A Lesson in Love

By Tom Taylor

 

I could not talk with Peter about his lifestyle and the ache in my heart it caused. I needed God to change my heart so I could love Peter with His kind of love.

Our Peter is now 37 with a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University. Anne, my wife, and I are very proud of him for his academic accomplishments and his commitment to excellence. You'd love to meet him. He is friendly, intelligent, very sensitive, outgoing, loves people and has a strong commitment to our family. After graduating from New York University with a degree in theater, Peter became quite successful as a stage manager on Broadway in New York and on a national tour.

In late August of 1985, we took our travel trailer up to Connecticut to spend a week with Peter where he was a stage manager for a summer theater company. We invited him to our trailer Sunday evening. After a cozy dinner by candle light, he said, I have something to tell you. I am gay. ;ve wanted to tell you for a long time because its so important to me. But I knew it would be very difficult for you to hear this. Hal and I are very happy together.

Physically I was already exhausted from a very heavy schedule. Upon hearing Peter;s news, I felt totally devastated and thoroughly flattened. I felt no anger; I was just wiped out. Of course, I felt great revulsion over the physical aspects of Peter’s life.

But, somehow God controlled me; no accusations, no defense of my self and no preaching from the Bible. My first question was, ;Peter, where have I failed you as your father?; He replied,You havent. You were wonderful parents and tremendous role models for me.

You may ask how did Anne responded. The previous night she had noticed a gold band on Peter’s finger that had not been there before. She wondered, Is he gay? This caused her to read many passages about suffering, among them James 1:2-8, which says that God will give wisdom in the midst of trials. God had prepared her heart. However, we were exhausted with sorrow much as Jesus; disciples were on the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:45).

That night we asked him many other questions. Was his commitment to Jesus at age 12 real? How did this all start? Who had supported him in his struggles? And last but not least, what about AIDS and had he been tested? As I saw it, our nice, orderly family was going down the road of life. Suddenly we were hit by an express train! After Peter left that night, Anne sobbed her eyes out for three hours. We then prayed together, crying out to God for His wisdom in this devastating situation in which our hearts were breaking. God quickened to Anne 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ;Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” We asked God to some how use this situation to enable us to reach out to other hurting people through our pain. Little did we know what God had in mind for us.

During the balance of our time with Peter, we tried to enjoy several outings, among them a boat trip on the Connecticut River. The sun was hot on our faces as was the searing pain in our hearts. On the trip I asked Peter, “Do you have a will?” He replied, “No, not yet.” My concern was if Peter should die, that our heirlooms and family money which we invested in his New York apartment might wind up in Hal’s pocket. Later Peter told us that Hal, his partner, was coming up from New York Thursday for the weekend. Though we knew Hal and enjoyed being with him, the news made seeing him impossible. Emotionally we could not face him because we were still reeling from the devastating news.

Anne and I prayed and tried to figure out what was happening to our normal, ordered life. We knew we could not handle this crushing news by ourselves. What were we to do?

Upon returning home, we immediately called our pastor and made an appointment to counsel with him. We told him about Peter and our heartache and pain. He listened and prayed with us with care and love. But he had no solid, ongoing counsel for us. We then shared the news with our small group Bible study, who prayed and cried with us.

As time passed, Peter came home and joined our holiday and family occasions. Usually Anne and I had no time for serious one-on-one conversations. We were just too busy. Our mission was to tend to our family members and guests, insuring that they felt warmly welcomed and had a good time. I would “buckle my seat belt” and ride it out. I could not talk with Peter about his lifestyle and the ache in my heart which it had caused me; just safe chitchat. When he went back to New York City, it was “out of sight, out of mind.” Anne was much more faithful in keeping up the contact with Peter than I was.

During the spring of 1988, I was introduced to Come Back, Barbara, a book written by Jack Miller and his daughter, Barbara Juliani. It is the powerful story of Barbara’s rebellion and how God used this crushing situation in Jack’s life to break open his heart for some very deep changes. He talked about mounting a “love offensive” toward a loved one. At first I did not understand this concept and certainly did not want to get involved. I wanted to continue trying to live my life without interruption or inconvenience. God’s Spirit, however, would not let me go and continued to make me uncomfortable. He began to show me the ugly things that were ruling my life: For one, I needed the approval of other people. I needed to be respected and respectable. What would people say about me as a father if they knew about Peter’s homosexuality? Secondly, I wanted Peter to conform to my moral standards, to have my family in order and under control. Thus, I believed that I would be more acceptable in God’s eyes because I was a “good dad.” The tension of trying desperately to hold on to my family life finally became too much for me to manage.

As I began to repent of my fear of other’s opinions and my pride, I could see in a fresh way God’s holiness and my own sinful nature. I realized that I was clinging to these ruling motives thinking that God would accept me if I could just get my life under control. How utterly foolish!

I began to confess to God that I did not love Peter with God’s kind of love. I asked God to change my heart so that I could learn to love Peter with His kind of love. This was totally different from relying on my own self-effort to love Peter.

God then became my loving Father, Redeemer, Fountain of Life and Refuge. I became God’s son, and He accepts me whether I succeed or fail. God started to become my total sufficiency and the source of my identity and reality. While on vacation with my family in the Poconos in August 1988, I realized that my heart was changing. I could begin to really love Peter as my son in a deeper way than I ever had before. I was also able to show love to Hal, Peter’s partner, who was starting a small business. As we talked, God gave me real wisdom and excitement as I shared how to structure his new venture.

During the fall, Peter had to write a paper discussing the relationships in our family. He asked to borrow a similar paper I had written for a course I had taken at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation. It was a very humbling request for me, but I agreed. God used all of this to further break open my heart.

In December I drove to New York City (I hate cities, especially that one). My purpose was to listen to Peter and ask him to forgive me for the ways I had controlled him and hurt him in the past. I did not know the details, but I did know there were things I needed to make right in our relationship. As we talked together, I began to cry as God did further healing in my heart.

After Peter completed his paper about his perspective of our family relationships, he mailed me a copy. I remember reading it very carefully with a dictionary in one hand and his paper in the other.

The following weekend, we spent eleven hours going over it! I wanted to listen and learn all I could about Peter and the important issues in his life. When Peter had finished reviewing his paper, I said to him, “I want to say some things.” With that Peter got up to leave. Anne said, “We’ve listened to you for 11 hours. Now sit down and listen to us!” We then shared some of our Biblical convictions. That was the last time we spoke about his choices in the light of Scripture. I reached the astonishing conclusion that we both had (and are continuing to have) the same ruling motives in our lives! We both need the approval of others and we are proud men.

Today, I continue trying to encourage and support Peter in his hard work and high professional standards and in his other activities. I am also learning to love him more for whom he is, not just because he meets my expectations or desires. He and his former partner handled the rehearsal dinner for our daughter’s wedding. We have had them both in our home and on vacation with us. However, we do not allow them to share the same bedroom; we treat this just as if he was in a sexual relationship with a woman, but not married to her.

I’ve come to see Peter’s homosexuality as the surface problem and surface sin, not the “biggie” which the church usually condemns. The real root sins are rejection, rebellion, self-pity, moral impurity, fear and pride. And we all struggle with these, don’t we?

I am learning to allow the Holy Spirit to search me and try my heart; He is exposing more of my sinful nature which drives and controls my life. This is why Jesus came and died for me. He makes me totally acceptable to God. Only the Holy Spirit can come and change the basic desires of my heart as I learn to cry out to Him. As I become honest before God and confess that I have neither the desire nor power to love Him (or Peter) because of my self-centeredness, I am cleansed in Jesus’ blood. Then the Spirit comes and changes me at the very core of my being. This is scary and painful. But oh, what joy and peace begin to flow!

An excerpt from: Psalms for Hurting Parents by Tom Taylor Copyright (C) 1994, HARVEST USA Box 11469, Philadelphia, PA 19111. Distributed by Love In Action, PO Box 753307, Memphis, TN 38175-3307; 901/542-0250