The situation described in the following letters is entirely fictitious, including persons, names, crimes, sins, relationships, circumstances and all particulars. The kind of situation that is described, however, is all too common and my hope is that biblical principles applied to this fictitious scenario may be of some help to individuals tangled up in a real one.
I mentioned at the end of my last letter that a lot of the set up for sexual temptation is not sexual at all. We tend to think of the issues involved as belonging to other categories, and we do this because we like our lives nicely compartmentalized. But as much as we like to think of our internal life as a series of self-contained boxes on a shelf, in reality they are much more like the different vegetables that you might throw into the stew. They are still distinct, but far more related to everything else in the crock pot than this box on the shelf is related to that one.
Before bringing up this next point, I want to emphasize that these snarls are individual. While there are general recognizable patterns, not all the patterns are identical. We are not trying to figure out how to put the eight ball into the corner pocket, with the forces of causation involved being simple and easy to define. Put another way, before talking to you about your relationship to your mother, it is important to emphasize that I am not saying that she “caused” your homosexual desires, or that she is somehow to be blamed for it.
At the same time, from your description of your rocky relationship with her, it is evident that she has been the occasion for many of your responses and reactions to women generally. But remember, this is not simple causation. We are talking about human beings with choices, and not talking about billiard ball physics. Other young men are in the same position you are in because of their reactions to their father, or to someone else.
That said, you described numerous clashes with your mother in your high school years. They tapered off when you were in college because you simply avoided going home. You said that your relationship with your father was decent, but tinged, as you put it, with “mild disappointment and contempt.” You don’t have collisions with him, but you fault him for the way he allowed your mother to browbeat your sisters. You view your father as something of a letdown, and your mother as an adversary.
Now one of the more obvious things about male homosexual desires is that they constitute a rejection of women. There are various ways that men get there, but in your case—going from your description—it appears to have been something like “if this is what women are like, I don’t want one.” This reaction, this pulling away, can begin pretty early—long before adolescence, long before you were thinking in sexual terms at all.
Having stated this, somewhat baldly, let me go back to what I meant by saying that your mother was the occasion for your sexual development, and not the cause of it. We are moral agents, responsible for what we do as individuals. You—and you only—are responsible for your sexual decisions. In the event that your mother is converted, and comes to the point of repentance, she would have to repent of the things she did. She would have to repent of being domineering, overbearing, and so on. She would not have to repent of your poor reactions to it. She would of course feel sorrow that she had been the occasion of your stumbling, but there should be no element in your thinking where you can just simply “blame your parents.”
This is important, because we live in a time when there is a lot of therapeutic parent blaming going down. What I am encouraging you to do is to understand your temptations, not to find the culprit, “preferably someone else—preferably someone you are already bitter toward.”
Because we live in the land of the quick fix, the temptation is to say something like, “Oh. I understand. I see that I projected my mother’s failings onto women generally. I see it differently now. I wonder when my attraction to girls will kick in.” The fundamental problem here is not merely an intellectual one. It is not going to be solved within the confines of your head. No, rather, the problem is in your relationship to your mother, and also to your father. Of course, addressing these relationships begins with how you are thinking about it, but there is no intellectual toggle switch that you flip, and everything is fine again.
Put another way, you are not to try to address your sexual temptations by running through a check list, one of them being a signed peace treaty with your mother. Rather you should address your relationship with your parents as a standalone issue in its own right—something that needs to be put right in your life every bit as much as your sexual lusts need to redirected.
There are two steps to this. The first is that you must deal with your bitterness toward your mother, and secondarily, toward your father. That means you must identify your bitterness against them as your sin, not theirs, and you must confess it to God as you seek his forgiveness. When bitterness lies close to the bone, it requires that you pay close attention to it, making sure it is really dealt with.
“Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Heb. 12:15).
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13).
So in prayer to God, you confess your bitterness and resentment toward your parents as your sin, and as your sin only. In your prayer, your operating assumption should be that you are the only person involved who sinned. You know practically and theologically that this is not true, but you treat it as functionally true. This prevents you from simply being bitter on your knees. If you were to tell a lie, every time the incident came to mind, you would think of your lie. But if someone lied about you, and spread it all over, every time you thought of the incident you would think of their lie. But you can confess other people’s sins for hours on end, and your joy won’t return.But you can confess other people’s sins for hours on end, and your joy won’t return.
So when you are confessing sins, do not allow yourself to think of the sins of anyone else. God can deal with those. Your business is to let go of what is poisoning you. Stay at it until you are in the joy of the Lord. If you get up from your knees, and your first thought is “but look what she did,” then get back on your knees. Budget the necessary time. Your bitterness toward your mother and father is something that God intends to remove from your life, just as He intends to remove your homosexual lusts. But in your case, removing the lusts without removing the bitterness is like hauling off the crab apples but leaving the tree. Confessing the bitterness, and really dealing with it, is an essential part of chain sawing the tree.
And again, this is one of your primary relationships, assigned to you by God Himself. If you say that you doubt this will help anything sexually, I would say to leave that aside for the time being. It will certainly help you in your relationship with them—and that is an important issue in its own right. That said, there is a connection between how you treat them and how the rest of your life will go: “Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Eph. 6:2–3).
When things are right in your right, and you really are back in the joy of the Lord, then it is time to write both your mother and father. From your description, your bitterness was certainly overt and evident to them, so I would begin by acknowledging that fault to them, and seeking their forgiveness for it. The real clashes were with your mother, so you will likely need to be more specific with her. Confess any unkind or cruel accusations you made against her, and seek her forgiveness. “I said x, y, z, trying to hurt you, and I know that I succeeded. I was entirely in the wrong to speak that way. God has been dealing with this sin in my life, and so I am asking you to please forgive me.” The second half of the letter should be filled with all the things you love and appreciate about her. If the bitterness is truly confessed, the second half of the letter will become possible.
The chances are outstanding that your mother will have a knot in her stomach when she sees the letter from you, and when she reads it she will scarcely be able to believe her eyes. It is probable that she will have never received a letter like this in her life. She will read it ten times. Even though she and your father are scarcely on speaking terms, she may contact him to see if you wrote him also. Mail their letters on the same day.
This will probably be the hardest thing you have ever done. I will be praying for you. But when you are on the other side of it, you will scarcely believe how relieved you feel. Blessings . . .