Learning to Love
Convictions — and grace — in the midst of heartbreak.
by Katrina Hastings
“Mom and Dad, I’m gay.”
Our son finally confessed what our hearts did not want to hear, although our ears had heard it from a friend of his a few months before.
My husband spoke first. “You know we don’t agree with that lifestyle, but we love you.”
“I didn’t choose to be gay,” Pete sobbed. “I begged God to take these feelings away. I even went to see a Christian counselor. But nothing changed.”
My husband and I were in town to see Pete’s new apartment near the college he attended. We remained in our hotel room and listened as Pete shared some of what he had dealt with for several years. It broke my heart to think our son had struggled in this manner, yet didn’t feel safe enough to tell us.
Later when we went to see Pete’s new home, we met his live-in partner. I was nervous when I shook Greg’s hand. I wanted to blame him for our son’s sexual orientation, but deep down I knew it wasn’t his fault.
Just as Pete’s grief ended, ours began. He had ten years to work through his denial, depression, and bargaining with God. He finally accepted his homosexuality. Now we had to contend with our sorrow and the loss of our plans and dreams for his future.
In the days following Pete’s revelation, I battled with anger at myself, my husband, my son, and God. Many evenings I lay in bed and cried out to the Lord, “How did this happen? Where did we go wrong? We faithfully took Pete to church and enrolled him in Christian schools. This isn’t supposed to occur in families like ours!”
We had heard about “them” in the media. Now it was “us.”
It would have been easier to believe Pete was born homosexual. But as I pored over Leviticus 18:22; Genesis 19:1-11; Romans 1:26-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; and 1 Timothy 1:8-11, I knew a loving God would not create our son gay and then call him a sinner for living as he did.
I also saw in Scripture that no sin is worse than another in God’s eyes. God didn’t love Pete any less, and neither did we.
Acceptance vs. approval
Over the next few months, I voraciously read books borrowed from a counselor. The most helpful one was When Homosexuality Hits Home by Joe Dallas. It taught us many things, including the truth that acceptance of Pete’s orientation and approval of it were not the same thing.
Fourteen months after our son’s announcement, Greg came to our home for the holidays. Although raised agnostic, he went to church with us. Over time we realized we were the only Jesus that Greg ever saw, so we treated him as God would.
Just after their fifth holiday together, Pete called to tell us he broke up with Greg and would soon look for another place to live.
I cried. After five years, this young man had become like a second son. I struggled with what to say to Pete. Should I encourage him to seek counsel and work out their differences to save a homosexual relationship? If not, we knew our son would once again return to gay bars. My heart waxed heavy as stone.
After a few months, Pete began a relationship with another young man. They never lived together, so our paths rarely crossed. After a year, Pete broke off his relationship with him also.
Several months later when our son came home for the holidays, he said, “I’ve met someone online named Connor, and I like where our relationship is going!”
I knew he wanted us to feel excited for him, but all I could think was, Here we go again.
I began to lose hope for change in our son. I shared this with a friend. “Did you know our preacher’s son is gay?” she asked. “Maybe you should talk to him.”
Two days later, my husband went to the church for a workday. God orchestrated it so he worked alongside our minister. When my husband confided about Pete, pastor told him he and his wife attended a support group for Christian parents of children who struggled with same-sex attraction. He shared the phone number of the leader, and I called her that afternoon.
The next day we attended our first meeting.
If felt good to be with other parents who dealt with the same situations we did. I wept as I opened my heart to them. We appreciated their hugs and words of encouragement.
Pete’s relationship with Connor grew, and the next year they moved in together. I will never forget the day Pete called to say they hoped to get married the following spring.
Through tears, I told him I feared we would lose our relationship with him, but Pete assured us they would respect whatever we decided. Since my husband and I felt we couldn’t bless what God didn’t, we decided not to attend.
Anger and silence
As days melted into months, Pete grew bitter. He confronted us in anger, pulled away, and sent emails, sounding nothing like the son we raised and dearly loved.
The night before his marriage to another man, I lay on our bed and sobbed. It isn’t supposed to be this way! I want to rejoice with my son on his wedding day. I texted Pete to say how much I loved him, but received no reply.
Six long months went by with little contact, by their choice. In autumn we received an invitation to meet Pete and Connor at a restaurant for my birthday. We eagerly accepted.
A few days before our dinner, I worked on homework for a Bible study that presented a perplexing question: “Would you be willing to forgive someone, even if you thought you had done nothing wrong?”
The cruel remarks made to us about not attending Pete and Connor’s wedding came to mind. Though we didn’t feel we had done anything amiss by sticking to our convictions, we still needed to pardon them for their words that deeply hurt us.
The only way for us to rid ourselves of the hurt and anger was through forgiveness. As I asked God to help me forgive them, God impressed upon my heart what else I needed to do.
After my birthday meal, we stood outside the restaurant saying our goodbyes. As I hugged Connor I said, “We’re sorry we hurt you by not attending the wedding.”
He pulled back in astonishment and said, “Oh wow! Thank you! That means a lot to me.”
While Pete conversed with his dad, he heard Connor’s exclamation and asked what he had missed. When I spoke the same apology to him, he was equally surprised and pleased. We hugged, and the wall between us began to crumble.
Change of leaders
About this time, the leader of our support group told us she could no longer lead the meetings because she planned to return to school.
Since I recently became a board-certified biblical counselor, my husband and I approached the pastor of the church we now attended. Could we lead a group for those with loved ones struggling with same-sex attraction?
Sharing in brokenness
Two months later, we became leaders instead of attenders.
We shared all we had learned, looked at scriptures, and prayed with those on this journey with us. We came together in our brokenness to encourage one another, renew our hope, and learn how to love our strugglers.
Two years later, Pete and Connor accepted our invitation to Thanksgiving for the first time.
I wanted everyone at the table to share something they were thankful for, but didn’t want to put anyone on the spot. God impressed upon me to write a few things I was grateful for about each person in attendance.
Breaking down walls
After dinner I asked everyone to take a seat in the living room because I had something to share.
Starting with my husband, I read the short paragraph about what I was thankful for in him, and ended by saying, “I love you.” I did likewise for Pete, Connor, our daughter, her husband, and our three grandchildren.
After I read Connor’s, I looked up to tell him I loved him, and saw tears in his eyes. The wall came down a significant amount that day.
It’s been over twenty years since Pete told us he was gay. This hasn’t been an easy journey, but I now see more clearly what 1 John 4:11 says: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (KJV). God is not so much interested in circumstances but rather, my loving response to the situations He allows in my life.
I wish I could tell you Pete is back in church and living for the Lord, but that hasn’t occurred — yet. Until then, I cling to the promise in Philippians 1:6 that says I can be confident that the good work God has begun in his life will continue until the Lord returns. My job is to entrust Pete to God and believe the answers to my prayers will come.
Meanwhile, my relationship deepens with the Lord and Pete and Connor. I am gratefully learning to love as God does — unconditionally.
Names have been changed.