by Marsha Inman, Friends and Family Director
A common trait of parents who come to Living Hope for the first time is feeling panicked and unprepared for the news that their child struggles with same-sex attraction. Few parents are prepared for this news and feel the pressure to have answers and solutions to all the things they suddenly are facing and for the things they fear will happen. They feel a sense of urgency, having only a limited time to make a difference, so they must act immediately, or else all is lost. Fear has its grip on them, controlling their thoughts and actions.
Moving from panic to peace is possible, even while many things are still unresolved. The first thing to remember is that the news that your child struggles is not a surprise to God. He is and has been, aware of this all along. Parents also need to realize that their child has likely been struggling with these thoughts for a while, wondering what to do with the feelings they do not want and that they are sure you will not like. If you are reading this article, you have likely already had an initial conversation with your child about their attractions, and perhaps, it did not go well. If you responded with anger, agitation, or hurtful words, I hope you will apologize to your child and let them know that this is an entirely new situation for you, and you will need some time to process what they have told you. Thank them for sharing this very personal information with you and trusting you with that information.
Remember, God is the Healer
Next, you must realize that this is not something that you can “fix,” nor is it something that will be changed quickly. You have plenty of time to pray, seek the Lord’s wisdom, and learn to interact with your child in a loving, redemptive way. Ask them how long they have struggled with these thoughts. Talk with them about how this struggle has impacted them emotionally and spiritually. Disclosure is a time to listen; not to argue, defend yourself or tell them how they could have done things better or differently. Realize that their feelings are their feelings. Their perception about things that have happened to them may be different than you recall, but they are being honest with how it affected them. If your child feels heard and that his/her feelings matter to you, it will go a long way toward building a bridge between you instead of a wall. They need to know that your love for them is not tied to whether or not they identify as LGBTQIA+. You love them because they are your child, period.
You may feel compelled to read everything you can find on the subject. But don’t research expecting to find the perfect argument to change your child. It’s good to read to be informed and to verify that you are on firm theological footing. At some point, you may want to share some of what you have learned with your child, but it should come without strings or expectations.
You can’t do these things, but what can you do? Much of that depends on the age of your child struggling with same-sex attraction. If they are minors still living in your home, you can certainly have rules for behavior in your home. If their computer and cell phone do not have protective software, find and install some to prevent them from accessing sites that will add to their struggle. Realize that you can’t control a lot of things and that over-control can be counterproductive. Joining a support group with other parents dealing with the same issues can be helpful. You can learn from each other and find prayer and moral support.
Primary Responsibility: Love and Pray
No matter your child’s age, your primary responsibility is to love them and pray for them. Make sure they know they will always be your child and will always be loved, regardless of their choices. Prayer is critical because God knows things we will never know, and He has resources to reach your child that are unavailable to us. Remind yourself of the promises God has made to you and pray them back to Him on behalf of your child. Ask Him to go after your child like the one sheep who strayed from the 99 others in the flock. Remind Him that He has promised that “no man can snatch them out of My hand,” which includes your child. Ask God to show you (and your child) the plans for good that He has for each of you. Ask others to pray with you for your child. God does not get weary of hearing our prayers. In fact, He encourages us to pray diligently (Luke 18:1).
It’s impossible to move from panic to peace if you hang on to the idea that you will change anyone. God alone brings change and does all things perfectly and in His own timing. When we truly trust God to do what only He can do, a great weight lifts off our shoulders. If we trust Him, we can rest in Him, and that’s where peace comes from. Romans 15:13 gives us a glimpse of what that can look like; “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”