“I looked for my identity in so many different places.”
Joseph remembers being called gay for the first time when he was 13—at a church camp. “It was a devastating experience,” he remembers. Then, as before, he channeled his pain into playing the violin, a God-given talent he’d long nurtured, but “I never found my identity in Christ,” he says now. “I looked for my identity in so many different places.”
Though raised in a Christian home, Joseph always had a strained relationship with believers his age. “It started off as feeling like I didn’t fit in. Then the enemy used that to say, ‘Other people aren’t going to understand’ or ‘They will reject you.’ The enemy was really good at making me feel completely isolated.” And Joseph continued to pour his time into the violin, further distancing himself from his family and the church.
After high school Joseph auditioned at music schools all over the country, hoping to simply get away, and he enrolled at the University of Texas. In college his homosexual feelings flared, and after struggling mightily with these temptations, he became involved with other men. At first his new life was exciting—“it didn’t feel wrong for the first time,” he says—but Joseph never felt fulfilled by the gay lifestyle or embraced by the gay community. And his conscience was constantly pulling on him.
After graduating, Joseph began his career as a professional violinist, something he had been working toward since he was 10. He tried to meld his lifestyle with his Christian faith, seeking stable, monogamous relationships in the hope that they would bring him happiness, but they never did. The whole time, the Holy Spirit was quietly, persistently tugging at his heart.
Joseph had a good friend, a Christian, who had always prayed for him, asked him to join her at church, and simply loved him well. Joseph maintained that he was a Christian, “but it was on my terms.” One day, though, in March 2008, Joseph was finally overwhelmed with his struggles. He called up this friend and told her, “I just want to pray with somebody.” The next morning she picked him up and they met with her pastor. They prayed, and that day the Lord saved Joseph; he was born again.
But his struggle with sin was not over. Joseph was still in a relationship with a man, and he fought himself over it constantly. He continued to attend church because “there was something attractive about the Word of God to me, still, even when I was being condemned by it for my sins.” On the advice of a pastor he uttered a prayer he wasn’t sure he wanted to: He asked God to pull him out of his relationship and to heal him of his homosexual temptations.
“If you ask God to heal, he will,” Joseph says now. “And you can either go along for the ride, or you can be dragged along. I myself was dragged along. It was a slow and painful process.” But God was faithful. In answer to Joseph’s reluctant prayer, the Lord led him to a lecture at another church by a former lesbian, an experience that moved him profoundly.
“She was weaving the Word of God in and out of every sentence she was saying,” Joseph remembers. “It was at that point that I realized, that’s what I want to be. I can’t go into this just a little bit; I can’t go in just halfway; I can’t be lukewarm. If I want God to defeat this part of me, I have to go 100-percent in, and I have to be breathing in and out the Word of God in everything that I say and do.” After the lecture he spoke with the woman, and she offered him the best advice she had: to put his faith in Christ. “It was hope. In this woman I saw somebody who had defeated the struggle.”
With the Lord’s promises as his foundation, Joseph walked away from the gay lifestyle. “I see how close I was to complete destruction,” Joseph says now. “I am blessed that God is faithful. Even after he saved me originally but I continued to dabble in this stuff and chose to walk down my own path, over and over again, he was still faithful to me.”
Today, Joseph finds his identity in Christ and trusts His promises to the church. “The Book of Galatians talks about how we are no longer identified by the flesh. That is a really big thing for me, because we’re not identified by our struggles,” Joseph notes. He knows that the broader culture will not welcome his story of redemption and that he will face persecution for telling it. “They can call me a self-hater,” he says. “They can call me anything they want, and it doesn’t really matter to me because my identity is in Christ. That’s something they can never take away from me.”
The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.
(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)