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Safe in the Arms of Jesus

By Susan Nickerson

I will never forget the day that I found my 5-year-old son, Seth, trying on his sister's clothes, and I will never forget the look of fear, confusion, and shame that flooded his eyes as they momentarily locked with mine.

Something in that look planted seeds of anxiety in me and gave birth to a knowing that I didn't want to know. My son was different. My fears were not assuaged as he grew and he continued to be different than other boys, with a sensitive nature and less masculine interests. When he was 15, I finally mustered the nerve to face my fears and ask him, "Do you think you might be gay?" His answer chilled me; "I think I know that I am." I thanked him for being honest but didn't know what to do or say next. For the next few years, I gathered my courage about once a year to ask; "Do you still think you're gay?" At this point I think we were both still hoping and praying that it would just go away.

As a near 4-point student, Seth received several scholarships to a Christian college. Both of us were filled with hope as he went off in the fall — he was finally going to get a new start where no one knew him. He fit right in and made true friends for the first time since grade school. Then a wonderful thing happened—he fell in love—with a girl! I had never seen him so happy as he spent time with his beautiful doe-eyed Julie and experienced all the new feelings of a lovesick teenager. Most importantly, he disclosed his homosexual struggles to her and she still loved, accepted him, and prayed for him. I was joyous. God had answered my prayers and the years of fear were over! He was healed!

Unfortunately, like most first loves, their relationship ended in a break-up. Seth was devastated and plunged into the blackness of clinical depression and isolated himself in his pain. One evening, he called me at work wailing; he wanted to kill himself. Between the sobs, I was able to make out that his roommates had discovered gay pornography on his computer. For the first of a hundred times, he asked me to pick him up at college and drive him back to the safety of home. As he became more and more depressed, he withdrew from his peers further and further, finally stopped going to class altogether, and eventually flunked out of college. He moved back home and spent endless hours slumped in front of the computer, living in a world that I feared but knew little about.

By mid-summer, his struggles of trying to integrate his homosexual urges with his Christianity seemed to be over. He confidently announced that "God made me this way" and that it was "beautiful." He started dabbling in the gay lifestyle, but mostly he continued to sit at the computer day and night visiting gay chat sites and developing intense emotional cyber-relationships. By all outward appearances, he took on the life of an addict as he let every area in his life deteriorate except for these relationships. Our relationship deteriorated, also, as he was frequently angry and defensive toward me because of my beliefs. My own inner world was also collapsing, as I could no longer hide in the safety of denial. I cried that entire summer until I felt like I was turned inside out, and I spent hours late into the night groaning out my pitiful pleadings to God for some hope, some comfort. It felt like my son had died. The first relief for me came when I picked up a brochure from my church about an upcoming Portland Fellowship conference. As I attended the conference, the Holy Spirit ministered to me deeply as I heard (and saw!) for the first time that God could and did deliver people from homosexuality. I went home with peace, confident that God was able. I also discovered a place of safety and support in the Parents, Spouses, Families, & Friends group.

In spite of my newfound faith, Seth's involvement in homosexuality only deepened as he settled into an intense and turbulent long-distance relationship with Otto, a young man from Hong Kong who was attending a university in England. After several months, he announced that they were "engaged" and planned to "marry." He also announced that Otto was coming to visit for Christmas.

As the time for the visit drew closer, I found myself drawn into intercession in a way that I had never experienced before. With a confident peace, I often prayed and worshipped for hours into the night. The evening before Otto's arrival, something seemed to break in the spiritual realm as I found myself moved to proclaim "Jesus is Lord" for hours on end. I went to bed exhausted, but assured that regardless of the outcome, God was in control.

The next day Seth was to pick Otto up at the airport, but returned home without him. He explained that as Otto went to pick up his boarding pass to get on the plane in England, something was inexplicably found to be out of order with his documents and he was not allowed to leave the country. Seth seemed strangely relieved rather than upset by the news. That day it was as if he woke from a deep sleep. He subsequently broke up with his "fiancèe" and declared his desire to be free of homosexuality.

Seth began attending The Portland Fellowship's two-year series, Taking Back Ground, and began to grow emotionally, spiritually, and relationally through the prayer, Bible teaching, worship, accountability, and fellowship that they offered. Today he is involved in fellowship and service at his church and continues to walk out the process of healing, maturity, and change. In June of 1998 Seth and I attended the annual Exodus conference together. At this point, I felt I had worked through most of my issues and I was expecting the conference to be educational rather than personal. Was I ever wrong!

Within hours of arriving, I found myself inexplicably in tears that simply wouldn't stop. The reason for my torment remained a mystery; I simply knew that I hurt, and I was sad, and I was frightened. As I saw Seth struggling too, my feelings only intensified. I could barely pray. Most of the time I simply cried to my Father, "It hurts." Then, in the midst of my pain and confusion, God asked something of me.

He asked me to let go of my son. I agreed that it was necessary. I agreed that I should do it. I didn't know how. During the intense worship sessions, I began to visualize Seth and I struggling alone in a dark and turbulent ocean, clinging to each other for life, barely managing to keep our heads above the waves. I had the certain knowledge that we were drowning—that in fact we were taking each other down. It was then that I saw an arm reach down to me from heaven and I knew that if I took hold of it I would be safe. I also had the knowledge that I couldn't take hold of it until I let go of my son. I can't express the torment I felt as I imagined Seth left alone to drown in that dark sea. I heard the Lord's gentle encouragement to me, "Let go." Though I struggled to do as the Lord asked, I remained resolved to cling to my son and I vowed to God, "I'D RATHER DIE." I went away from that session burdened, despondent, and angry. How could God ask such a thing of me? How could He not care for my drowning child? Maybe He didn't care about him, but I did. I wouldn't leave him.

With a heavy heart, I dragged myself to the next worship session. As I opened myself up to God in worship and poured out my heart, I finally was able to tell God, "I do not want to do this thing, but if it is a matter of obedience, I will do it." God said, "It is a matter of obedience. Let go of him and take hold of me."

With my heart breaking in the way that only a parent could understand I let go of my son and took hold of the hand of God. As He pulled me up, I looked down to take a last look at my Seth, now struggling alone in the dark waters. Only this time I saw something I had not seen before. He was not alone—someone was with him. It was Jesus—surrounding him and supporting him—keeping his head above the water.

Thank God that I can trust that regardless of the circumstances, my son and I are both safe—safe in the arms of Jesus.