Please note: any identifying markers have been removed from this article in order to protect the privacy of the same sex attracted child written about in this powerful testimony. SIW is grateful to this faithful Christian mother who authored these words of honesty and wisdom in the hopes that it would encourage, inspire and offer practical help to other parents who are undergoing the same kind of challenges.
I have been a Christian since I was eighteen. I married a disciple, and we've been part of a discipling ministry for our entire marriage. We tried to have a spiritual home, though we were far from perfect. In our parenting, we clung to the scripture, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." (Prov. 22:6). It seemed like a done deal, a sure thing, a simple equation. Then our son hit puberty at age 11-12. Suddenly the equation didn't seem so simple. He was feeling the attraction to males, and he didn't want anyone to know. He didn't want us to tell others. The few close brothers and sisters we did go to for help did not have any more understanding of homosexuality than we did and did not feel confident advising us. So we tried to deal with this largely on our own.
I want to share as a mother what I have experienced, the things I've learned and the mistakes I've made along the way these past several years. I wish I had found someone who knew what I did not, who could have helped me understand what someone with a same sex attraction goes through and how unwanted desires of this sort don't just leave because you want them to. This website is truly a gift from God, and I am so grateful to Guy Hammond and Kris Boyer for answering God's call to begin this ministry. I'm sure that I would have reacted differently had I read their stories years ago.
Let me begin by saying that I had little contact with people who were same gender attracted. The few people I knew of in the church that were, struggled severely with it or left God completely because they felt they could not overcome their sexual temptations. It was like getting a spiritual death sentence if you were gay. That was what I thought. I only knew of two success stories in my nearly thirty years of being a Christian. So I was really terrified. My heart was filled with dread and extreme fear. I felt there was little chance that my son could become a faithful disciple unless God changed his sexual orientation, and it was on that premise that I began to pray, to plead, and to cry out to God in daily anguished prayer. I cried and begged God to change him and give him a heterosexual orientation. I prayed that God would put the perfect Christian woman in his life that he could love, as if a relationship with a Godly woman would be his salvation. These were all prayers of a fearful, desperate woman, who needed to learn to surrender to God and stop telling God what the plan was and what He needed to do, as if I knew better than Him. I felt compelled to give Him advice on how He should handle this so it would all work out ok.
I struggled in my heart with bitterness toward God. I cried out, "Why, God? WHY THIS, OF ALL THINGS? This is the hardest thing to overcome. It's not fair to my son!" I wondered if God really loved my son. Why would He allow this to happen to him unless He thought of my son as dispensable, like a vessel prepared for destruction in Romans 9:21-22? Up until this time, I had always been able to say "those people", but now my son was one of "those people", and he was not unacceptable or unworthy of MY love. I had to learn that Jesus DID love my son, and found him worthy to die for, just like he did ALL PEOPLE. I learned that deep inside my self-righteous heart, it was I who felt "those people" were dispensable or unlovable, not God. I thank God that he challenged my heart to see this prejudice and begin learning what unconditional love really meant. It was the same lesson Jesus was teaching Peter in Acts 10:28. I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. I should have the same heart, the same association with all people, not just ones who were acceptable to my comfort level. My comfort level needed to expand, and my heart needed to change.
As time went on, when I felt the fear and the anger over my son's same sex attractions surfacing, I began to pray not for God to fix him but for Him to fix me, help me to surrender, to trust in His love, to trust that He had a good plan for my son, and to lead my son to experience that amazing love in any way He saw fit. I had to rest in God's grace and stop putting my faith in statistics, in what was going on in my son's life, or in my own ability to change things if I just said the right words.
I also had to forgive myself and accept that it was not my fault, nor my husband's, nor my son's. There wasn't a clear answer to the question, "Why?" God doesn't reveal all the answers. He says, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever that we may do all the words of this law." (Deut. 29:29). We don't know the whys, but God has revealed to us His love and His desire for our heartfelt trust and obedience, no matter what this life deals to us. Life was not meant to be fair. I looked at all of my relationships and saw that some had abusive childhoods, cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, children who died tragic, untimely deaths, or unexpected loss of incomes that caused them to suffer greatly. No, life is not all about the choices we make. It's about how we live the life we've been given.
In the early years, when my son was a young teen, I believed that he could choose who he was attracted to. I encouraged him to feed his attraction to girls and starve his attraction to boys. I thought he could change, like a slow conversion. I wish I had known that it's not like that. What I was doing was actually causing him frustration which then became anger and resentment toward me, my husband and God. He felt that in our minds, it wasn't OK to be who he was. We expected him to try to change who he was to become more acceptable. I can understand that now, and it kills me to think of what he went through emotionally because I didn't understand him. Even though I told him that I loved him so much, and that his sin was no different than mine, I don't really think he believed me. The effect of my approach, along with a very strong peer influence, was that he chose to reject God entirely and to separate himself from me and my husband. What was missing from me while I was trying to reason with him and ‘train' him to put to death his sinful desires was the compassion and sympathetic heart he needed to truly feel accepted. He was living a life full of pain, rejection, unworthiness, alienation in society, teasing at school, loneliness, confusion, frustration and anger. Though I tried to enter in many times, he would not let me in very far. I think he could always sense that I was just too devastated by my own feelings. I cared more about what I felt than what he felt. I actually feared what he felt. Part of me didn't really want to know because it would just hurt all over again. That was really selfish and unloving.
In more recent times with my son, I have apologized for not understanding the pain he was going through. It meant the world to him, and he too said he was starting to understand the pain that I was going through and how hard it was for me. The more I showed him compassion, the more our relationship healed.
I sat down and wrote out all the things I could think of that I had either said or done that were hurtful, wrong, or insensitive; everything I was sorry for, even fears and not knowing what to say or do for him. Our marriage counselor had urged me and my husband to do this. When I shared these with my son and apologized for everything, he responded with a sigh of relief and a huge "THANK YOU!" It cleared the air. It made him more willing to be vulnerable with me.
Our kids need to feel safe with us, safe to express what is going on with them without us freaking out or freezing up with fear, safe to tell us what they believe without us judging them. I have been learning how to find the common ground, to agree with him wherever I can instead of only making my disagreements known, and to really try to understand what he feels. Jesus was good at finding common ground with people he sought to help. Look at the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), the woman caught in adultery (John 8), the sinful woman (Luke 7), or the tax collector (Matt. 9). In each interaction, the people felt loved and accepted by Jesus. It was because of his mercy towards them, not his judgment that they felt compelled to follow Jesus. If our children feel our mercy, they will be more compelled to follow Jesus than if we persist in warning them about judgment. It is a fine line that Jesus tread perfectly (John 1:14-17). Grace and truth came through Jesus, not only truth. As parents, we must put ourselves in our children's shoes and treat them as we would want to be treated. (Matt 7:12) A big helping of grace along with that truth we are trying to instill in them is essential. How heartbreaking that my son felt like a big disappointment to us!
I am listening hard and long now. I used to ask him what he was feeling, and he wouldn't talk except to say, "It doesn't matter. It won't make a difference anyway." He had to believe that I truly cared with compassion and understanding, without judging him before he would start talking to me. He had to know that I wasn't going to make it about "I'm always right and I know what's best and you need to listen to me." I was so afraid of him going down a wrong road that I had caused him to feel that his feelings and attractions were wrong, even though I told him otherwise. Actions speak louder than words, and my fears had been seen and felt by him. My fears, which caused me to be controlling at times, drove him away. They translated to him as, "Please don't be gay. I can't handle you being gay," so he went to the place he could find acceptance, to people who could handle the truth quite well, his friends and the gay community.
Prayer time now is more like Hannah, who cried out to the Lord, but left surrendered and at peace. I have to let go of my fears and my pain. It's not a one time thing either. Sometimes it's a daily re-surrender. I cannot allow my heart to be ruled by fear because I cannot find perfect love for my son by living in it. I desperately want my son to know that I love him, and even more, that God loves him and has a good plan for his life - a perfectly good one.
If I can help anyone by what I have been through, it will be this: "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (I John 4:18). I love my children, and I know you do too, but when I am consumed by my fears for their well-being and their future, I tend to get controlling. I may be afraid to show understanding and mercy for fear that it may somehow give them a license to sin. Just the opposite is true. Understanding promotes love, and "God is love." Fear drives them away because fear has to do with punishment. I have just shared with you how this played out in my life. Promote God to your children by putting away fear. That's all I want now for my son. I just want him to know God and the love Jesus has for him. I am resolved to show him the love of the Father. I am resolved to learn from Jesus how to love, and to become more like him. No fear in love. No fear in love.
Guy is not only an Evangelist in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, he is also the founder and Executive Director of Strength in Weakness Ministries.
Click Here to read Guy's testimony.
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