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Relationships

When a friendship crosses boundaries

by Sherla Ow | 26 June 2018, 4:48 PM

I remember the first time I fell in love.

It was more than just the cheap euphoria of physical attraction, this time there was a connection on a deep level. I never felt as understood by anyone else as I did with her.

But the person I was carrying a torch for is a she – just like me. And I’m not someone who falls in love easily. Save for a few eye-candies and crushes, I’ve never actually felt attracted to anyone – male or female. I really believed I would remain single for the rest of my life. And I was OK with that.

So I wasn’t looking for love when we first became friends. I wasn’t even expecting anything since we were both of the same gender. But what started out as an innocent friendship developed into something more. Before I knew it, I found myself drawn to how safe and comfortable I felt around her. That was when the alarm bells began ringing in my head.

How did I get here?

We preach about physical boundaries in church but what is even more insidious is emotional intimacy.

Timothy Keller writes, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.”

Most of us are searching for someone who would understand and accept us for who we are. When we do, our emotional needs are met and it can feel a lot like love. I believe people can fall in love anywhere with anyone. I believe that when you fall in love, you don’t fall in love with a gender, but the person in his or her entirety.

But I also believe when the Bible says that our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9).

I wished I had better managed my emotional boundaries. If only I had been more vigilant about who I let into my heart! But while I didn’t choose to fall in love, I eventually chose to fall out of love. The painful experience taught me to keep my friendships – male or female – in check if I don’t want to have unnecessary emotional entanglements.

3 WAYS TO AVOID EMOTIONAL ENTANGLEMENT

1. Make your friendship inclusive

More often than not, when you’re close and comfortable with someone, you’d prefer not to allow others to step in and disrupt the delicate world you’ve built together. But the extended time together will only foster stronger bonds, especially if the both of you are close to begin with.

When you invite others into the friendship, however, it’s no longer just about you and the other friend. It looks more like a community where people can watch over you and keep you accountable.

Do your friendships point you to God, His precepts and His purposes for you?

2. Make sure the friendship points both parties to Christ

Friendships are given to us for encouragement, comfort and love – humans are relational creatures after all. But friendships should point us to God, instead of drawing us away from Him.

“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” (Hebrews 3:12-14)

The brotherhood between David and Jonathan demonstrates just that.

King Saul was after David’s life after the shepherd boy became a threat to the throne. As the prince and David’s best friend, Jonathan could have been jealous of David and plot to kill him too – but he didn’t. Instead, Jonathan reminded David time and time again of the destiny God had for him (1 Samuel 23:17), even when it meant he’d have to forfeit his right to the throne.

Do your friendships point you to God, His precepts and His purposes for you? At the end of the day, friendships with fellow believers are supposed to help us to keep our faith.

3. Make God your first love

The problem with falling in love with the wrong person is the life that comes after it. Who else can I share my burdens with? Who else can understand me like Jenna* did? Where do I turn to now?

The truth is that an unhealthy reliance forms when we view one another as an ultimate source of love and comfort. No human is able to fulfil that role. Instead our love for one another is merely a reflection of God’s love for us.

When we point people to ourselves instead of God, we’re only setting them up for disappointment. Remember the hurts you carried because someone failed to meet your expectations? Or the wounds you’ve nursed when people exited your life?

We all want to be loved. But perfect love can only be found in God. Only He is unchanging and ever-faithful. Will you let Him be the first love in your life?


* Name has been changed for confidentiality.

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Thank God I struggle with same-sex attraction

by H.Y | 13 July 2018, 10:37 AM

Yes, you read that right.

It sounded ridiculous – even sadistic – to me as well, when my friend said a similar prayer years ago. But today, these seven precious words have taken on a new meaning for me.

Experiencing and resisting same-sex attraction (SSA) is probably the hardest battle I have ever fought. While I’ve had crushes on guys as well, my attraction towards females has always been much stronger. Throughout the past seven years of resisting the temptation to act on my emotions, I’ve never understood why I had to go through this.

  • Doesn’t God know how disgusted I am with myself whenever I come to Him?
  • Doesn’t He know how difficult it is for me to repeatedly turn away from my most natural attractions?
  • If God really loved me, why didn’t He just make me normal?
  • Why did He allow me to go through so much pain?

Those were some of the thoughts that used to run through my mind. Even as I grappled with these questions, God used a recent infatuation I had to show Himself to me.

SUCCUMBING TO TEMPTATION

I met her on a week-long overseas work assignment and we clicked instantly. She was kind and took special care of me. Soon, we grew closer and started to confide in each other. We often deviated from the group to spend time together and even hung out in each other’s hotel room alone. I didn’t fully recognise my emotions then and hence, set myself up for trouble.

Perhaps it was the extended amount of time that we spent exclusively or the emotional connection we had that led me to develop feelings for her. As much as I knew my feelings were contrary to what constitutes holiness and Christ-like behaviour, I couldn’t help myself. I told myself every day that I couldn’t continue indulging in my feelings, but I just kept falling helplessly into sin.

One day, God intervened and graciously used the situation for my good. At that time, I had yet to share my struggle with my mentor and friends, hence I did not have anybody to turn to. As a result, God became the only Person I could hold on to. But at the same time, I felt far too dirty and sinful for God to handle.

WE CAN ALWAYS DRAW NEAR TO GOD

But even in the midst of my struggle, I was repeatedly reminded of what the apostle James wrote about choosing God over worldly passions. He instructs us to “resist the devil” and “come near to God” (James 4:7-8). It’s a two-pronged approach that we have to take – not an either-or approach – for it is impossible for us to turn away from sin without drawing near to God.

The apostle James also encouraged us in this: When we violently reject the devil, he flees from us. But on the other hand, when we run to God, He draws near to us.

That beautiful and magnificent image of God Himself being with me kept replaying in my mind.

… when we run to God, He Himself draws near to us.

When that realisation hit me, I knew what I had to do.

I had to come to God in brutal honesty, regardless of the state I was in. Humbling myself to realise that I could not do it on my own and raising the white flag in surrender was difficult, but I knew that there was no other option for me. I had done all I could with my human strength but it still did not amount to anything. I saw my helplessness and my desperate need for God.

I remember crying out to God in frustration. I whined endlessly to God in agony. I begged Him to remove my feelings of attraction. It was in these moments of vulnerability that I realised that it is absolutely okay for me to come to our Holy God in filthy rags.

God proved to me that He provides us with the strength to obey Him, so that we can resist even the toughest temptations.

In fact, just like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, He welcomes and embraces us when we come to Him in repentance – regardless of the state we are in. When we become His children, we can never be too dirty, too unholy or too distant to come back to him.

Slowly, I started to feel less alone in my struggle and I knew for certain that God was fighting alongside me. Every time I turned to him, comfort and peace, which were usually elusive to me, suddenly began to fill my heart. I felt reassured that turning to God was the right thing to do.

I also noticed how my prayers shifted from asking God to remove the temptation to asking God for strength to make the right decisions. He became very real to me in those precious seven days when I struggled with that temptation.

GOD NEVER ABANDONS US

For the first time, I was truly convinced that our Father never abandons us. Even in our times of rebellion against Him, He is never too far away for us to reach out to.

God proved to me that He provides us with the strength to obey Him, so that we can resist even the toughest temptations. In Philippians 1:6, He reassures us that He is not done with us yet and that He will complete the good work that He started in us.

… my prayers shifted from asking God to remove the temptation to asking God for strength to make the right decisions.

Since I began this journey, I have found it easier to obey God. By actively distancing myself whenever I find myself developing feelings for other girls and being honest with God about what I’m feeling, I now struggle less to turn away from temptations and turn my heart towards God.

I still do not have an answer for why God allowed me to be attracted to both genders and am far from being immune to temptations, but God has opened my eyes to see how these encounters have become a way for Him to draw me back to Himself.

I’ve seen how weak and helpless I am in the face of sin, and how the Almighty God works even through that.

Now, I am able to truly thank God that I struggle with same-sex attraction, for if I didn’t, I wouldn’t see how God graciously provides us with His own presence and supernatural strength to fight these battles and to ultimately win the war in eternity.


This article was first published on YMI.today, and is republished with permission.

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The mask he wore to church

by Oliver Kuek | 11 July 2018, 5:47 PM

You know what it’s like being attracted to the same sex as a Christian?

I certainly don’t. And for a long time I lived without knowing what that tension was like – that double-life of fear and shame our brothers and sisters go through. I remained blissfully unaware until a few years ago, when one of my mentees from cell group texted me saying that he needed someone to talk to.

That was nothing unusual. Jonathan* and I had been having regular meet-ups so I figured he just had something a bit more pressing to share that night. We agreed to meet at a park after cell.

Jon was unusually quiet during cell. Not like he was one of the louder ones, but that night he was observably unresponsive – withdrawn almost. And even more so when we sat down to talk after that. By then, his face had taken on the pale and anxious look of a person about to throw up.

So I said, “Hey man, it looks like this is something that you’re finding pretty difficult for you to say. So, take your time alright? Don’t worry about the time, you can share whenever you’re ready and when you want to.”

Even with that word of assurance, we continued to sit by the river in silence. Jon’s eyes were fixed downwards to his shoes the whole time. Some minutes later, he began tearing.

I can only imagine the pain you’ve been experiencing this whole time, not having anyone to share this with.

“Hey. What’s wrong, Jon? You can tell me,” I said. Nervous words started to stumble out as he began sobbing: “I don’t even know how to say this.”

“I’m … Attracted to the same gender.”

Bombshell. For some stupid reason I had never thought about how to respond meaningfully in such a situation. My eyebrows might have raised for a split second before I caught myself and prayed as fast and as hard as I could. God, what do I say?

Seconds later, the words came. “Jon. Thank you … Thank you for telling me.”

I remember saying something along these lines: “That was incredibly brave of you to do, and thank you for trusting me. I can only imagine the pain you’ve been experiencing this whole time, not having anyone to share this with … Your secret is safe with me.”

Jon didn’t have any more words after I spoke. He looked so alone in the dim light which seemed almost to shroud him. I hugged him as he cried hard into my shoulder.

After Jon’s “confession”, we became closer as brothers in the faith. I know he knows I don’t judge him, but I bet he knows I’m just as clueless about this whole thing as he is. I’ve never really had to think about the perpetual tension he lives in: How the heart wants a person, and yet that same heart knows deep down it isn’t the right way forward.

And how do you live as a Christian with same-sex attraction? Unless you’re out of the closet, you basically have to put on a front and lie your way through questions about your relationship status, or just be single and celibate and hope no one asks too many questions.

How tiring it must be to live with these masks. And I believe there are ways we can do better in caring for brothers and sisters like Jon.

Why have I written this? I guess I want to say to the Christian who’s struggling with same-sex attraction, that I probably understand only a fraction of what you live through on a daily basis. From the strained hope of long having asked for this cup to be taken from you, to the not knowing of why God made you with these attractions – I can only imagine what it’s like being in your shoes.

To see how you have not been faithless in striving towards the godliness and self-restraint God has called all of us to compels me in my own journey. And if I’ve acted out of ignorance or entitlement, forgive me. I am not better than you. We all come from the same fallenness. As such we are all offered the same grace.

How then can we offer each other this same grace as Jesus Christ offers us, whether the struggle be same-sex attraction, anger management, addiction, pride, body image, illness, grief or loving others not like ourselves?

In my view, we can always do better as a Church, one body of Jesus Christ. We are one family, and if we love the family as much as we say we do we have to stand together, with each other; nobody gets left behind.

There is a Jon in every Church – possibly even in every cell-group. I think it’s not so much about how we can change him, but how we can bring each other closer to Christ.


Names have been changed for confidentiality.

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The best lessons I learnt in school

by | 6 July 2018, 5:52 PM

It’s funny how time flies, within a blink of an eye, I am now Year 3 in a school that I still struggle to fully understand. I mean, one moment you’re walking into your very first lecture, the next, you’re well into your final year, taking on a 6-month internship programme at Thir.st.

But one thing has stayed constant for me, and that’s the community I’ve in school. When I was in Year 1, I joined my polytechnic’s Cru chapter. It was the best decision of my life. I’ve made the best friends I’ve ever had, brothers and sisters who’ve faithfully walked my poly journey with me.

As I now stand at the end of my poly life with graduation less than a year away, I can’t help but think back on some of the lessons I had learnt from this community.

3 LESSONS FROM MY CRU JOURNEY

1. It’s okay to be who you are

For an extrovert, I am surprisingly socially awkward. I remember when I first showed up for Cru’s welcome tea, not knowing what to expect or who to talk to.

But as I showed up, again and again, I saw something very different about the community – no one was disingenuous. And while the world says to put on a mask before everyone so no one can tell your true colours, this community laid it all down to be real with each other.

As I saw my new friends revealing who they really were, I felt the need to do so too. But as I did, something strange happened; instead of feeling endangered, I felt a certain release.

It was through this community that I realised how tiring it was to put on the mask of poise and excellence before everyone, and how easy it was to finally lay it all down and say, “This is me, all my strengths, all my weaknesses, all my flaws.” And at the end of the day, still be accepted for who I am.

This community, to me, was a picture of how we can and should come before Jesus. In John 6:37 Jesus says to us: “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” If we come to Jesus, just as we are we are accepted and will never be driven out from Him.

2. It’s okay not to be okay


My best friends in community have become my best friends not just because of common interests and fun times we’ve had together, but because we’ve shared our struggles, pains and deepest hurts.

In my recent struggles, I found myself wrestling with the issue in the dead of midnight. After praying over it, I decided to call one of my best friends. Not only did he pick up the phone, he even talked it through with me till the early morning.

Such a sanctuary to be this vulnerable is such an apt image of how we can lay it all down before Jesus. In one of my favourite verses, Jesus gently offers us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus knows how hard it is to be human, He feels our every struggle because He went through it Himself. But instead of standing at a distance, He offers to have us cast our burdens on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

3. It’s okay to be different

Cru communities are usually made up of people from many different churches, denominational beliefs, socio-economic backgrounds and sometimes even nations.

Yet, I realise that the closeness of this community is not founded on the ignorance of our differences but in spite of them. Whenever we don’t agree on a particular issue, we always take the time to communicate and, as much as possible, compromise so that we can dwell in peace and unity.

Each time I step into this community, I am reminded of the hope to come. In Revelation 7:9-10, the Apostle John saw a great multitude of every nation, tribe and tongue, and they were all praising God as one.

What a beautiful sight it must have been, and what a glorious hope. As believers, there will come a day where we no longer pick out the differences between each other – we are only going to see each other as God’s fellow children; we are going to praise and worship Him together.

Even now as I look back at my two years with Cru, I can’t help but be in wonder of how this community has not only grown me but also given me a glimpse of Jesus and the future hope I have in glory.


Don’t believe me? Come and see for yourself. If you are a polytechnic or university student looking for a Christ-centered community to be a part of, why not join me and see for yourself what change being a Christ-centered community in school can do?

Contact @polycrusingapore, @np_crusade, @sp_crusade, @nypccc or @ntucru on Instagram. 

/ junheng@thir.st

JunHeng is a 100% extrovert who loves caffeine – lots of caffeine. He also likes HTHTs, jamming and eating good food. Did he mention he loves caffeine?

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Pornography was my escape

by Jerald Tan | 3 July 2018, 2:56 PM

I had my first girlfriend, A, at 18.

It was wonderful. I loved her and accepted her for who she really was. We were happy until the day I realised that A was seeing someone else without my knowledge. I didn’t know how to react. I felt betrayed that my trust was broken. I felt angry because how could a Christian do such a thing?

At 20, I started getting closer to B. I loved being around her. It was fun. I’ll never forget the nights we rocked out at concerts, watching Arsenal matches or the late night drives spent just hanging and talking. But we never got together, and one day she started to avoid me. I never knew why until 2 years later when I found out that she was dating a guy who I mentored.

I was furious for being a fool again.

Then at 22, I met C. It was going well and there were plans to ask her to be my girlfriend. We jammed to music together and geeked out to our favourite anime. I still remember Thursday was my favourite day because I’d get to send her home and spend time with her. But yet again, I was betrayed by C because of another guy.

Three times, I was betrayed and cheated on.

The betrayals broke me. I knew only fury and anger towards these people. I wanted justice. Furious, I let rage consumed me.

So I turned towards porn. In particular, a genre called “bondage.” Bondage binds women with ropes and “punishes” them by sexually abusing them. I felt satisfaction and release seeing these women suffer. “They deserve it,” was what I thought to myself each time I scrolled through page after page of bondage porn.

Pornography was the only twisted form of justice I knew. I wanted to see justice being served. I couldn’t bring myself to forgive them and let go all of the emotional hurts I went through. True release was forgiveness, but I wasn’t even close.

Forgiveness is a conscious day-to-day decision and not a one-off thing.

But I think one of the great examples of forgiveness of all is found in the Gospel of Luke.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

It’s mind-boggling how Jesus could forgive the people actively killing Him. Forgiving means releasing a person from the debt owed to you, even if they will never come to understand the depth of the hurt they’ve caused.

Forgiveness is a conscious day-to-day decision and not a one-off thing. It is both letting the debtor and yourself off the hook. It’s surrendering the post-traumatic emotional baggages to God for His healing.

I’ve caught a glimpse of how Jesus feels when we betray His love for other things in life.

It must be excruciating when one person betrays Him, let alone 6 billion people on the planet betraying Him each and every day. It puts my pain in perspective.

So I constantly pray and acknowledge that I am a sinner and because Jesus forgives me – I choose to forgive others.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Till this day, I struggle with the vast head knowledge that cannot yet be translated into the heart. I still struggle to forgive every day. The events that I went through keep replaying in the wee hours of the night. The emotions become alive and intensified and yet the most ridiculous decision of all is the best one: To lay it all down at the throne of grace.

This pain is something I have to live with for now, but I know that He is patient and He is there for me.

So what now?

A was just happily married 5 days ago. B is happily engaged and just graduated from university. C is trusting in the Lord and working in the mission field.

But now my heart feels strangely warm typing this, knowing that they’re fine.

For myself, I am thankful that I am loved by Jesus. I am loved by my family, my partner and my community. I’m thankful that even though I have so many baggages, my girlfriend loves me and is there for me and accepts me for who I am, that she is willing to give me a chance to go through life together with her.

I’m thankful to Jesus that even though I’m a broken vessel, I am still “crowned with glory and honour”. I still struggle with pornography and forgiveness, but I am pressing on towards righteousness as God’s work-in-progress.

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Are you waiting for “The One”?

by Roy Tay | 2 July 2018, 2:03 PM

For most of my life, I’ve been told to wait for The One.

The one I would someday meet, who will make all of these lonely nights worth enduring. The one who may not be what I’ve wanted in a spouse but would be the best for me. I felt sorry for myself for the longest time, having to endure and wait for this magical person from the future.

I wish I realised it earlier, but my singleness now is absolutely a gift.

If I could only give one piece of advice to anyone struggling with singleness: Take a cold shower and sign up for a six-month missions stint.

It’s what I’m doing with YWAM now. The greatest advantage of being single is being free! If you were married, it might not be possible to just sign up for a mission stint like that. I love Paul’s words to the singles of the Corinthian church.

“I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:32-35)

Paul treaded cautiously when he wrote this portion of his letter. He made sure to have the disclaimer, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgement as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 7:25). It’s the only disclaimer Paul makes in all of his letters because he knows singlehood is a delicate issue.

Not everyone should receive celibacy as a calling, but we should all see the beauty in singleness.

A little historical background research tells us that the life expectancy of a Jewish person during that time was only about 25-years-old. So it would actually make good sense to serve God wholeheartedly in view of a short life. Scholars also believed that Paul’s writings hinted he believed that Jesus would come back during his lifetime. These factors contribute to the rationale of his suggestion.

I have a friend who’s constantly travelling the world. He makes it back to his local church probably five times a year. He’s single and beyond the usual age most people marry by. If he were married, it’d be unlikely that he’d be able to do what he’s doing right now. To me, his life looks a lot like “undivided devotion” to the Lord.

Not everyone should receive celibacy as a calling, but we should all see the beauty in singleness. This is a question I ask myself all the time: Instead of spending time fantasising about the future with our significant other, how can it be better used in serving the Lord now in singlehood?

Singleness builds your character. It’s not some dreadful, meaningless phase of life spent waiting for a slice of the future. It should be joyful and purposeful season where God shapes you to be the one for your one.

I remember just telling another friend yesterday, “You would not be in such a hurry if you saw singleness as an opportunity.” What you sow today you will reap tomorrow. If God is building your patience as a single, you will appreciate Him having built your character when your patience is tested in marriage.

Ask God: What areas of your character can be further improved so that you can be the best one for your one when you eventually meet her? She will thank you and thank God for it.

Don’t waste your singleness. Impatience frequently reveals a lack of trust in God. But He is working for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28).

Don’t waste your singleness.

Singleness is a time to date Jesus – not that being married isn’t.

I have to tell God each day, “Lord, not my will but Yours be done.” I struggle too. It’s hard for me too. The heaviness is there in my heart as well. I’m just trying to find out what God wants to do in me through it.

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

There is a special closeness to God that you can enjoy while you savour the bitter pill of loneliness. Seek Him and trust Him. He is good and sovereign. He makes all things beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

If you truly believe that Jesus is the only water that satisfies (John 4:14), then your ultimate desire should be in Him. And there’s good news in that: “Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and His Righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

There is a special closeness to God that you can enjoy while you savour the bitter pill of loneliness.

If you’re waiting for The One, spend the time growing into Christlikeness.

One reason why more and more marriages are failing in the world today is that we keep pursuing The One, while oblivious to the fact that marriage requires the character of both individuals.

Be The One. The only way to do that is to align your heart with Christ, develop your relationship with Him and He will develop your character (James 1:2-4).

 

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Article list

When a friendship crosses boundaries

Thank God I struggle with same-sex attraction

The mask he wore to church

The best lessons I learnt in school

Pornography was my escape

Are you waiting for “The One”?