By Mark Ellis
He was the surprise baby his mother never really wanted and he grew up in an abusive family environment. Later the abuse became sexual outside the home, which began a downward spiral until God’s love rescued his soul.
“I was emotionally and mentally abused by my mother and brothers,” says Charlie Edwards, author of “Broken Trust: a journey from survivor to victor and beyond.”
He attended Catholic school in New England until the second grade and is thankful for a nun who instilled a love for reading that persists to this day. But after he finished second grade, his mother told him: “We’re not going to waste any more money on you in Catholic school because you’re stupid.”
Actually he had a large IQ, and was later invited to join Mensa, the organization for people with very high intelligence.
His father was a stockbroker and a good provider for the family. Edwards has fond memories of his dad, but the busy financial advisor worked hard and traveled frequently, which crowded out time with his kids .
“When I turned 10 I wanted to become an altar boy,” Edwards recalls. Unfortunately, the priest overseeing the program was also a predator who began to molest him for the next two years.
The priest was reassigned to another parish, which spared Edwards further indignities, but the damage was done.
One year after the priest’s transfer, Edwards sought out his first sexual encounter with an older boy. He links the abuse at the hands of the priest with his sexual inclinations. “Because of the abuse I sought out the homosexual lifestyle,” he asserts. “I didn’t get the affirmation I needed at home from my father. This was the reason I went the way I went.”
Edwards felt there was no other alternative. “I knew this was the way I was going to be.”
Between the ages of 13 and 20 he dove headlong into the gay lifestyle. “There was gay activity everywhere,” he recalls. “It wasn’t hard to find.”
By 15, he was sneaking out of the house at night, finding his way to gay bars like the 484 Club. “At 15 I had a moustache and was shaving every day,” he notes. “I had a 5:00 shadow by noon.” Looking back, he believes he was already an alcoholic at this stage of his life, with binge-drinking episodes every weekend.
In the five-year period he frequented the gay clubs, he estimates he may have slept with as many as 100 men. It was the disco era, and the club scene was characterized by polyester suits, open-chest shirts and high-heeled shoes.
At 20-years-old, he met an older man, 35, who became a serious interest. “We hit it off very well and I thought I would spend the rest of my life with him. He was very wealthy, with a house on Cape Cod and one in San Francisco.”
“He told me all about San Francisco and how homosexuals are accepted there.” They developed a plan to move west together.
One day Edwards got a phone call from his lover. “I’m going ahead to San Francisco to get things set up,” he informed his young paramour. The man asked Edwards to keep an eye on his house while he was gone.
“I had a key to his place and when I came in everything was gone.” The older man had packed up and moved without Edwards. As he perused the barren rooms, he found a package and an envelope on the kitchen counter.
The small bundle contained a new Rolex watch. Edwards opened the envelope and found a check for $10,000. There was also a note, expressing the man’s feelings that their 15-year age difference would never work.
Edwards felt like he was hit by a sledgehammer. “I was angry and hurt. I started drinking even more,” he recalls.
Two weeks later he awakened in the middle of the night to his mother’s screams. His father suffered a massive heart attack and died unexpectedly at 62-years-old.
“That was the bottom of the bottom,” he says. His heavy drinking continued to intensify.
A month later he ran into an old friend named Tracy, who happened to be a Christian. “You look pretty down. What’s the matter?” she asked him.
Edwards told her about his father’s death, but didn’t mention the abandonment by his gay lover.
“You should come to a prayer meeting with me and Dave,” she said. She and her husband Dave attended a charismatic Catholic prayer meeting held in a basement of the church.
A few nights later Edwards found himself witnessing something very different from his previous church experiences. “I sat and watched these crazy people, standing up and down, talking in weird languages, dancing around and singing all this music,” he recounts.
He was “getting ready to bolt” when a woman came up and witnessed to him, but it was to no avail. He left and went immediately to a gay club in the area. He didn’t get home until 2 a.m.
“I was getting ready to kill myself, commit suicide, get it over with,” he says. As he was lying in the bathtub, some of the messages he heard at the prayer meeting drifted into his mind.
People said God loves me and cares for me, he thought, but does God even exist?
“Okay, God,” he muttered. “I will give you one chance. You had better do something with me tonight, because otherwise, I’m going to kill myself.”
As soon as he uttered these words, something unusual happened. A deep sense of peace and calm enveloped him like a warm blanket.
He went to bed, pondering in his heart what this might mean. “I woke up the next morning and the sky looked bright and everything looked totally different. I had been drinking the night before and I wasn’t bleary-eyed or hung-over,” he says.
Edwards placed an urgent phone call to his friend. “Tracy, what’s going on?” he asked.
“You were up until 3 a.m., weren’t you?” she said.
“Yeah…how did you know that?”
“God woke me and told me to pray for you.”
A new creation
A few hours later, Edwards went over to Dave and Tracy’s house and they explained the gospel message to him. Then they led him in praying the sinner’s prayer. He was born again — a new creature in Christ.
Edwards only had one significant fall back into his former lifestyle. “Two months after I got saved I wanted to tell friends at the gay club about Jesus.”
When he re-entered his old haunt, the lure of the flesh overwhelmed his embryonic spiritual growth. “I was with another guy. After we got done, I started bawling my eyes out. He started bawling his eyes out too. I found out he came to the Lord the same time I did.”
After that, friend Dave insisted on strict accountability. “He made me check in with him every day for the next six months, and I’m glad I did.”
“It’s been 38 years now. But for the first year or two it was touch and go. With God’s help and intervention the temptations faded. The mind is an awful battlefield.”
A year and a half after he was saved, he met his wife, Susan. “For the first year and a half there was no attraction either way (to men or women),” he notes. “After I met Sue, I realized God may have another plan for me beyond friendship.”
“I was nervous to tell her about my background – nervous she would run away,” he says. But she handled his
admission with an amazing level of understanding and grace. After four months they were engaged and they recently celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary.
“We have an awesome relationship,” he says.
Edwards became one of the founders of Re-creation Ministries, which helps minister to people with same-sex attraction.
“God brought a new sense of morality and honor into me. I am a survivor, not a victim of abuse.”
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