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Set Apart But Not Set Aside: Paolo’s Story

Check out Paolo’s story of salvation, rejection by family in the body of Christ, and welcome from fellow gay brothers in Christ to find rest and belonging.


I gave my life to Jesus at age 27. Over the next year I spent time in Scripture, spiritual counseling, and community discerning God’s call for me as a gay man. Before meeting Jesus, I had several boyfriends and sexual partners (which isn’t everyone’s story), and I was struggling to accept the impact singleness would have on me. I couldn’t imagine life without a companion to complete me.

Around this same time, my two best friends (who had become believers at the same time as me) realized they had feelings for each other. Through prayer, they felt God was calling them to date. They got to announce their relationship and celebrate their romance while I sat on the sidelines, wondering what was going to happen to me. I couldn’t sleep for months. I spent the nights looking toward my future of loneliness while everyone else spent nights in the same bed as those they loved. I grew increasingly bitter, anxious, and angry toward them and toward God.

The hardest part was that I couldn’t share my sadness with the couple, my two best friends. I was supposed to just be happy for them! We soon became disconnected because I couldn’t share their joy—they were a reminder of what I wouldn’t have. And they couldn’t enter my sadness because that would disrupt their emotional honeymoon.


Then I went to a Christian wedding, and my attitude changed.

The bride was gorgeous in her gown and all the single women present were dreaming about their own wedding dresses one day. I sat there thinking, “What about me?” I walked through the venue later and found myself at the aisle where the bride would meet her groom. It was empty. My family, my friends, the man I had once hoped to marry, the ring I’d hoped to wear—none of those were there.

I sobbed (but like, ugly sobbed). I begged God to take away the pain, to promise me He’d give me my desires. And I felt God speak to me. He reminded me that the ring I so desire, that promise of companionship, He’d already given to me through His blood. That the family I craved He’d already invited me into. That the longing and suffering I will experience in laying my life down for the kingdom is suffering He’s familiar with because He did that, too. He is my groom, and I get to be His bride. He is my Father, and I can be a father to many more.

Moving out, moving on

A few years later, at the start of the pandemic, I moved in with those same friends. We’d always dreamed of living together as a family and me being their kids’ gay uncle. The three of us were challenged and tested as we learned to live in the same house, but we worked through most hardships. Then suddenly, three days before Thanksgiving, my friends sat me down and asked me to move out.

They said my presence was impacting their marriage in a negative way. I was sad and disappointed. I had to face my fears of loneliness. Again. When I shared my feelings, the couple became upset with me. They said I wasn’t trusting Jesus enough. They said my expectations of them were too high. When I reminded them that they had promised me family and that this was going back on their word, they told me they’d heard from God that I should leave.

I reached out to my church community for leads on housing. A week of checking turned into a month of searching. I felt desperate. Married church members jokingly offered me a bunk bed in their kid’s room. That stung. I felt like I was being tossed around. In the midst of all that, I tested positive for COVID (although I would later learn it was a false-positive). The couple I was living with was now expecting a baby and wanted me out of the house immediately so I wouldn’t expose the wife to COVID. No one offered me a place to quarantine. I got no support from my church family.

Thankfully, a gay brother in Christ who is also committed to a historic sexual ethic lived just 30 miles away and let me stay with him during my illness.

Still, my grief over that lost friendship lingered into a season of depression, and my friend let me stay a little longer. I felt lonely, bitter, and betrayed by the people who’d promised me family. My faith in Jesus took a hit. I felt lost in the well of my emotions and I wanted to numb my senses. An ex-boyfriend, the last man I’d dated before meeting Jesus, suddenly took an interest in my life and sent me a message through social media.

Memories of our relationship rushed in, and, though I kept him at arm’s length physically, I gave in to the fantasy emotionally and mentally. I began to seek out videos of false connection to comfort and numb me. One time became three months, and I had no desire to stop. My heart became numb to Scripture and to the Holy Spirit. I became apathetic about the care and guidance of others.


I hated the feeling of numbness and apathy. I needed to confess my sin.

In time, God reminded me of Psalm 23. “His rod and His staff, they comfort me.” My heart was grieved because I had strayed and now didn’t know where my Shepherd was. I realized that the poking in my side every time I looked at videos was actually the Holy Spirit using His rod and His staff to guide me. That was the Holy Spirit reminding me that maybe I didn’t stray beyond hope.

This conviction led me to share with my roommate and others in my close community. God called me into deeper assurance and intimacy with Him, and the anger and shame I’d experienced turned to hope.

By this point, three subsequent negative COVID tests confirmed that I was never infected and never needed to be thrown out of the married couple’s home. Yet in the midst of that confusion, a brother in Christ gave me somewhere to stay. Days became weeks. Weeks became months. Despite my deep disappointment in my friends and in my church family, God provided a place for me in my brother’s home. My roommate and I even started dreaming about creating our own family where Christian brothers can do daily life together, confess to one another, and hold each other up. A place where we are set apart by God, but not set aside.


Today, I’m welcome in my home

Fast forward to today, I wake up each morning around 7am to drink coffee, stretch, and meditate in a home where I am welcome. An hour later my housemate and I pray together every morning, like a family. The liturgy we use has increasingly included discernment around God’s hopes for our community and aspirations of spending the next major holiday together as a family. We share plans about our day and process challenges we are facing. We share about emotional hardships with our biological families and where the Holy Spirit is guiding us. Best of all, we’re reminded that we aren’t crazy. It’s normal to need family, to desire acceptance, to be welcomed and loved the way Jesus would. 

Even better, our hopes for community aren’t limited to our house! We’ve since connected with a group of gay brothers in Christ two hours away. Each week we gather together for “family dinner,” share life updates, and read through books to help us think more deeply about the ways God has made us for friendship. In contrast to the pain of being kicked out of one home where I was promised family, I’m deeply grateful for this new invitation to belong in the home of my brother in Christ, our shared hope for even richer community with others, and God’s grace to faithfully steward our uniqueness in Christ.

I’m sharing my story to encourage those of you who are like me. Don’t stop dreaming about what our lives could look like. Never give up hope.


Want to cultivate community in your church where gay Christians can thrive according to God’s wisdom? Contact Equip today!

    The Rev’d Jonathan Smith
    6:36 PM, 28 October 2021

    Such a beautiful story of redemption. Thank you.

    • Pieter Valk
      5:41 PM, 1 November 2021

      You’re welcome! I’ll make sure to pass on the encouragement to Paolo!

    11:22 PM, 28 October 2021

    This was such a beautiful testimony showing your faithfulness in the midst of such hurt. I’m so sorry you experienced what you did, and I’m very convicted over all the ways I and the rest of the Church have let down LGB faithful. Praying you continue to experience deep intimacy and healing, and thank you so, so much for being authentic enough to share your experience.

    11:34 PM, 28 October 2021

    Dios es fiel,para siempre su alegró leerte colega de jornada,tamos juntos.abrazos

  • Parnell
    8:14 PM, 31 October 2021

    Thank you for sharing <3

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