"My Adult Son Says He is Gay. How Should I Respond?"
Not long ago a distraught mother contacted me about her adult son who is divorcing his wife and has announced to the family that he is gay. This seemed to come out of nowhere. After her initial response to her son was not well-received, she wrote asking for my advice. I pass along my answer because I think the key question here is not “How do I change my son?” but rather, “How should I respond to his announcement?” Perhaps these thoughts will be helpful to you.
First of all, I am very sorry about what you are going through. There is no way to prepare yourself for the kind of call you got. I think the most important thing I can say is not about your son, it’s about you.
1. You’re a good person, a good mom, and a good wife. You and your husband have worked hard to raise your family together and you have done a wonderful job.
2. You’re not responsible for the choices your son has made and is making. You’re not the cause of him announcing he’s gay any more than you are the cause of his divorce.
3. The great challenge here is not about you and your son. It’s about you and your own heart. Unless you are careful, Satan will end up with two victories, not one. He will harden you in despair, anger, fear and bitterness that will end up turning him away from the family altogether. I know that’s not what you want.
So take a deep breath. It’s okay. You can exhale and say, “The Lord is still on his throne” because he is. Nothing about God has changed as a result of what your son said. Think of it this way. Long before he was born, God in heaven knew him through and through, loved him, knitted him together in your womb, called him, planned for him, and loved him with an everlasting love. The Lord knew that he would one day call and say, “I’m gay.” God knew all of that—and he made him anyway. And he loved him anyway. And loves him still. Nothing has changed about God. All that you have ever believed is still true tonight.
That being said, you must give yourself time to grieve, to weep, to pour out your heart to the Lord, to deal honestly with your fears . . . and that will take some time. It doesn’t happen overnight. You reacted as you did precisely because you love your son so much. You reacted out of love mixed with fear and anger and a sense of despair.
What matters most is that you and your husband stay close together, grow ever closer to the Lord, and that you stay away from blaming anyone. As the wise man said, it is what it is. That’s where we start. As a side note, I think it’s generally fruitless to inquire too deeply into how or why this happened. It’s generally not one thing that pushes a person in that direction. Usually it’s a variety of things over a period of time. The one thing that’s changed is that the gay rights movement has created an atmosphere where it’s more acceptable for men and women to do what your son did.
So where does this leave us?
1. You must decide in your heart not to yell, threaten, scream, shout, or to use tears as a tool. Also you must not do what loving Christian parents often do—lob Scripture verses like hand grenades. If he’s been listening to certain writers who claim that homosexuality is not sinful, then he knows the arguments. Remember that those writers couldn’t convince your son of anything against his will. They just gave your son a reason to justify his sin.
2. And it is a sin. Nothing has changed about that. So we can call it what it is. Love is good, male friendship is good, and sexual desire is good—all of that is good if channeled in the right way. But for some people, things get “disordered” on the inside and they make choices that ultimately lead into a sinful way of life.
3. Which leads to a key insight. The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. I hope you’ll read my sermon on Praying for Your Prodigal because it deals with this very point. The issue isn’t homosexuality. The issue is that the eyes of your son’s heart are closed to God’s truth. As long as his eyes are closed, he will make any number of bad decisions. We must pray that God will open the eyes of his heart so that light from heaven will come flooding in.
4. What matters is that you find ways to tell your son that a) you love him, b) you disagree with him, c) you still love him, d) you still disagree, and e) A-D are true always and at the same time. You need to put the onus back on him. If he demands that you “accept” his choices as good and right, then he will end up cutting himself off from his own family. If any shunning is to be done, let it be him who shuns you and the rest of your family. As for you, keep the doors open and the welcome mat out as much as you can.
5. Give God time to work. Don’t assume that what is true about him today will be true a year from now or five years from now. God is at work in his heart even at this very moment.
6. Remind yourself that God is a better parent that you are. He knows your son even better than you do and he loves him more than you do. That’s a huge insight that flows from what we believe about God.
So remember . . . don’t argue, shout, plead, beg, threaten, cajole, or otherwise do what loving moms tend to do when their children disappoint them. He already knows how you feel. He knew before he called. At some deep level, he knows what he is doing is wrong. Leave room for God to work in his heart.
He’s definitely wrong about one thing. He thinks he can never change. That’s a terrible deception that the enemy uses to trap people into bad choices. He doesn’t have to stay the way he says he is. He can be changed at a deep level.
In times like these, we must go back to good theology. As long as you focus on your son, you will feel angry and defeated. So lift your eyes to God above and consciously remind yourself of all that you know to be true. Read the Psalms out loud. Speak to your own soul about God’s truth until it is quiet within you. A quiet heart is a beautiful thing and, oddly enough, it’s your best weapon when dealing with your son. Your agitation feeds his rebellion, but a quiet spirit is so beautiful that he will wonder why you are responding with grace and not with anger.
Remember Isaiah 26:3. Fix your heart on the Lord and not on your son. Let God be God—even over your son. That is the real battle. Remember, the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. So let God work in your heart, and pray that he will do that as well for your son.
Keep me posted on how things go.
God is not finished yet!