Helping with complex issues of sexuality & gender • Finding identity in Christ alone

My Wakeup Call by Christel Novella

10577208_829261897091699_3282513361970726290_nGod said in my heart. Choose Life or Death…decide.

I grew up in an Italian, Catholic, middle-class family in NJ. My Dad owned his own business and worked a lot like most fathers. He did very well, so we were not lacking in the material realm. Mom worked as the administrator so she was always home with my younger brother and me. Life was good.

As I look back to what might have planted the seed of my attraction to the same sex, I can attribute it to two main factors. One, I believe was the culture in the 60s and 70s. From my perspective, women were subservient to men, waiting on them hand and foot, which was not very attractive to me. I thought, “I don’t want to be that woman. I want to be the strong, self-sufficient one.” Two, looking back I can see now how being exposed to the hard-core porn in my Grandfather’s dresser had a seriously negative impact on my view of women and their role in the world in which I lived.

Mom began a personal search for truth, and we started attending different churches.   One of my mom’s friends invited us to her Pentecostal church. When the gospel was preached, I responded and became a born again Christian at the age of 12. My entire family became believers around the same time. We eventually ended up in a Baptist church that we all loved. I had a wonderful youth pastor and youth group that helped me grow and get close to God. I was on fire for Him and started serving and sharing the gospel with others. Then I met a boy and things went downhill from there. My focus went from God to him. From that time through my college years were a series of ups and downs, but I felt God’s presence to some measure.

During my first year in college, I met a girl from Canada, and we really hit it off and spent all our extra time together. We would walk to class and meet for lunch. We were inseparable. At the time, I could not see how Satan was going to use her to draw me into a lifelong battle with homosexuality. After the relationship became sexual though, I felt like something had invaded my body. I was like a zombie walking around campus. I couldn’t eat or sleep. People would ask me what was wrong, but I could not even answer. In the past when I was tempted, I was able to overcome, but not this time. This was very different. The feeling and attraction for this relationship was so strong that I didn’t even try to run away. After the first semester, we moved off campus together and became a secret couple. We were together during my entire college season.

At some point I began to feel very guilty about my new lifestyle. I started to attend a Baptist church and was no longer having an intimate relationship with my partner. She eventually found someone else and we broke up. “Now I am free” or so I thought, but I didn’t realize this isn’t something that just goes away. It’s not a phase. I eventually became involved with another woman, and we too became a couple.

We had tons of fun and enjoyed each other’s company. As the Bible says, “Sin is pleasurable for a season but in the end it leads to death.” I remember sitting in my office with such conviction that I had to immediately tell her, “I can’t do this anymore.” She was devastated. It was a short-lived conviction because shortly thereafter I called, apologized and told her that she was my best friend, and I couldn’t live without her. She came back but with much hesitation and hurt. My flesh was happy but my soul was empty and longing for God, the only one who could fill my void, but I didn’t completely realize that yet. So we resumed our relationship, but it took years for her to feel secure with me again.

Thirteen years into our relationship, a very small spot was noted on a routine x-ray in the left lower lobe of her lungs. The doctor wanted to remove it, so surgery was scheduled and it was positive for cancer. He removed the lobe immediately. He said they caught it very early and didn’t find any other spots so there was no need for any further treatment. We were elated! Then 18 years into our relationship several spots were found in several of her lobes. The prognosis not good and intervention treatments unsuccessful, chemotherapy became the topic of conversation.

During this time, I felt powerless and knew there was only one person who could help us. I felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit and began watching the news instead of all the fantasy shows on TV. The news was the only TRUTH I had in my life. I started reading the Bible and praying for my partner. I asked God to forgive me for my lifestyle; because I knew the entire time I was in the relationship that it was wrong. My friends would ask me if I believed homosexuality was a sin, and I agreed it was, but couldn’t leave my best friend, especially now with her so sick. People ask me now… ‘Did I believe I was saved during all those years of living in sin?’ I can say, “YES!” I know that I was saved the entire time. How can I say that with such assurance? God gives us assurance when we accept Him as our savior. He reigns in our hearts and no matter how far we run from Him, He is always there with open arms. However, I do believe there comes a time when God gives us a last call for repentance. This is clearly what happened to me the night He called me to repent. Also, I believe that the conviction in my heart from the Holy Spirit to change was evidence of my salvation. I tried to suppress that conviction by constantly feeding the flesh and trying to fill the emptiness with partying, success, wealth, accumulating things (buying that dream car and house) and going on exotic vacations. But then all that wears off and you are still left with a void that only one thing can fill–Jesus Christ. He created us with that void and until we find Him, nothing will ever fill it; not fame, wealth or power or any one other person.

My partner and I started going to a Biblical Church called Brookwood. We had received a postcard in the mail and I felt led to go. I asked her if she wanted to attend with me, and to my surprise she agreed. Maybe the Lord would bring us both to Himself. So we attended our first Sunday at Brookwood. We couldn’t believe how big the church was. It even had a bookstore, so we checked it out after the service. We bought a devotional book called Jesus Calling and read it every morning. I was so encouraged! We also noticed another book called Coming out of Homosexuality, and I remember her saying, “I hope they don’t go there, or I am out of here.”  She knew at that time where I stood on the subject, but I don’t think she ever wanted to believe it. The relationship had changed though. We had been like only roommates for several years.

After reading the Bible and praying for weeks, I had a divine intervention moment where God spoke to my heart and it was very clear. He said to my heart that it was time for me to turn from my life of sin. “If you do, I will bless you and her. If you don’t it is death for the both of you.” I believe that death was a spiritual and physical death for the both of us. After I encountered God’s clear direction, I remember crying so hard and looking up to Heaven with tears streaming down my face and saying, “There is no way I can do this to my best friend during this critical time in her life. You are going to have to do it!!” My prayer was very simple. “HELP ME JESUS, HELP ME!” I gave it all over to God but also had the faith that He would do it now. I had to put it into action though. I prayed everyday for hours and read my Bible. I would cry myself to sleep. God gave me enough strength to get through one day at a time.

I knew He wanted me to move upstairs to the guest bedroom and that conviction kept getting stronger. I think moving to the upstairs bedroom was the most difficult move in the process, as it was finalization that we were no longer a “couple.” The enemy was strong but God showed me He was much stronger if I relied on Him. There was much pushback from her, but God continually gave me the words to say. She began to do better with her cancer treatments, and I started attending Brookwood Church on a regular basis and even volunteered on the production team. I loved it and found it fascinating. It felt like a call to ministry. I started to grow stronger as the days went by.

She could see the change in me, and I think it scared her. God put it in her heart to leave. I never told her to leave as I let her know I would take care of her as long as she would let me, but I couldn’t be in that lifestyle if God was going to bless us. There were many details to untangle. We had been like a married couple for 18 years; things like taking her name off of the mortgage so that she could buy her own place. During this time, my business wasn’t doing very well so when I called the mortgage company and they asked me my earnings I told them the truth. They said there was no way I could refinance the house on those earnings.

So I prayed about it, and I felt that the Lord was asking me to GIVE HIM EVERYTHING, even the house. I decided to obey and put the house up for sale. After taking pictures and listing it myself, not one offer came in for over two months. I called the mortgage company for the second time hoping we could figure something out, to no avail. I decided to get serious and asked a realtor for help. One thing led to another and I ended up calling the mortgage company for a third time. I got on my knees in my office, hands folded in prayer on my chair and I prayed for God to send me the right person to talk with at the mortgage company. A woman answered, “Hello, this is Angel how can I help you?” At that moment, I knew the Lord was going to work a miracle. I learned that Angel was a Christian so I told her my story and asked about leasing my home. She said that wouldn’t work. I asked her about my options to keep the house and release my ex-partner from the mortgage. She suggested I get a co-signer. I called my brother and my parents and could barely get out the words without crying. They both agreed. I started to cry, I just couldn’t believe it. I called Angel back and after answering some more questions, it turned out that because I had not filed my taxes yet, and because of some loopholes in that, I could indeed refinance my loan without the co-signer. The new payment ended up being significantly lower than the first one. God had really supplied my need in a miraculous way!

That was in 2011 and there have been so many more miracles since that first one. One last miracle that I would like to share is that God laid my ex-partner on my heart in 2012, and I began seriously praying for her. He promised me that she would be healed. She had a series of tests and her doctor told her that she has a rare gene and no longer had to take the IV chemotherapy but instead could take a pill, which was much easier. On May 2, 2014, she posted on FB that she just completed a routine PET Scan and that it was 100% clear and they are taking her off chemo and will do a repeat scan in six months. Praise you Father!

God is faithful. I know this by personal experience. I continue to grow in my church and have now become a part of the Hope for Wholeness Network which is such a blessing to be engaged with so many others like myself that God has redeemed in this way. I’m so glad I heeded his “wake up call.” This new life is not without its challenges. I’m still working through so much, but He is right there with me, daily, making Himself more and more known to me. I wouldn’t trade this new life for anything. I feel more alive than ever!

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