Pat, our eldest daughter, had always been an outgoing, aggressive and often wilful girl. I knew she had great potential but in her teenage years, although a Christian, she demonstrated a restlessness and lack of direction in her life. My husband, Fred, and I sought to assist her in the decisions she made, but often things turned out negatively.
Pat shared an apartment with another girl, Karen who was gay. Although we’d had Karen as a guest in our home, we were completely blind to her lesbian involvement. Then a friend who knew the youth scene told my husband and me of his suspicions, due to Karen’s masculine mannerisms and appearance. The words he used - like "butch” and "lesbian” - were totally foreign to our ears. I had been in church since a child; my husband and I had served as missionaries in Brazil and Guyana. We knew nothing about such matters.
One evening while we were seated in the living room, Pat told me of the lesbian relationship that had grown between her and Karen, and the feeling of acceptance she experienced among those at the gay bars. My heart turned to ice. The silence after her announcement was long and heavy.
Questions whirled in my mind: "How could this girl say these things? How could she a Christian, be involved in these despicable, dirty sexual acts? What did two women do together, anyway?”
My mind could not grasp these ideas or this change in Pat. My heart was numb with sorrow as I hear our daughter’s silent pleas for understanding: "Please love me, even now - especially now!”
When I look back, I can only thank God for the self-control He gave me. When Pat confessed her lesbian involvement, I wanted to scream and shout in rage and shock. Instead, I calmly explained the sin of homosexuality and the destruction it would bring into her life.
The only knowledge I had of this lifestyle was what I had read in the Bible. Homosexuality was always mentioned in connection with immoral sexual acts and God’s destruction of people. To me, homosexuality was like hitting the very bottom. Had our daughter really sunk that low?
But whatever our feelings, there was only one decision we could make. Pat was our flesh and blood - that would never change. She would always be welcome in our home, even though we strongly disapproved of her lifestyle.
During the years Pat was living in gay society, we learned there was much hypocrisy, lying, drugs and alcohol involved in the lives of those who called themselves gay. These people had been badly wounded and were full of sorrows.
My husband, Fred, and I began to pray. We had always prayed for our children, but oh, this was serious. We felt like we had lost someone we dearly loved. Her face was familiar, but somehow our daughter had become a stranger. I wept buckets of tears at the loss.
My greatest challenge was continuing to function at work. I was an assistant head nurse at our local hospital on the obstetrics floor. Now, as I look back, I realize that my work probably kept me sane. It was something to distract me, something else to think about. But no matter how busy the schedule at the hospital, Pat was always in the back of my mind. I never ceased to pray for her.
"Lord,” I pleaded, "Hedge her about, until You are all that she has left. Set her feet upon the solid rock, Christ Jesus, and may she never be moved again.”
In the following years, Pat overdosed a number of times. I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride, watching my daughter experience a tremendous inward struggle. Satan and God were fighting for her soul.
The worst experiences for me were standing aside as a mother and nurse when Pat was admitted to a hospital’s emergency room for overdosing on drugs. This experience even occurred a couple of times in the hospital where I worked.
In all these experiences, however, I never felt ashamed of Pat--or of myself as someone who had "failed” as a parent. I felt frustrated, but never ashamed. I firmly believed that God would eventually win.
One time, Karen was present with us in the waiting room, and I knew she was also hurting. She could not weep freely, and her cries alternated between wails and hiccups. I held her in my arms, Later I looked her in the eye and asked, "Do you really believe this is a good alternate lifestyle?”
As a parent, I was now experiencing the pain of rejection. My daughter was an adult, and the doctors were not legally required to share details of her medical condition with me. I felt helpless, useless, totally rejected. It almost seemed I did not matter any more.
One day I was at work. It was almost the end of a busy shift and a phone call came through for me. On the other end, I could hear fighting and screaming, fragments of conversation: "Please help me!”... "Get a knife”... "Manic depressive.” Pat was fighting with two other women.
I listened, trembling inside with fear. I’m so far away, I thought. "What can I do? Should I call the police? What’s going on?” And perhaps, the most painful question of all: "Lord, how much longer can I stand this pain?”
Another time we received a call from Karen. "Come and take your daughter home,” she said. "I don’t want her around here anymore!” When we got to the apartment there were harsh words and fighting between the two girls.
Pat wept as we brought her home. We changed to an unlisted number, but calls still got through for her. Over the next year, Pat moved in and out several times - but she always returned to Karen.
In spite of the turmoil, Fred and I maintained our open door policy. Pat was always welcome in our home. Many times I listened to her for hours as she shared her pain. I showed her unconditional love to the best of my ability.
My other two daughters felt neglected because so much of my time and efforts were directed toward Pat. I didn’t know what else to do. Now I’m reminded of the Good Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine safe in the sheepfold while he seeks the one lost sheep. My situation was something like that. I made sure my "good” kids had the basic necessities then I poured myself into the one who was lost.
I remember one time when Pat had once again returned to Karen. I had come to the end of my endurance. Anger exploded in my heart. "Okay,” I screamed inside, "If Karen and your evil life are so important to you, go to hell! I will forget you - see if I care!” But it wasn’t long before my anger melted and the tears came. And life went on.
This pain and rejection from my daughter brought me close to a nervous breakdown. At home, I cried constantly; at work, my performance began slipping. And I was constantly exhausted. The rest of the family began to fear for my health and my middle daughter, Lynda, grew to hate her sister.
But, somewhere around this time, I finally relinquished Pat to God. "Lord, she is yours,” I prayed, "I yield her completely to you. From now on, my hands are off her completely.” With this decision, the burden grew lighter. God was now free in a new way to work in Pat’s Life.
We shared our situation with faithful friends, and they prayed. These prayers, and also the Word of God, gave me the strength to go on.
One day I was browsing in our Christian bookstore and stumbled on Marjorie Lewis’ Book, The Hurting Parent. Later, I also read John White’s Parents in Pain. How I thanked God for these helpful books!
I did not feel guilt for Pat’s problems. "We have been good parents,” I reasoned. It was not until much later after I read other books explaining many things about homosexuality that I began to wonder about the origins of Pat’s problems.
I still question exactly what may have gone wrong in my role as her mother. Much of it I still don’t understand. But where I have seen wrong decisions I have made - even though my intentions were good - I have asked forgiveness from God and my children.
Our turning point began when Fred approached three other Christian couples, "Will you covenant with us to pray for Pat over the next year?” he asked them. "We want to see her restored to Jesus.” Near the end of that year, her life began to turn around. Our prayers were being answered, and our faith was strengthened.
But the battle was not yet over. Pat’s exit out of homosexuality brought its own sorrows and pain. Now it was time to comfort our daughter as she wept from the pain of leaving Karen. She felt like she was going through a divorce; it was a time for compassionate understanding and support.
Pat did not come straight home when she left Karen. She went to the home of a non-threatening friend for a whole year. From her viewpoint, it was a step toward the "straight life” and a time of many adjustments. From our perspective, it felt like our home and our love were not good enough. "What is wrong with us?” I wondered.
After Pat finally came home, the road was still rocky: another overdose, a lost job, and emotional ups and downs. Both Pat and I were still riding an emotional roller coaster. Then God took hold of her life in a new way. We rejoiced that Pat, in the face of several setbacks, was determined that Satan would not win in her life.
Pat has now been back with the Lord since January 1980. I see her life as constant series of miracles of God’s healing.
Perhaps my most difficult lesson was learning that adult children are responsible for their decisions. They have the freedom to make decisions - then the responsibility to experience their outcome. The results of Pat’s decisions were not my responsibility.
Parenting is never easy. But, despite any mistakes I have made in the past, God has been faithful. I can confidently face the future, knowing that my family is living under His watchful care.