Jackie Hill Perry, author of "Gay Girl, Good God," remembers the first time her friendship with another girl became sexual and what she enjoyed about her homosexual identity. Despite her gay lifestyle, Perry sensed that God was actively pursuing her. In 2008, Jackie felt God speaking to her heart. For the first time, she saw all her sin rightly and believed that the wages of sin really was death. She knew she couldn't stop sinning on her own, but she knew God could help her. From that point on, Perry tells how her life slowly began to change.
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Despite her lifestyle, Jackie Hill Perry sensed that God was actively pursuing her. In 2008, she felt God speaking to her heart. Perry how her life slowly began to change.
Bob: As a young woman, Jackie Hill Perry had what she calls a Damascus Road experience—an encounter with God that caused her to realize she was going to have to follow Him and forsake the same-sex relationships she had been enjoying.
Jackie: So I called my girlfriend, and I told her what happened. I said: “I love you. I want to be with you; but to serve God, I know I can’t be with you.” I grieved that relationship for a good year-and-a-half; because we were fine; we were good—I was happy; I enjoyed her—but I couldn’t have her and God.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, July 3rd. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. Jackie Hill Perry joins us today to share how she came to understand that following Jesus meant “The world behind me and the cross before me.” Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. Is this a week where you normally shut down the normal schedule and get together with kids and do stuff?
Dave: Yes; it is. We are the family that does fireworks in the backyard, Bob.
Bob: Is that legal?
Dave: It’s legal.
Ann: It’s, now, legal in Michigan. And I am always fearful that someone will get hurt because—
Dave: And nobody has ever gotten hurt, not yet.
Ann: Yes [under her breath].
Dave: But my oldest son is a pyrotechnic.
Bob: Is he?!
Dave: Yes; it’s a little scary.
Bob: You do big fireworks?
Dave: Oh, yes! We do.
Ann: One of the sons was shooting skyrockets—
Dave: —bottle rocket.
Ann: —bottle rocket. He had it with his one-year-old, who was shooting them off.
Dave: Okay; we’re not sharing this story.
Ann: Oh, yes; maybe, we shouldn’t share that.
Dave: Nobody needs to hear this. [Laughter] It was dangerous, but nobody got hurt.
Ann: I just sit there and pray the whole time.
Dave: Actually, it’s not as bad as it sounds. We put it at the very back of the backyard.
Ann: Yes; we’re safe.
Dave: They light it, and everybody runs away. If it doesn’t fall over, we’re fine!
Bob: I remember that we had fireworks in our backyard one 4th of July. I think it was illegal, as I remember it. [Laughter] What I remember is—my dad had nailed a pinwheel to a tree. Do you remember the pinwheels?—that would sparkle?
Dave: It’d spin! Yes.
Bob: He went up; lit the pinwheel. And then, I remember him running away from it. I remember him saying, “Here we come, Sergeant Donovan.” Sergeant Donovan was the police sergeant in our city! [Laughter]
Dave: Did he come over?!
Bob: No; he never show up! But I have this memory of us breaking the law in our backyard on the 4th of July—that time when we’re supposed to be celebrating our nation’s history, and patriotism, and all that. I remember us being law-breakers.
Dave: And what does that have to do with our show today, Bob?
Bob: It has to do with this season of the year and the fact that there’ll be people, legally or illegally, doing fireworks this week in honor of the 4th of July. We don’t recommend the illegal fireworks.
Ann: No; we don’t.
Bob: No; we don’t.
Dave: No; we don’t.
Bob: That’s right. We want to make sure we’re on record with that. But we thought this week—because it’s a holiday week and listeners are out of their normal schedule—a lot of them—we wanted to re-air an interview/a conversation that we had, back in March, with an author and speaker/a remarkable young woman, whose name is Jackie Hill Perry.
She wrote a book called Gay Girl, Good God. It tells her story, which we already heard a portion of it this week, where she talks about growing up in a home where she started to experience same-sex attraction when she was in high school—decided to pursue that and act out on that—and declared to her mom, “I’m gay”; and lived with that for a couple of years.
As we pick up the conversation today, we come to the turning point in Jackie’s life, where she recognizes: “That’s not how God has called me to live,” and “I need to make a change.”
Jackie: God had been pursuing me for a while; but it started to intensify around, maybe, early 2008, where it just seemed as if my convictions were increasing. There was this birthday party and my friend, Taylor, was there; Taylor was a Christian. Taylor gets up to, I guess, share some testimony about how God has been good to her; and she starts to weep and cry about God. It was the most confusing thing to me—I was like: “Why is she so emotional about God? I really don’t understand why He elicits this response out of somebody that’s the same age as me.” But my thought was: “Why doesn’t He do that for me? Why am I so indifferent towards the idea of God that I wouldn’t cry about Him?”—you know? I think me asking myself—really, the Holy Spirit prompting those kinds of questions in my mind—just wouldn’t go away.
Then, I would be doing things with my girlfriend and be reminded of God’s displeasure. I felt the distance. You know, we’re born “children of wrath”; we are, “by nature, enemies of God”—I didn’t know those texts, but I felt it. I felt that me and God were not near—that we were not intimate, that I did not love Him, and that I was not empowered to do what He wanted me to do.
I called my cousin, Keisha, and I said: “Keisha, I feel like God wants me, but I don’t want Him. I don’t know what to do about it. I just feel like I can’t sin in peace. [Laughter] I’m trying to enjoy my life; and He’s messing with it by telling me how good He is, and how He loves me, and how He wants to be merciful. I don’t want to hear all of that.”
Then, a couple of months later, I was in my room—it was 2008. I wasn’t at church; I didn’t go to churches, because I didn’t like how Christians looked at me or acted when I was around. I felt as if God had spoken to my heart in such a way, where I saw all of my sin rightly for the first time—and it wasn’t just lesbianism—it was all of it. I saw—oh “For the wages of sin equals death” is reality. That’s just not a verse—that’s right now; that’s today; that’s this moment.
I started to think about all of my sin and its consequences. To me, it seemed as if none of it was worth it. You know, it’s just like: You’re doing all of this for some joy that might last you 50 years?”—like, “That’s dumb,”—I thought about that; but I also told God—I said, “But God, I don’t want to be straight,” because Him calling me to Himself felt like that was synonymous with being heterosexual.
I, again, felt as if God was saying: “Just love Me; serve Me; Get to know Me.” I knew, for a fact, that I could not stop sinning on my own—I told God/I said, “I know I can’t do this by myself, but I know enough about You to know that You’ll help me.” I didn’t have words for that—I didn’t know it was repentance. I didn’t know that I was seeing my sin as worthless and being/and willing to turn from it. Nor did I know it was faith—that I was now seeing Jesus in His glory, and seeing that He was the only One worthy of my affections, and the only One able to save me and keep me; but that’s what it was—it was repentance and faith in that moment.
Bob: Wow! You talk about this kind of being in church and being aware of these things. Was there something you heard that caused you to go, “I got to reconsider what I’ve been building my life around”?
Jackie: No; I hadn’t been to church. It really was a random kind of thing. It was a Damascus moment, where it’s like God just interrupted my life—placed Himself in my world in a way that I could not deny Him any longer.
Ann: And so what happened?
Jackie: I called my friend, who was the—I only knew—there was only two Christians I trusted, and so she was the second one.
Ann: Wait; what made you trust them?
Jackie: They loved me like Jackie. I felt like most Christians that I came in contact with—all they saw was my gayness and not who I was. They treated me like a gay person instead of a person. You know, maybe there was this pressure of not knowing what to do with me—this fear of “Am I supposed to evangelize to her?”
Even my cousin, Keisha, like when she would call me and we would talk, she would actually ask me about my day. We didn’t have to go to Leviticus. [Laughter] She didn’t have to remind me, “You know you’re going to hell; right?”—[Laughter]—she didn’t do that. I think that’s why she was one of the first people I called when God did start dealing with me, because I felt like she treated me like a human being.
I think, post conversion, I called my friend; and I told her what happened, because I had to break up with my girlfriend now. I knew that would be a really difficult thing to do—something that I didn’t want to do—but something I knew I had to, so she just encouraged me.
I called my girlfriend, and I told her what happened—I said: “I love you. I want to be with you; but to serve God, I know I can’t be with you.” I grieved that relationship for a good year-and-a-half; because we were fine; we were good—I was happy; I enjoyed her. We probably would have moved in together—all that type of stuff—but I couldn’t have her and God.
Dave: And how did she respond?
Jackie: Crying, tears—she was broken, because it was random—I was just with her the day before. It was nothing that she would have foresaw, but it had to happen.
Ann: I hear your story, and I think of so many similarities. I was 18 years old, dating a guy/having sex, but I had the same encounter with Jesus—of having a conversation with Him and saying: “I’m tired of playing this game. I’m going to follow You, and I’m going to give You all of me. I’ll do whatever You want me to do, go wherever You want me to go: break up with my boyfriend—I’m Yours—totally all-in Yours.” It’s that transformation instantly: “If I’m all Yours, I’ll do whatever You want.”
Ann: I love that God does that—whether we’re in a heterosexual relationship, a homosexual relationship—God wants all of us. He’s a jealous God.
Jackie: Yes; yes. It’s reminiscent of how He does His disciples in the gospels—it’s always, you know, “Leave all that; follow Me.”
Jackie: Everybody’s got to let something go.
Dave: I tell you what—I want to be the person that somebody, that decides to change their life, calls.
Ann: That’s good.
Dave: When you said you called these people because you trusted them, there’s so many people you couldn’t call—nobody could call—because they look at the sin or they look at the person. I thought, “Man, I want everybody listening right now to say, ‘I want to be the person, who is a follower of Christ, that looks in the eyes of people and loves them—loves them so much that, when they need to make an important decision, I’m the person they call because they feel loved by Jesus through me.’”
Jackie: Yes; and it wasn’t that they were passive on sin either.
Jackie: I knew their stances on sin; and I knew they believed that God was holy, and that sin was wrong, and that it should be resisted. Yet, that wasn’t the entirety of our conversation; nor was that what our entire friendship or relationship was built on—was them trying to convert me. You know, it wasn’t, “I’m only present with you to fix you,”—it wasn’t that. It was, “I’m present with you to love you,” and I think that’s the aim that Christians would do well to shift to.
Bob: Jackie, you know there are books, or blogs, or podcasts you could listen to today that would say: “You didn’t need to leave your lesbian relationship. You can love God. This is how God’s made you to be. You just need to accept that, embrace that and you’re going against who you are.”
Jackie: Yes; yes. I would say that’s a misreading of the Scriptures or a non-reading of the Scriptures. I know why people would want both, but I’m grateful that God is so holy that He has a standard. Yet, at the same time, I’m seeing that, you know, in Timothy—where it talks about how people accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their passions—I’m realizing how we read the Scriptures, and when we try to justify particular sins, it really is a heart issue that becomes a hermeneutical issue.
I think I want people to recognize: “Why do you want both? Are you unwilling to believe that God is not better than that?” because that’s really what it is. You believe that a created thing is able to sustain you and satisfy you more than the One that you were created for, and that’s a lie—a lie that’s existed since the Garden [of Eden].
Dave: And how, in the world, did you discover that?—because it’s obvious you knew that, even before you understood the Scripture. You knew—you said earlier—
Jackie: Sort of, not to that depth.
Dave: I mean, you said earlier—it just struck me that you said: “Why would I do this sin that’s going to make me happy for 50 years? That’s stupid.” I thought, “Everybody does that, and they don’t think it’s stupid,” and yet, you had the insight to go, “That’s a wasted life,” so there’s this depth as you read the Scripture
Ann: Yes; you have a depth to your soul.
Jackie: I think that was 2 Corinthians 4 coming to life, where the veil is being lifted and I’m finally seeing the glory of Christ in a way that I’ve never seen Him; because, when you see God for real—for real for real—how can you ever turn your eyes?—how?! He’s Him! He’s better than everything that ever existed, or He wouldn’t be God. So I think its just the Holy Spirit showed me what was always there.
Dave: So now, you’re not tempted?
Jackie: I’m tempted; of course, I am—I’m in the flesh!
Dave: Oh, you just said you’ve seen—the veil’s been lifted—come on.
Jackie: Right; the difference isconversion has allowed me to have the power to say, “No,” to my sin because the same Spirit that rose Jesus from the dead is in me. But He’s also changed my heart and my affections, where now I’m a new creature that, when tempted, I recognize that the things I’m tempted by are not better than what I love or Who I love. I might still want it, but I want God more!
Ann: What would you say to that person? What would you have said if—you know
Psalm 139: “God knit me together in my mother’s womb. I’m fearfully and wonderfully made,”—would you ever say that: “God made me like that. He made me with a same-sex attraction”?
Jackie: No; God made us in His image—for sure, we are image-bearers. Our bodies are a good thing/our minds—the things that we are able to do for sure—but our sin is something that we’ve inherited from Adam. I wouldn’t ever want to blame God for something like that—you know, [Adam speaking] “The woman You gave me...” I wouldn’t want to blame God for my sin. But I also would say: “Well, that’s why God, in the New Testament—and really, through the Scriptures—is saying: ‘Be born again. Let’s start you over and make you someone who is new.’”
Bob: So how did your mom find out—
Jackie: —that I was a Christian? [Laughter]
Bob: —and how did she take the news?
Jackie: [Laughter] We worked together. I went in her office and I said, “Hey mom, I’m not going to be gay anymore.” I didn’t know how to phrase it; I would never phrase it that way now. [Laughter]
Ann: What would you say now?
Jackie: I would say, “I love Jesus now,”—I would change the phrasing—
Ann: What did she say?!
Jackie: —I was 19; I didn’t know what else to say.
She said “Oh, okay.” I was like, “No; seriously, I gave my life to Jesus; and I’m going to like follow Him.” She said, “Well, that’s nice”; because she didn’t believe me. It was just kind of like—
Ann: —“We’ll see.”
Jackie: —“We’ll see.”
I think what started to change her mind was when I started to respect her—like I started to do what she said when she wanted me to do it. I started to go to church. I stopped coming home high; I stopped lying to her. I still had my issues, for sure; I was still a very new Christian, so I didn’t respect her 24/7. I started cleaning up my room. I just think those small character changes were like, “Hmm, somethings different about her.”
Bob: After you were converted, did you go, “Oh, now, I like boys!”?
Jackie: No; they were gross for a long time. [Laughter] I wasn’t focused on that. I was honestly really content with being single, because it seemed like it would be more of a cross to carry to be with a man than it would to be a single woman.
Ann: Did you assume that you would probably be single the rest of your life?
Jackie: I figured I would get married; but I was afraid of what that would actually look like, because it seemed like it would be definitely a challenge, as it was and is.
Dave: So the first thing Jesus started to change in your life wasn’t your sexuality?
Jackie: No! God was gracious to immediately get me connected to a group of believers, because I didn’t know I needed church. I had a friend, who invited me to this church six days after I repented. I went to the church, and I had this exchange with a woman at the church that was significant to me.
I walked in; and I had my friend’s clothes on, because I had borrowed her clothes because I was like: “You know, I don’t have time for Christians looking at me crazy because I’m sagging. [Laughter] So let me wear your flats.” [Laughter] Those were really uncomfortable to just wear flats all of a sudden.
I went in and this woman named Alisa—she came up to me and said “Hey, what’s your name?” I said “Jackie.” She looked me in my eyes, and she nodded: “Jackie. Nice to meet you, Jackie.” I was like, “Wow, she wants to remember my name.” I don’t remember the sermon. I just remember her personalizing me and wanting to take hold of my name so that, when I do come back, she knew what to say.
Bob: Jackie, there are people tuned in today who still love their sin and are still looking at it and going, “I don’t think God’s greater than the joy and pleasure I’m getting from getting high,” or “…from immorality,” or from whatever. It may not be getting high and immorality—it may be success. There are all kinds of things that could be ensnaring and trapping people. What would you say to them?
Jackie: I think you could be honest with God about that. To me, that’s the same as: “God, I don’t believe. Help my unbelief.” At the root of it is unbelief: “I don’t believe that You are who You say You are. I do believe that the tree [of the knowledge of good and evil] is good for food. I do believe that the tree is desired to make one wise. I don’t believe that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I don’t believe that You are the bread of life. I want these other things to satisfy me and feel me up.”
I think, one, being willing to be honest with God and take the risk of faith. Take the risk that He really is all that He says that He is; because, at the end of the day, we know we won’t all live long; we don’t have that much time here. I think I would just push them to think higher—to not think as earthly—and to confess that to God, and trust, and wait and see what He can do with your heart if you give it to Him.
Dave: I remember walking up to a speaker/author, who spoke to a bunch of guys. I did the typical: “I have a friend, who struggles with...”—I literally did that—I said, “I have a friend, who, when he travels, sometimes looks at porn in the hotel rooms he stays in.” I said, “What would you say to that guy?” I’ll never forget—Larry Crabb said—I said, “Why does that guy do that?”
Ann and I had been married ten years at this point; and I’m in ministry, and I’ve got this secret. I’m asking him this; and Larry said just about what you said—he said: “That guy believes God is not enough,” and “God’s not immediate, and this is”; so he’s going after a pleasure he can feel. But He doesn’t know God well enough to know God is enough.” I remember leaving, going: “I don’t know God well enough. It’s like I have this idea of God and I preach it, but I don’t know the beauty of the face of God that I would go after something else that’s temporary and will not satisfy.” That’s just what you discovered.
Ann: I think, too, as I listen to you—I think the theme today is Jesus and His redemption of our lives. He is the highlight for all of us. In your story, He is the One that’s changed everything.
Bob: What a remarkable story, as we are hearing this week, Jackie Hill Perry share about God’s redeeming work in her life. And her understanding that her identity is not shaped by her desires. In fact, she’s going to explore that more as we continue the conversation this week. But listening back to this, it is so encouraging to hear the power of God at work in somebody’s life.
Ann: Don’t you love her honesty?
Bob: I do!
Ann: It makes me so encouraged that God uses our story to inspire other people.
Dave: I love life-change stories. It might be my number-one spiritual pathway in terms of feeling closer to God. I tear up more when I hear a life-change, salvation-transformation story that we heard today than anything else I do spiritually. I love to worship God; I love to read the Word; I love to pray; but I tell you—something happens to my soul when I hear what God can do in a person’s life, like we heard today.
Bob: I’ve always said, for years—I say it this way: “I’m a sucker for a redemption story.”
Ann: We all are.
Bob: We are, because we’ve experienced redemption. We know the difference it’s made in our life; and to hear about what God is doing in someone else’s life—I always think of Luke 15. I think it’s verse 10, where Jesus says “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” When somebody turns from following their own appetites, their own desires, their own passions, and turns to Jesus and says, “I surrender to You,”—they throw a party in heaven. I sometimes think we should be throwing more parties here, on earth, to celebrate that.
Ann: We used to do that with our kids when they came to faith but, also, when other people came to faith. We would have a birthday cake and say: “The angels in heaven are celebrating,” and “We will too!”
Dave: I think we underestimate the joy that passage is talking about—it’s fireworks! Here we are!—July 4th—it’s fireworks!—[Laughter]—heavenly, eternal fireworks!
Bob: We still have a lot to hear about from Jackie this week as we talk about the issue of identity and understanding what your identity really is. Let me remind listeners that Jackie has written a book called Gay Girl, Good God, which is a book we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order a copy when you go online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, our website: FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Jackie’s book, again, is called Gay Girl, Good God.
Some of you have heard us talk, here on FamilyLife Today, about the upcoming 2020 Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise—our tenth anniversary cruise. We’ve got big plans; we’re on the biggest boat we’ve ever been on—5500 people, I think. We’re either sold out or just right on the edge of being sold out. But there is one cabin we are not selling—one cabin that we’re going to give away to a FamilyLife Today listener.
Okay; here’s how this works. Our team has put together a workout plan for your marriage for the next six or eight weeks. We’ve got this workout schedule, where you and your spouse get together and do some relationship exercises. You can pick whether you want to do the cardio track to get your heart racing or you want to do strength building in your relationship.
All you have to do is sign up for the “Stronger Forever Summer Workout,” here at FamilyLife®. If you sign up, again no purchase necessary to enter. The contest began on July 1, 2019; it ends on August 30, 2019. Official rules can be found at FamilyLife.com/StrongerForever. If you sign up, we’re going to draw a name; and one couple will be selected to join us as our guests on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. We’ll fly you to Ft. Lauderdale; we’ll put you up in the hotel the night before the cruise; you’ll be our guests on board the cruise, in February, on the tenth anniversary Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise.
And we hope you can join us, again, tomorrow when we are going to hear from Jackie Hill Perry about the important subject of understanding our identity—that goes for all of us. We’ve got to make sure our identity is anchored in the right stuff. Jackie will talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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