I’m a straight, happily married woman, a mother, grandmother, and former Wheaton professor. I am allied, but not in the typical ways, with OneWheaton members, family members, and various other students from several Christian colleges and universities.
Having three gay cousins (from three different families) meant I was introduced to the conversation about homosexuality early. Growing up I understood my cousins to be choosing a sinful lifestyle, and that continuing that path condemned them to hell and brought shame and grief to their families in the meantime. But one of the families in my big extended family (and one that didn’t have a gay son) embraced and cared for Jon during his final years as he died from AIDS. I don’t want to admit this, but am sure that my parents wounded Jon’s parents deeply, and offended the aunt and uncle who understood what it meant to be Christian in a whole different way than my parents did.
But the biggest surprise, and the one that required the greatest adjustment on my part and that of my young family, occurred when we learned that my husband’s father had struggled as a closeted gay man since adolescence. He married in hopes it would “fix” him, sought reparative therapy, fathered children, worked and lived with my mother-in-law, and embraced the in-laws and grandchildren that came. But he wounded his wife with unfaithfulness, having multiple affairs over the course of their marriage; a marriage she eventually ended.
My husband and I wondered how to explain to our elementary and middle-school aged children why seemingly happy Grandpa and Grandma were getting divorced. Their complex story included public shame and jail time and we unfolded bits of it to our children, pieces at a time that we thought they could handle. They came to accept their gay Grandpa, but still harbor some resentment at the lifetime of pain he caused their Grandma, even if his choice to marry her was because other choices were not available at the time. Our family (including our children) have stayed connected to my husband’s father—admittedly wounded by his choices, but feeling a familial loyalty to him just the same, along with some measure of compassion.
So was I prepared for the first student who eventually told me he was gay over coffee during my early years at Wheaton? Yes and no. Nothing he said surprised me or appalled me or inclined me to try to fix or change him. I remember that he found my not suspecting he was gay to be comforting. It affirmed that he could pass at Wheaton well enough. I felt a heavy sadness because I knew his life would include more pain than most. He desired marriage with a woman and to father children with her. He wanted the respect and affirmation of his parents, two people he loved and wanted to honor. So there would be losses, and I felt a burden for those he already anticipated, and losses he could not yet anticipate. But the greatest sadness I felt was his certainty that he was an abomination to God—that God could not find him acceptable, could not love him, and that he was, according to his own faith, doomed to an eternity in hell. And if that was the case, he wondered, why not embrace his desires while living, since he faced eternal torment anyway?
I’ve heard similar expressions from another 20 students or so since. Some are questioning, some feel certain about their sexual identity as gay or lesbian. All have been wounded in various ways. Some have since settled into heterosexuality and seemingly happy marriages, some experimented, usually just for a season, by diving into the gay lifestyle. Some are living celibate lives while seeking intimacy in friendships where they seek to be fully known and loved, and to know and love others. Some have found satisfying long-term committed relationships with partners.
My primary hope for those who trust their souls with me is to be Jesus to them. Since my greatest sadness is hearing students express a belief that they must choose between embracing their sexuality (which means different things to different students) or embracing their faith, I seek to challenge that belief.
I value that OneWheaton includes supporters who believe that one can be loved by God, embraced in the loving arms of God, and yet have a sexual identity that is not heterosexual. I welcome the opportunity to be a walking partner along the way, affirming the beauty in all humanity, as well as our common struggles.
We are all pursued by a never-tiring God who loves us with limitless love. God invites us into a good life—one characterized by faithfulness, self-sacrifice, loyalty, the pursuit of shalom, and by the peace and joy possible by being known and loved, not only by God, but also by others, and in a community that thrives on the strength of being known and loved. God’s world holds abundance for those whose attention is drawn to God’s tender love, and to a life walked humbly, characterized by loving mercy and seeking justice.
–former Wheaton prof
**This post was written by a former Wheaton professor who wrote under the condition of being anonymous. While we wish everyone were (and felt) free to write openly and sign their names, Untold understands that this is not always the case and fully supports hearing and sharing the stories of those who, for whatever reason, feel the need to remain anonymous.