A Letter to A Mom

Dear L_________,

Thanks for your note.  Your son will certainly be in my prayers.  I remember well when I was about your son’s age, and I was very angry too, and became very angry at my family.  (Not for the same reasons as your son, but I really didn’t want to have anything to do with them).  My family walked on eggshells around me back then, but now, all is well.  I think your son is in a necessary time away from God, if my story is any example.  For some of us, we only know how God loves us by leaving him behind completely.  It is painful to watch a son make such bad choices, but God wants you to remember that He’s more concerned about your son’s redemption even than you are.  I’ve become convinced that the pain and sorrow that a family feels at the poor choices of a son or daughter is something that can be offered up on behalf of the redemption of their child.  The greatest way you can help bring about the redemption of your son is to unite whatever sufferings you endure–as a result of his choices–on behalf of his redemption.  I think that gives a purpose to the sorrow and pain that you feel right now.  There must always be hope, and there must always be a way God redeems our suffering, and for me, I know that parents and their suffering play a vital role in the redemption of their child.  The “further sorrow” you speak about, resulting from your son’s current disposition, is allowed by God to be turned around and redeemed as part of the source of your son’s redemption.  I think this is the only way St. James’s words in James 1:2 can make any sense:  “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.”  Naturally, no joy will ever be felt when we suffer, but I’m convinced we can endure it if we find purpose and meaning behind suffering, and in the beautiful paradox that is always present in God’s redemption, that which is most painful becomes that which is most powerfully redeemed by God–and surprisingly, the source of great joy.  Thus, the pain caused by a child’s poor choices becomes an opportunity to love the child producing the pain and sorrow, by uniting that pain to the suffering of the Christ on the Cross, on behalf of the child.  God’s redemption is beautiful in that regard, and I’m confident that your son will be redeemed, certainly in part by your willingness to “offer it up.”

The timing of God is always perfect too–Oscar Wilde reconciled with the Church on his deathbed, which was exactly the right time. (I pray and trust that this won’t be the case with your son!) Perhaps the hardest thing in the redemption of a child is waiting on God to act.  But then that becomes an opportunity to grow in your faith in God.  I think it’s hard to wait for God in all of this, but I’m confident that God is in control, and He has his eye on your son and is pursuing him.  I didn’t come back to the Church until I was 38, eleven years hence for your son.  Don’t expect too much, too soon, I would caution, and be prepared to endure more pain and sorrow–but when it comes, always view it as an opportunity to love your son even more.  The more angry he gets at you, the more pain you will feel, and therefore the more suffering you can unite with the Cross, on his behalf.

Can I recommend that you consider attending the Courage Conference this summer at Mundelein Seminary?  This is a great resource to families who love a child who’s chosen to pursue a life of active homosexuality.  I think finding an EnCourage group would help you greatly.  It’s so hard for parents who love their children, and see clearly what the child doesn’t see, and we all need help in dealing with such a painful experience.  The Conference also allows you to speak with men who can give you hope for your son, since we’ve all come to learn the truth about the Church, and chosen to embrace.  But–we came back at precisely the right time–in God’s Providence.  The waiting is hard, and the fear that it will never happen is a great temptation too, which we need to avoid, because that leads to despair, and away from peace.

I’ve written a recent essay on advice to parents, which might be helpful too:  http://www.legatusmagazine.org/dealing-with-same-sex-attraction/

Please cling to the belief that even now, God is working to bring your son home in ways that you can’t imagine, and that it will probably be in a way, and at a time, that seems strange, or surprising, or certainly later than you’d like.  I think the story of the man healed at the Pool of Bethesda is important to remember.  It’s the only time in the Gospel that I know of where we know the age of the person being healed:  38.  That’s about when I came back to the Church, and it was exactly the right time for that man.  He had a Divine Appointment with the King of Kings when he turned 38, not 28, and perhaps this will be the case with your son.  Sooner isn’t always better.  I needed to journey away from my Father’s house for quite some time before I knew what I was missing.

God bless, and I urge you to consider coming to the Courage Conference.  I think it will be a great blessing to you.  http://couragerc.net/Conferences.html

Dan (aka Nathaniel Jameson)

PS  Here is an excellent blog post by a friend of mine, about the power of the redemptive suffering of a parent of a man living with same sex attraction.

The Imitation of Christ–Happiness is simple, really.

I went to the bookshelf last night to grab a little reading before bed, and picked up a book that I haven’t looked at in quite sometime, Thomas a Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ.  I opened the book up to a section on consolation and abandonment to Divine Providence, and thought I’d share a few paragraphs that I think are very helpful in having a sane and healthy view of homosexuality.

Whatever consolation I can imagine or desire I look for not in this present life but in the one to come.  It is certain that if I alone had all this world’s comforts and were able to enjoy all its pleasures, they would not last very long.

Hence, my soul, you cannot find complete consolation nor total refreshment except in God, who consoles the poor and sustains the humble.  Just wait a while longer, my soul, wait for the fulfillment of God’s promise and you will enjoy an abundance of good things in heaven.  If you desire the good things of this present life more than you should, you will lose those of heaven and eternity.  Make use of temporal things, but desire eternal things.  Temporal goods will never fully satisfy you because you were not created for their sole enjoyment.

Even if you possessed all created goods, this still could not make you happy and blessed for your joy an beatitude is in God, the Creator of all things.  This is not the happiness that the lovers of this world praise and extol, but the happiness that Christ’s good and faithful followers seek and of which the pure of heart, whose conversation is in heaven, sometimes have a foretaste.

All human consolation is short-lived and empty; but true and blessed is that consolation that is interiorly received from Truth itself.

The devout man carries Jesus, his consoler, with him wherever he goes, and says to him:  “Lord Jesus, be with me in all places and at all times.  Let my willing renunciation of all human comfort be my consolation.  And if I find that I am without your consolation, then let Your will and the trial You send me be a greater consolation to me for You will not always chide me, nor will You  keep Your anger forever.

I love this section in particular:

If you desire the good things of this present life more than you should, you will lose those of heaven and eternity.  Make use of temporal things, but desire eternal things.  Temporal goods will never fully satisfy you because you were not created for their sole enjoyment.

We are to enjoy the goods of this world:  to the fullest!  Obedience and complete abandonment to God doesn’t lead to a miserable life, but actually freedom to enjoy life more, which seems strange to most people.  Here’s the thing:  I won’t ever be happy if I attempt to find more enjoyment from temporal goods than they were intended to bring me.  When they’re in their proper place, viewed as great gifts from God that reflect His love for me, then they are far more enjoyable than if I tried to find my happiness from them.  It’s beautifully ironic, but I think this applies to all things:  friendships, marriage, food, beer, beauty, music, philosophy, art–all that is good in the world becomes BETTER and more enjoyable and truly a gift when we stop trying to find our happiness there.

I recently spoke to four high school classes at a Catholic school.  One of the students asked why God would give us a sex drive, and then ask us to live chastely.  I told them it was because God wanted them to have immense enjoyment of sex throughout their lives, saying that “when God made sex, He said it was good.”  I told them that the very strength of their sex drive was a sign of God’s profound love for us, as well as the enjoyment of sex.  God wanted them to have sex that was mind-blowingly good and pleasurable beyond compare–but that this actually could only happen when sex was placed in its proper place in their lives.  They were shocked how much I praised the gift of sex, but to be honest, some people in the Church are far too prudish when it comes to sex.  Sex is raw, sweaty, messy and primal, and it was made that way by God, to be fully enjoyed–but it can only truly be enjoyed to its fullest within the bounds for which it was created.  St. Irenaeus said that the “Glory of God is man fully alive,” and this relates to a full enjoyment of the good and created things of this world.  But man can only fully enjoy them at the point at which he renounces them as substitutes for the consolation that can only come to us from seeking all consolation from God.

It’s really pretty simple!  Enjoy the world more, by not seeing your happiness as coming from anything, or anyone, in the world.  Then we have the freedom to love fully, to enjoy all that is, in its proper place.  And when life doesn’t go well, we are not surprised, and trust that this is allowed by God for our good, and to lead us to lean on Him even more.

This, I’m convinced, is the great purpose God has given to same-sex attraction–to point to all of us who live with same-sex attraction that this is not our home, so that then we can enjoy it all the more, and love others more, and love God more, always looking and longing for heaven.  As St.Paul says, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”  I can’t wait to get to Heaven, but in the meantime, I plan to be a man, “fully alive” and to take very seriously “to live is Christ.”  No man has enjoyed life more than Christ, because He never looked for the created things of the world to bring him consolation.  I am beginning to think that part of “to live is Christ” is to denounce the world and its consolations, which then leads to more enjoyment of the world than was ever possible before.  The ways of God are funny, aren’t they?

Change and Faith

A reader of my essay at First Things posted a well meaning and well intentioned comment on the subject of changing and healing of one’s same sex attractions.  Though I appreciated his desire to offer people like me and others who live with same sex attraction his notion of hope, I think his comments are misguided, for the reasons I outline in my response.  I’m curious to know what others think about this.

I’ve attached his comment, and my response.

8.24.2012 | 12:32am
Scott says:
Daniel M, thank you for your honesty and insights. allow me to point out that in your description of yourself you use the example of the man born blind. But in this instance in the scriptures the man did not remain blind but received his sight. Daniel, you too as you come into the knowledge of Jesus Christ as the one who has paid the price for all sin, for all of man, for all time ( Hebrews 10), can be completely healed of this desire in your flesh. It is by the grace of God that you can only receive by faith which will allow you to resist the devil so that he will flee. For if you are truely born again ( John 3) then you are a new creation in Christ (1Cor 5:17). And it is your spirit that is new, not your body or your soul (emotions, thoughts, etc.) learn to follow the leading of this new spirit and be baptized in the Holy Spirit to walk in victory. Learn the truth an it will set you free! God Bless you

 

Here is my response:

8.31.2012 | 12:47pm
Daniel M says:
Thanks to all for the comments to my piece. Though I’ve not commented in response to any as of yet, I feel the need to respond to Scott’s, briefly.I think it is problematic to link any sort of change of a dramatic nature such as a change of sexual attractions to whether or not someone has “come into the knowledge of Jesus Christ,” as Scott seems to suggest. This sort of thinking has damaged a lot of people with same sex attraction by placing unrealistic hopes and expectations on their life of faith. If change doesn’t happen, it’s because they haven’t grown in their knowledge of Christ? It’s clear to me that the man born blind in John 9 really had no “knowledge of Jesus Christ” other than hearsay, until after he was healed. It was the love and will of God that caused the man’s sight to be restored. It wasn’t some sort of gauge of the depth of his relationship with Christ.I think of St. Paul, whose “thorn in the flesh” wasn’t healed, (which many scholars believe was related to poor eyesight.) Surely if having a “knowledge of Jesus Christ” is the reason someone finds healing of his woundedness, St. Paul would have qualified!If I live with SSA, it is for my good and for my sanctification. If God somehow decides to heal this disorder within me, it too will be for my good and for my sanctification. That would be the reason–not because I had suddenly “come into a knowledge of Jesus Christ” more than I had the day before. I know that whatever He allows in my life is for my good, and indeed is what will actually cause me to grow in my knowledge of Jesus Christ.I think well meaning people should avoid suggesting to people like me that the greatest sign of God’s love and power in our lives will be evidenced when we see our attractions change. I simply don’t believe that’s what God is concerned about, as much as He is our sanctification and trusting all to his Divine Providence.I have no doubt that God has the power to change such things in my life. I just don’t think He finds it that important that my attractions change, nor do I. I trust in His will for my life, and I’ve now come to see my SSA as a “severe mercy,” and wouldn’t rewrite it out of my life. If God wills it otherwise in the future, I say “Thy will be done.” If it stays in my life until I’m dead, I’ll thank God He allowed it in my life, and say again, “Thy will be done.”It is as unwise and imprudent to tell people with SSA that God will change them when they “come into a knowledge of Jesus Christ” as it is to tell a cancer patient, or a deaf person, or a man without a limb that they will receive physical healing when they “come into a knowledge of Jesus Christ.” Certainly God has the power to heal and change, but He so often doesn’t do this–because He, and only He–knows what is good for our soulsSo I live in trust, and caution against Christians proclaiming what Scott proclaimed to me, while still believing that it is possible to hope for change, for those who desire it. However, it should never be linked with the supposed depth of relationship with God, but only related to God’s benevolent Providence. We can only find peace in this life when we trust that God’s will is always being done in our lives, and this, I think, is truly what we must strive for if we desire to “come into a knowledge of Christ.”Thank you Scott, but I would caution you and others against saying things such as this to people with same sex attraction. I think it is misguided, and reflects a confused theology (at least in terms of Catholic teaching) about theodicy.