(By Dann Youle)
My story begins in 1965. I was born into a Christian family, the second child of four. I have an older sister and two younger brothers. I was born and raised in rural Illinois, about 2 hours northwest of Chicago. We were pretty typical for a "Christian" Midwestern family. We went to church Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, and, if we were able, to every special service/meeting the church had. My mother had been raised Southern Baptist in North Carolina, and my dad Methodist in Wisconsin.
Most people would say we were a normal American family and I was a normal American kid. But I had a secret. I struggled with same sex attraction. These were desires that I didn't understand and didn't ask for, and no matter how much I prayed, they wouldn't go away. I was too afraid to tell anyone. I knew what my peers said about people who were gay. So I struggled silently. The shame at times was unbearable.
When I was 22 years old, I took the risk of telling my best friend. I then went to the counselor on staff at the Christian college I was attending and was offered helpful and encouraging advice, prayer, and materials through Exodus International. It was at this time that I began to make progress in my healing. Jesus was so good to me to be faithful and let me know that I wasn't alone! It didn't mean I was instantly healed, but I began to believe that for the first time that I had a true friend in Jesus. Several Christian brothers who knew everything stood by me.
Along the way, I came into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ at 19, I graduated from Bible college at 22, and I received a clear call to ministry around the time I was finishing college to minister to others who have sexual brokenness in their lives, specifically those who struggle with issues of same-sex attraction and homosexuality.
I met my wife when I was 19, and our relationship was founded and built on friendship first. We married 5 years after we met.
The interesting thing is that even with all this "Christian/religious" grounding, my family had secrets that no one dares talk about. I know now that everyone's journey is different, and that there are many things that may contribute to same-sex attraction, and that those combinations of factors are not the same for everyone. But I realized several years ago when I reentered counseling that the sexual abuse that I had endured between the ages of five and seven was at the root of my homosexual desires. It was at the hands of a male relative who was seen as healthy, who was anything but!
Here, I was someone who had helped others: comforting, being with and praying for those so abused as I do ministry that I never even imagined it was an issue I was dealing with. Here I was in my thirties, a husband, father, one who had been/was being healed of sexual brokenness, and I desperately found myself not knowing if this pain could be healed.
I asked my counselor, "Can God really heal this?" I felt so broken and damaged that there was no hope for me. I felt like the sun would never shine again, and that God didn't have a place for me in His Kingdom. I simply felt overwhelmed and like I was going to die. I kept thinking, how could I live when I can't even breathe?
One day as I was driving, it was so clear to me. God said, "I am your breath! You can't breathe, Dann. Let me do it for you. I am here; I haven't gone away."
In 2000, the year of healing ended with my visiting the relative's grave that had abused me. There I genuinely released forgiveness, I felt pity for my abuser, and I realized he never knew the joy of Christ's forgiveness in his own life.
Now, to unfold the past several years since then, I would say that over and over again God has revealed to me in amazing ways that He is still God, and He still cares. None of this, while not necessarily God's perfect will, (as far as being abused, sinning out of my own brokenness, etc.), has been wasted. God has been and continues to use all of it!
By God's grace I never acted on my homosexual desires. By God's grace I have also experienced much change and much healing. By God's grace, I have been blessed with my wife, Chris, and three wonderful children.
Chris, who was broken by abuse as well, is an amazing companion and partner! Our relationship was founded upon friendship first, and even when we temporarily lose focus of that, it's what God always allows us to come back to and to keep building upon. We just celebrated twenty years of marriage on December 9, 2009.
I am thankful to God that he doesn't waste any of our pain. Little did I know when I struggled with my secret during my adolescent years that God would use the pain and brokenness of my past to head up a ministry for those who struggle with homosexuality and for those who struggle with sexual addiction.
Chris heads up a group for those who struggle with lesbianism. Together we head up Land Office Ministries, a ministry of Mars Hill Bible Church. This ministry is what God has built through the brokenness of my own life and experiences, and as I am a servant leader, God blesses and increases His Kingdom through me.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6 that "such were some of you (homosexually broken)- but you are washed, you are purified, you are made whole." I am living testimony today that God does wash, He does purify. He does bring wholeness.
That growth is a process. I have seen growth and change in my life and in the lives of the people to whom I minister. Thanks be to God, He never gave up on me.
Thank you Dann!
It takes courage to embrace the healing.
it takes great courage to then become a catalyst to see others find healing.
I respect that!
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