After secretly battling homosexuality from an early age, former athlete and current songwriter Dennis Jernigan finally found healing in the love of Christ. Part two of a series on homosexuality in sports.
By Susie Magill, as told by Dennis Jernigan
|Dennis Jernigan lives in Muskogee, Okla., with his wife, Melinda and their nine children. He has written more than 2,200 songs including “You Are My All in All” and “Hands Lifted High.” He has led worship and shared his testimony at FCA events around the country. For more information on Jernigan visit www.dennisjernigan.com, and to order his testimonial book, Giant Killers, visit www.fcagear.com. |
For many years and generations, our society has been losing a most valuable ingredient: our men. Why do we see so many insurmountable problems? Why do we see so many perversions come to be accepted as “normal” and “natural”? I believe that most men don’t know what it means to be godly men and fathers. And women long to be women, but when men run away from their responsibilities women are left confused, as well. We must reach a place of brokenness before God to find our true identities.
And so is the story of my life. As you read, I ask the Lord to break your heart by the things that break His. And for you to realize the Father’s great love for you!
Because we are all born sinners, we all have some basic needs. Yes, we have physical needs, but I’m referring to our many emotional and spiritual needs. Children gain identity through their fathers, and if those fathers are absent physically or emotionally, their sense of worth is never internalized. I can remember being a little boy and wanting my daddy’s approval and acceptance in every area of my life. While I did feel affection from my mother, I never remember receiving physical affirmation from my father or among my brothers. Since I have grown older, I have realized that my problem was not my father, but that I had believed a lie. Once Satan got his foot in the door of my heart, any rejection—no matter how big or small—was perceived as a lack of love from my dad (or whomever I rejected at the time).
|Jernigan led worship at FCA's Realtime II in February. |
I allowed this feeling of rejection to permeate every part of my life, including sexual desires. When I was about five years old, an adult male exposed himself to me in a public restroom. Even though I ran, I still wondered, “Why did he choose me to do that to? What’s wrong with me? What attracted him to me?” And with my dad not expressing his love in outward, demonstrative ways, my identity, my sexuality, was affected.
I also felt worthless and unable to receive love. But I knew that if I did something well, people would like me. So, I tried to be the best in whatever I did. Schoolwork, basketball, music, etc. But I was frustrated because no matter how well I performed, it never seemed to be good enough. I was still miserable, and I felt alone. Sports and grades weren’t giving me any hope, and neither was music. Because I made choices based on how or what I imagined people thought of me, I became a very selfish person, usually at the expense of others. What people thought was so good (my outward performance) soon began to hide the deepest hurts and failures of my heart. Still, my dad and mom never missed one single event I was involved in while growing up. This should have spoken volumes to me, but I chose to believe a lie.
I felt so ashamed and afraid of rejection that I became even more selfish and perverted in my way of thinking. As a boy I desperately needed a role model to show me the way to manhood. But because I felt rejected by the main man in my life, I, in turn, rejected him and began to yearn for intimacy with men in perverse ways. This wrong thinking caused me to believe I was homosexual, and since I had these feelings for the same gender at a very early age, I convinced myself that I had been born this way. But I hid my struggles during high school and throughout my four years at Oklahoma Baptist University from everyone except those I had relationships with.
As a boy I desperately needed a role model to show me the way to manhood. But because I felt rejected by the main man in my life, I, in turn, rejected him and began to yearn for intimacy with men in perverse ways.
In college, being a young man in need of male affirmation and attention, I was overwhelmed when a man I respected greatly began paying attention to me. Twenty years my senior, married with children, and respected in the community, I looked up to him. Being a ‘Christian,’ he approached me from an attitude of caring about my well-being. Having felt rejected since childhood, he made my dreary life somehow more bearable. After many weeks of gaining my trust through times spent drinking soda and praying, I grew to trust this person immensely—so much that I shared my deepest, darkest secret. I unloaded my burden and immediately felt the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders…but only for a few moments until I realized he was making sexual advances toward me.
I came away from that encounter feeling so used and worthless that I decided to take my own life. I desired peace more than I desired to live. So, I went home and turned on the gas and laid down to die. While thinking about how this would be better for me as well as for my family and friends—that peace would finally come—my thoughts were interrupted by what eternity would be like and whether or not I was ready for it. I couldn’t go through with the suicide. I decided from that moment to live as I was obviously created: as a homosexual.
I lived in a perverted relationship with another man, a very unhealthy emotional dependency. I had given myself to what I perceived as my true identity and became even more miserable. Finally, I concluded that God just hadn’t been given every opportunity to heal me and that seminary would be the answer. In my mind, it was either suicide or seminary. But God had other plans.
If you have ever been used or abused, you too can be healed. Do not receive the false guilt that Satan tries to put on you.
Three days before I was to leave for seminary a former friend from OBU called and shared with me some of the things God had been doing in his life. I could tell from his voice and passion that this was someone different, or deeper, than I had known in college. He had my attention. He told me God gave him a dream about me and that I was being blessed with numerous songs to bring Him glory. I was moved by what he shared. His words had touched something deep within my heart—a longing to release the music that I knew was inside me. He then invited me to come live with him and his mother in Del City, Oklahoma. Knowing how badly I needed a change of environment and not really sure about seminary, I accepted his invitation.
This encouragement was just what I needed. My concept of God had been that of a cosmic policeman, a distant God just waiting for me to mess up so that He could step back into my life and knock me on the head. I felt ashamed and unworthy of His love. But this conversation with my friend really pushed me not to give up. I moved to Del City, and day by day, I began to cry out to God. I became bluntly honest with Him and began to write down my prayers, which came out in the form of songs. Soon, I realized that God’s love for me was not based on how well I performed in this life but on my recognition of His abiding presence in my life. It didn’t matter how deeply into sin I had fallen or how inconsistent I had been in my love for Him. My heart was broken when I realized there was nothing I could do to earn His love, because He loved me no
I also began to journal. This proved to be an effective method of getting out my deepest, darkest and most intimate thoughts—about anything—and putting them in the open before God. I wrote of hurts, disillusionments, failures, emotions and any other “soul data” I found needing to come out. But what I discovered was that God really was concerned about my feelings, however dark they might be. I found the Father approachable and desiring my presence. In fact, I began to understand that God took more delight in my presence than I could possibly take in His. After that first year of journaling, I felt God impress me to burn it. Page by page I burned my deepest heart cries and most horrendous secrets. Gently, my heavenly Father taught me that just as this picture of my past was being burned away, He too had cleansed my past, present and future, forever forgiving and forgetting the wickedness of my heart.
My sexually perverse thoughts and desires were changed. God began to replace them with holy and pure thoughts about what sexual love was all about. The sexual drive is a God-created drive, but Satan knows that if he can pervert that drive, he can kill and pervert God’s creativity in us.
Even though your circumstances, your sins, your wounds may all be different than mine, the answer is still the same: Jesus. If you have ever been used or abused, you too can be healed. Do not receive the false guilt that Satan tries to put on you. I urge you to deal with your heart, your attitude, actions, thoughts and feelings. Hope is found in learning how much your heavenly Father desires a close and intimate relationship with you and then by becoming the child He says you are.