My good friend and colleague Dr. Joseph Nicolosi passed away yesterday from an unexpected, swift illness. I am in shock. He is the man who gave men like me courage to name the wounds related to our early gender identity, get on a healing track, and proceed onto all we were created for. As a devout Catholic, he held fast to our fruitfulness and eschewed the false solutions offered by the LGBT community; as an astute clinician, he persevered to ensure that the healing arts and sciences still applied to persons with same-sex attraction who knew that they were stuck and needed to get on with life.
He did it all with panache. He was a force of nature—youthful at 70-years-old, mouthy, colorful, an unflagging provocateur of truth. He never lost focus. The last time I saw him was a year ago at his home in Thousand Oaks home with wife Linda; he exuberantly rehearsed a new paper he was presenting at NARTH, which he co-founded and designed as the only enduring network offering clinical care for persons with unwanted SSA.
The sheer volume of his output in papers, books, and presentations around the globe is staggering and can be summed up in these words: humanity is created to realize its heterosexual potential and homosexual behavior is a symptomatic attempt to repair early wounds that left the boy alienated from that potential–the innate masculinity that he has failed to claim. Sound psychotherapy is thus one means through which we can welcome the confirmation that eluded us in our wounds and recover our dignity as men from the illusion of seeking ‘completion’ in homoeroticism. I would urge you all to secure any of his books or articles. My personal favorite: Shame and Attachment Loss, IVP.
Joe got it right. He never apologized for the light he shone. In 1980, he founded the Thomas Aquinas Counseling Center in Los Angeles the same year Desert Stream began in LA. He provided for me and my colleagues studying psychology a reasonable, clear direction amid irrational forces. Ever exuberant, he seemed to enjoy the challenges he faced. He was born to burn calories caused by his contention that humanity has a direction born of God, a track no activist can alter.
God made Joe fit for the fight and he did so brightly and boldly in the face of adversity. Some did not know what to do with him. We did know. We loved him. His gift freed us to embrace life. Exuberantly.
Before speaking to a group of students at Florida’s Ave Maria University, I requested prayer and my host Scott and a kind priest interceded with me. We waited together before Jesus. ‘Ask Jesus what you want from Him tonight,’ requested the priest. After a few moments I responded: ‘Reveal Your sufficiency for persons dealing with identity confusion.’ We waited then I saw Jesus pouring out drafts of emerald green ointment upon a crowd. I had never seen ‘the green’ before so was mystified. ‘Green is hope,’ said the priest.
That night as I spoke, hope for transformation rang true, as it did the next day for the staff and particular students who needed counsel for their own lives and for those they love. Jesus made them green with hope. In every unique experience and vexing question, we agreed that He assumed our confusion at Calvary in order to raise us up with clarity as beloved sons and daughter of His Father.
Green with hope, I flew to Malibu California in order to join our Living Waters Training team for an intensive weeklong gathering. Our site, cradled between rocky hills, had been pelted with rain and was now verdant, as lush as I had ever seen it. Creek water rose, and underbrush could not hide new life bursting from the ground. Hope rose from dry and broken hearts. As the team sang and testified and prayed and taught, Jesus became apparent and summoned all to arise into the heights for which He descended into hell. Jesus redeems who He has made.
This group differed in its maturity. These were active spiritual ‘parents’ intent on turning the cultural tide with hope’s crosscurrent. Together we examined the defacing of God’s image. Instead of pouting, we were provoked to fight for countless faces we represent in church families throughout the country: Bethel, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, Four Square, and a host of others. In spite of different traditions, Jesus’ love implored us to rediscover the hope of our salvation, to go low in prayer and so raise high the Cross for one Church and one goal for all her members—chastity, the gift of an undivided life.
Jesus made us green, free to actualize our hope. Hope apprehended ceases to be hope. So we left Malibu, ready to fight. Not hard. He gave all to gain us and we shall do the same for those we love: one prayer, one confession, one conversation, one transformation at a time.
‘The Word became flesh and made His dwelling with us’ (JN 1:14).
In youthful efforts to find ‘home’, a place of belonging where my part of the social equation fit and totaled something valuable, I failed. As ‘gay’ relationships faded, reliance on pills and powders grew. I wondered why I could not deliver on the good I possessed. That depressed me—I wasn’t being true to myself and others.
I had a pretty good home life but that did not make me a good child. I never swallowed the sixties’ rot that we were all God’s children, natively inclined to peace and harmony. I wanted to love but could not, not really. Good intentions capsized under the weight of selfishness. It made more sense to me that I was a child under the devil’s sway, estranged from the Good.
I knew Jesus was real but did not know how He could make me real; how could I align myself with His greater good and so become good? That’s why I love the Catholic Church’s reading this Christmas Day from John 1:1-18. God came into the mess we made of His world ‘and made His dwelling with us’; He draws near to us vagrant ones who become violent in our alienation when we do not recognize Him as our Father.
Maybe God knew that the ‘father’ bit was too much for our foolish hearts, how we project our fears of masculine power on Him. So God came as a child in order to free us to become children again, kids who know some good and long to become good. As we by grace see Him as He is—Almighty in a manger, Lord of all living yet lowly, we can get low and worship the child king. This Christmas, hold nothing back—let us offer Him the whole of our divided lives! Therein lays His power to make us His own, to make us good.
Get real. Become good. Forsake the lie that your good intentions suffice. Only God in Christ can give you a home—the Father’s embrace which transforms children of darkness into children of Light.
‘He came to His own but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave power to become children of God—children not born of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God’ (JN 1: 11-13).
What woke us up? Was it Covergirl magazine featuring its first ‘coverboy,’ a dude whose extreme makeup blurs any gender distinctions? Was it ‘Modern Family’ featuring its ‘gay’ married couple advocating for a ‘transgender’ 8-year-old child (talk about the blind leading the blind off a cliff)? Was it the two nuns who broke their vows to Jesus in order to ‘wed’ each other under Italy’s new ‘gay’ civil marriage law, invoking papal ‘mercy’ (‘who am I to judge?’) and intent on doing all they can to convert the Church to their new version of ‘love’?
Maybe it was the ‘coming out’ of our own family members and the muddy ‘mercy’ a worldly pastor offered in response. Or maybe it was our own wandering into enslaving liberties, a world that celebrated our rebellion while consuming our human dignity, one orgasm at a time.
A shameless culture woke us up to our shame, and the glorious light of Life shining on Christ Crucified. Somehow we remembered that He suffered for more than just high-fiving the fracturing of His own image in a host of gender identities. We knew deeper than our doubts that His resurrection cancels out the hell we have made of our humanity and restores broken willing humans to their original stature and integrity.
We glimpsed the reality of a Church being converted yesterday at an ‘Open to Life’ gathering we sponsored for pastors, priests, and therapists. We came in humble authority, declaring the power of Jesus through His body to restore a host of gender-related disorders and to set us free from all the sins we conceived in unyielded brokenness.
We entered in through the Cross; in the light of Love, we examined the fault lines on which the gender-bending craze is built. And we celebrated lives rescued from distortion and despair through members united with their Head—pastors, counselors, devout laity. We rejoiced in the dignity He fights for in the battle over our identities. And we stood together, regardless of the flavor of our faith. We joined ranks, more committed than ever to be the Church that is ready to aid in the rescue of many, ex-slaves like ourselves who too will be washed and ready for Him.
I ran along the river in old town Kaunas, Lithuania. As I considered the convergence of streams most dear to me, my heart overflowed and I ran with abandon. Surging in me were ‘currents’ of St. John Paul ll and St. Faustina, a European team of wounded healers who heal me, an American team par excellence, and a host of new friends from Poland who gathered to initiate Living Waters there.
Heaven on earth until my foot caught a crack in the path and I dove like a senseless animal into the then not-so-charming cobblestones. ‘Watch your step,’ intoned a still small voice.
I picked myself up, bleeding just a little, and took heed. We faced giants at our first Living Waters Training in Eastern Europe. Poland takes seriously its Catholicism—the authority of the Church, and that means defending the role of ordained priests in absolving sins. Living Waters takes seriously the role of the community in bearing one another’s sins so we can be healed. The priests and parishioners who gathered with us had serious questions about our approach; many also had serious divides in their souls that could only be healed by a band of fellow sinners who fought in merciful humility for their chastity.
I battled confusion and suspicion then rose to testify of both the priestly pillars of forgiveness (on which I depend) and the continuous links of being known daily with my fellow ‘lay priests’ on whom I rely to overcome sin. Jesus forged a way for all concerned to say ‘yes’ to Living Waters for the Polish church; most importantly, sinners were set free by the experience of both priestly absolution and the healing power of the ‘one another.’
I bounded out of our retreat center and somehow avoided stabbing my foot on a rusty spike protruding on the path. ‘I know, I know,’ I whispered heavenward: ‘Watch my step.’
The next fight was harder. In preparatory prayer, we discerned that we had to emphasize one plank of Living Waters—breaking the spirit of despair–in these lands trampled by the bloody boots of Russia and Germany then choked by Soviet rule. Our friends had grown up in the shadow of violent inhumanity. Christ Crucified is easy for Eastern Europeans; they must fight to live expectantly in the light of Love, risen and bursting with life.
The Word came in power and delivered many from the spirit of death. Then despair rolled over the team like a fog. We struggled under a stifling heaviness for a few hours. Then we gathered and confessed our affliction to one another; Jesus broke through with hope and joy. Relieved, I ran back to my room and fell promptly into a pothole. I received only a gentle ‘dusting’, no harm whatsoever, as if an unseen being padded my accident. I laughed, brushed myself off, and pledged once more to watch my step.
‘He will command His angels to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.’
(PS 91: 11-13)