Truth and Healing
By Richard & Vicki Bernstein
My wife was concerned how I would take the news of my daughter’s same-sex attractions since I was already under pressing stresses from work and other family situations. During this time, we had many friends and family who were suffering from serious illnesses, and several who had passed away within a short time. Her concern was valid, as I was already in a pretty dark place, and didn’t take our daughter’s news all that well. I was heartbroken. It felt like one of the most important people in my life had died.
For many years, I was an independent and self-sufficient man. Work was my identity and my only goal was to make sure my family was taken care of. When I realized I couldn’t fix my daughter’s problem, it drove me deeper into despair. Business had slowed down, and I stopped answering calls from different work contacts. For about two months, I basically checked out of life.
Yet, even in this dark place, God was pursuing me. In the following months, He spoke to me through spoken and written words. While attending two different funerals, two different times I heard a pastor say that the person who had died “wanted me to know God”. I wasn’t a Christian at the time, so I wasn’t fully open to knowing God. But seeing how these godly people had impacted so many others sparked something deep inside me. I started reading a Christian book my wife had given me years ago and then kept reading other books including the Bible. Little by little, God revealed to me who I was. The words, thoughts and deeds of my life convicted me. In the lowest
point of my life, I came to the end of my self-sufficiency and called out to the Sovereign God that I wanted to know. I told Him I couldn’t do this on my own anymore. He answered my prayer, and I was delivered overnight with the peace that surpasses all understanding. My life was forever changed. Their journey started when their daughter was very young. She was the youngest of four and identified primarily with her dad. Their connection was evident as she enjoyed spending time with him on the job sites when she was young, and as she got older they shared a love of sports together. One day, on a visit home from college, she disclosed to her mom that she had same-sex attractions and had been in a few relationships, starting back in high school. This is their story of how that revelation impacted them as parents, and what God has done in their lives since then. With this new relationship with God, I had to know where He stood on homosexuality. Vicki and I heard about Portland Fellowship through a few people that we confided in, and decided to meet with Jason Thompson to see if it was a place where we could gain some wisdom and understanding. Our initial hope was to learn how to help our daughter with her problem, but as time went on we were discovering so much more. Guest speakers gave us hope through their testimonies. Drew Berryessa gave us insights on family dynamics and how we all develop our own perspectives. We also felt the comfort of others struggling with the same feelings and emotions we were experiencing. These are just some of the ways in which we began to heal and gain wisdom.
Today I continue to grow in my faith and wrestle through different theological subjects. I’m thankful that even though it’s been painful, God has changed my course and I’m on a more hopeful path now than I ever have been. I know it is by His power and grace alone I am saved—in the midst of my sin and pain, He pursued me.
As her mother, I knew the night she shared about her same-sex attractions, that our family would be forever changed, maybe even divided. My thoughts went back to the worries I had while she was growing up. I knew she was different than other typical girls by her actions, comments and the way she liked to dress. I prayed many times that God would help her to be at peace with who He created her to be. Every time I had a thought or worry I would just dismiss it, believing that it was in the Lord’s hands.
The days following the news were so difficult for me and my husband. I soul searched and asked a lot of “what if” questions. What if I had been stronger in her eyes? What if I hadn’t allowed her to dress like a boy? What if I had addressed my concerns to her early on? What if she hadn’t felt the pressures and demands that were put on her in soccer and basketball? I wished I could go back and re-do many things.
But God is so good! He did answer one of my deepest prayers. At such a desperate time God revealed who He was to my husband. Before coming to Christ, Richard was focused on providing for his family, and didn’t see God or church as all that important. Because we didn’t believe the same thing for many years, we struggled connecting. Through Richard coming to know God, we became equally yoked during the most difficult time in all of our marriage. I could see the Holy Spirit changing his heart in the little things he did and said each day, and it was a relief and a joy to know that we believed in the same God and in living for His purposes. Knowing we were on the same page was crucial in processing our daughter’s struggle.
As we began the grieving process together, we found Portland Fellowship. It was so difficult for me to walk up those steps when we went to the Hope Group for the first time. I didn’t want to have to be there. Yet God knew what we really needed. We felt a caring and a safety there that we hadn’t felt elsewhere.
Portland Fellowship continues to be a safe place of understanding, a place to learn, to rejoice, to weep and to have fellowship and hope. There, I was able to share my “what if” questions with others, and receive prayer and encouragement in my own process. We’ve also really benefitted from learning about family dynamics and the different roles people play in a family. This has not only helped me understand my daughter better and her perceived role in our family, but it has also helped me relate better to my other three children. In fact, many of the relational tools we’ve learned at Hope Group have helped us in other relationships in our lives.
Portland Fellowship has helped us learn how to have a better relationship with our daughter. There are things that we haven’t discussed that, in time, we know will come up, but she knows we love her and that love will never change! She also knows we have our own beliefs and convictions, and we are all learning to love each other even when we don’t agree.
We have received so much from PF and the Hope Group, and now we feel that we have been placed in a role of support, not only for the staff and members of Portland Fellowship, but also for the other family members and friends that come to the Hope Group. We continue to thank God for all the blessings and difficult times that have come from this journey on which we’ve been placed so that He might be glorified.