This particular story comes from a man whom I have a great amount of admiration and respect. John Smid was director of Love in Action, a live-in center that attempted to use therapy to help people rid themselves of “unwanted same-sex attraction.”
John has been through an incredible journey of faith and reconciliation in the seven years since Love In Action encountered a very public protest that is chronicled in a new documentary called “This is What Love In Action Looks Like (web link is www.loveinactionmovie.com He resigned from LIA in 2008. A few years after his resignation the residential program closed and Love In Action changed their name to Restoration Path.
In the last several months, John has been very outspoken about his work with LIA. He has participated in a number of panels to discuss the harms and false promises of the ex-gay industry. It takes an enormous amount of strength and integrity to speak out against a culture in which he was once a leader.
John is now Executive Director of Grace Rivers, a very personal ministry that focuses on encouraging those within the gay community that may be searching for a closer connection with God. He is also very involved in helping men reconcile being gay with their faith. John is also available as a speaker for for special events. Hit the link for more information. www.gracerivers.com/events
I’m told that he has a book coming out soon, so be on the lookout.
This story is one of classic reconciliation — in the life of a man whose whole livelihood was built around something entirely different. It’s the story of how John Smid found something wholly unexpected — grace.
By John Smid
As the second year of my departure from Love In Action came along, I was feeling satisfied, I was challenged in areas of my heart that were brand new for me to look at. I was also finding a much needed rest in my soul, and Jesus was coming into these new areas that had opened up.
I was gaining a new understanding of an old word, “grace.” What is grace and how does this apply to our Christian walk? I wasn’t sure I truly understood it from personal experience. I had always heard, “Grace is the unmerited favor of God upon our lives.”
One day when I was sitting in my office alone, I wandered into something I had never experienced before. I thought to myself, “Hmm, I don’t work for Love In Action any more. I’ve never chosen to look at anything pornographic on the internet. I wonder what is actually out there.”
So, within a few clicks of the mouse I found some pictures that drew my interest. I looked a little more; then all of a sudden my heart SANK! “Oh, my God, what have I done? I just crossed over the bridge into forbidden land. I have broken a place in my life that I have never strayed into before—NEVER!”
My mind began to rush into all of the years of instruction, of challenges for others, and into fears of “What do I do now?” My mind was scrambling, and anxiety filled my heart. Then all of a sudden, something came to me that would become a life-changing, life-transforming experience with Jesus.
“John, what is the deepest thing you know about Me?” Jesus spoke through my anxious heart. I replied, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” He said, “Apply that right now.” I began a whole new process of prayer with Jesus. I began to unravel the last few minutes as I have never done before. “Lord, You have not condemned me, so I will not receive any condemnation from You for what I have chosen to do.”
Then the Lord said, “John, why are you here? What has brought you to look at those pictures?” I began a dialogue with Him about all of that, realizing that a lot of it was motivated by my own curiosity. After pondering the questions that brought me to search the internet, I heard Jesus say: “John, do you have any more questions?” In my own amazement with this conversation I said, “No, no I don’t think so.” Then He said, “Well, then, I guess we are done with this for now, aren’t we.”
Oh—I just experienced something about grace that I have never experienced before in my entire life! At a point where I felt as though I had just committed the “unpardonable sin,” Jesus came into my heart with such calmness. He didn’t yell, He didn’t shame me, He didn’t scold me or embarrass me. He just acknowledged where I was at, listened to my heart, and in many ways, brought me into a teaching moment with Him right there.
I realized—duh!—that Jesus was beside me the whole time. This wasn’t a surprise to Him. But even more, He also put all of this into perspective. It wasn’t so much about the pictures I ventured into. My relationship with Him was far more important to Him than the clicking of my mouse while I looked to satisfy my own curiosity.
God became man, right inside my own heart, and dwelt with me! He showed me a personal side of our relationship that was one of the most significant experiences with Him I have ever had! He revealed to me just how close He is and how much He loves me.
I found a new revelation of the life-transforming power of grace. I learned something about humankind that had never crossed my mind before. All of the challenges, confrontations, “preaching the truth” I had done in the past didn’t hold a candle to meeting with Jesus and finding His love and incredible ability to show me the truth that there is no condemnation from His heart to mine, if I am in Him.
As I pondered His message of grace to my heart, something quite dramatic began to change in the way I handled every relationship I encountered. It was at this point in my journey that I really began to ask the deeper questions about my faith, and my homosexual struggle.
I discovered more about living on a journey with God. This loosened up my personal relationship with God to begin to accept His unconditional love for me no matter where I was at along the way.
I had understood for many years that my homosexuality didn’t prevent God’s love from being real. I also accepted that people, including myself, could be gay and also a Christian. The struggle I had was more with identifying with the term “gay.”
When I read “The Velvet Rage” by Alan Downs I came to an entirely new understanding at a deep level. I finally accepted that I am a gay man and no longer was willing to live underneath a cloud of shame about being gay.
I guess this was the point where I really began to integrate my life as a Christian, and as a gay man.