Christopher Yuan thought he was invincible. He was once a big-time drug dealer, and a big-time partier. But one day in a nurse's office, he found out just how vulnerable he was, and it shook his whole world.
It all started when he was little. Although he was born in the United States, Christopher is the son of Chinese immigrants, and he never felt like he fit in with his American classmates.
"My parents really wanted to hold onto our Chinese heritage. So even though we were here in America, we were still distinct," he says. "Kids are always cruel, and they pick on kids for being different."
Christopher was small for his age. He played piano and worked hard in school. He wasn't good at sports like the other boys.
"I was shorter. I wore glasses, so I was 'four eyes,'" he recalls. "I was picked on because I was maybe a little more effeminate. I was more artistic."
When he was nine years old, Christopher saw pornography at a friend's house. That's when he started thinking maybe he was different.
"Those images just awoke something in me that I didn't know was there," he says. "But, I also noticed that I was attracted to the images of both the men and the women."
He decided to keep his feelings secret in hopes they would go away, but they didn't. "All these feelings were kind of bubbling up in me, and I was keeping them held down. I felt like I just needed to get it out somehow."
When he was about 20 years old, Christopher started going to gay bars. He says, "I was doing that kind of secretly behind my parents' backs, and my other friends didn't know. I was being more sexually active."
When he moved away for dental school, he decided to let his secret out and live the homosexual lifestyle full on. "At that point, I felt like I could really express myself and explore who I was and explore these feelings that I had kept hidden for so long."
Then one day while at home, he told his parents about his sexuality.
"I had heard horror stories from my other gay friends of how their parents reacted and how their parents didn't understand, kicked them out of the house and told them never to come back again."
His parents reacted as he'd expected. His mother recalls, "The words were definitely not enough to describe how I felt. When he told us he was gay, I felt ashamed, betrayed, rejected, devastated, and full of sorrow."
His dad says, "My reaction is that I feel totally hopeless and I just give up hope."
The two decided to pray for their son. He was a dental student by day, but by night, he was getting deeper into a lifestyle ruled by homosexual encounters and drug abuse.
"I was traveling around the country doing drugs and selling drugs, so I was missing more and more class. I really thought that I can live a double life and have my drug life along with school life. Not let them interfere."
It wasn't long before the two worlds collided. He was expelled from dental school just four months before graduation.
"So now that they expelled me, I just completely consumed myself with living in the gay community, especially in the gay bars and the gay clubs. I began doing what I knew how to do well – drug dealing."
He was making big bucks and having several sexual encounters each day. He recalls, "I was treated like a superstar, and I felt that I was invincible. I really felt like that I was god."
His parents refused to give up on him, even though he refused to stay in touch.
"Every morning, before I started my day I would go into my prayer closet," his mother says. "One of the prayers was, 'Lord, have mercy on this son.'"
The answer to the prayer came one day with a knock on Christopher's door.
"I opened up my door, and it wasn't anybody that I had seen before," he says. "It was 12 federal drug enforcement agents. Right behind me on my kitchen counter was all my drugs. So because they could see the drugs in plain sight, they were able just to come right in and they really caught me red-handed. I was charged with the street value equivalent of 9.1 tons of marijuana."
Just three days after he went to jail, something in a trash can caught his attention.
"I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It was a Gideon's Bible. For the very first time, I opened up that good book. As I was reading it, I was really convicted of my rebellion, not only against the law and against man, but also against God."
Christopher soon learned that there were other consequences to his actions.
"So they sent me to the nurse's office. She wrote something down and slid the piece of paper across the desk to me. I looked down at this piece of paper. I saw three letters and a symbol, and it read HIV+."
He went back to his cell, feeling like he'd just received a death sentence. He lay down and looked up at the graffiti-covered bunk.
"I noticed one thing scribbled there by someone. It read: 'If you're bored, read Jeremiah 29:11,' which says, 'For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.' That point was probably the darkest, most hopeless point in my life – after I was sentenced to six years, after I had received news of my HIV status. God gave me enough faith that night to just simply get through that one day."
"It was during this probably year-long process that I surrendered my life to Christ and I knew I no longer was going to live according to my ways and according to the ways of the world, but surrendering all my hopes and dreams to Him."
As his relationship with God grew, Christopher struggled to find justification for his homosexual lifestyle.
"I turned to the Bible alone. I went through every verse, every chapter, every page of Scripture looking for justification for homosexuality. I never found anything," he says. "So I was at a turning point, and a decision had to be made. It was either abandon God and His Word to live as a homosexual by allowing my feelings to dictate who I was, or abandon homosexuality by liberating myself from my feelings and live as a follower of Jesus Christ. My decision was clear and obvious, and I chose God."
Christopher was released from prison after serving his sentence. His relationship with his parents was restored, and he became a Bible instructor at Moody Bible College in Chicago for 12 years. Today, he lives each day with purpose as an author and speaker who shares about biblical sexuality and God's power to redeem us all.
"All of our days are numbered. No person has ever been promised tomorrow. Yet most of us live with the expectancy of tomorrow. It took getting HIV for me to realize that I must live with a sense of urgency," he says.
He no longer defines himself by his sexuality. He says, "My identity as a child in God must be in Jesus Christ alone. I read passages in Scripture, which told me, 'Be holy, for I am holy.' I had always thought that the opposite of homosexuality was heterosexuality, but I realized that the opposite of homosexuality is holiness. God was telling me, 'Don't focus upon feelings. Don't focus upon your sexuality, but focus upon living a life of holiness and living a life of purity.'"
"Being a Christian is not an easy thing. I may still struggle, but God has given me the grace. God has claimed the victory on the cross. Though I may still have struggles, I'm not going to be bound by them."
Dr. Yuan has co-authored a memoir with his mother, Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son's Journey to God, A Broken Mother's Search for Hope, which has sold over 100,000 copies and is now in eight languages. Dr. Yuan's newest book, Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God's Grand Story, was named 2020 Book of the Year for Social Issues by Outreach Magazine.