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What To Do When Your Child is Gay

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  • Thomas Morey
    The following article is for the encouragement and counsel of parents, family and friends of those who declare a lifestyle involving same sex attraction. It is
    Message 1 of 1 , May 15, 2008
      The following article is for the encouragement and
      counsel of parents, family and friends of those who
      declare a lifestyle involving same sex attraction. It
      is found in the latest issue of Charisma Magazine.

      What To Do When Your Child is Gay
      By Mike Ensley

      Parents often don’t know how to respond when a family
      member admits same-sex attraction. Here’s how you can
      offer Christ’s love and healing.

      It’s not something many Christian parents see
      coming.Maybe you’ve discovered that your teenage son
      has been looking at homosexual pornography online, or
      your daughter has concluded she is bisexual. Or
      perhaps you’re one of the fortunate parents with a
      child brave enough to confide in you about his or her
      same-sex attraction.
      Whatever your method of discovery, the news has no
      doubt brought on a storm of emotions. You weren’t
      expecting ever to have to deal with this.

      Learning that their child struggles with—or is
      involved in—homosexuality is devastating for Christian
      parents. I know because in my 5-year-long tenure at
      Exodus International, an organization that ministers
      to homosexuals and their families, I’ve met many
      people who are affected by this issue. I am also aware
      of what a big deal it is because at age 16 I dropped
      the “I’m gay” bomb on my own family.

      I know the tension, guilt and anger that can attend
      these issues. My parents and I went through a
      difficult time, never suspecting that 11 years later I
      would be encouraging you with the truth that God is in
      the business of reaching into these situations and
      creating new life.

      I and my colleagues at Exodus want you to know that
      you’re not alone and that your feelings, decisions and
      family all matter to God. None of it has escaped His
      watchful eye, and nothing that hurts you is
      unimportant to Him. Remember to lean on Him as you
      take these important steps in grappling with the news
      that your child is gay:

      Realize homosexuality can afflict any family.
      Homosexuality happens. So many parents with homosexual
      children have told me the same thing: “I don’t know
      how this could happen. He grew up in a Christian home;
      we took him to church. He was always such a good boy.”

      There seems to be an assumption that bringing children
      up in a Christian environment makes them
      struggle-proof. To a degree, the expectation that if
      you do the right thing you should see the right
      results seems reasonable. Life isn’t supposed to be
      like this.

      But in a broken and imperfect world, no one gets to
      choose his battles. Your son no more chose to
      experience same-sex attractions

      (SSA) than another boy chose to feel that rush of
      adrenaline the first time a friend showed him a
      Playboy magazine. Your daughter has no better
      understanding of her struggles with sexual identity
      than you do.

      Believe me: Your son or daughter did not choose to
      have homosexuality as their issue. If there had been
      any way for them to avoid it, they would have.

      There are real reasons why they are led down a wrong
      path. The overriding truth is that homosexuality is
      just one of many things that can happen to broken
      people in a broken world. The good news is that this
      struggle is not inescapable, and humble assessment,
      ownership of personal responsibilities and clear
      direction from God will help you through.

      Take care of yourself. You may need to put some space
      between you and your child to do this. As much as you
      probably want to focus on acquiring the right help for
      your child, you need to get support and resources for

      You need it because you’re suffering, and your wounds
      matter simply because you matter. God cares about your
      well-being just as much as He cares about your
      child’s. He wants to be able to talk to you for you
      and for them. So get help.

      Just as the young Christian with SSA usually isolates
      himself in a closet of shame, so his parents often
      close themselves off from others for fear of judgment.
      The church should be an environment that puts wounded
      individuals and families at ease; instead it is often
      the opposite. Most moms and dads fear the assumptions
      people will make about their families.

      But fear isn’t the only emotion you’ll have to deal
      with; there will be a truckload of them, along with
      questions and complaints you’ll need to get off your
      chest. For the family that secludes itself in its
      crisis, the only place to turn their pain and
      confusion is on one another.

      Clearly, that’s not a healthy solution. Finding an
      outlet for yourself will help your child and the rest
      of your family as well.

      Don’t be afraid to see a Christian counselor. Many of
      Exodus International’s 170 local ministries and
      counselors offer support not only to those who deal
      with SSA but also to those affected by a loved one’s
      struggle. There are also knowledgeable, relational
      Christian counselors beyond our network who can be of
      immense help. God is doing a great work in counseling
      offices across the nation, so take advantage of this
      great resource.

      The next step is opening up to your church family.
      This can be an even more intimidating prospect than
      seeing a counselor, but it’s important.

      Believe it or not, your church needs you to do it. So
      many of the overcoming strugglers and family members
      I’ve met through the years have told me the same
      thing: When someone took the courageous step of
      sharing his or her private burdens with them, the Lord
      used it to free them up, too.

      Rather than back-pedaling from the friendship, people
      start bringing their own secret sins, struggles and
      wounds to the table, and we find that we all can
      understand one another a little better than we thought
      we could. It takes courage to confront the darkness,
      but once the light is on, it’s not as frightening.

      You don’t have to tell everybody; just start with a
      close friend or your small group. If you don’t have
      either of those in the church community, now’s the
      time to find them. You could probably get by for a
      while on your own, but with the support of Christian
      brothers and sisters, you can mend, heal and thrive.

      Set attainable goals. In the scores of meetings, first
      phone calls and e-mails I’ve shared with concerned
      parents, I find that their primary focus is to “fix”
      their kid—and it’s no wonder, considering all the
      danger, sin and uncertainty we associate with the gay
      lifestyle. Naturally a loving mother or father wants
      to rescue their child from the consequences of such a
      lifestyle by keeping him or her from becoming
      entrenched in it.

      You’ll never have peace aiming for goals you can’t
      achieve, and controlling your kid’s thoughts and
      choices is one of those. It’s what makes the teen
      years so hard for all parents—especially when they see
      a loved one beginning to stray. Parents instinctively
      seek more control in a season when their children are
      fighting harder than ever to take it from them.

      Like it or not, adulthood is around the corner, and
      this issue might not work itself out ideally before
      then. Making control your goal will only create
      tension in the relationship, leaving everyone
      frustrated and distant.

      A healthy, helpful and attainable goal is to keep the
      relationship alive, regardless of where you can or
      can’t find common ground. Be a parent your child can
      trust and talk with, one who can still see everything
      about the person that hasn’t changed—and isn’t
      obsessed only with what has. When you offer healthy
      intimacy and connection, it undermines the power of
      unhealthy desires.

      If you can’t do that and choose to focus your
      attention on your child’s SSA struggle, you cease to
      be a relational influence in his life and become
      simply a person who is trying to make him
      straight—something he has probably tried on his own to
      be, only to conclude it’s impossible.

      Am I telling you that, as a loving and invested
      parent, you should just ignore the issue of
      homosexuality? Absolutely not. But if you are to
      address it successfully with your child, you must not
      limit your relationship. Be open to the fact that this
      is a journey, one on which not all paths are bright
      and clear but on which your family is traveling
      together. Now you’re ready for open, honest

      Is an Exodus ministry right for your child? It can
      certainly help, but everyone in your family needs to
      understand what Exodus is and what it isn’t, and what
      they should and should not expect.

      When my parents first dragged me kicking and screaming
      to an Exodus counselor, I know they hoped that would
      be the end of it, that there would be some magical
      technique employed by the sweet former lesbian they’d
      spoken to on the phone that was going to help put this
      issue behind our family once and for all.

      Thankfully, Donna (the Exodus counselor) knew it
      wasn’t that simple. She was also able to do something
      my parents couldn’t. Sure, we talked about
      homosexuality from the start and got our differences
      out of the way; but then she put the entire issue on
      the back burner and just talked to me—as if I was
      still a whole person.

      She treated me as if the other aspects of my life were
      still interesting, still significant, even with my
      attitude toward my sexuality still unresolved. This is
      something that many parents, gripped by panic and
      grief, forget to do.

      Donna eventually broke down my walls and became my
      friend. She was also willing, at times, to be an
      advocate for me to my parents. They pressed her for
      secrets from our sessions; she kept them in
      confidence. They urged her to help strong-arm my
      decisions; she maintained her role as my counselor,
      not their liaison.

      With great patience and grace, Donna helped me and my
      parents realize a very important truth with which
      every family in this situation must inevitably
      grapple: My struggle with SSA wasn’t the problem.
      Rather, it was the outward manifestation of deeply
      rooted issues in our family. It wasn’t just about
      homosexuality, and it wasn’t just about me.

      Discover your part in the problem. There’s a big
      difference between finding one issue to blame for your
      kid’s struggle and honestly assessing where your
      family has taken healthy and unhealthy turns. There is
      no one person or act that caused your child’s human
      brokenness to take the shape of SSA.

      And the resolution is not going to be as simple as
      addressing your son’s or daughter’s sexual identity
      issues (as complex as that is) and then getting back
      to life as usual.

      The uncomfortable truth is that God will use your
      child’s situation to show you the ways in which you as
      individuals need to repent of any unhealthiness and
      embrace His will for your family. It’s time to take a
      hard and forgiving look at each of your hearts, and
      the good and bad ways you relate to one another.

      In truth, that’s really what Christ allows each of His
      followers to do. He takes our guilt and shame upon
      Himself, freeing us to participate in the lifelong
      sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. It’s the same
      with your family.

      There will be sins, both intentional and
      unintentional, to address. There will be wounds to
      uncover and feel. There are patterns that need to be
      abandoned and replaced with new ones. It will be
      painful and awkward at times, but no one is allowed to
      be blamed or shamed, and no one is allowed to be shut

      Thankfully, not all teens go through a rebellious
      stage as I did. Many of them are eager for the help
      that Exodus offers. In fact, if my parents had found
      out a year or two before they did, I probably would
      have been much more cooperative at the start.

      It’s the shame and stigma surrounding this issue that
      keep young strugglers in the dark. The day Christians
      stop fearing it and start talking about it graciously,
      compassionately and with the understanding that it’s
      just another struggle—one Christ can love us
      through—is the day that darkness will begin to fade.

      Trust God. I’m sorry there’s no technique that
      provides an easy escape from one of the biggest shocks
      of your life. The one truth that has comforted me most
      in the midst of pain and ongoing struggle is that our
      suffering matters to God.

      We’re so often given the impression that God is
      concerned only with our becoming holy and giving Him
      glory that, in the midst of crisis, we lose sight of
      the fact that He cares very much.

      He does not coldly survey the brokenness in our lives;
      He collects our tears. And there is no distance to
      which you can flee or fall that is out of the reach of
      His saving grace. “The Lord’s hand is not shortened,
      that it cannot save,” the Bible tells us (Is. 59:1,

      There is a long road ahead, but God will never leave
      you alone. You can trust Him to provide all you need
      to restore your family to Him and to one another.

      Mike Ensley is the Youth Analyst for Exodus
      International and the co-creator of the Truth &
      Tolerance series of resources for student ministries
      available from Exodus. To find an Exodus International
      member agency near you, go to exodus.to. Or contact
      one of their affiliates, Living Hope Ministries, at
      livehope.org to join a safe, online support group in
      which you and your family members can talk with
      ministers and receive encouragement and prayer.
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