Saturday, June 23, 2007

When Homosexuality Hits Home

I find the lessons in this article self-evident, but if anyone cares to talk about it, feel free.~John Hosty

I was devastated by the news my son is gay. But God isn't finished with him—or me—yet.
Shirley A. Rorvik | posted 5/10/2007

I first became aware of how much I despised homosexuality when I worked at a savings and loan in 1981. Don [not his real name], referred to as a "queer" in our small town, shoved his savings passbook across the counter for a large cash withdrawal. He glanced over his shoulder and spoke to his companion, a good-looking boy of about eighteen. The boy laughed and his eyes met mine, full of mockery and challenge. I swallowed hard and shuddered, then handed Don the wad of bills, and they walked out arm-in-arm.

At home that night, I described the incident to my family in a voice tinged with disgust. "Thank God there's none of that in our family." In fact, people thought our family had it all—good marriage, comfortable home, successful careers. Our oldest son, Rick, was happily married with three children. Tim, our younger son, sang with his girlfriend in the high school choir. Few people knew of my husband's chameleonlike personality.

But one night seven years later, I feared for my life in the throes of my husband's drunken rage. The next day I confronted him. I couldn't live with his drinking problem any longer, and I urged him to seek help. Instead, he moved out. Several months later, he divorced me. To pay off our debts, I sold our home, moved into an apartment, and started rebuilding my life. I'd been through hell and survived. Nothing would ever again shake me like that.

The end of our thirty-year marriage created an upheaval in my sons' lives. Rick and his wife divorced about a year later. Tim abandoned college and joined the U.S. Marine Corps, going first to San Diego, then to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War. I prayed for his safety, not knowing a greater battle in spiritual warfare awaited his return. After his discharge in May, 1991, Tim remained in San Diego.

Then, on January 3, 1992, an emotional earthquake shattered my world. The pages of Tim's letter trembled in my hand as I read: "My sexual orientation has bothered me since I was twelve. Please, Mom, listen to me. I feel a strong attraction for men. I understand how you must feel . …"

Coffee splashed as I slammed my cup on the table and threw down the letter. No, Tim couldn't possibly understand, or he'd never have written this. I lurched up from the sofa, his words scorching my mind.

" … I am who I am, and it's taken me thirteen years to be able to accept this. … "

Thirteen years? No. No, I'd have known. What about his girlfriends in high school and college? How could he be gay? What happened? Where had I failed?

I fell to my knees sobbing. Then pulling myself off the floor, I grabbed my keys, snatched up Tim's letter, and ran to my car, taking off in the winter night.

As the speedometer reached 80 mph, a snow-covered guardrail suddenly rushed toward me. Terrified, I twisted the steering wheel. The car skidded, then held on the graveled shoulder. Peering into the darkness, I searched for familiar landmarks. Finally, I recognized a farmhouse. I'd gone more than fifty miles from home.

I pulled off the deserted highway onto a side road and stopped the car. Punching open the car's moon roof, I tilted the seat back and gulped clean, cold air. After a long while, I sighed. Okay, Lord, I give up. What do you want me to do? Switching on the map light, I picked up Tim's letter. This time I heard his pain: "I feel alone. I'm so afraid of my family rejecting me. … You're still my mom, and I still love you. I always will."

I had to hear Tim's voice, so I drove back to my apartment and dialed his number. When Tim answered, tears flooded my eyes. I told him I loved him, no matter what. But, I said, homosexuality is a sin. "You're not alone, Tim. I'm here and Jesus is too. God loves you. Remember Romans 8:38-39? Nothing can separate you from God's love in Christ Jesus. But you must renounce this lifestyle."

Tim sobbed, unable to speak. After a few moments I said, "I'll call you tomorrow. I love you, Tim." Sorrow filled my heart as I hung up.

Over the next few weeks, we talked on the phone or through letters. I needed answers. "Tim, why? Was it the war? Did something happen over there? Or when you were little?"

Eventually, he opened up. "Remember the older boy in my third grade class? The bully?" Tim said. "Well, he cornered me one day after school--" his voice broke. "After that, he told everyone I was a fag. Nobody wanted to be around me."

He told me of a couple more childhood incidents when older boys had threatened or bribed him into cooperating with their sexual indulgences. Then came another shock.

"Did I ever tell you about the time Dad took me to a gay community in Massachusetts right before I joined the Marines?"

The phone turned to lead in my hand. "No," I whispered.

"It was a business trip. When the business was done, that's where we went, to a town on Cape Cod. It's a gay community." He paused. "Well, maybe you didn't know. You guys weren't divorced yet, but Dad had moved out."

As Tim described the incident, it became clear his father had been to this place before. My heart raced. "Did anything happen? I mean--"

"No, Mom, nothing happened. Dad wanted to go to this gay bar. He laughed and joked with these guys. I kept my eyes glued to the TV and didn't talk to anybody. I didn't know what to do. I just wanted to die." Bitterness laced his words. "I don't think I've ever come so close to hating him."

I recalled other business trips when Tim was nine or ten. At the time, I was pleased my husband was spending time with this younger son. Did something happen then? I tried to question Tim, but he refused to talk about it. He didn't remember. He thought he'd had a happy childhood. I let it go.

As the weeks went by, I felt ashamed and afraid. My prayers seemed inadequate. Desperate, I called my dear friend Dory, a nurse. Her nonjudgmental, no-nonsense voice offered strength. She told me about Barbara Johnson's book, Where Does a Mother Go to Resign? I read it and called Barbara. This dynamic woman shared hope, encouragement, and the names of two other women in similar circumstances. I wasn't alone.

I learned about Exodus International, a worldwide Christian ministry dedicated to helping men and women who want to overcome homosexuality and turn to Christ. From Exodus, I received the names of two Christian men in San Diego who had renounced homosexuality and were available to counsel others. Excited, I called Tim with the good news, convinced he would grab this opportunity to be free from bondage. I was wrong. He said he wasn't in bondage. He didn't want to be free from homosexuality. He said he was born this way, and Jesus knew.

How could he be so deceived? From the beginning, I'd taught him about Jesus, whom he had invited into his life at the age of five.

Through the years, I'd had no inkling something was wrong. Did Tim ever hint at trouble? Did I really listen? Were there dark secrets in our household? I don't know.

After Tim's letter in 1992, I regarded my adult son as a victim. "They" had caught and trapped him. "They" were faceless, nameless, evil people. Homosexuals. Enemies.

But God wasn't finished with me yet. That spring, Tim brought a friend home—a homosexual. The enemy had arrived on my doorstep. I was tense but quickly realized Tim's friend was even more nervous. I sensed his fear of rejection. Mothering instincts surged, and my heart reached out to him. He wasn't an enemy—he was a wounded soul.

My quiet times with the Lord changed from selfish pain and anger to genuine grief for Tim and others like him. Satan blinds them to the truth and deceives them.

The change in my attitude toward homosexuals was tested in my workplace where some of my colleagues apparently are gay or bisexual; I no longer avoid them. They're real people, just like me. The Lord's softened my heart, and I've learned to hate the sin while I love, or at least care for, the sinner.

Tim often brings homosexual friends when he comes to visit me and my new husband, Chuck. He once told me, "You guys are living proof to my friends that heterosexual marriage can work." Perhaps he, too, is seeking proof—and hope—for himself.

When Chuck proposed a few years ago, I told him about Tim and about my commitment to the Lord to be available to Tim and his friends. Chuck regards Tim as his own son and together we've opened our home to these wounded souls, many of whom have been rejected by parents and siblings. Tim never asks to stay overnight when he has a companion. Their conduct is above reproach in our home. Often an arrogant attitude masks their pain, but it soon dissolves. Some of them jokingly call me Mom.

If the opportunity arrives to present the gospel, I do, usually in the form of my own testimony. This opens the door for them to express their views of Christianity. I hear anger. These young men say they've been rejected by their own churches and therefore, they imply, by God. They've turned their backs and buried themselves in resentment and fear.

How can we reach these hardened hearts? For me, evangelism begins with friendship. I am one small part of God's whole plan—perhaps I can plant one tiny seed, and the next one will plant the garden, and others will nourish it. As I write, Tim seems resigned to being homosexual, but he gives clues that he's not a practicing homosexual. It's a fine line of distinction, perhaps even a rationalization. Only God knows the heart (1 Kings 8:39). Jesus, Tim says, is his best friend. I believe him. But I also know Jesus is more than a friend—he is the Savior and Lord. God heard that five year old's prayer inviting Jesus into his life. Even if Tim has strayed away, God hasn't moved. He'll be there when Tim chooses to resist the devil and listen to the Holy Spirit.

My heart still hurts. My son's life is far from happy, his future uncertain. The New King James version of Psalms 56:8 says God puts my tears in his bottle. My hope rests with the Lord. "They will return from the land of the enemy [Satan] . …Your children will return to their own land" (Jer. 31:16-17). In the meantime, God has called me to pray for and love Tim, and to be available.

Shirley A. Rorvik is a freelance writer living in Montana.


John said...

Shirley's making progress, but she has a long way to go. She still thinks she knows God's will; she is still too proud to admit that she is still an ignoramus.

Jerry Maneker said...

I agree with John. After 15 years, Shirley still views Gay people as sinners, out of God's will, and as perverted heterosexuals. God help her son, and all other sons and daughters, who have parents like this one (and worse) who either reject their children outright or "put up" with them, all the while viewing their children as sinners who are out of God's will.

John Hosty said...

"Don [not his real name], referred to as a "queer" in our small town, shoved his savings passbook across the counter for a large cash withdrawal. He glanced over his shoulder and spoke to his companion, a good-looking boy of about eighteen. The boy laughed and his eyes met mine, full of mockery and challenge."

I thought it was interesting to note that the gay guys actions were all about her in her mind. There is something to be said there.

She reinforces this image when she talks first about how her son being gay effected her. Then she drives off into the night wrecklessly by her own admission, again the focus is all about her.

The real shame here is that the writer's message that Christ's love is unconditional is all but lost in a sea of enuendo:

-Having gay children is a tragedy
-Gays are pediphiles
-Gays have lots of money (stereotype)
-Gays happen because of abuse
-Gay can be cured, like a disease

In her own words:

"After Tim's letter in 1992, I regarded my adult son as a victim. "They" had caught and trapped him. "They" were faceless, nameless, evil people. Homosexuals. Enemies."

She ends up with an awkward pseudo-reconciliation of her own fear and hatred:

"The change in my attitude toward homosexuals was tested in my workplace where some of my colleagues apparently are gay or bisexual; I no longer avoid them. They're real people, just like me."

She never seems able to let go of her own predisposition long enough to remember that God calls us to love unconditonally, and that He works in mysterious ways. I do not pray for her son Tim, instead I pray for her, so that one day she might find peace in the place of persecution.

John said...

"instead I pray for her"

Yeah, it is she who needs it.

You do a good job psychoanalyzing her and I don't disagree with your conclusions. But, still, the things that jump out at me are the ignorance and the arrogance.

Thomas said...

May I recommend that people search for the book "My Son Eric, A Mother Struggles to Accept Her Gay Son and Discovers Herself". by
Mary V. Borhek & Christine M. Smith> I read it when I was young and met the author. She is also from a Christian background but comes to terms with her son's sexuality than the woman from Montana. It's worth the read, even 20 some years later...;_ylc=X3oDMTB1c21tcDhkBF9TAzk2NjMyOTA3BHNlYwNmZWVkBHNsawNib29rcw--

John Hosty said...

John, you are absolutely right, and that was a big part of why I reposted this.

Thomas, thanks for the advice, I will hunt down a copy in order to see what you have found.

Ken Weaver said...

This is why I hate religion. This woman finds herself in a position to judge her son’s actions and deems them “evil.” She said her son accepted Christ into his heart at 5 years old; Bull. He was indoctrinated to Christianity. Instead of explaining how many religions there are and educating her son to all, she gave him her own. What does a 5 year old know of god/religion/Christ. Does a 5 year old really have the capability to choose religion. We don’t allow anyone under the age of 18 to enter into contracts of any kind, yet this woman entered her son into a contract with god without him even close to being capable of comprehending that contract. That’s evil and it happens every day in this world.

Ken Weaver

John Hosty said...

Ken, it's good to hear from you! This article has so many things to teach us that I see something new each time I read it.

Question: If we show people who are like this the error of their ways, will they get it? They should change the name of the Mississippi to Denial, because it seems to run through the heart of this country.

Ken Weaver said...

“If we show people who are like this the error of their ways, will they get it?”

Not likely John. For a person to truly change they must want that change. If a person truly believes that the earth is really only 50,000 years old and man walked with dinosaurs, no amount of evidence will change their minds know matter how convincing the facts are. My sister-in-law is from Mississippi and her father is a Baptist preacher. I asked her once what she thought of a show I had seen that almost proves the miracles of Moses. The one part that made her denounce it as blasphemy was that there is evidence that instead of the Jews crossing the Red Sea, it was actually the Reeds Sea. They even found Ancient weapons and armor consistent with what Egypt would have had at the time frame at the bottom of the Reeds Sea. One expert looking at the ancient texts believes that there was a misinterpretation in the names of the seas. The names look fairly similar to me. But she would only say the Bible says this and the Bible is the unerring word of god in any language and that her King James Version is perfect in every way. You can’t contest her views because there is no question in her mind that her bible is perfection. You can’t dispute anything reasonably with that kind of person because their minds are hard as concrete.

“They should change the name of the Mississippi to Denial, because it seems to run through the heart of this country.”

It’s not really odd that the same region that held the bible up for their justification of slavery holds that same book up once again for their denial of equality to a people they see as “sinners.” It took nearly a hundred years from the time the Northern U.S. saw slavery as “inappropriate” to the start of the Civil War. And more than a 100 years after that war and too many still see African Americans as “less than” their equal. But there comes one of my many shortcomings; stereotyping. What’s a guy to do?

Later John

John said...

I wonder which came first, the chicken or the egg.

Obvious, John, you can see in this story, the simularities to my own situation.

I wonder if many people are not using religion as an excuse rather than a reason.

In this case it sound like she is,in fact using her religion as a reason, but I can't be 100% sure.

Sometimes I think that religion has so informed a culture that even non-religious people will disdain gay relationships without even knowing why. They then use religion as the excuse to maintaim that disdain.

BentonQuest said...

Fundamentalism is endemic in the US. I was an ELCA pastor and would hear people talk about "Accepting Jesus" and "Becoming Christian." These concepts are not part of the Lutheran Faith. Even life-long Lutherans would speak in this way. Televangalist spread these ideas. We get used to not questioning what we see on TV so we don't question Televangelists.

Also, many people are taught to not question their pastors, big mistake!

John Hosty said...

Wonderful posts guys! Dr. Quest, its great to hear from you.