Sy Rogers: Freedom from Sexual Brokenness - Hope 103.2

Sy Rogers: Freedom from Sexual Brokenness

Sy Rogers experienced childhood abuse, same-sex attraction, trans-sexuality, and was living as a woman in preparation for a gender reassignment, before a radical turn of events changed his life.

By Sheridan VoyseySunday 3 Oct 2010Open House InterviewsChristian LivingReading Time: 1 minute

In 2010 Sy Rogers was interviewed by Sheridan Voysey on Open House, opening up about his former life as a gay man, seeking a sex change, to having a transforming encounter with God, and now being married, a father and soon to be a grandfather.

Transcript:

Sheridan Voysey: Well, Sy Rogers’ story is certainly a dramatic one: a broken childhood, same sex attraction, transsexuality, even a planned gender reassignment operation – before a radical turn of events that changed his life. He is now an internationally traveled speaker and teacher. His specialty is helping people understand sexual and relational brokenness and find freedom from it.

Sy Rogers, welcome back to Australia and welcome to Open House for the first time.

SR: It’s great to be with you and see you again.

SV: A lot of people will know of your story. What if we touch on your story and your background, that’ll kind of paint the picture as to who you are today and what you do. So tell me about your childhood.  

SR: I came from a broken home, and my alcoholic mother was killed in a drunk driving accident when I was a kid. Prior to that she had been involved in an affair with a man who began to sexually violate me also. And of course, I learned through that, all kinds of things I should have never had to learn. And then after my mother’s death, I was separated from my father.

And so right there in the foundations of my life, you know, I am both abused and begin to be starved for connection and family and that sense of value not nurtured in me, I went looking for compensation.

Growing up also in the American Midwest being raised by female influences, I picked up that ‘affect’. And that made me an easy target for labeling and further rejection, especially from guys.

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And I hungered for masculine love, missing a father I wanted to connect, but it seemed I was never good enough – could never quite measure up. And even when most of my peer group did not reject me, you know, most of my classmates were not cruel, there was a dedicated handful though, who were pretty persistent in both rejecting me and labeling me, shaming me and even some exploited me.

And so I began to pick up on this message, you know, that “I’m not adequate, In fact, I’m not worthy of love”. I don’t know that I would have articulated it that way at the time, but I certainly was hungry to feel valued.

And I guess to make the long story short, I finally did get involved in homosexuality. And, you know, for me, it was a compensation where I had not been valued before. Now I was – and I was willing to compromise myself in order to obtain that interest. So into the lifestyle I went. I was based in the military at this point in Hawaii, and I lived a double life.

SV:  Which itself is very interesting isn’t it? Based in the military.

SR: I know. And I wasn’t quite ready to go to university. I’d been a student overseas. And when I came back to the US, I thought this would be a good way to get my college paid for later and see a bit of the world, get some training and life skill. And in that sense it was good discipline, but I also still had these feelings that were very powerful and my sexuality emerging. I was living a double life: good soldier by day; free to be the other me after dark in the discos of Honolulu.

Later, I got involved in a gay church as well. And my two roommates were married in a gay wedding, and I was one of their roommates. So that was my experience, too, in gay theology. And finally, to make a long story short, I had become a university student now, later, back on the mainland US after my military experience. And it was the pre politically correct era. It was not PC to be me. So I became an object of a lot of persecution. And there were even Christians on campus who tried to reach out to me, you know, but they kept trying to win a moral argument with me. And nobody really seemed interested in me; they seemed interested in scoring points and winning an argument. At least that’s how I perceived that – and it really made me mad.

I believed in the God of the Bible. I believed in God.

SV: Well – you were going to a gay church.

SR: Right. But I still believed God didn’t like people like me – at least that was the message typical Christians conveyed to me. So I probably had a pretty big chip on my shoulder toward church culture and certainly toward God too, whom I blamed for my suffering in life.

“My college experience was extremely painful. I was largely rejected… In that crucible, I came to the conclusion if trying to be a guy has only brought rejection and pain to me, maybe I can be reborn through a sex change.”

It was kind of like, “Gosh, I don’t know ‘why me’, but it just seems I got the short straw in life, and therefore I’m just going to do the best I can to make a good go of life and be as happy as I can, and not worry too much about my eternity, and I hope, I hope somehow, some way, you know, I don’t die yet.”

And so I was just living to to make the best of things. And I did conclude, however, that I was a failure as a male. My college experience was extremely painful. I was largely rejected, and it was a hostile experience. And so, in that crucible, I came to the conclusion if trying to be a guy has only brought rejection and pain to me, and I’m tired of living in pain, that maybe I can be reborn through a sex change.

A Life Changing Encounter With God

I never did have that operation, but I did live for about 18 months in preparation for surgery. And it was during that time that I had an encounter with God. I don’t know any other way to describe it. And if you’re listening, thinking “That sounds odd”, I would have said the same thing, once upon a time.”

I had this experience in the privacy of my bedroom. The Bible says you can seek God and find him if you seek Him with all of your heart. But the Bible also says, God is a good shepherd who will go looking for lost sheep.

SV: Do you think he was looking for you more than you were looking for him?

SR: Absolutely. You know, Simon Tugwell says in one of his great quotes, that we’re “running away from God in the dark, and just when we thought we would have escaped him, there we run right into him”. I had that kind of an encounter.

“In that moment, with the Lord’s presence blanketing me on the floor – I couldn’t see God, I couldn’t touch him, but I could not deny a tangible effect upon me.”

And in that moment, with the Lord’s presence blanketing me on the floor, I couldn’t see God, I couldn’t touch him, but I could not deny a tangible effect upon me.

SV:  So what was the context of that happening? What happened leading up to that?

SR:  I was seeking; I was in Eastern mysticism at the time; my roommates had a Book of the Dead; I don’t know that I was a hardcore Marxist, but I certainly was about ‘changing the status quo’, and I was looking philosophically at kind of Eastern meditation; but I certainly was far away from a Christian experience. And in the middle of all of that, one evening in my private bedroom, this presence entered in – and I heard this song from my childhood playing in my head: “Jesus loves me, this I know”. And as this presence – literally a tangible presence, I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it affect me, blanketed me – that encounter, I guess you could say with God, opened my eyes to a reality that this is not just a philosophical point of view. This is not just some spiritual option on the big religious buffet. This is a real life person; a presence that seems to care about me. And why I matter to him, I don’t know.

Centuries ago, the young Shepherd King David before he became famous, he wrote, “who am I God that you bother with me”, you know, “you made the entire cosmos, who am I that I would matter to you?”

I think we all have a pretty hard time that if there is a God, he would bother with us. But then that’s our misunderstanding of his character and of his interest, deliberately so, in humanity, individual by individual.

And so as I had this experience, my eyes opened to him. He did not say to me “if you will stop being gay”, but through scripture, spoke to my heart: “stop resisting me, Sy”. And he did not say to me, “hey, Sy, try to be straight”. I like to make the point, “straight people go to hell; it’s redeemed people who go to heaven!”

My need was not for a different sex partner. It was for a Saviour who could affect my life.

SV: Good point.

“God Began to Heal My Heart”

SR: So God was inviting me into relationship with himself, I felt, and thus I began to pursue that, now that my eyes were opened by this encounter, that I matter to God and that he is real. And why me? Why now? I don’t know – but I guess he has his reasons. And now he had called me out. And I gave my life to God 32 years ago.

And he did not wave a magic wand and fix everything overnight. But he began to immerse me into a process, if you will, of cleansing – to defilements which had corrupted my worldview, and had been so controlling in my thinking and behavior. And he began to bring healing to my damaged, wary, cynical, jaded, angry, embittered heart. And he began to bring cleansing to that and healing to it – that I could learn to love and trust again.

“This humble church I began to go to, where they could have easily rejected me… I had been living as a woman… I had the residue of not only mannerisms, but also hormones…This would have been quite bracing I’m sure, for some, but they absolutely loved me.”

And he especially dressed himself up in ‘skin’ in this humble church, I began to go to, where they could have easily rejected me. Here, I had been living as a woman, you know, for almost two years, and I had the residue of not only mannerisms, but also hormones, and, you know, 32 years ago, are you kidding? This would have been quite bracing I’m sure, for some, but they absolutely loved me.

And they proved it, not just with cheap talk, but I mean in the way that they treated me. Especially men, you know – whatever they would have thought about me behind my back or said about me behind my back, to my face, they convinced me they loved me.

SV:  All of which was what you were originally looking for in the first.

SR: Well, that’s right. They loved me, held me, hugged me, touched me, and took me to the men’s camp and the men’s retreat and the men’s breakfast. And those men did not hold forth the hoop and say, “Sy, if you butch it up, maybe we’ll like you then.” But they just took me like I was, and really connected me into their circle. I didn’t break in – they pulled me in. And I had never known such a thing.

It’s interesting: Psalm 107 says, God will not take away your craving, but he will satisfy it the right way.

And as my fixation on men, this this hunger for their love and acceptance, was finally satisfied – it’s kind of like when you’re when you’re full, you know, dessert starts to lose its power and appeal.

I didn’t need my homosexuality any more, because I got something that I felt was better, more satisfying for me. And I didn’t have to compromise myself to get it.

So I began to grow beyond my same sex attractions. It was kind of like outgrowing it. And because I began to grow, things began to change. You know, what a five-year-old can do is really different than a 45-year-old. Five-year-olds don’t drive cars but 15-year-olds begin to learn how. So as I began to mature, as I began to find a lot of healing on the emotional landscape of my life, and as I began to move forward in relationship health where I wasn’t being sexual, I wasn’t drugging up to cope in life, I was becoming a healthier person, I began to grow. And as you grow, change is the byproduct. I am not in the ministry ‘changing’ people. I don’t ‘change people’s orientation’, and I don’t have that power. But I do, pastorally speaking, want to encourage people to live in a posture of surrender and submission to God, in that ongoing journey.

SV:  Therein lies the actual change that comes as the fruit of that.

SR:  That’s right, as people begin to grow. And as a consequence today, I feel good in my skin as a guy. I enjoy being married – for 28 years. I love being a dad, of an adult daughter who’s also married. I love being a father-in-law. And I look forward to being a grandfather.

You know, those things don’t prove I’m ‘not gay’, but it’s just evidence of growth. And the insights I’ve learned in my journey, that’s the real Rest of the Story. Not just that I became a Christian, but that I walked on, these 32 years.

The Longing for Love Built Into the Human Soul

SV:  No matter what the sexual brokenness, no matter what the relational brokenness –  it could be homosexuality, it could be a transgender experiences as you had, it could be something completely different – they all kind of have the same root. And to some degree, that longing for love that humans have, there is something divine about that isn’t there? It’s actually it’s built right into the heart of our soul.

SR:   It absolutely is. In fact, Jesus invites us in John chapter 6 (verse 35), he says, “I’ve got the living water, I’ve got the bread of life, feed off of me”. To me, the implication is if I’m not feeding off the good source, I’ll be feeding off of any source. In fact, Proverbs 27, verse 7 is a pretty profound psychological insight. Very handily, that verse, ancient though still applicable in the 21st century, says of the human condition, you know, times and cultures change, but the human need does not. And this verse says, “to a man who eats a really big meal, dessert’s not very tempting, but to a person who is starving, even the bitter thing tastes sweet”.

When Jesus made that statement in john chapter 6 about being the bread of life and the living water, he had just been conversing with a woman who was living with her fifth sexual partner. And he tells her, you know, “I’ve got the living water”.

He said, “the water you’ve come to put in this jug at this well isn’t going to really quench your deepest thirst”; the implication – neither will your lover. “But I know you’re thirsty. And I’m not here to criticize your craving, I’m here to redirect it towards the first best choice, the best source; I’ve got the living water – and if you would know it…” he says to her.

How marvelous that God dresses up this idea in the skin of Jesus – that he’s not offended that we crave to be loved. He made us to do just that. But we also recognize as the modern idiom says, “bad love is better than no love at all”. How many men and how many women will be very willing to compromise themselves in order to feel valued in somebody’s sexual embrace?

And of course, we not only have that psychological, emotional, relational appetite for intimacy and to be valued, but we also have hormones coursing through our veins and sexual experience and desire. And, you know, just because you struggle doesn’t make you bad, it makes you human. But human means vulnerable. So when you add that sexual feeling coursing through our veins due to hormones, combined with a provocative world culture, like a Pied Piper that provokes us, and reveals things to us we might have been better off not knowing; and then you add our hunger to be loved, when many times we grow up in situations where the cup is not yet topped up – that’s a pretty potent mix of vulnerability.

I almost ask, “how could we have escaped?”

And so, you know, most of the people I address, 96 percent of my audiences are straight people. They don’t have a history at all like mine. But as you said, our humanity is still pretty much the same. And many people, research makes it clear, one in four girls, one in six boys, have histories of childhood sex abuse, date rape, one in eight women in the West can expect to be raped at some point in her lifetime. The average age for kids today being exposed to hardcore pornography is between eight and 10 years of age. And so you know, when you add that up, how are we escaping this?

But even if we do get defiled, or even if we are wounded, we have an opportunity to go forward. And get back on track.

The Years of Transformation

SV:  That’s what I want to hear now. When you had that encounter with God and your whole life was turned upside down, all that brokenness and everything like that didn’t change overnight. How long did it take you to get control of your relational, sexual life? Because it had been out of out of control.

SR:  I’d say that really the first two years was my greatest struggle. And later – you know, I’ve learned in retrospect that research of people conquering compulsive or life controlling behaviors, that’s pretty typical. The first two years are your highest period of recovery; there may be relapse. And while I never went back out and had illicit sex after that, I certainly struggled internally for a long time. And I had to learn how to reckon with that; how to deal with my past internally. That is, I always make the point, the blood of Jesus may cleanse you from your guilt, but the blood of Jesus does not wash away memory, history, and human vulnerability.

“Being alone, I had to learn, was not an excuse to go out and get drunk and have indiscriminate sex. I’ve got to grow up and learn to do better with my mind and body.”

I had to grow up and learn to become a responsible steward of what I thought, and what I did. And so whether I was lonely, whether I was feeling sexually turned on, or whether I was struggling with hormones or just, you know, being alone, I had to learn that’s not an excuse to go and act out in ways that are detrimental to my wellbeing. It’s not an excuse to go out and get drunk and have indiscriminate sex. I’ve got to grow up and learn to do better with my mind and body.

SV:  How did you do that?  

Being Honest With God

SR:  I began to talk as honestly and unpretentiously with God as I could, figuring, “If he knows everything, and he redeemed me, he fully knew what he was getting into”., I would cry out to Him and say, you know, “Gee, God, I really want that. But now that my eyes are open to you, I want you more. Help me.” And I call it running to God, rather than from him.

A lot of people, especially from religious or church culture, they think Christian people shouldn’t even have dirty thoughts. And “if I do, I guess I’m bad. I guess God’s mad”. And that’s ridiculous thinking. If you have these thoughts, you’ve got your good reasons. And you’re not bad, you’re human – but that means vulnerable. And God is not mad. He is advocate, and he understands. And what could be better than running to God rather than from him?

But sometimes running to God, beyond just confessing the truth in prayer – I didn’t get into repressing. I went into addressing it and saying, “This is what I’m thinking God, and a part of me wants that. But you know what? A part of me wants you too. And now that my eyes are open to your reality, I want you more than I want that old thing. And while it calls my name, you call my name, while the old asks for my allegiance and indulgence, you are asking for my allegiance and indulgence. Help me find a way forward.”

And for me, that not only meant good mental health and telling the truth about myself and how I felt with God in the mix, having that conversation with him; but also it meant honest dialogue with people I trusted. You know, some of my mates over coffee: “Hey, guys, would you pray for me? You know, I just can’t get these images out of my head. Can I borrow some of your prayer support here?” I didn’t have to go into deeper detail, they could read between the lines and get my point.

But knowing that I wasn’t kind of keeping a secret and was bringing this into the light and being humble and honest, really helped me deal in a more straightforward, authentic way.

SV:  And finding people who actually really will be able to be trustworthy with that stuff, Who will keep it confidential, and will still love you even in the midst of what you’re sharing.

SR:  Absolutely. And so there are those trusted mates in my life that you know, maybe I couldn’t get up and share that just indiscriminately, but with people I could trust. and, if you will, an organised formal version of what I’ve just described is found in a support group, where people have a shared weakness but a shared goal, share that journey together in confidence, but walking in the light, supporting one another toward responsible self management.

And, plus I had to do retraining of my reactions to stress in life, that, just because I’m lonely or I’ve had a bad day at the office is not an excuse to go act badly. I had to mature. I had to grow up and take control and responsibility.

“Retraining My Thinking”

SV:  Give us a concrete example of that.  

SR:   Well, even like retraining my thinking. The Bible is the first best example of cognitive restructuring. The neurological sciences today make a very clear point, as does the book of Ephesians, that if I want to stop a bad behavior, I have to build a newer, better one in its place. Because as long as I’ve got the old pattern reinforced, and I don’t create a new one, the old pattern is my only default.

For example, if I’m cussing in traffic, because I’m frustrated all the time, well, traffic will always be frustrating. So pretending it isn’t, is a ridiculous exercise. But I can admit the truth that traffic is frustrating.

But if I want to stop cussing in traffic, I’m going to have to start blessing. So instead of cursing at somebody who cuts me off, I’ve got to make a deliberate, informed effort to start blessing to start. You know, saying, well, thank you God because I sometimes mess up in traffic, and I don’t want people cussing at me either. So, according to brain related sciences, this is quite effective. That if I practice it over about a two year window, my brain will begin to be trained down an outcome where, in frustrating traffic, I will begin to now bless, instead of curse, that I literally have to retrain my brain.

Practical Steps to Break the Addictive Cycle

SV:  Now how does that work in a sexual context where the more you think about it, the more it’s kind of, you know, fizzing up in your mind?

SR: For example, it depends on what you do about that. So if I am lonely, and that feels painful, and then I wish to medicate that pain by looking at internet pornography and masturbating, then I realise if there is stress in life, and there always will be, I’m going to have to find another way forward. If I want to conquer that life controlling reaction to stress, I’ve got to build a new reaction.

“God knows the psychological profile of a human needs a protector, and a mentor, someone who will stand with us and walk through life with us and protect us.”

So instead of sitting down at the Internet, and then beginning to click online and ponder things I ought not, how about getting out of the house, taking a walk for 20 minutes. This is not only good for my body, it’s good for my neural makeup, and it begins to help me process stress of loneliness in a way that is not destructive, or taking me down a path that violates my moral conscience.

And therefore on that walk, I can talk to God. I can remember that though at times I may be lonely, God is present. And I begin to refocus away from one old strategy, and I begin to develop and cultivate a new one. You put off the old! How? You have to develop deliberately make an informed effort to put on the new. “Don’t think this, think that. Don’t do this, do that. Don’t say this, say that.” And that’s not just good Bible, it’s good brain-related science.

And so part of that worked for me too.

Certainly, I think healthy relationships, that was a very big deal for me, as I mentioned earlier. Learning to connect with men. As a man, one of the guys feeling good in my skin again, where I’d always been made to feel inferior and inadequate. And how cool of God like this, that if in one season, you got ripped off, in another, God pays you back. That if I missed a father, then I get new fathers, in the family of faith, and a Father in heaven.

God in His Word says, and I find this quite remarkable too, that of all the things that he says he is, you know, Creator, God, Redeemer, Lord; He also says he’s the father. The Papa is the actual Hebrew concept. The intimate, caring Father, for our souls. How he knows the psychological profile of a human needs a protector, and a mentor, someone who will stand with us and walk through life with us and protect us. And so many of us come from histories where we didn’t get that. And how God likes to get that idea dressed up in this skin of good leadership and church culture.

Answering the Critics

SV:  Sy, probably a good time to raise the issue. Are we kind of trying to reorder something that ‘is’? Or are we seeing something completely changed from within? Some of your critics will actually say, “Has he really changed his orientation from being somebody who was involved in the gay lifestyle? Or has he just repressed it?”

You said you haven’t repressed it. But some people say “he hasn’t ultimately changed. He’s just really worked really hard to live as a heterosexual person.” How do you respond to that?

SR:   I would say yeah, I really did work really hard at learning to master my mind and my body – but not at becoming a heterosexual. To me, change was simply a byproduct of growing, as my fixation on men resolved. I kind of grew beyond it.

“I’m not in the ministry of trying to change people’s orientation. I am encouraging people to live out a posture of ongoing submission to God and surrender to Him and living in a healthy way.”

I tell people, the real goal is not change, because change is simply an inevitability of growth. It’s a byproduct, it’s not the goal. In fact, I think when people try to make change the goal, they interfere with the actual process of growing up and growing on and growing healthy. So again, I’m not in the ministry of trying to change people’s orientation. I am encouraging people to live out a posture of ongoing submission to God and surrender to Him and living in a healthy way.

SV: And that would raise the other issue, which is that this really is within the core of Christian discipleship, the Christian discipline, walking after Jesus.

SR: Absolutely.

SV: Because a whole bunch of people listening to us will say, “What’s the issue? What’s the issue, Sy, I’ve had these feelings and I want to express that with a person of the same gender, or with a person of a different gender, I have these desires, and hey, you know…?

We Belong to God

SR:  Well, let me just jump back with a moment and say, you know, the Lord tells us that we belong to Him, and that we have to forfeit our right to ourself, That if I claim his name, he claims my life and my body specifically as his dwelling place, and I must forfeit my right to myself, sexually speaking.

Now, whatever you think that means, again, that’s up to you and your walk with God. I’m not here telling you what to do as a listener, I’m telling you what I felt convicted to do with God. You have to work it out yourself.

But I’m working it out for me and I have found contentment and harmony with God and my values. That said, I do see in Scripture though, where God asks us to live our life surrendered to Him and to be set apart for him. And if I am set apart for him in my behaviors, in my thought life, in my relationships, and what I do with my private parts; if I’m set apart for God in my diet, and in the way that I conduct my life and for what I live for, then my life will probably be much healthier than what it used to be when I managed it without God in the equation.

SV:  So it’s actually one part of something broader, which is what we would call holiness. holiness being set apart, being different.

SR:   That’s right, and belonging to God. And so, you know, Jesus does say “You better count the cost.” The idea that Christianity is like a little spiritual side dish on our big lifestyle buffet. “Oh, yes, I’m spiritual too”. No, no, no, that’s not a God, Bible understanding. The God, Bible understanding is God is the center of your life and your life revolves around him, not yourself anymore.

You know, for my critics. And you know, I have lived three times as long out of the gay life is I lived in it. And I’m getting ready to be a grandfather. And if you don’t believe me, I’m sorry, there’s really little more I know to do. I’ve done the best I can to live my life openly and publicly and to be scrutinised, both in church and in society, both mocked and derided as well as criticised and viewed with skepticism. And I’ve walked on.

I enjoy my life and my marriage, I enjoy being a dad, and I have enjoyed the fruit of health in my life and being connected with family and being reconciled to my dad and my stepmother. I led my dad at the age he was 79, six years ago, and I led him to the Lord Jesus and I baptised that man myself, too. After 22 years of him watching my life and listening to me, if you think that you’re skeptical about me, well, fair enough. But if you think you’re skeptical, it took my dad and my stepmother watching me for 12 years before they believed what God had done. And then another 10 years, I had to pray after that before I got to lead my dad to the Lord.

So I understand that people come up with all kinds of excuses to explain my life that I was never really gay, or that I’m really still gay, and I’m in repression. To me, I don’t care. You know, I said what I had to say, and I’m walking on trying to live a life following God. And however, people need to rationalise it, fair enough. But I’m going to walk on.

And my real goal is not to try to win an argument on these issues. It is to invite you to consider your own relationship with God, and to live in relationship with Him through Christ and to live a life surrendered and submitted to him. Because I trust God and His Spirit to lead you, if you care about God’s opinion. And if you walk with God, He will take you forward. And if you care what he thinks, then you will turn to his word and he will illuminate you according to his opinion. And I’m encouraging you to do that.

“It’s Not a Life of Repression”

Whatever you think of me, doesn’t matter. But what you think of God really, really does. So that’s what matters to me. It is not a life of repression for 32 years, I don’t think I have that kind of psychological energy to fake it. And I am a very scrutinised man, and a public figure, where I am viewed all the time. Every week I’m recognized. So I never know when people are actually watching me. So I’m aware I am observed. And so I’m not living a double life as some do.

“It is not a life of repression for 32 years, I don’t think I have that kind of psychological energy to fake it. “

I will never live like my past never happened. But I’ve learned to live beyond that. So it’s kind of like this, the way I describe it. If I grew up in Germany, only knowing German all my life, only knowing Germanic language and culture, and then in my 20s, I get on a jet and I moved to Australia, well, I may never go back to Germany and live there, but I’ll never forget that I used to. And I’ll still know the German language, I’ll still remember the German experience. And even though I stay in Australia, and press through that cultural assimilation, and I learn English, and I find satisfaction here, and even if I go forward and spend the rest of my days here in Aus, I’ll never forget that I started my life somewhere else. And even if I speak English, it’ll be with an accent that betrays I started my life somewhere else.

It’s just like that for me. I used to live in another land. I don’t live there anymore. I live in a new land called redemption. And so yeah, I speak with an accent that betrays I started somewhere else and I don’t have amnesia, as if I had no previous history. But I find in this new land of redemption, satisfaction, for me, is something I did not anticipate. I thought it would merely be a crucifixion daily of my flesh, and it would be a loneliness experience, and that I would at best grit my teeth in some repression. And that’s not how my life has unfolded.

On Meeting and Marrying Karen

Sy-Rogers-and Karen

Sy Rogers and his wife, Karen

SV:  Yeah. Tell me about meeting your wife, Karen… how it all happened, and the challenges for her?

SR: She’s a great lady. You know, I always joke, “Karen didn’t marry me because she couldn’t get better”. And she didn’t marry me out of pity, like I was some kind of missions project. And she was certainly not a fixer. You know, like, she didn’t think she could rescue me and that her love would resolve my problem. She knew better than that. But, you know, we were colleagues in a ministry, and we worked together daily, and she got to observe my life. We became friends. And it was out of that, that eventually a romance blossomed.

But she had to observe my life for quite a while before, you know, she could really see me mature. And, you know, she said, it wasn’t my homosexual history that was the big obstacle for her. She believed God redeemed people from that background; it’s even in the Bible. She summed it up very well when asked in an interview, that the biggest concern that she saw in my life was my immaturity, and my insecurity. And of course, she would have been right about that.

So I needed to grow up and become a man, more mature and more secure. And I eventually did, and when I began to pursue her and then finally proposed, we went, you know, forward in our relationship. But she had to observe my life and I had to earn her trust And how long did it take? That took about three years, and that was working together.

You know, we didn’t have the pretense of dating only. She saw me under stress, under pressure, the real me, that maybe in dating you don’t always get. And happily the outcome of that was that after marriage, there were no big shocking surprises. So she knew the boat she was getting into.

First Romance With a Woman

SV:  Yes. And what was it like to experience those? I guess those first feelings of, I guess romance for a woman.

SR:   I was surprised that I had the capacity. I guess I just thought, “Oh, well, because of my background that’s just absolutely impossible”. And I learned that was not the case.

It’s interesting how apologists for sexual liberation will talk about how fluid sexuality is, oh, unless, of course you want to leave that lifestyle. And so, you know, everybody else can be flexible, but not you – you’re locked in – and so, for me, I found that not true. I found that I developed the capacity to be attracted to a woman. Not every woman. I don’t burn with lust for all women, like, I guess some people think a man is supposed to. I find that quite unhealthy and burdensome in the lives of many men.

For me, I fell in love with Karen – not every woman, you know? I did feel maybe exaggerated inadequacy. But as I began to speak to other men about their own cold feet, their own sense of adequacy versus inadequacy, I found out that some of my feelings were exaggerated, but really pretty typical to most guys, who ponder, “Do I have what it takes to be the husband or the father, that men and God and my spouse and family expect and need from me?”

And I guess there is no risk-free marriage. I had never been with a woman before. I had to learn it – but like, every virgin does! Which I of course joke that it’s a good thing we had a good sense of humor, because we did a lot of laughing. But you know, laugh or cry, you have to learn and nobody’s born knowing this stuff. And just like I learned finding love one way, I learned to find it, and find satisfaction in it, in another way.

Advice for People Who Know Someone Struggling

SV:  There will be family members who will have a situation where their child has come out as gay, or their child, friend, or spouse, is involved in sexually illicit behavior outside of marriage. What advice would you give to those who know someone wrestling with sexual brokenness?

SR:   I’d say number one – calm heads prevail. So as much as you may have learned something that’s distressing – and it is distressing to learn that you have a wayward spouse, or a spouse that you discover is perhaps acting compulsively with pornography; it is distressing to find out that a child whose life you have invested is taking a path that you find of concern. My encouragement is to not overreact if possible.

Secondly, to seek out support: informed, knowledgeable support that as you walk through what could be powerful emotion, everything from fear to embarrassment, you know, we have to admit people have egos involved in love relationships. And so consequently, there can be quite a gamut of emotions from anger and frustration, to fear of how things may turn out, to risks involved when we have a, you know, a child who may be involved in drugs or in sexual promiscuity or a spouse that’s been cheating on us. You know, these are shocking discoveries or distressing discoveries. And so there can be quite a gamut of emotion and this, for me to say, calm heads prevail is easy to say and not easy to achieve. And therefore, secondly, let’s get support: informed support so that you don’t have to walk through such on your own.

“Let it never be said that we haven’t done everything in our power to reach out to people we care about, but sometimes our reaching out can be almost an interference… We want to be thoughtful and recognise what matters most.”

Maybe thirdly, in getting resources, you might look for books, where people have been there, done that and walked through it and glean from their experience, what’s worked for them, what helped them, what they were able to hang on to as an anchor. What steps they took on a practical level – everything from health and well-being. If you’ve got a spouse that’s been involved in adultery, how they may have exposed your own health, you know, and what steps you can take or how they may have affected your income and monies and, you know, their things involved there. How you can go forward in either confronting or addressing this concern and whether that spouse will be cooperative and collaborative toward restoration or whether they are in denial and don’t want to deal. You can still take responsible action for yourself and get support for you. And even if your spouse or partner doesn’t want help.

And then I think for a child that’s going down a path of life that you find distressing. Working through your feelings is just as important. It’s not just about your kid, it’s about you. And you matter to God, not just your prodigal, and consequently you need to let God be at work within you so that you can be part of a solution, instead of contributing toward the problem.

I think getting educated is really important, to know when to speak, and when not, and what to say and what not. And if you have brought damage and an overreaction, how a little humility can help mend a fence and go forward. That you really do love that child, you really do love them and want only the best, and that you just had to work through your reactions and because you love them you want love to prevail.

Let it never be said that we haven’t done everything in our power to reach out to people we care about, but sometimes our reaching out can be almost an interference. We don’t want to make every visit a sermon. We don’t want to leave the book open on the coffee table at the right chapter or drop the brochure at their door. We want to be thoughtful and recognise what matters most.

What Matters Most is Peoples’ Walk With God

To me what matters most in the lives that that I’m connected to, where someone may not know God or maybe walking down a path that could be self-destructive, my greatest concern isn’t that they agree with me on every point and philosophy, but that they are on a path of health, and they are on a path with God.

“Where’s God for you?” “Well, I think the way I’m living is okay, Sy”. “I understand that, but what about you and God, where are you with God?” That’s what matters. The law of love. The second commandment says, “I’m free to love you. I’m not your judge. And because I love you, I have concern for your welfare. If I see you blindfolded in rush hour traffic, you know, it may be thrilling to dodge the cars. But if I call out to you, won’t you please reconsider? Don’t say, ‘How dare you judge me?’ I’m not judging you. But because I care about you, I have concern for your welfare. And so therefore I call your name. Well, you know, what about you and God, won’t you reconsider?”

That’s what matters to me. I’m not trying to win arguments with people. I want to see people in relationship with God.

SV:  Yeah. Well, Sy you have faced brokenness, you faced rejection in numerous quarters, really you faced rejection from, I guess, men in the first place, I guess you face rejection from the gay community in recent years. You’ve really battled it. But bless you, and thank God for you for the fact that you’ve kept on going well. 

SR:   Well thank you. You know, God is real to me, and I cannot shut my eyes as if I could not see him anymore. And I have to say, I’ve had my critics, but at the same time, I’ve had many, many gay people and pro-gay people recognise I’m not their enemy. I don’t desire ill toward them. I’m not anti gay, I’m not bashing gay people. I’m against that. I know what it’s like to be the object of gay bashing. And that’s the last thing I want to foment.

And I speak harshly to church culture, if you will. I call church culture to task over unloving attitude, and I’m really glad that over the years in my journey, people, whatever they think of me, even if they think I’m misguided, they know at least I’m not their enemy. That my desire is to see people simply know the love of God, and live lives surrendered to God. And that’s the invitation God makes to us.

So I’m thankful that I’ve had that chance to earn back trust. Or maybe in the earlier days, I was less wise, and maybe a little bit more opinionated about some things. But now, maybe the grandfather part of me, just simply holds forth the invitation for people to walk with God and I trust God to illumine and guide them.

SV: Good to talk to you, Sy.

SR: Good to talk to you again. Thanks.

 

SV:  SyRogers.com if you want to find out a little bit more.