If you or someone close to you wrestles with same sex attractions, you don’t want to miss this moving account of the journey of Kim Zember through her own same sex experience and the power of the gospel of Jesus to deal with those desires. Join us for a very touching and insightful account of how transformation occurred in her life and how she mentors others who struggle with same sex attractions.




More About Our Guest

Portrait of Kim Zember

Kim Zember is founder of Overcome Ministries, whose purpose is to be an outlet of love and hope for young adults and adults struggling with same-sex attraction, and support for their families. She is a dynamic speaker and mentor to young adults wrestling with same sex attraction.



Episode Transcript

Scott Rae: Welcome to the podcast, Think Biblically, conversations on faith and culture. I'm your host, Scott Rae, Dean of faculty and professor of Christian ethics at Talbot school of theology, Biola University.

Sean McDowell: I'm your cohost, Sean McDowell, professor of Christian apologetics at Talbot school of Theology, Biola University.

Scott Rae: We're here today with a fascinating guest for us. Her name is Kim Zember. She's the founder and head of, of a ministry called Overcome Ministries. She's got a fascinating story to tell about her own personal journey. So rather than set it up for you, I think I'll just let you kind of tell us a little bit of your story and how you got to be where you are today, particularly with your Overcome Ministries.

Kim Zember: Awesome. Yeah, so I grew up Catholic, baptized as a baby and really grew up knowing the Lord. Knowing the Lord, I found out even still today, is much different than knowing him personally and in choosing to walk with him, but always knew about Jesus and that he's the savior and he's the only way. Raised, mom and dad, two older brothers, beautiful family. I really ... Looking back, I'm so grateful. Not only then, but even now of the family that he blessed me with, but things started to shift in high school. I actually ended up feeding this desire that started to arise, which was for women. There was one girl in particular, my senior year of high school. So I was 17 years old and I decided to feed that desire and her and I ended up being physical. That opens so many doors that I would have never ever imagined. I thought it was kind of like Katy Perry says, where you just, you kiss a girl and you might like it.

Well, she was right. I did like it, but she didn't unpack what the rest of that might look like for the years to come. So it ended up leading me towards this path of like a double life. I was hiding. I was depressed. If anybody knew me, that's just not even the fiber of my character, but I became depressed, lying, sneaking and living this kind of double life. In that, kind of led ... Things didn't quite work out as I thought they would with the girl. Fast forward, on and off with different women, all while dating men on the forefront. So kind of sneaking behind, hooking up with women, being with them. At 23 had a radical encounter with the Lord. I asked the Lord to show me my heart and that's a whole nother podcast, but he did show me and that's actually when I moved to Ethiopia, but I still wouldn't deal with this reality of the door that I had opened and walked through when I was 17 with same sex attraction.

I always knew in my heart, like in my heart of hearts ... The scripture does say that our hearts are led astray, too. There's that worldly saying of, "Follow your heart." Well, I did and the result was actually very painful for me and many, but in that, I always knew, along this journey, that it wasn't right. Somebody could say, "Oh, that's because you're Catholic and they just drilled Catholic guilt in you." It wasn't that. It really wasn't. It was that small still voice, that whisper that says, "I have better." Right? Not that you're horrible. Not that I condemn you. Not that I hate you, but I haven't better. I have better for you, Kim. Unfortunately the scripture comes that when you buy into sin, when you operate in it, you really are a slave to it.

I had become, even though I had a greater desire to serve the Lord and to be with Him, here I am in Ethiopia. Right? And think that that would be, bam, that's it. You sold your house, you sold your everything you had, at 23 moved to Ethiopia. No, because I kept this in the dark. Right? I didn't bring this into the light and let the Lord have it. I wouldn't surrender it. I thought, "What am I going to be? Am I going to be that girl that has a bunch of cats or lives alone all of her life and just be miserable?" So I thought that I knew better. So in that, I did have a peace when I was in Ethiopia because I was actually fulfilling a God-given desire, which was to serve and to love those who are, quote unquote, "The least of these."

So I was fulfilled there, but the moment I came back to the States, I got back into old ways. I ended up marrying a man that I was dating and said yes. The night before I got married, I actually said ... I got on my knees and I told the Lord, I said, "I will never cheat on this man with a woman." I knew that I didn't want to do that, but the big mistake that I made is I didn't let Jesus be Jesus. I told Jesus what I would do instead of surrendering and saying, "I need you Lord. I need you Lord." So, unfortunately, about a year and a half of marriage, I cheated on him with a married woman. So not only did I cheat on him, but I also helped someone to cheat on their husband, ended up being in relationship with her. Did get a divorce.

This led to a lot of on and off relationships with women, now living, quote unquote, "Out." Family, very loving, very accepting of me, but very clear on, "Kim, God has more for you than this and we don't feel you're walking in that." They just kept praying for me, loving me the best they could. This was new to them, not knowing how really to deal, but I always knew that they loved me. Never doubted that, but I also always knew that they didn't agree, not because of what they thought, but because of what they truly knew of the Lord for my life. So, in that true love, they were not afraid to speak the truth. So it led to a lot, girlfriend after girlfriend, living out.

I remember once one of my best friends, she said, "So I'm so glad you finally came out as gay." I said, "Oh no, I'm not gay." She's like, "Kim, you're dating a woman, like for two years." I said, "Yeah, I understand. I introduced you to her. Like, dude, this is not ... I get that." She's like, "That makes you gay." I'm like, "No, it doesn't." I couldn't put words to it at that time because I knew that that wasn't my identity. I knew it was something I was doing, but it was not who I was. It didn't identify me. It didn't ... that's not how I'm called. So some could be like, "Well, yeah, you're just saying that so you don't get labeled." No, no, no, no. This was deeper. I just didn't have words for it.

Scott Rae: Wow.

Kim Zember: So, yeah, by the goodness and grace of God, I jumped back and forth to Ethiopia. That ministry still continued, but I finally ... one of the girls, the last girl I was with cheated on me. By the grace of God, by the goodness, and only the grace and mercy of God did I finally wake up. I realized that I was the common denominator in all these relationships and that I was so far from the person that He created me to be. So I knew I had one thing where he says, "If you want to be my disciple, if you want to follow me, deny yourself. Pick up your cross daily and follow me."

I finally, October 17th, 2014, I said, "Lord, I'm in. I'm in. I give you this desire. I give you this desire that I've had, that I've kept. I give it all to you. Though the world now knows about it, I give it to you. I'm going to trust that you're God and I'm not, and I need you, please, to show me that," and He radically did and he's been continuing to every day since then because I really hold firm that it says daily. Jesus did not die on the cross for me for a one-hit wonder. So it's a continual journey in this and a beautiful one, that has some heaviness too.

Sean McDowell: Kim, thank you for your clarity. Your boldness and just willingness to share your story is remarkable. Let me ask you this question. After you came to faith in Jesus, did or do you still have same sex attraction? How do you deal with that? Do you desire to get married to a man someday and have kids?

Kim Zember: Okay. Yeah, I get asked that a lot, actually. For me, it might be kind of silly, but I relate a lot to food and so I'm relatively healthy. I eat clean. I try to take care of the one temple he gave me, right? But I legitimately still crave cheesecake. All right? So I don't know that the desire for cheesecake makes me unhealthy or is it me fulfilling that desire that would make me unhealthy? But I've also realized the less I, quote unquote, cheat, right? Like I said, "Oh, I cheated today." No, who am I really cheating on? Right? So it ties to those desires as there might be times where things pop up and there might be an old desire, but the less I've fed that, right? As I stopped feeding something, there's just a law that applies. You stop feeding something, it dies, whether it's a cat, a bird, a squirrel, or a desire. I stopped, through the power of Jesus. Going to him to help me, I've stopped feeding those desires. In that, I would say they're pretty much null and void. If it does come back, I go to him as my strength. I need a savior every day, whether it be for same sex attraction or pride or greed or any of these things that we battle. Sin is sin. So I don't know if that answers.

Sean McDowell: That's a great answer.

Scott Rae: No, that's very insightful and very helpful. Here, Kim, what I'm wondering is, I don't hear a lot of stories like this that are public. I suspect there's probably a lot more of these that we know about that we just never hear about, but why do you think we don't hear that much about stories like yours?

Kim Zember: Well, I would say there's a simple answer and it would probably be that us human beings don't like to surrender whatever that desire is. That was the biggest holding point for me was I wouldn't let God be God. I wouldn't give him my desires. I wouldn't give them these things. I thought I had a better plan. I thought I knew. In reality, it was me playing God. So I think we don't hear these stories as much, though they are out there and they're coming more and more and I have a very amazing group of friends that have very similar stories with very different backgrounds, but it's really about surrendering our own desires, our own plans for our life and saying, "Lord, I trust that you are Lord Jesus. You gave it all. Show me the life you have for me."

So, in a world that we live in, that you make your own decisions, you do what's best for you and just be kind and nice. That's not discipleship, kind of nicest part of discipleship and part of being a follower of Christ, but it's not the fullness. So, I think because it has to do with us really thinking ... Well, I'll speak for myself, me thinking I knew better for myself and I had a better plan than God did for my life.

Scott Rae: Let me just follow up briefly on that. I think, in a lot of contexts, when we talk about overcoming same sex attraction or whatever the sexual desire is, it could be for a whole host of things, we often think about that in more black and white terms. That once it's overcome, it's kind of over and done with and not ... It's just off the table. It sounds like that's not quite the case in your situation, that that desire is not something that's a given, as we hear some people say, but not something that just transfers, miraculously wiped away by virtue of faith either, but it's something that, if nurtured, it can come up again. The more it's fed. I think the food analogy, I think it's a really helpful one, but it sounds like you're somewhere in the middle on that continuum, where it's still a very real possibility that you'll experience those desires again.

Kim Zember: Yeah. For me, my concern is not the desires. My concern is :"Lord, make me strong enough to overcome all desires that are not in line with you, whether that be a sexual one, whether that be an internal one that nobody sees, you know, that pride that creeps up, whatever it might be." So for me, you did ask earlier, do I see myself getting married and having children? I personally, I have no idea. I'm 35, no clue what my life looks like and I love it. People say, "Well, you're just in bondage." Really? Because I'm choosing this. I'm choosing this. Nobody is forcing me. My family loved me. My friends love me. I had no reason.

So in that, Dr. Rae, I see that sometimes we focus so much on the desire and less on Jesus. If that becomes my focal point, that's what I walk towards. So I just, every day, throughout the day, fix my eyes on Christ, Christ in others, Christ in front of me, Christ, but when I'm by myself and that's where then I walk towards and darkness does not come into the light, right? We have to draw these things into the light of Christ. So I try to ... I live very authentically. People say I'm crazy, going around sharing all the junk I've done, but for what Satan has meant for destruction, God is using and I pray he continues to for his glory.

Scott Rae: Hear hear.

Sean McDowell: Kim, God's given you a pretty remarkable platform that, many ways seems to be growing. You mentioned before just a major university you got invited to speak at, which is fantastic. When you share your story, what's the kind of, I don't know, the challenges or criticism that people will raise, either in the church, outside of the church? What does some of that pushback look like?

Kim Zember: Yeah, I would say a pretty common one is mostly people that maybe are living in the lifestyle. I've heard them say a few times to me and then some behind my back, which is okay as well. I prefer it to my ears so that we can actually communicate, but in that, I've heard, "I feel bad for you. You're in bondage." To me, I've invited one of them, I said, "Come be my neighbor for like a week. I know that might sound really silly, but come hang out with me. You'll see that this isn't something that's done onstage. I don't want ta stage. He is the only one that deserves the glory. It's not about me. So why would I do this? Why, in my right mind, as a human being with freewill, why would I get up here and share all the junk? Because I'm really not to be glorified in this. I'm the one who cheated. I'm the one who lied. I'm the one who was living a double life. I'm the one who was depressed. He, Jesus Christ is the one. So why would I stand up here and put myself to be ridiculed if this wasn't real? If I was in bondage?"

So, but it's hard. We only know what we know. So I would say the biggest feedback is for those that just don't get it. I'm like, "Just experience Christ. Don't experience me. I'm nothing. You know what I mean? But experience him. Can we pray together? Have you heard the goodness that he says about you?" Because I think a lot of times we focus on the condemnation of God instead of the love of God, which sets us free because he loves us. So, if that answers your question.

Scott Rae: Yeah, that's powerful. Tell us a little bit about the ... it sounds like maybe the main platform that is your organization, Overcome Ministries. What are you trying to do with that? What's its purpose? What's its mission?

Kim Zember: Well, first and foremost, I pray it's never, never my ministry. I pray it's always His. The point of it is ... It's to just share the love of Jesus and the freedom found through his love that no matter what, no matter what, that He has overcome and that we can be overcomers only linked to Him, yoked to Him. So, whether that be sharing at schools or one-on-one with people who are struggling or parents. I get a lot of call from a lot of parents and it's to be a beacon of hope. I am not hope, but my hope lies in Jesus Christ. To share that and to share what He has done and continues to do is really the whole ... My whole heart's desire with Overcome is only that we can't do it in our own strength. I just want to be, if that's what He's called, a mouthpiece of that for the Lord. Yeah, just a platform of hope for people who maybe have lost hope.

Sean McDowell: What are some of the nuts and bolts? When somebody comes to you for Overcome Ministries, what does it look like? What do you do? What do you promise them? What do you not promise them? How do you help people that come to you for help?

Kim Zember: Yeah, so it's actually interesting. Just this week, I've already gotten three calls from three moms. First, I listen. I listen. The Lord continues to teach me slow to speak and quick to listen. Slow to speak. Yeah. That's it. In that, so I really just listened to their hearts and then I just try to let the Holy Spirit lead in what maybe He wants me to say. So it always starts off very, very personal, as they desire to share. Then through it, it ends ... I can't promise anything. I can only promise what He already promises. So I can't quote ... coin any of that is of my own. I always lead back to the scriptures and who Jesus is and what God has for us and that He has ... The same thing that He has for me and He continues to do in my life, He has for their child.

But let's take it a step further, not only for their child, but for them as well. So a lot of times I get asked from these parents is, "What does it look like? You know what I mean? Because they're so deep in sin." I said, "Do you need to re listen to how deep it got? I gave you the quick version, but there's a lot more. God is bigger than all of us. So it really comes down to do we trust that God is God." That's really what my heart is, is to open up, as I continue to trust that He's God and I'm not, that I can help others to see that as well and lead them constantly back to Christ.

Scott Rae: Do you have certain segments of the ... Whether it's high school students, college students, young adults, that you tend to find yourself gravitating toward more often?

Kim Zember: Absolutely.

Scott Rae: Just because of their needs or ...

Kim Zember: Yeah.

Scott Rae: What would that be?

Kim Zember: My biggest draw to my heart is high school and college kids, majority being college. I've seen what's going on out there. For some reason, I mean I clearly look 35, but for some reason we're able to connect. I pray it's because they can see my heart, but my heart just bleeds for those college kids and what they're going through, whether it be sexual stuff or internal stuff. Whatever it is, we're all broken, we're all hurt. So they have such a gift within them. They are legitimately, I don't care what the background, I don't care what they're currently doing. They have such a call and an anointing on their life. They literally, through Jesus, have the power to transform this world.

I feel like God's let me see that in them, and so I never come in with a judgment. I pray it doesn't come off that way. That's not my heart. But to really listen and then just speak as the Lord says. But yeah, those college kids, they got my heart. I also don't have kids, but I wouldn't choose college kids. If I had a choice, I'd probably choose the little ones, but I feel like the Lord has highlighted them.

Sean McDowell: You've mentioned a Freedom March in L.A. In 2018. Can you tell us a little about that? Is there another one planned for 2019?

Kim Zember: Yeah. Yeah, so the Freedom March, the first one was actually in DC last year and then followed it up, I met the group. Jeffery McCall actually lived a transgender lifestyle, went through a lot of suicidal thoughts, mental ... He went into a mental hospital and had a radical encounter with Christ and walks now in that full freedom. He still struggles just like all of us, you know?

Sean McDowell: Sure.

Kim Zember: So he started these and I came alongside him, and part of the board now with Freedom March. So we did one in Los Angeles right in the center of L.A., zero protesters.

Sean McDowell: Wow.

Kim Zember: Because we are preaching the love, truth, and freedom found in Christ. We are not marching around that God hates, God hates, God condones ... No, God loves you. Here's His truth and here's what He's got. So we just literally go through testimony after testimony mixed with worship under the Lord, testimony, worship, and it was incredible. Incredible. People flew in to come to it from all over. We actually even had people come in from Korea and then we have ... So yeah, we have three set for 2019. We've got Minneapolis, DC again, and then we've got Orlando, Florida.

Two of my brothers, now, in Christ, they were shot at the Pulse nightclub and had a radical, radical, and are continuing to transformation of their life, and so they're leading it up. Luis and Angel are leading up Orlando with us. Our goal and our whole desire is to continue to spread the love, redemption, and freedom found in Jesus that we search for so much in this world through other things, but there's one and it's Him. It's Jesus.

Scott Rae: Yeah. One of the things I think has been so helpful about your story is how you treat the area of sexual desire just to begin with. So often we focus on the behavior and I think it's true that what the Bible tends to focus on is the behavior and when we act out on a lot of those desires. But I think the idea that the Lordship of Christ actually has something to say about our desires that I think in a lot of circles, even Christian circles, we tend to take that same sex attraction as somewhat fixed and unchangeable. I think for some people that may be the case, and so we focus on not acting out on that as a condition of faithfulness.

Kim Zember: Right.

Scott Rae: But it sounds like a big part of what you're suggesting is that those desires can also be managed and controlled by submitting them to the Lordship of Christ.

Kim Zember: Yes, and I'm proof that it's not in your own strength, right? It's not in your own strength. It is only in the strength of Jesus Christ. I've found too, where scripture says to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. So, I'm not going to want something before I first think about it. So it starts in that mind like, "Lord, purify, cleanse my mind. Help me to keep boundaries of what comes into my mind, what I watch, what I think about." Because unless I'm thinking about a burrito, I'm probably not going to go buy one. I know, I'm really hungry, but it's just ... I just [crosstalk 00:24:15].

Scott Rae: Sorry, we didn't save an In-N-Out burger for you.

Kim Zember: That's okay, but and even that, the beauty of fasting is teaching this self-denial unto the Lord. Right? So I think [inaudible] were just like, "No, just get it. Do it." But there's so much beauty in denying yourself. He says, "If you want to find your life, you need to lose it." These aren't my words. These are His, but my heart and soul wants to walk out His words.

Scott Rae: Yeah. I think there's ... as I look at the soil in which a lot of people are growing up in our culture today, it's the follow your heart, sort of follow your desires. Some of that I think is right. We want people to do what they're passionate about, within boundaries.

Kim Zember: Absolutely, yeah.

Scott Rae: But if I followed all my desires, I'd be in really deep trouble.

Kim Zember: You and me both.

Scott Rae: It strikes me, as I read the New Testament, the satisfaction of our desires is fairly low on the priority list of things that matter most to Jesus. Even though I think we could probably say those desires ... a lot of our desires are not chosen. I know you didn't ...

Kim Zember: I didn't choose it.

Scott Rae: You didn't wake up one morning and say, "I'm going to desire to be with women." You didn't choose that.

Kim Zember: [crosstalk] simple world, simple nature.

Scott Rae: Yeah, how it originated, we could talk a long time about that. So, I'm less interested in holding somebody accountable for the desires since they're not chosen. The behaviors are things that we choose and, I think, are directly accountable for, but I think what's so helpful in this discussion is that we don't have to accept the desires just as a given that's fixed in stone. For some people, they may experience it that way, but I think your emphasis on how we feed those or not feed those, I think is really helpful and can be very freeing to people who may feel like they're sort of in bondage to this desire that they did not wish they had and feel powerless to control.

Kim Zember: Just as you actually were even saying that, I thought of a person who struggles with their weight, right? The more that they're eating, the more in bondage they actually are. So that's a desire that they have to eat, right? Then they're feeding that and now it gets ... I'm saying the heaviness of feeding that desire makes it more difficult. It goes the same for whatever those desires that are not aligned for the goodness of why we were we created. So, whatever that desire, I think sometimes we focus so much on homosexuality, I'm talking even ... Yeah, kids usually grab their seat. They're like, "Oh, I think I'm done with her. I liked her until now, but I talk about premarital sex, right? Is that desire. I know you desire your girlfriend. I know you desire to marry her. Can you deny yourself to wait until marriage? So, I don't want it ... One of the worst things I think we could do is just spotlight homosexuality and say that's wrong. That's the worst sin, and then on the flip side, just as bad, is pretend like it's not one of the sins.

So if we really love one another, we need to be talking about sin. We all struggle with different things, right? And be okay with that and stop putting some sins on a platform and others not. And not to ignore sin either, because the freedom that's found when you give that to the Lord is ... That person will be forever grateful.

Sean McDowell: I'm so encouraged by your voice, where you're just bringing balance to this. You're bringing clarity, yet the conviction to say there still is such a thing as sin. It's not right and it's not good for you. What would your practical advice be for our listeners for ministering to friends and family members who wrestle with same sex attraction? If I could throw back to question at the beginning, does this overlap at all with your family, who've you've described in just such glowing, loving terms. Even while you are making decisions that they disagreed with, you still felt that they loved you?

Kim Zember: Oh, absolutely.

Sean McDowell: How'd they pull that off? What advice would you give to people with their friends with same sex attraction?

Kim Zember: Love them as Jesus loves. It made me think right away of the woman caught in adultery. Who condemns you? None. But go and ... neither do I, right? Jesus says, "But go and sin no more." So it's being able to let the Lord teach us how to love someone without removing His truth from His love, because if we remove His truth, it's no longer His love. When we just sit on His truth, but we don't have His love and His compassion and His grace and His mercy, it's no longer his truth either. So, Jesus is not Hitler, just nonstop truth, and He's not a hippie, nonstop peace and love. So, it's really letting Jesus be Jesus and letting Him teach us in our own lives.

I always say, I feel like the Lord always says, "Let me work in you so that I can work through you." So it's got to start in, and I believe my family was able to love me as Christ did. Not perfectly, because they are still human, but I believe they were able to love me as they did through this whole process, this very muddy, dark process, because they love Christ and they know the love of Christ and so they were able to give that out to me. So, I think it starts back in it. Anytime it leans back to our personal walk with the Lord, I think we're a win.

Scott Rae: Kim, this sounds like actually pretty good advice for pastors of churches. We got a lot of our listeners who are involved in church ministry, dealing with high school and college students. It sounds like this is pretty good advice for them too, about how to approach folks that come into their lives who wrestle with same sex attraction. Among my seminary students every semester, I get folks that say, "Oh yeah, I got several high school students are wrestling with this, handful of college students who have come to me about the same thing, and they don't know what to do. It sounds like the message you're giving them is love them, unconditionally. Speak the truth. Encourage them to know the Lord better.

Kim Zember: Right. Know His word.

Scott Rae: And not feed the desires.

Kim Zember: Right. Another thing, I think, that that's really important, too, is being authentic with one another. Being authentic. I think people respond well to the story of Jesus in my life because I'm willing to put it all out there. I'm willing to say where I struggle. I'm willing to say where I've fallen and where I've fallen again. So, well, yeah, but I don't have those same sex desires, Kim, so I can't speak into that. Ah, no, but you're human and so you struggle with something. Can you be real with it? Can you share with them the struggle you have, maybe with pornography, maybe with being faithful to your husband or your wife, how hard it's been if it's your child, how hard it's been to be faithful to your husband, to be an honest businessman or whatever. Can you be authentic and real in your own life so they can see the realness of struggle and the strength of Jesus in it? I think when we get real and are authentic with one another without worrying about what somebody is going to say, there's breakthrough and the Lord uses it. The truth shall set you free. He is the truth, the way, the life. He's everything. But we got to be real with ourselves and, in turn, with Him as well.

Scott Rae: Wow. Kim, this has been really helpful. So appreciate you coming on with us and being authentic and telling your story openly and honestly and not trying to sugarcoat it. We really appreciate that. So, thank you so much for being with us. We look forward to some further conversations in the future with you, but thanks again for coming on with us today.

Kim Zember: Honored.

Sean McDowell: This has been an episode of the podcast, Think Biblically, conversations on faith and culture. To learn more about us and today's guest, Kim Zember, and to find more episodes, go to biola.edu/thinkbiblically. That's biola.edu/thinkbiblically. If you enjoyed our conversation today, give us a rating on your podcast app and share it with a friend. Thanks so much for listening and remember, think biblically about everything.