John & Mary's Story: A Daughter's Homecoming
Matt & Lisa’s Story: Persistence is the Parent’s Path to Victory
A Mother’s Journey
We found out about Sarah’s same-sex attraction (SSA) when she was 14 years old. She returned from college one day and told us she was having an affair with another girl in her youth group. We responded negatively, thinking that homosexuality was worse than murder. We also believed that homosexuality was a choice. We thought she had chosen this herself.
Instead of compassion and sympathy, we responded in judgment. We told her, “You’ll go to hell. This is sinful behavior.” We had various arguments after that. She moved out and closer to the gay community downtown. She felt much better with them. There she was accepted.
We spent four years in that situation. We helped her out financially, but were at odds about everything else. There was no connection. She revealed to us later that she just wanted us to drive down there, especially Mom, and pick her up and take her home. She told us that she had gone through the most brutal experiences of her life while living in the gay community. She said, “Mom and Dad, you threw me to the wolves!” We know that she hasn’t told us everything yet. … She felt abandoned and left alone by the two people she loved and needed the most. She even contemplated suicide but didn’t because she thought it would hurt us too deeply! She was truly a child looking for love in all the wrong places because we didn’t understand her in the ways that she needed at the time. We didn’t love her as God loved her. We told her how we wanted her to be, and how we needed her to conform to our demands. And it sent her straight into the arms of the sad gay world. We would be friendly one minute, then get angry the next and say things like, “Why are you living this horrible lifestyle?” We were critical of her friends and never socialized with them.
Two and half years ago, we were going to buy a house. The spirit of God moved us to ask her if she wanted to live with us. She said she would if her girlfriend could live there, too. Somehow we agreed. That was the beginning of reestablishing our relationship. But it lacked relational substance. We were still locked into the mindset that this was rebellious and chosen behavior. This produced anger and judgment, and caused us to not connect in the ways that she needed. We continued to neglect her essential needs for love.
Our church was very judgmental about homosexuality. We didn’t feel comfortable to speak with anyone about this, so we ended up leaving. We felt alone, in pain and anguish. We quit going to church and tried desperately to find a place where we belonged.
A big break came when her girlfriend charged our credit card for thousands of dollars! Our daughter had the strength to throw her out of the house. We asked Sarah to see a counselor who was a friend of ours from church. She finally agreed to see him once, and then began having regular sessions.
In late 2004, we said we must do something because we were in deep despair. I (Dad) went to my office one Saturday morning. I found in my desk drawer, among a group of papers, a letter to the editor I had kept for years that mentioned homosexuality. I had this piece of paper for so long it had turned brown! I believe this was Divine intervention. In that article it mentioned PFLAG and PFOX. I eventually went to the PFOX website and spoke with Regina Griggs, their national director. She told me about Richard Cohen. That was the beginning of our enlightenment.
Before Christmas of that year, we were going around in circles and getting nowhere. It was hurting our marriage. Our hearts had darkened until we met Richard. Then we participated in the Parents Teleconferencing Classes and attended a Tender Loving Care (TLC) Healing Seminar. The suffering and pain of those who experienced unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA) at that healing seminar opened our eyes. We saw them crying and realized that our daughter felt the same way!
During the past eight months, we have progressed more than in the last six years. Last night, our daughter called saying, “I feel so much pain. Can I come over and share with you?” This would never have happened before. We finally understood that our daughter never chose to have same-sex attraction. We came to realize that SSA resulted from many of her life experiences and perceptions about events.
The truth lifted the veil of ignorance from our minds and allowed our hearts to love our daughter the way that she needed. The truth has set us free. Sarah recently said, “I haven’t felt your love in six years. I feel closer to you now than ever before.”
When we understood that she wasn’t essentially born this way and did not choose to have SSA, we were able to move from anger and judgment to compassion and love. This was the greatest lesson we learned in the Teleconferencing Classes and by attending the TLC Healing Seminar. Over the past months, we have spent so many days and nights listening to Sarah vent. Saying the magic words, “Thank you, Sarah. Tell us more,” has allowed us to witness the tremendous pain of our daughter. We have gone to hell and back with her, and shall continue to do so as long as necessary. Our daughter is now bonding with us on a daily basis. She attends therapy regularly, and believe it or not, she is dating a fine young man! Yes, she is dating a MAN.
Sarah followed every step in recovery that we had learned. She said, “I was receiving emotional gratification from my girlfriend and not you, Mom. I never connected with you.” She was in deep turmoil as she shared these things. We kept repeating, “Thank you, Sarah. Tell us more.” What came out of her mouth was exactly what was taught. She said she felt rejected by me (Mom), and that I had left her all alone. If we had not understood the causes of SSA, and how our daughter’s unique temperament led to her perceptions, we would have been so defensive. But because we did understand that this is how sheexperienced the past, we could simply say, “Thank you, Sarah. Tell us more.”
We would never have been able to do this in the past. We would have definitely spent the entire time defending ourselves and telling her why she was wrong. We learned how to use the magic words, “Thank you, Sarah. Tell us more,” and they worked! We realized that we couldn’t argue our daughter out of homosexuality. It is an emotionally based condition. It is all about wounds. And without healing, she could not change her behavior. Today, she is healing. She is opening up. She has come a million miles in such a short time. We had a chance to help her heal when she first came out to us. If we had known then what we know now, we could have prevented all these miserable things from happening. Because we did not understand the truth about SSA, and how our daughter thinks, we did all the wrong things. We all paid a dear price, she much worse than us. Now, no matter what she does or where she goes, we will love her unconditionally.
We wish to help other parents so they don’t make the same mistakes that we did. We try to impress upon them that they need to go to hell and back with their kids. There is just no other way. This is a battle of love, and whoever loves the most and longest wins!
Now we understand so much more. We love her in different ways. There is both blessing and frustration along the way. We learned to understand our daughter and about others as well. Sarah and everyone with SSA have gone through so much pain. We just want to take it all away. Part of healing is repenting for past mistakes and loving in the present. We cannot change what happened. We can only love our daughter today. We realize that we compounded the problem by judging her when she was down and out. Our true repentance now is to love her more and more each day.
Note: Shortly after writing this testimony, Sarah faced the woman who abused her as a teen. At first, her parents thought she might become involved with her once again. But Sarah saw how deeply wounded and bitter this young lady was. After experiencing more healing individually and with her parents, Sarah began dating. Eventually, she met a wonderful man and they married in the summer of 2006. Today she is happily married and has two children.
I am returning the materials I borrowed in 2001. So much time has passed since then and so much has happened. When I first came, my son was 13 and his father detested him. Now my son is 15, and his father is his biggest fan.
The turning point for me was reading Coming Out Straight. I shared the info with my husband, and he started making changes in his attitude. He has taken our son on several trips, played sports with him, talked with him, and listened in a non-judgmental way. Most of all, he stopped rejecting him. Now when he looks at our son, it is a look of love, not dissatisfaction. He understands why our son is this way and what can be done to lead him out into the fullness of his person.
You have no idea what kind of difference it makes in our son’s behavior. At first, of course, our son rejected his father’s affection. Not used to it and in general uncomfortable around males, he did not like being touched and he didn’t know how to react. It took us a year of patience, trials, and failures until our son started emerging out of his shell. He actually goes to his father to tell him different things, something so simple, yet completely unheard of before.For the first time in his life he feels comfortable with his father and himself. At the age of 14, our son referred to his father as “my dad” for the first time in his life. Before, he tried calling his father by his first name, or referred to him as “mom’s husband.” For me, that day was more important than the day my son learned to walk. Because in a way this was the day my son took his first step as the person God had created him to be.
My wife and I are Lutheran pastors. We attended a presentation that Richard made two weeks after our son told us, with much anguish and many tears, that he was attracted to the same gender. Although we believed that people were born that way, we did not want it to be so for him, because of the potential persecution and agony that he would undoubtedly endure in living out his inborn sexuality. But we never admitted to either one of our children that we had not been able to reconcile our belief with the Scriptures.
We went to hear Richard talk about homosexuality. We sat near the back so we could leave “if things got too weird.” His impassioned testimonial about his thirty-year struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions touched our hearts and minds on a level never before experienced. Though we initially squirmed when he said, “No one is essentially born with SSA,” this made sense of a lot of what we had experienced as a family while raising our son and our daughter. As we left the hall, we were speechless.
We purchased Coming Out Straight, and that night we went home and haltingly shared this radical new learning with our son. He was furious at our interest in this approach and extremely angry that we would even consider a new direction, but thankfully, he was willing to listen.
My wife and I read the book and found our family’s reality described on most of its pages. How blind we had been! We had all wholeheartedly bought into the “born that way and can’t change” myth. We realized, in fact, that this myth had permeated our seminary education and theological underpinnings. These new ideas challenged that myth. We also discovered a loving truth that accurately makes sense of the Scriptures. We knew that God was indeed a God of love and possibility, and not a God of ignorance or avoidance. We had avoided facing the truth that we could not reconcile with the Scriptures, but we also knew that love was the answer and not prideful judgment or shame. We had been uncomfortable with particular groups, churches, and denominations that had called homosexuality a sin and said that it could be “prayed away.” We knew that wasn’t quite right either.
Although our son was very angry that we had done a 180, he was willing to read the book, and we could tell that he was finding meaning in some of the things that he was reading. Of the ten different potential variables that cause SSA, we realized that we could relate to eight of them. We decided to proceed to the Washington, D.C. area for a family healing session with Richard. We were so grateful that our son was willing to attend. It was one of the most incredible experiences of our lives. Though we have always cared for each other with a fierce love, we realized through the family healing session that the dynamics of our relationship as husband and wife and pastor and pastor had profoundly affected our children. In particular, it had contributed to our son’s same-sex attraction. Furthermore, some of our wounds and childhood needs were excavated, and we began to see how these influenced our son’s detachment from me and over-attachment to his mother.
I began to come to terms with the fact that I had a distant relationship with my father. Because of that, I tend to remain at a distance or emotionally unavailable. That was my preferred method of coping as a child and later as an adult. My wife realized that she had come from a long line of matriarchs and that, in some cases, men were subtly emasculated. She had also experienced abandonment and rejection issues as a child, which led her to be a needy adult. She realized that she had inadvertently expected our son to take care of some of those needs. Attachment therapy exposed some of our blind spots and changed our lives in ways we never before imagined.
Although it was difficult at first, my wife took a backseat with regard to our family. At times she would be silent at the table, and that allowed my son and me to converse in a way that we had not done before. As for me, I began to concentrate on being emotionally present. I practiced active listening and tried not to react, but rather respond with questions. I realized that it was more important for me to be in relationship with him than to be right all the time. My own heart and self-care have been of foremost importance to the healing process. My inner child was parented in unhealthy ways. Now he is seeking to come out and teach me important lessons. I am learning to more fully celebrate the process of becoming the man God created me to be. My wife is keenly aware of becoming the woman God created her to be as well. We realized that our son’s bravado in sharing his same-sex attraction was the release our family needed to begin the process toward healing and wholeness.
We finally got real with each other, and this allowed our son to begin to express his childhood wounds and unmet needs. He began to share his hell with us. He told us what it was like to sustain peer rejection and criticism. We knew he had a sensitive spirit and that both of our children were confused about male and female gender roles within the family. My wife and I are now taking responsibility for our past failures and our family is much closer to healing and wholeness.
As part of our family treatment plan, I held my son several times a week. Most often, he just sat there, not wanting to be in my presence or arms. But I determined to win him back! In all honesty, it was exhausting. And, there were many set backs along the way. After one year of doing this, he found a boyfriend. So I thought, “OK, this isn’t working.” And I quit holding my son.
After one week he came to me and said, “Dad, I feel so hurt that you gave up on me and stopped the holding.” I was shocked. I was humbled. And I determined not to quit this time, no matter what. And so we resumed our weekly holding sessions. Even though he still had a boyfriend, I fought hard to win him back. In time, that relationship did fall apart.
Our son graduated high school and went on to train with a professional theatrical company. He was steeped in the “gay” world, but extremely unhappy. And then a miracle occurred. He met a wonderful group of men and women from a church that surrounded him with incredible love and affirmation. They invited him to move into a house with other youth group members. And so he did. More and more, while receiving the same-gender peer affirmation and attention he had never experienced in his life, we saw the walls around his heart melting day-by-day. Our son was coming alive, in fact he was blossoming and his faith was rekindled for the first time in years.
Now he is determined to heal from his SSA. He himself requested another family healing session in order to resolve the remaining issues he has with us and within himself. Recently he came home and has been sharing his new found faith and freedom with his close friends. He even stood up during one church service and gave his testimony—making the journey from a broken and wounded adolescent struggling with same-sex attraction, to a strong and committed son of God coming into his power as a man. This new reality is a blessing beyond measure.
When we were invited to our pastor’s office, we knew our son Andy was having some sort of difficulty with the church he had attended for over twenty years. Andy had been in a Bible study with our pastor. They had memorized chapters of the Bible together and developed a strong friendship. But now we saw a change in Andy’s church attendance, and he no longer attended the Bible study. He seemed to have anger toward the pastor and the church in general.
What we heard that day left us numb with shock and full of confusion. We learned that Andy was involved in a relationship with a young man in the community. Our pastor had tried to help him and had encouraged him to talk to us about the abuse he had suffered at the age of 14 when he spent time with Adam, his youth leader, at Adam’s home. When the pastor asked Andy why he had not told us about the incident, he indicated that there was tremendous fear from discussing it with us. The pastor asked Andy, who is now a fireman, to confront the youth leader, but he did not have the courage to do that.
When, Jim confronted Adam in the pastor’s office, it was one of the hardest things he had ever done. Adam had become Jim’s closest friend over the past fifteen years. The shock of these revelations lasted for more than a year. We made lots of mistakes, but we did some things right, including building a support team to talk to and pray with. Our pastor fasted and prayed with us for forty days. He came to our home often to share and help us through the difficult days.
We learned everything we could about SSA and sex abuse. We attended a Love Won Out conference that helped us, but we needed assistance for our family and ourselves. After counseling with two different therapists, we were thankful to find some real help in the books Coming Out Straight and Gay Children, Straight Parents. For the first time we had questions answered, and we understood more about the incident and how it derailed him on his road to manhood in his early teens. We stopped blaming ourselves and each other, and started working on solving the problem.
One of the most helpful experiences was taking the Parents Teleconferencing Classes. We had had our doubts, but eventually sought counseling from Richard. Jim was a self-proclaimed “homophobe.” As much as he loves our son, he felt he could never accept him as he was. He felt uncomfortable spending time with Andy and his friends. He often felt so discouraged that he struggled with depression.
I was amazed at Jim’s change of heart after the first session. We found help in many areas, mostly communication with our son. We learned it was important to listen to our son and ask questions. As part of our homework, we have written a plan for healing for our family and our son. I have a prayer partner who prays with me daily for Andy. We have learned we need to share our experience with friends and family members we trust. We are working on helping Jim and Andy build a strong father-son bond.
Andy has come to enjoy his dad’s hugs. Jim is learning to express his love verbally. Andy is once again memorizing Scripture and asks me to pray with him. He is playing hymns on the piano. We have a long way to go but no longer feel helpless and out of control. We are able to talk to people about SSSA and help them understand the truth about the situation. We are thankful to God for His leading, and today we are helping a support group in our church for men with SSA.
I want to thank you for all the help you've given me up to this point. I can see my relationship with my daughter moving in a very positive direction, and a change in her; her anger is gone. It was also very nice to hear the other parent’s situations, a lot of the information was helpful for my situation. JM
Thank you very much for your wonderful coaching! We cannot wait for the classes to resume. The positive impact of Parents Level I on our family and our son is huge. We know where we are going, what the problem is and we have gained strength from every class. For the last two months the relationship between me and my son has improved 200%. Every week I see something new and promising in his self-perception. I thank God we found IHF. Intuitively I knew there must be a way to help our son and there is! JZ
My husband and I took both of the teleconferencing classes for parents. When our son told us that he “was attracted to boys and not girls,” we felt many different emotions, and the dominant feeling was one of helplessness. Through the teleconferencing classes we learned how we could help our son. The most significant learning we gained was the understanding that SSA is not about one person. it’s about the family system and a whole constellation of factors that contribute to its development. We began to see that our familial patterns were not as healthy as we thought they were or could be and we learned, step by step, how to pursue healing in our family. This affected a tremendous change in our son. Today we are well on our way of healing, thanks to IHF. WF