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 father 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.
Hello. Let me start by telling you that at the time of writing this testimony, I have been a faithful Christian for 29 years. The purpose of this message is to encourage and strengthen Christian families who are going through the trials of helping a family member who struggles with same gender attraction (SGA). "Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." - James 1:12.
My wife is also a disciple and has been a Christian for 30 years. Our daughter is 16 and was baptized one year ago. Our son is a freshman in college and is same gender attracted. My core sins are bitterness, fear, and anger. God has given me great victory over each of these and yet they are constant battles for me.
God truly blessed us with very gifted, talented, and beautiful children. Our son was winning art awards at three years old. Everything he does, he does exceptionally well. He plays multiple musical instruments and has played at Church events and composed music. He won the "Outstanding Freshman Male Student of the Year" award at his high school. He was very spiritual in his younger years and even tried to start a bible study at his elementary school. To this day he has many godly traits, such as compassion for the weak and loving the outcast, that were instilled in him at a young age.
Let me start by declaring our belief that God does not judge a person for who they are attracted to and what they feel. We are not condemned for being attracted to the same sex or the opposite sex. In the bible homosexuality is an action not a description of who one is attracted to. The bible describes homosexual acts as a sin just like immorality (sex outside of marriage) is a sin. No more. No less.
When our son reached puberty at around 12 years old he began to struggle with his sexuality. We found signs of this and determined right away that we would talk to him openly about it and be very non-judgmental, merciful, and humble. I explained to him that he was a much better person and son than I was as a teen. I told him that in my teen years I had been heavily involved in drugs and immorality and had mistreated my family. I explained to him that we felt that no one sin was worse than any other, that we did not judge him, that he was forgiven, and that we wanted to help him. (Matt 18:23-35 - helped us.)
As our son became a teenager he started to turn away from God and declared that he no longer believed in God. This may have been caused by his struggles and guilty feelings. He may have felt that he was different and unique in the Church. After talking to teens and young adults who were raised in the Church I have come to believe that they struggle greatly with guilt and it has a very negative effect on them. It is my belief that our son may have projected onto us how he thought we would treat him and feel toward him. He may have felt great fear of judgment and rejection even though this was not how we treated him. His actions and feelings toward us may then have been an extension of these mis-beliefs.
I sought advice from other brothers on how I could be closer to him and spend more time with him. Along with taking him to play different sports I started participating in Boy Scouts with him and became an assistant scoutmaster of his troop. We ended up backpacking over 150 miles together over the years and he was able to attain the rank of Eagle Scout. I don't think he enjoyed my company that much but at least he knew I was trying to be with him and help him. I encourage other fathers to consider this as a good way to spend time with your teen son during those high school years when it is often very difficult to get time with them.
During these years our son was often angry and bitter at us and I was often angry at him. My wife had helped me greatly in encouraging me to try to be like Christ and to keep on loving and forgiving and not say things I would regret later. In my struggle with bitterness I had to learn to not seek justice and retaliation when wronged. We had a standard in our house of not yelling but I know sometimes what I said came across as yelling even though the volume was low. My point of view was that this was going to be a several-year struggle and that I wanted to come out at the end of the tunnel with my son seeing God through my actions and not having estrangement from him.
I tried several times over the years to talk to him about how he was feeling. I told him that I wanted to know why he was angry at me and what I had done wrong in his eyes. I told him that he could speak freely without any repercussions on my part and that I wanted the opportunity to repent and be forgiven by him. He never chose to tell me why he was so angry at me.
One of the mistakes I made was that in my attempt to keep my emotions at bay and conflict to a minimum, I did not engage him enough and push through to have more talks with him. I allowed the house to become a place where we were constantly afraid of how he was feeling and how we could cater to that and try to appease him. At times I did not discipline him (by revoking privileges) consistently. He recently asked me why we don't talk about his homosexuality more. This shows that it is still a struggle for me to engage him.
Going through this struggle has been a very painful time for us. This year I have cried more than I ever have in my whole life. I have struggled with God and with the feeling of loss. I have this incredible feeling of having lost my chance to have a son who loves me. I know that I can never recover those lost years and I will never have another son or second chance. I try to pray blindly faithful prayers to God about him using our son to glorify himself by bringing this story to an incredible conclusion. I ask him not to waste all the gifts he has bestowed on our son but to call him into his wonderful kingdom where he can give his testimony some day and bring others to faith. God has managed, in the last year, to put me into the path of several Christian families that I hadn't seen in 20 years who told me incredible stories of specific children of theirs who ran from the faith and got mixed up in the worst of the world - even disappearing for months - and yet they returned to God full of faith. God is all powerful and he can do whatever he pleases. I just have to keep crying out to him and be real with him about my pain. "God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." -1 Cor. 10:13. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him" - Rom 8:28.
Due to the fact that the Church is just starting to get to a point of learning how to deal with families with members who struggle with SGA we went through some tough situations that I would like to share with you. You may go through similar things and you have to have a mature viewpoint about it and be forgiving and remain committed to God.
Our Church has a thriving teen ministry and helping teens become Christians often means helping parents of those teens to grow in their spirituality also. We often hear the message that your sin will be magnified in your children. I see my sin of bitterness in my son for example. However, we sometimes wondered if people felt this about our son's SGA. I had to look past that and remain confident in the fact that even though I had come from a background of much impurity and pornography prior to becoming a Christian, God had given me great victories in this area of my life and he has made me strong in my weakness. We also came to the conviction that God is perfect yet his children Adam and Eve were disobedient. Yes, our sin can have consequences and impact our children but there is not always a direct tie-in. Some good fathers in the Old Testament had sons who did evil and some fathers who were evil had exceptionally good sons.
Another area that we struggled with was the idea that we were the first family in our congregation who became Christians prior to marrying, raised their kids in the church and had a child who struggled with SGA. Of course we now know this wasn't true but at the time we thought it was. We sort of thought subconsciously that if you tried to raise your kids in a spiritual manner they would become Christians at a young age and everything would be fine. We felt confused, alone in some ways, and sometimes even angry at God. I had thoughts like "God, we led the Children's Ministry for five years and took care of your kids but you didn't take care of ours. Why did you do this to us?" I'm trying to be very real here to let you know you aren't alone and it's okay to work these things out with God.
You may also run into Christians who have a mistaken understanding of Romans 1:24 and its application. Some Christians believe(d) that our son became attracted to the same sex because he refused to believe in God. What we saw was just the opposite. We saw a boy who was filled with faith go through terrible pain and struggle when he started realizing he was SGA. He tried to fight it and dated the opposite sex for several years. His SGA caused him to weaken in his faith and not the other way around. We also believe that in today's society it is a choice or an experimentation for some but it was not so for our son. We also believe that we are all dealt a different "hand of cards" but we must all make the choice to follow God no matter what our struggles may be.
When my son was about half way through his 18th year we had a talk about why I was "forcing" him to go to church. One thing I am very happy about is that when I asked him if he felt rejected or judged by the Church he said "No. I feel very loved by people in our Church." This gives me great faith that at some point our son can turn back to God and his church and that God can work in his life to give him faith.
Going through this type of struggle can put great pressure on your marriage. We sought out counseling not only for our son but we also got marriage counseling from the best bible-based Christian counselor we could find. Our church did not offer professional marriage counseling so we had to go outside the church, but God provided a very good counselor who really helped us. At the time it threatened my job to even attend our sessions because he was only available during working hours but to me it was the highest priority and God ended up blessing me in my job during that time.
In closing I would like to say that we have learned much through all this. We still have a ton to learn. It is hard but God always provides the way to make it through.
UPDATE AS OF JULY, 2010
I wanted to encourage those who may have read our story that God has answered prayer and acted greatly to move us forward in our relationship with our son. I had gone backpacking in the Sierras with friends and had taken a separate vehicle so that I could take some time to be alone and pray on the way home from the trip in the summer of 2009. I spent the night at a beautiful spot and went down to the lake to pray my heart out to God that night. I tried to really talk to God about all my feelings and ask him why this had happened and plead strongly with him to bring it around full circle to glorify himself and heal our relationship with our son. It was a very powerful, tearful, emotional bonding time with God.
Well, when I got back home our son shortly afterwards enrolled in a new semester at his university and he took a programming class. He was struggling from the very start and I offered to help him. I am a programmer at my job so I was able to help him. It is a miracle just that my son allowed me to help him. We spent one night a week from 9:00 PM to 12:00 AM midnight video conferencing and working through his assignments. God took us from not talking at all to being able to spend 3 hours a week in "face-to-face" conversation. This time totally transformed our relationship. Since that time our relationship has completely changed to where we can converse and enjoy our time together and be happy around each other. I could never have come up with a plan like God did and I stand amazed at this miracle in our lives. God is great and he does answer our prayers! We continue to pray for our son that he will have a relationship with God and find salvation. This was a very positive step in that direction.
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