How one man found freedom in ChristWritten by Mike Haley
What's inside this article
Mike Haley, a former staff member at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colorado, challenged the media's promotion of the "homosexuality is normal" myth, defended ex-gay ministries, answered hate mail and death threats, or simply served as a walking billboard of God's mercy in an organization he once despised. And he's never been happier. But it wasn't always that way.
The father wound
Born into a family with a strong spiritual heritage, he initially received the Lord at the age of eight. But being the only boy born to a controlling father who owned sporting goods stores helps explain the direction his life took. His father's way of "making him a man" was to take him on hunting trips. Often, his dad's friends would go along. But times of supposed masculinity and being "one of the boys" turned into times of humiliation, when Mike shirked the recreational shooting his father relished. His resistance earned him the terms "sissy" and "worthless" – angrily pronounced on him in front of his father's macho friends. At a time when he should have begun to identify with and emulate his father, Mike instead gravitated to the security and acceptance provided by his mother and sisters.
Then a man began to work for Mike's father who provided all the attention Mike desperately longed for. The man took him to Disneyland, the beach, affirmed who he was, appreciated his body . . . something his father never did. At the age of 11, that attention turned sexual. Starved for male affirmation, Mike was too young to call the misguided attention what it really was: sexual abuse. The abuse continued through junior high and high school because the man met a deep need in his life. Before long, Mike had jumped headlong into the homosexual community in southern California.
Being a blond, surfer-type young man, he had no trouble attracting those willing to pay attention to him for sexual needs. Mike embraced the idea that he was born gay. Still, he was troubled. A year or so later, Mike was counselled by a youth worker at his church that he simply needed to read his Bible and pray more, but it seemed as though the more he read and prayed, the more frustrated and angry he became, because change was not happening.
Mike moved away, hoping to find the happiness that always eluded him. But he remained in close contact with his two sisters who provided unconditional love and pictures of his niece and nephews. The letters and snapshots scribbled with "Uncle Mike, we miss you" made him long for a normal family life. Finally in 1985, Mike heard for the first time that homosexuals could change. He had gone to a gay gym, then followed another man out to the parking lot. Suddenly the man confessed that he was a Christian walking out of homosexuality. It seemed like rubbish to Mike at the time. "I thought to myself that this guy was crazy, and God wouldn't do that for him because I had tried and He didn't do it for me."
Is change possible?
As they continued to debate whether change was possible, the man made several references to another man named Jeff Konrad who had left homosexual involvement. While driving Mike from one area to another, the man shared what he had been learning from Jeff. Suddenly, the man's eyes widened and he shouted, "Oh my gosh, there's Jeff right now!" Mike then heard another voice saying, "Was My arm too short to rescue you?" From that point forward, Jeff Konrad became a symbol of hope in Mike's search for wholeness. Back and forth their discussions would go over the next four years . . . Mike arguing that change wasn't possible; Jeff insisting that it was.
Through all of Mike's many moves, Jeff continued to write. His cards would say things like, "I don't even know if you are getting this letter, but God loves you, I love you and change is possible." (Their years of letter-writing were eventually compiled in the book You Don't Have to Be Gay.)
Relationship with Christ
After 12 years of involvement in homosexuality, Mike knew he wasn't happy. Finally, in December 1989, he called Jeff and told him, "You have been so faithful to me, surely the Jesus you know can be that much more faithful. Please help me get to know Him." Soon he had left homosexuality, moved in with a sister and brother-in-law and attended his first Exodus conference. "There were 800 other men and women sitting in the auditorium with the same hurts, who wanted Jesus to deliver them from this life-dominating sin. It was the most unbelievable thing I had ever experienced," he says.
The night Mike got home from the conference, he happened to meet a girl named Angie – a friend of a friend – who was also coming back to the Lord. She and Mike became fast friends. When Mike ended up moving to northern California in December 1990 for a year-long "ex-gay" residential program, Angie stayed close emotionally, providing long-distance support. Having known nothing but homosexuality since the age of 11, mountains of hurt and rejection melted as Mike found a freedom he had not known before. "During that year, I learned many things," Mike says, "especially the importance of obedience, submission and vulnerability. I needed to make myself vulnerable to those around me, being open about my struggles – as well as confronting others about their wrong attitudes." Mike also had to work through past issues with his father. At one point, he wrote his dad a letter, explaining his struggles with homosexuality. He came to realize that his father did love him, something he previously had trouble accepting.
Mike had always dreamed of being a youth pastor, but because of his past – including arrest for prostitution in 1987 – there seemed no way to fulfill his dream. In the meantime, he consoled himself with Angie, with whom he had fallen in love. On December 4, 1994, Mike married "the most beautiful woman on earth." He and Angie then relocated to Memphis with the ex-gay ministry where he was then on staff.
Over the coming months, Mike felt increasingly restless. Yes, he was helping men and women come out of homosexuality, but the passion for youth ministry was still there. Then Tony Campolo, a visiting speaker at his church, said something in a message that troubled Mike's soul for weeks: "God's call is irrevocable." When the position of youth pastor opened up at his church, Mike decided to apply. He gave his testimony to the pastor, the parents and students, anyone at the church who would listen. Nine months later, a lifelong dream came true: Mike officially became a youth pastor! He and Angie loved the kids, and the kids and their parents adored them.
Through it all, the Lord showed Mike that there are still churches that believe in the complete, life-changing power of Jesus Christ. Mike served in that position for almost three years, then joined the staff at Focus on the Family in October 1998. Now, instead of just ministering to kids at his church, Mike speaks to youth all over the country and enjoys a fulfillment in life he never expected to have. "I'm secure in who I am," he says. "I'm not going back. I was there for 12 years. I know what it has to offer me. I used to think that overcoming homosexuality would be sufficient for me, and I used to limit God. But now He's abundantly blessed me beyond my wildest dreams. And what I have now, I wouldn't trade for the world."
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