
Destiny has been place into our hands. Where will go? What will we make of ourselves?