I am Jewish by birth. But I was not raised in the traditions of Judaism. I did not attend Hebrew school or synagogue. The only time God was mentioned around the house was as a swear word. My mom and dad were atheists, though they had a sense of pride in being Jewish.
I was a loner in grade school and did not get along with other guys my age. Mostly I got along with the girls; I would start up a friendship with one girl and stick close with her. I could never compete in athletics with the guys and did not have much strength. This was due to numerous food allergies and intolerances that kept my digestive system in cramps and pain. Around the third or fourth grade, I noticed that I was attracted to certain types of boys. I did not know what was going on and did not give any credence to those feelings until junior high.
After elementary school my family moved from Baltimore City, Maryland, to Baltimore County. In junior high my hormones started going rampant, and I developed a crush on one of my friends. Yes, it was a guy. At first I thought it might be mutual, but it wasn’t. And though he stayed over at my house a number of times, I still did not fully understand myself, though I knew not to talk about such things publicly.
When I was in junior high my family moved from Baltimore County to Norfolk, Virginia. I finished junior high and then attended high school until the tenth grade, when I dropped out. I was not overtly homosexual until I had gone through the Army. But soon after I was separated from military service, I knew I could not hold back any longer.
I found a good job in the sporting goods/firearms business. While working at age 24, I went overtly into the gay lifestyle. I am not going to lie to you: sex was fun. But that was all I was living for. I was very promiscuous and went out almost every night looking for a date. My desire for sex was insatiable. Though I did find one lover and went with him for two years, I frequently cheated on him. When I saw someone that interested me, I was on the hunt. I caught STDs and hepatitis B because of my promiscuity. I was a staunch atheist. I felt no guilt or shame about my lifestyle and would say, “If I am lost, I hope everyone has as much fun as I do being lost.”
In the meantime, I worked the sales counter in the store and totally enjoyed selling and learning about guns. The head gunsmith took me under his wing and taught me a great deal about firearms. We became very good friends. He was a mature Christian and treated me like his son, despite the lifestyle I was living. We had many discussions about everything: his problems, my problems, God and my lifestyle. Though he did not condone what I was, he never condemned me. He just loved me as I was.
One beautiful June evening after work, I was at a friend’s home. I went outside to smoke a cigarette, and a very strange thing happened. I felt a strong presence as though someone was right there beside me. I could not see anyone, but I knew somehow that someone was there with me. I had a very strong feeling of peace that I had never experienced before, and I also felt love from whomever was there with me. I had been an atheist until that moment, but now I prayed, “God, I know now that You exist and I would like to know You.” As soon as I prayed that simple prayer, the presence was gone. I told my friend at work what had happened.
It was two months before my prayer was answered. One Saturday when I went into work my friend gave me a cassette tape to listen to during my lunch hour. The tape was by Hal Lindsey about his book, The Late Great Planet Earth. He talked about things that were going on in the world and how one day everything would be destroyed, along with all those who rejected God. I felt like my heart was burning within me to know God. At the end of the tape, Mr. Lindsey gave an invitation. He said I did not have to make promises about changing things, because God would bring His desired changes within me. I did not understand, but I invited Jesus to come into my heart. That was July 12, 1976, and I was 28 years old.
When we take this step, it is not a guarantee that we will be automatically delivered from bad habits or lifestyles (though that can certainly happen). I had come to believe that Jesus died for all of my sins: past present, and future. But I was still gay. I informed my good friend at work that I had said yes to Jesus, but I am sure he knew it would be a while before changes came about in my life.
That September my friend invited me to attend a fall semester of Bible study classes at his expense. During the classes I was like a sponge soaking up every word. I was learning about a God who really loved me and cared about me. Near the end of the semester, I had lunch with a Christian friend. I had not told him that I was gay; only my good friend at work knew. But as we talked, I told him about my lifestyle. He thought it over for a while and then said to me, in a very kind voice, “You know, you need to leave this lifestyle behind you and move forward with Jesus.”
Before I received Jesus into my life, I had had no conscience. But now this friend’s words really shook me. Not long afterwards I had a dream or a vision (I’m not sure which) about being in prison. My cell had several other inmates, and each one of them had my face. As I was talking to each of them, they told me why they were in prison. Each had a different one of my sins. One at a time I talked with them and one at a time I rebuked them in the name of Jesus. I awoke the next morning and totally walked away from the gay scene, never to return. Two and a half years later, I was married, and my wife and I have now been together for over 37 years.
I am no longer able to keep my love of Jesus to myself. I have been sharing openly online for over two years and penned over 200 blogs. Though my former lifestyle still tempts me, I remain free (for over 40 years) because Jesus strengthens me to resist temptation and live for him. God has a sense of humor: He took a high school dropout who always flunked English and gave him a heart and ability to tell the world through the written word that Jesus can deliver anyone.
Everyone needs to know that God loves us. No matter what lifestyle or sin we are living, God through Jesus changes the desires of our hearts as we delight in Him by learning of Him through His word (Psalm 37:4). He does not make us change; He makes us “want” to change. We are unable to change ourselves. God, little by little, prunes away the dead branches and leaves of our old life so that we will bear new and good fruit for Him (John 15:1–5). I will not lie: sometimes the pruning is painful. But He will always be as gentle as possible with each of us, one leaf or branch at a time. And He always gives us something much better in place of what He has pruned.
Sam Kofsky was raised in Baltimore, Maryland. He and his wife have been married for 37 years and reside in Southeastern Virginia. Now retired, Sam has written over 195 Christian blogs and poems.