I have a box of journals I look at from time to time. I have them arranged in chronological order so I can see what I was thinking and feeling at different times in my life. The first journal I have is a brown “Executive Planner 1986.” When I was fourteen, I decided I was going to write every single day of 1986. It is full of classic entries like “Gym outside for a change. We played basketball and lost. Worked on room.” (Tuesday, March 18) and “Very boring day. Did nothing all day.” (Saturday, June 7).

There are also fascinating pop culture references (Anyone remember the TV show “My Sister Sam?” Apparently I watched it a lot.) and important historical records: “Election day. Thomas Ward beat John Hiler. ? Oh well. The Democrats now have control of the Senate! The world is in danger!” (Tuesday, November 4).

And then there are the entries about my Christian faith. Here’s my favorite: “I got sanctified today. I will do anything for the Lord. Went to Teresa’s after church.” (Sunday, October 12).

The riches in this journal never fail to disappoint, from my desperate attempts to convince myself I was straight (“I like Dawn again! Oh no!” — Monday, November 10) to my hilarious unintentionally gay entries (“Fun day! Got a beautiful new outfit.” — My 15th birthday, Monday, September 22). They are truly ripe for a Mortified performance.

I didn’t really journal regularly again until 2002. I was just about to come out of the closet for the first time. I did the unthinkable: I wrote it down. I put the words “I am gay” down on paper for the first time, and I left it in a drawer in my office. It was a supreme act of trust on my part. I knew that if someone found it, I would be sunk.

2002–2007 are filled with words. So many words. So many desperate prayers and scriptural promises and conversations and classes and conferences. I journal my way through therapy, through a pilgrimage to meet Frank and Anita Worthen, “ex-gay” pioneers up in Marin County (That’s a fascinating entry, let me tell you!), through a Living Waters Conference at the Anaheim Vineyard, through the intricacies of marriage and parenting and church ministry life.

As I’ve been reading through the early years of my “ex-gay” days, one entry really stood out to me and made me feel sad. Check this out:

August 31, 2002

“Yesterday I was OK, but then I was listening to this song… I’m the One. All of a sudden I had that old familiar longing for ‘the one.’ Some guy to be my knight in shining armor. I have deliberately tried to listen to more ‘guy music, but then I can start listening to it as if he’s singing TO ME. Good grief. Is all music unsafe? Don’t listen to your beloved Joni, Shawn or whoever because you RELATE to them, and don’t listen to Coldplay or U2 because you WANT them.

And am I looking for sex or romance? Sometimes, to be honest, I am overwhelmed by sexual desires… but I really think, more often than not, I’m feeling the desire for intimacy. The desire to be wanted, to be held… to be enjoyed, to be protected by a man. That’s what I felt as I heard that song: ‘I’m the one you’ve been waiting for.’ Not sex, but… Can you believe I almost wrote ‘love’? What is wrong with me? Relationship? Intimacy? Closeness? GOD HELP ME.”

The thing is, I was onto something. Being gay is not about sex, although I hear that again and again and again. It’s about my heart’s orientation toward intimacy. 2002 Matt had been told that his sexual ATTRACTIONS were not sinful… They were just a temptation he had to learn to avoid, like any other man. But to feel a yearning for LOVE? That was disgusting, that was revolting and worthy of disdain. “What is wrong with me? GOD HELP ME.” I was OK being a straight man with “same-sex attractions.” I could manage those “evil” temptations. But when I started feeling things like a desire for intimacy, for romance or, God forbid, LOVE… Then I was disgusted with myself. “GOD HELP ME.”

Of course, now I know that my desire for intimacy is a God-given gift. It’s at the very heart of who I am. I was so horrified by my natural desire for love and relationship, and now I see that it’s completely normal and even more, a good and sacred desire.