All Things Made New
by Barbara Swallow as told to Terry Murphy
The snow was falling as my husband and I drove through the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico. Some snow covered the ground, but we were driving well-traveled roads; I knew from experience that there was no danger of getting stranded. Why, then, the rising panic in my chest?
The snowflakes were growing larger. Floating bits of white fluff filled the air, as if someone had ripped open a feather pillow. I peered out the window — and shook uncontrollably.
Later, while praying about this mindless fear, I saw her: a frightened three-year-old girl standing in a cloud of white feathers. A white rooster landed at her feet with a thud, then staggered around like a drunken thing. And there was an uncle, standing in front of the girl, holding a baseball bat.
Suddenly, I remembered everything: That little girl was me. My uncle and I were in my grandfather’s yard. His prize rooster had just been hit; I panicked. Suddenly, my uncle scooped me up and took me to the cellar, where he molested me. Then he warned, “Don’t you ever tell anyone what happened today.” After that, I decided it wasn’t safe to be a girl.
Two years later, my mother began drawing me into her bed to molest me as well, until I was almost eight. Her actions convinced me that it wasn’t even safe to be me.
From age five on, my parents ignored me. I fended for myself to eat. My mother showed abhorrence for anything “female.” She hated housework and cooking and did not care to nurture her children. With no one to cherish me, I began to construct a new Barbara (not a girl, certainly; that wasn’t safe or rewarding). I played with my brother and his friends, thoroughly enjoying their company and their games.
I found some acceptance — or, at least, some attention — from my father whenever I showed any masculinity. He called me Bob. I worked hard to develop my strength, even helping him build a house at one point. I began dressing in jeans and T-shirt. I quit thinking of myself as a girl and became a “neutral” person in my mind.
During my teens, I conformed outwardly, dating and participating in “girl talk.” The behavior kept me from looking on the outside as different as I felt on the inside.
Boys were fascinating to other girls, but not to me. I knew what boys were like, inside and out. But girls? Now they were intriguing! I did not understand what made them so soft and gentle. All that lacked nurturing in me was drawn to the hope of being cradled in such sweet, feminine attention.
I did not give in to my growing attractions to women until after I married Ronald. I had a new baby son and found myself trapped in all the female responsibilities I hated.
Then along came a woman I’ll call Marla. She was full of attention for me, quick to help with the cleaning and cooking. Before long we had slipped into a lesbian relationship we kept hidden for the next sixteen years. I indulged all my pent-up feelings with zeal. But whenever I came out of the bedroom with Marla, I came away empty.
I had two more children. After each birth, Marla got more jealous and violent. She began to dominate my life, threatening the lives of my children if I talked about leaving her. She threatened to tell Ronald about our relationship if I so much as signed a birthday card to him with the word love. I was becoming the victim of emotional blackmail.
Marla’s sexual abuse became so bad that eventually my doctor told me I’d have to undergo a hysterectomy. By this time, I’d had experienced an emotional breakdown and had tried to commit suicide. But anticipating this surgery, I was terrified of dying.
Meanwhile, my fifteen-year-old son had gone to a religious retreat and had come home a Christian. Ron Jr. was aglow with joy and peace. He told me I had nothing to fear even in death if I had Jesus in my heart. Then he took me to his prayer group. I saw other teens singing and praying with such joyful exuberance that I began to desire the same openness with God.
After the surgery, while I lay on the gurney outside the operating room, everything my son had been telling me came together in my heart. I let down the walls of fear and mistrust, and gave Jesus permission to enter my innermost self.
Facing the truth
In the following weeks, I was hungry for the Bible. Like a starving person, I feasted on its words. They filled a vast hole inside that nothing had ever filled.
But for the first time, I read that God did not like homosexuality. These were shocking words to read. How could I change who I was? I resolved to stop my lesbian behavior, but it took a year of prayer and support from a good friend before I had the courage to break off with Marla.
Even after our break-up my desires did not change. My friend, Jeanne, was indispensable, supporting me as I fought waves of temptation, guilt, and disappointment.
Finally, in 1988, when I was 54, God appointed a day of deliverance for me. A few days after the “panic in the snow,” during a 24-hour prayer session with another Christian friend, God pulled out all the old “demons” that had controlled and distorted my thoughts and emotions. The change was evident the very next day. My friend and I went to the mall to relax after the intense time in prayer. Suddenly, I realized that for the first time I was noticing men!
From that day on, everything about me has been different. The old things have passed away, and everything has been made new (see Revelation 21:5). No longer do I struggle with the old temptations. My desires have been completely changed by a sovereign move of God.
It wasn’t until that day that I finally had the courage to tell my husband what I had done all those years. I thought I’d surely lose him; instead, Ronald opened his arms and forgave me. Now we work as a team through Free Indeed Ministries, helping others find their way out of homosexuality through the power and love of Jesus.
Since that wonderful day of deliverance, I have been busy discovering “Barbara.” And since that day on the gurney outside the operating room, I have continued to discover — with growing awe — more about Jesus. Only He would reach down in the trash of my life to discover “Barbara.” Only His power could put the shattered pieces of my life back together again.