When I first met Zachary in August of 2015, we were what you could say complete opposites. He was the over the top extrovert, very flamboyant, and made friends extremely quick. I, on the other hand, was much more reserved and had my select group of friends. However, something about Zachary intrigued me. He was attractive, passionate, on fire, full of joy, yet you could tell he was once gay and obviously still struggled. Because of this, I made it a goal of mine to make him my best friend.
Fast-forward to January 2016 where I began to develop feelings for Zachary. I noticed an incredible change in him. He was no longer walking around with his hips swaying better than mine, he no longer wore makeup, he no longer had hair that was hair sprayed so much that it absolutely would not move, and he no longer sipped his drink with his lips poked out, eyebrows raised and pinky up. For the first time Zachary looked, talked, and acted like a man and from that moment he caught my eye. I was terrified.
Could I really like a man who has never been with a woman? Could I really like a man who just recently had this amazing turn around? Was it true or will he leave and turn back? Could he really love me? These were the thoughts that flooded me for the first few weeks before I ever admitted my feelings. I was developing a huge crush on a man I was scared to trust. I decided to not fight and be open. I told all my friends how I felt and eventually told Zachary. To my surprise Zachary’s feelings were mutual and from that moment we have become inseparable. We refused to rush into a relationship, giving our past neither one of us needed to jump straight into anything anyway.
I did not know this would start the journey where my life was changed forever. For the first three months of our season of developing a true friendship before officially dating, I had many insecurities and selfish desires that I had to overcome. I had many times where I fought overwhelming thoughts and fears. Thoughts of “Are these guy friends he is beginning to accumulate really just friends or something more?”, “When he is texting and snapchatting his guy friends from home, are they just friends or are they really exes?”, “Why will he not hang out with men who were manlier than him? Why only feminine men or women?”. These thoughts and fears consumed me. I had selfish desires where I wanted him only with me and my friends so I would know then that he was not going back to his past. I wanted him to hang out only with guy friends that I trusted and approved of. I wanted him to post about me so the whole world would believe he was different. I wanted Zachary to fulfill a need of security in me that I did not look for in Jesus. I wanted Zachary to be my saving grace. His past was no longer the problem, I was.
After a while allowing these feelings to trap me in a wall of fear, I could not take it any longer. I decided to pray. If Zachary is who I needed to trust, I needed to hear it from Jesus. I ask God the real questions, I overloaded Him with all my thoughts, feelings, emotions, and fears. Finally, when I shut up, the Holy Spirit so sweetly and softly said “Bayleigh, Zachary is a gift that I have given to you. A gift for you, that will teach you how to love.” Peace flooded my heart and I knew in that moment, that though it may not always be easy, Zachary was the one whom my heart longed for. May 28th, 2016 we started dating and this began an intense journey of discovering what it looks like to truly love and how to fight for what you love.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
It grieves me that we see these verses in every Christian bookstore, on every cliché Christian painting and bookmark, and most American preachers throw them into their sermons when they need a time filler. These verses mean too much to me to just read them and move on. If these verses do not grip your heart, then you have never seen them the way Jesus taught them to me. These verses taught me to fight for Zachary’s heart and complete freedom.
Love suffers long and is kind.
Long-suffering – having or showing patience in spite of troubles. (patient, open-minded, forgiving, uncomplaining, understanding)
Kind – having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature. (compassionate, kindhearted, thoughtful, unselfish)
While Zachary was still in the process of walking into complete freedom, he had moments and days where freedom was not so easy to obtain. I had to fight for him. Zachary was never used to being open and talking about what troubled his heart. He never had a family where discussing his feelings were normal or understood. Zachary was used to keeping problems bottled up and pushed down. When he would have impure thoughts, degrading thoughts, or an overall bad day I had to be extremely aware of his personality change to even notice that something was wrong. It took time to learn and he hated when I eventually figured it out. But I had to be patient and understanding to his needs to be of any help.
The very beginning of this scripture says, “love suffers long and is kind”. There is no comma or period to separate the two. Long-suffering and kindness were written together, as one. I understand how challenging it can be when you are desiring an outcome but do not receive when it was expected. I desired for Zachary to never struggle again with homosexual thoughts, dreams, and tendencies, but it was a process that I had to be patient in the waiting. But you cannot be patient alone. I 100%, absolutely had to be kind, considerate, understanding, unselfish, and compassionate towards him. If I would have treated him poorly, I could have made it worse. No, being kind did not mean I was a push over. I stood my ground in my beliefs, but I fought for his freedom. Because he was gift to me, that I loved, valued, and cherished, I refused to let homosexuality be the thing that kept us apart.
Love does not envy.
Envy – a feeling a discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck. (jealousy, resentment, bitterness, discontent)
There were many times I could have told myself I had every right to give up, to be jealous of everyone else’s relationships that seemed to be perfect with no hiccups. I had every worldly right to. But love exceeds a worldly definition. I looked up definitions for the word love and nothing seemed to compare to how sweet and pure love truly is. This heavenly love is the kind of love that Jesus taught to me. It is the love that He poured into me that I could show to Zachary. I did not choose to be envious of other relationships. I did not get bitter or grow a resentment towards Zachary because he was consistently pursuing a life of freedom. I continued to choose to be confident in the words that Jesus spoke to me, which allowed me to be confident in the relationship I had with Zachary. Even if all odds were against us.
Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up.
Another version says, “Love is not boastful or arrogant.”
Boastful – Sowing excessive pride and self-satisfaction in one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities. (bragging, full of oneself)
Arrogant – having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities. (conceited, self-important)
One thing that I had to learn not to do is to never boast about Zachary’s accomplishments. To never put him on a high pedestal that was easy for him to fall off. Praising his accomplishments of course is a very beautiful and correct thing to do, but to hold them high above his reach, to seat him high above anything and everything else, was a set up for failure. Instead of holding his past accomplishments over his head when he does fail, I congratulate and then turn away and look for new accomplishments. I did not become conceited because he was figuring this thing out. I humbled myself as he found himself. I laid aside selfish ambitions so he could know who Zachary Holder truly is. I could see the unique call on his life, but I could not throw it in his face daily. I had to sit back and allow him to discover it on his own.
Love does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil.
This…this…this. This is so important. The minute you begin to have even the tiniest ill thought towards someone, everything will change. Your poor thoughts will develop into you being provoked or annoyed, irritated, or even angry with that person. Then once your provoked, you will view that person entirely different. You will begin to not think about their wellbeing, but being to seek your own. Once you become selfish and only seek what benefits you, you will begin to act rudely towards that person. Eventually that entire relationship will be over. BUT, if you love and love openly, then the moment an evil thought even tries to consume you, you can stop it. Why? Because perfect love cast out all fear. There is no evil thing in the sight of love.
Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth.
Iniquity – Immoral or grossly unfair behavior. (wickedness, sinfulness, immorality)
This was one of my favorite parts about Zachary’s walk to freedom because even though I did not rejoice in his iniquity, I was there for him. I held him when he cried, most times I cried with him. I was strong when he was broken. I was joy when he was in a midst of depression. I was love when he was in the dirt. But most importantly I was there to celebrate when truth broke through every lie that he ever believed. I found joy in his accomplishments with him. I was a smile. I was a hug. I held his hand when he felt dirty and I held his hand when he finally believed that he is truly pure and free.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
If this is not the perfect example of Jesus, then I do not know what is. This is the kind of love that Jesus taught me to love Zachary with. Regardless of if it hurts me, loving Zachary was worth it all. Why? Because regardless of what we do to Jesus, He loves us anyway. No, I would not ever agree with being in an abusive relationship, however Zachary’s walk to freedom sometimes left me hurt. But again, I had to be patient. I had to be kind. I had to believe in him regardless. I had to love him like Jesus and it was the best decision I have ever made.
Love never fails.
I never gave into wanting to quit. I made the tough decisions to fight. I fought for Zachary in the natural when family, friends, and strangers all said, “You are stupid.”, “He’s still gay.”, “You will not last, he is going to hurt you.”, “Give it a few years and he will be cheating on you with a man.” I could have easily allowed these comments to determine how our relationship would turn out. I stood up for him when it made me look like an idiot. I fought for him spiritually. I prayed for him every single day. I prayed for his mind, his friends, his heart. I prayed for his entire life to be shaken by the reality of the real man Jesus. I never once allowed my love for Zachary to fail. I choose to love him every single moment of every day.
Loving Zachary is one of the most fulfilling things I get to do. I married him June 24th, 2017 and I am honored to be his wife. I am honored to do this life with him. I am proud of his continuous and contagious desire to change lives. I would not trade loving him for anything.
– Bayleigh Holder
To Read Zach’s Freedom Journey Click Here!