On today's broadcast, Exodus International President, Alan Chambers, and his wife, Leslie, talk to Dennis Rainey about their courtship and his deliverance from homosexuality.
On today's broadcast, Exodus International President, Alan Chambers, and his wife, Leslie, talk to Dennis Rainey about their courtship and his deliverance from homosexuality.
Alan: We set up our date on – our first date, March 10, 1997, and I had known from the beginning she's the one. This is the girl that I'm going to spend the rest of my life with, and even though she's turned me down flat, I believe that God will take care of the situation, and on our first date I asked her, "So when are we getting married?" And she said, January 3, 1998, it's a Saturday, I've already looked at my calendar.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, January 31st. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine, and it's a good thing that Alan and Leslie had some time between their engagement and their marriage. There were still a lot of questions that had to be wrestled with. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.
Dennis: The couple we had in the studio just kind of made eyes at one another. I saw them; I caught them.
Bob: Well, I guess – they're married, right?
Dennis: They are married, and so it's appropriate.
Bob: You can make eyes at each other when you're married. I was thinking about their story, and we're going to dig into it a little bit today, but I was thinking about the fact when all of us were dating and got married, there came points in that relationship where we learned things about one another that caused us to go, "Oh, really?" That's a part of who you are, you know, and you pull back and go, "I didn't know that about you."
Dennis: Well, some folks learn it while they're dating, others find out after they're married, and that can be a shock.
Bob: But it's true for all of us. All of us have parts of our past that I think in the dating or in the marriage relationship where we start to go, "I didn't know that about you, and I can see how that can affect our relationship today."
Dennis: Yes, and then all the premarriage counseling I've done, one of the issues we've talked about with engaged couples is how do you talk about the past and at what point do you discuss the past and how much detail do you get into about the past?
Bob: And you're an advocate for laying the cards out on the table.
Dennis: Absolutely. I don't think you need to go into the "Gone With the Wind," four-hour version of the past and all the details. I do think we need to know enough so there are no surprises after we're married, but the question is how much do you share?
And we have an unusual circumstance that I don't know I've ever asked a couple quite to address an issue of the past that they experienced. Alan Chambers and his wife, Leslie, join us on FamilyLife Today. Leslie, Alan, welcome.
Leslie: Thank you.
Alan: Thank you.
Dennis: Alan is the president of Exodus International, and both Alan and Leslie live in Orlando and have a newborn baby boy that is a delight. He doesn't need any more food – his cheeks are chubby, he's really cool. Alan, as I mentioned, is the president of Exodus International, and Exodus International is a ministry to the homosexual community as well as to the Christian community, equipping them with training, information, knowledge – am I doing a good job explaining what you're about, Alan?
Alan: Absolutely. We are here to mobilize the church to address the issue of homosexuality and helping them to reach out to men and women who need Christ.
Dennis: You have chapters all over the country?
Alan: We have 126-member ministries in North America and then beyond North America, we have about another 200 ministries that reach out to people.
Bob: And Exodus really is an affiliation of Independent Ministries so that some of the 126 ministries, they're a part of Exodus because they're kind of under the umbrella, but they operate somewhat autonomously, right?
Alan: They are all autonomous, and they go through a process to affiliate with Exodus, but they are a membership at will and just are our arms in the field.
Dennis: And if someone today was listening and perhaps has a heart to reach out to the homosexual community with one of these ministries, how would they go about establishing this ministry?
Alan: We have representatives in each region of North America. There are 16 regions that we've broken into, and we have someone who is ready and willing to help someone walk through the process of becoming a member organization and starting a ministry in their local area. That's how every single one has started – just birthed out of a heart for people dealing with this issue.
Bob: Your personal background, as we've already heard this week, you were involved in homosexuality in junior high and high school and on into college; came to a point where you said, "I don't want this to be a part of my life, this to be a controlling feature of my life," and you got hooked up with Exodus as someone who was counseled in how your life could be changed, right?
Alan: Right. The people who I went to for help at Exodus had walked through the road that I now walk on. They had been involved in homosexuality for much longer than I had been. I was only 18 years old when I first sought help, and they showed me what it was like to live beyond something that I had never dreamed was possible, even though I prayed for seven and eight years to the Lord that He would heal me. I never dreamed what I am living today was possible.
Dennis: So seven to eight years in the process, you make eye contact with this lovely lady Leslie, that you are seated next to here, and share with our listeners how you first met.
Alan: Well, we met at a home fellowship group. We go to a very large church in Orlando, and we were involved in a young adult college-age group that met on Thursday nights, and this girl walked in. I remember she walked in, and I tell her all the time I considered her. You know, she was interesting to me. She was vivacious, and she was beautiful, and all of those things, and I thought, "Oh, I'd like to be friends with her. I'd like to get to know her better," and all of my efforts to get to know her were in vain because she wanted nothing to do with me.
Dennis: What's behind that, Leslie?
Leslie: He was very high energy, and I was a very busy person, so I didn't think I could keep up – I didn't think I could maintain a high enough energy myself to keep up with him. But my first recollections of him – he and a friend of his were doing a TV show at the time, and I had actually seen them on TV, and it was a show called "Coming Out," where he had told his story, and the first time I remember seeing him, he walked into the Care Group with this other friend who – they were doing the show together, and I said, "There's those two gay guys from TV." So that was my first recollection of him.
Bob: So your relationship started with you knowing Alan's background.
Bob: But let me reel things back here for just a second, because as Dennis mentioned, Alan, you had gone through six years of healing at this point. Was there something in the back of your mind saying, "Boy, someday I'd like to meet a nice girl and get married and settle down and have some kids?"
Alan: I would say that's true, and I think that God births that within all of us, and, for me, from my earliest memory, though I was battling these issues, some of the desires that were in conflict were I wanted a wife, I wanted kids, I wanted those things, and through the process – that wasn't my motivation, but that was something that I believed would be of benefit of the healing process and, for me, when I saw Leslie, I was at a point in my life where I just prayed that I wouldn't have to go through numerous dating relationships and wait for years for the right woman to come along. And when I saw her, it wasn't like I wanted to marry her instantly, but she was interesting to me. There was something about her that I wanted to get to know better.
Bob: There had to be a little voice, though, in the back of your head that said to you, "There's not going to be a woman that's going to want to marry a guy who used to be a homosexual?"
Alan: There was some of that, but I had so many friends who would walk through this process and who had gotten married, and so I thought, "There's got to be somebody out there," but I didn't think that I would get what I got. I didn't think that I would receive from the Lord something far better than I ever deserved, in my mind, which I did.
Dennis: What I want to make sure our listeners just heard – you said you were in community.
Dennis: In relationship within the Christian community with other people who had – were in the process of recovering from this sin, and that brought healing and hope to you that you could have a normal relationship with the opposite sex.
Alan: The ministry of Exodus and the local group that I was going through and even the church that I was involved in – there were people there who were shining examples of what could happen if you surrender your life and your sexuality to the Lord, and that's one of the greatest things, I think, about what Exodus can offer to people is to show them the testimonies and the stories of the men and women who have gone before them and provide hope for them in this struggle.
Dennis: I want to get my soapbox out for just a second, because just based upon what Alan said and the hope that brought you as a man, the Christian community has to realize we are the arms of love of Jesus Christ to broken people. Some are thieves, liars, adulterers, and some are homosexuals, and what we have to realize is the safest place on earth for a homosexual to come clean and to become whole and to receive forgiveness ought to be in the Christian community. And yet today, unfortunately, there's all kinds on a spectrum from homosexual haters and those who are completely repulsed by homosexuals to those who believe homosexuality is okay, even within the Christian community – don't believe they need any healing at all. They think it's acceptable.
And so, here we are, as the Christian community, a place that ought to be offering the hope and the healing and the love, and I think, many times, we are missing it today, and that's why I'm so excited about the ministry of Exodus, because you're equipping churches and groups of Christians to be able to know how to reach out to the homosexual community and offer them a way out.
Bob: Now, Leslie, I have to imagine that you probably had not, in your consideration of meeting a guy and marrying and settling down, having kids – you'd probably not thought, "And I bet it would be a recovering homosexual that I'd wind up marrying."
Leslie: Right. No, that wasn't something I was looking for, but what I found in my life is that a few of the guys that I had been attracted to, I found out later actually were guys who probably struggled with this issue, and one, in particular, one really good friend, I wasn't ever attracted to him, but one really good friend of mine did struggle with homosexuality, and when he kind of came out and told me that, that was the start for me and my process of realizing that sin was sin, and that my sin was just as ugly as that particular sin, and that really got me started on that road of dealing with homosexuality and what I thought about that sin, in particular, and it just came down to it that sin was sin.
Dennis: And so when he finally did get around to – did he pester you to get a date with you? Because you expressed no interest, he's too high energy, you're too busy.
Leslie: He worked very hard at being my friend, and we actually went on a fishing trip with a few other friends, and at that point he kind of worked his way into my world as a good friend. And from that point on, we began spending a lot of time together and hanging out, and then a couple of months into that, he pulled me aside and told me that he liked me, you know, that the like, you know, it's more than you're my friend, it's, you know, moving on, "I like you a lot."
Dennis: Now, had he tried to kiss you at that point?
Leslie: No, not at all, no. He just – we were friends, he liked me a lot, and then I told him because of some past experiences in my life that it will never happen that we'd go on to be more than just friends. I had been left hanging a couple of times thinking that, "Oh, maybe someday this guy will turn around and really like me," and I was going to be nice to him, and just let him know that this was never going to happen.
Bob: With him or with anybody?
Leslie: With him.
Bob: Why with him?
Leslie: Because I wasn't attracted to him in that way. I was friends with him, but I was not attracted to him. That was in November.
Dennis: That was November.
Bob: Yeah, it was chilly. When those feelings started to thaw for you, in the back of your mind were you thinking, "Uh-oh, I'm starting to like this guy who used to be one of those two gay guys on TV."
Leslie: It's funny that you should ask that question, because I can remember the moment my feelings changed for him. I mean, I know the instant – maybe I didn't change, but the moment that I realized how I was really feeling about him, it had been his birthday, and we'd had a great night with a bunch of friends, and he hugged me goodnight, and I want, "Oh, what was that?" Because it felt different. And then I spent the next three days sick in bed, going, "Oh, Lord, no, please, no, no." And it wasn't because of his former struggle with homosexuality. It wasn't because of that. It was just I knew I was in for it, and I didn't know exactly what that meant, I just knew it was big. I knew that what was about to happen was big, and I was a little bit afraid of it.
So I spent about a week really fighting it, praying about it …
Bob: What's "it?"
Leslie: "It," about my feelings.
Bob: Falling in love.
Leslie: Falling in love.
Bob: That's what it is.
Leslie: My feelings had changed from he's just my friend to, "Oh, my goodness, he's more than my friend," and I didn't – I mean, I was 30, so I kind of knew what was going on, but I knew – it just was big. Whatever "it" was – my feelings for him, what we were about to do, what this – how my life was going to change was big.
Bob: Did you have any idea that the miracle hug had had its impact on Leslie?
Alan: I didn't know at the moment that the miracle hug happened, but she started to act like a girl after that point, where she was kind of behaving a little weird, and I thought, "What in the world has happened to her?" You know, she's kind of touching me more, wanting to spend more time with me, she's kind of being a little more ooey-gooey, and I thought, "What's happening?"
So I asked my best friend, and he said, "Well, actually" – and he had heard things had changed, and so we set up our date on – our first date, March 10, 1997, and I just knew – I had known from the beginning she's the one. This is the girl that I'm going to spend the rest of my life with, and even though she's turned me down flat, I believe that God will take care of the situation, and I waited very patiently until those ooey-gooey feelings start, which kind of freaked me out a little bit, but on our first date I asked her, "So when are we getting married?" And she said, "January 3, 1998. It's a Saturday, I've already looked at my calendar."
Dennis: Man, the iceberg …
Leslie: I told you it was big.
Dennis: He hadn't even asked you yet. That's pretty presumptuous.
Leslie: And that was two weeks after his birthday. So I fought it for a week, and then the second week is when I started looking at dates.
Bob: You checked your calendar.
Bob: Let me ask you here, if you were sitting down with a young couple, and he'd had a past history of homosexuality and had come through a healing process on that, and now they were looking at marriage, and they had come to you for counsel, what would be the things you'd say? Okay, in your case, here are some things you need to be aware of that may be a couple that hasn't had this as part of their background isn't going to have to deal with?
Leslie: There has to be realistic expectations about what the relationship is about. No marriage is exempt from its trials and tribulations.
Bob: That's right.
Leslie: So you have to expect that there are going to be some, and the only way that someone entering into a marriage relationship can have an idea about what to expect is if they are honest with each other, and if they're honest with other people. I look at Alan all the time, and people wonder what has helped him be as successful as he is in overcoming to the point that he has overcome homosexuality. And I can look at other people who are still struggling, who have walked a similar road but who are just still struggling, and the biggest difference I see is Alan isn't afraid to tell anybody what he deals with. And if there is a couple that's engaged or they're dating, if the guy is struggling with homosexuality, and he's afraid to tell anybody, if he hasn't told his youth pastor or his pastor; if he hasn't told his parents; if he hasn't told his friends, I would – those are real yellow, red flags to me that he is not dealing with it in the way that he needs to.
Bob: Do you think there are unique issues that you face in your marriage because of his past sin that other couples wouldn't face?
Leslie: We're on radio. Not everybody gets to talk about this stuff on the radio.
Bob: That's true. Are there unique challenges? Are there unique conflicts that come up? Are there unique things that – you know, and I don't want to put it in the wrong terms, but if I had married somebody, and a part of their past was drunkenness, okay, and they were repentant and had not been involved in that, there would still be some unique things that you'd make a part of your life. It would adjust your life. How have you had to adjust your life being married to somebody who had a past history of homosexuality?
Leslie: Honestly, the only thing that I can think of in this moment is I always struggled with my own femininity. I was an athlete, I never felt comfortable wearing makeup, jewelry, dressing nicely. I was comfortable in my Birkenstocks and my t-shirts. And so, for me, I've had to deal with the insecurities in my own life dealing with my own femininity. I would say for me, personally, those issues have probably been harder than anything else.
Dennis: You know, just listening to your story, it really is a unique love story. It really is a picture of love. Many times we want to make love out to be this perfect painting, but the way God works on this planet is through broken people who He brings into relationship with one another to become vessels of His love, and as we express that love for one another, then the healing takes place.
But it does come down to that point you made, Alan, where you said you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Leslie was God's gift to you. She was designed by God for you, and when you received that gift from the hands of God, it's easier to cherish the gift. And you know what? That's a great message for any couple who is listening right now. Because all of them have got sins, Bob, that they brought into the marriage, whether it's homosexuality, drunkenness, lust, pornography, abortion – I mean, we're all broken people entering into this most sacred of relationships, and we need to know how to make a marriage relationship work.
Bob: And it can be issues like pride or gossip or envy or jealousy or – there are all kinds of less notable sins that are equally destructive in a marriage relationship.
Dennis: Yeah, and some of those sins you mentioned are much more acceptable within the Christian community in terms of having respectability.
Bob: I brought them up because they're a little closer to home than some of the other ones are, but I think your point is well taken, and that is that none of us comes into marriage with a clean slate, and all of us have to remember that we have been forgiven much, and we have to respond as those who have been forgiven much, and Jesus said if you've been forgiven much, you'll love much, and I think that's what we're called on to do here. And that's what you've been talking to us about on today's program, and that's really the same theme that's found in a number of the books that I know you recommend to folks who are facing this issue head-on.
One of those books is a book for parents called "Someone I Love is Gay," written by Anita Worthen and Bob Davies. It's Anita's story of her own son's practice of homosexuality and how she and her husband had to respond to that issue when it became an issue in their family. This is a great book for those who are wrestling with someone who has struggled with this particular solution.
And then Ann Paulk has written a book for women who are in a homosexual relationship called "Restoring Sexual Identity." Perhaps you know someone who has either been confused or has found they're still empty in spite of their practice of homosexuality. This might be a book you'd want to get and pass on to them. There is another book we'd recommend for men in the same situation. It's Joe Dallas's book called "Desires in Conflict."
Probably the best thing for you to do is go to our website at FamilyLife.com and review the resources that are mentioned there and see what makes the most send for you or for those you know that you're trying to help minister to with this. Again, the website is FamilyLife.com. You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY and talk with someone on our team about what would be appropriate to order from us. The phone number again – 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY or go online at FamilyLife.com.
We had a lot of listeners who called us last week and indicated that they wanted to join with us as brand-new Legacy Partners here at FamilyLife. A Legacy Partner is somebody who each month helps provide some financial support so that we can make sure that all the bills get paid related to the production of this radio program and all of the costs associated with syndicating it. We are excited about the number of folks we heard from last week, and we're hoping as we wrap up January today that we'll hear from even more folks who said, "I didn't call in last week, but I'd like to be on the team and help provide a monthly gift for FamilyLife Today."
When you do that, we try to stay in touch with you and provide you with ongoing resources throughout the year to strengthen your family, your marriage, and your relationship with Christ. Again, you can find out more about becoming a Legacy Partner by calling 1-800-FLTODAY, or you can go online at FamilyLife.com, and let us hear from you. We'd love to have you on that team.
Well, tomorrow we're going to be back and talk more with Alan and Leslie Chambers, and we want to get your counsel on how friends and family can respond when there is someone in their circle who is practicing homosexuality. What should our approach be as Christians? We'll talk about that tomorrow. I hope our listeners can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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