John Fuller: Homosexuality was just a word to Ann Mobley until one day a number of years ago, it became much more personal. And we’ll visit with Ann on today’s “Focus on the Family” and find out how God worked in her life. Your host is Focus president, Jim Daly.I’m John Fuller and Jim, there are so many people looking for answers and seeking help about this topic and today, we’ll offer some guidance in the conversation.
Jim Daly: Well, I hope so, John. That’s the purpose of what we’re tryin’ to accomplish, is have an open dialogue. You know, when it comes to this topic of homosexuality, my boys and I, we talk about it. We talk about lots of things in this area, because the enemy is so quick to snatch what God has created for something beautiful—our sexuality in the context of marriage—and he gnarls it into a bunch of different things, both for same-sex attracted people, as well as heterosexual people.
And it’s one of the “diciest” subjects in our culture today, all the political correctness and the other things. But I hope people who may not think in a biblical context, will be patient and listen to the heart of someone who lived through this as a mom. And I also hope that we will learn. That’s the idea here. How do we apply Scripture to these kinds of situations? How do we show the heart and the love of God and His truth in a very complex topic? And I think people are gonna hear that today.
John: Well, Ann Mobley is a speaker and a writer and right at the start here, we want to just make sure you understand as a listener, that her son, Dan, has given her permission to share this story that you’re about to hear.
Jim: Ann, let me welcome you to “Focus on the Family.”
Mrs. Ann Mobley: Thank you. It’s a privilege to be here.
Jim: You’re so sweet; I love that.
Ann: So excited. Thank you.
Jim: You are the mom, I could tell. You’re the mom I wanted. (Laughter) I lost my mom when I was 9, so I always appreciate a sweet-hearted mother and you could tell, you’re one of those.
Ann: Thank you.
Jim: Talk about that time when Dan came home, your son. And I so appreciate his willingness to share the story, because he’s still in that spot. He hasn’t changed in that way and we’re gonna talk about that. But he is gracious enough to say, “Mom, it’s good. Put it in the book. Come and talk about it and [I’m] grateful for that.
Ann: I actually dedicated the book to my son.
Jim: You dedicated it.
Ann: Yeah, well, I thought, who do you dedicate your book [to]? Everybody dedicates a book and it just came to me; dedicate it to your son, because he has been so supportive from the very beginning. He said, “Mom, you need to write this book. Other parents need to know it’s okay to love their gay kids.”
Jim: And the title of the book says it all. If I Tell You I’m Gay, Will You Still Love Me? And let’s start there. Talk about, even you as a mom, did you have concerns about your son and maybe[were] there things happening that struck you? Or did you just hear it one day when he came home and told you?
Ann: I was totally blindsided.
Ann: I never had any suspicions at all that he was gay. He actually told me on Easter Sunday. It was just the two of us. We had just come home. He’d gone to church with me that Sunday. We had come home and finished our meal. And I had been praying about something I wanted to talk to him about and wasn’t sure how to get into the subject. I had, had growing suspicions that he had been abused as an adolescent and I wanted to talk to him about it.
Jim: So, there was that. You had that concern.
Ann: I had and that’s what I had on my mind that Sunday afternoon. And I’m sitting there praying about, okay, Lord, how do I start this conversation? Because I had asked him once before several years ago and I put it, “Has anybody ever approached you physically inappropriately?” I didn’t get real specific, because I knew he didn’t know what I meant. And he said, “No.” And I said, “You would tell me if that had happened?” And he said, “Yes.”
And then, when he actually came out and told me he was gay, he told me that afternoon, he was lying to me. He knew exactly who I was talking about. But anyhow, that’s was what I was planning to ask him about.
And before I could do that, he said, “Mom, there’s something I have to tell you.” And he was kinda talking really fast. He said, “I’m gay.” And I thought, I didn’t hear that. That’s not what I heard. And I’m just kinda sitting there dumbfounded. Ad then he went on to say, “I wanted to tell you for a long time. I’m tired of lying to you and deceiving you, but I was so afraid you wouldn’t love me anymore. And Mom,” I’m sorry; I get emotion at this, no matter how many times I tell it. He said, “Mom, I couldn’t handle that. You’re all I’ve got left.”
So, it was at that point his father had died when he was 12, not quite 13. His older brother had been killed in a motorcycle accident three years later, so it was just him and me at that point. And he was so afraid that I would turn against him and not love him. And the partner he was with at that time, his parents had been Christian people, but they kicked him out when he told them. They said, “Come back when you get over this.” And so, he said, “I didn’t think you would do that, mom, but I was afraid to take the chance.”
Jim: I mean, and that’s not the only time you hear a story like that.
Ann: No, I know.
Jim: And I think that’s one of the great concerns is that, that often can be the response, not always, hopefully, not most of the time, but it happens frequently enough that, that becomes a narrative that the Christian community in general is very intolerant—
Ann: If they don’t respond well.
Jim: –especially the moms and dads who have booted their sons and daughters out, because they came home and said what they were feeling and where they were at and how they were living. It’s really one of the moments that parents have to be very mindful of something that’s gonna last the rest of their lives and it’s that moment, how you handle that. It could be in the same context, let me say this to make sure it’s out on the table. I mean, some parents have to encounter their 16-year-old son or daughter being addicted to pornography—
Jim: –or drugs or alcoholism or—
Ann: And being pregnant.
Jim: –you know, being preg[nant], it’s one of those things. We’ll look at those things as a vice, and so often, parents will embrace that young person in that moment to help them over those things. But on this issue of same-sex attraction, it’s often a vile response, a non-Christian response, which is, “I don’t love you anymore,” or “I love you, but I don’t you in my presence any longer.” Why is that?
Ann: Well, I think the parent takes on some of the blame for that or they feel ashamed. They are wondering what other people would think about them, something they must have done wrong that their child turned out to be gay. And it’s interesting you said what you did about the response, because I didn’t realize at the time how important my initial response to my son was, but it was just something that I
I went to him. He was sitting at the end of the table. I went up to him, put my arms around him and drew him close to me. I said, “Son, you’re my son. I love you and nothing’s gonna change that.” And I think that set the tone for his feeling he could be open and honest with me and as we went in the living room and sat down for two hours, he just opened up and I heard a lot of things I didn’t want to hear, but at least he felt he could be honest with me. And I think that was the beginning of a very open relationship.
It wiped me out for quite a while. I didn’t even want to tell anybody and that’s why I identify with parents, because there’s a sense of shame, a sense of guilt that you deal with as a Christian parent. How could my child be gay? And so, it set me on a journey. I realized I had a lot of learning to do.
Jim: What did God speak to your heart, and how did you receive it?
Ann: Well, I was so repulsed by the (Unintelligible). I was having a hard time even praying for my son. I would pray. It was like in [my] mind, this big wall would come up, “homosexual.” And I was at my dining room table. I remember it very strongly and I started crying and I said, “Lord, I love my son so much, but his homosexual behavior is just hurting me so much, and it’s painful.”
And I felt the Lord just spoke to my own heart and said, “That’s the way your sin hurts me.” And I had never even thought about my sin bringing pain to the heart of God. And yet, in Genesis it says, that when God saw the evil that was in the world, it grieved His heart that He had made man.
And so, that was a real eye-opening to me, that my sins, whether it was pride or whether it was indifference, whatever it might be, I didn’t have it rated as high on the scale of sin as homosexuality. But any sin by God’s children grieves His heart and that was a real motivator to me to be more conscious of my own relationship with Him.
Jim: Well, and of course, it fits with the Scripture, “We all fall short of the glory of God.” We have all sinned and fallen short. That’s the point. That’s why we need a Savior.
Ann: Exactly, that’s right.
Jim: So, your response in that moment when your son said, “I’m gay,” what exactly did you say back?
Ann: I just said, “I love you, son.”
Jim: So, you did say, “I love you.” You didn’t kick him out of the house.
Ann: I said, “Nothing is ever gonna change that.”
Ann: And I was hugging at the time I said that.
Jim: And hugging him, I mean, nothing but affection. Ann, you know, this is gonna be a wound for some people listening to this. Maybe they had their moment where their son or daughter came to them and expressed it and they did not handle it well and they’re hearing this and perhaps, for the first time, they’re recognizing that the action they took, the words they chose were not wise. And maybe their relationship with their son or daughter is now severed. But what would you say to them in terms of trying to reach out to their estranged child?
Ann: I would acknowledge to the son or daughter that they didn’t respond out of love and that was wrong on their part and they want to apologize to their son or daughter and tell ’em their sorry, but that they do love them. And hopefully, by that time they will be looking for ways that they can support the child and the relationship be restored. I think that’s a tragedy when and I’ve talked with parents who’s reacted in anger and disgust, but I told them, “You can go back to your child. It’s never too late to go back and say I’m sorry. I did that wrong.”
Jim: Ann, when you look at that, why do you think we struggle so much in the Christian community with this particular issue? Again, if you look at other things that children and I say “children,” probably your teenager or a 20-something more adult child might do, we tend to want to get ’em help. We’ll do what we need to do. We’ll provide. We’ll take care of you. Come live with us. Let us help you get back on this path.
But this issue of same-sex attraction tends to carry severe weight. Often I call it the “super sin.” I don’t think the Lord sees it like that.
Jim: It’s again, just that gnarled human sexuality that many of us possess, I would say every human being. If you’re a heterosexual male, have you ever looked at another woman—
Jim: –even though you’re a Christian? Have you ever noticed a woman in a room? Well, the Lord said you’ve already committed adultery—
Jim: –in your heart—
Jim: –if you’ve lusted after her. And the same is true for a woman lusting after a man. So, why is this one the “super sin” for the Christian community?
Ann: I think because first of all it’s abnormal to our minds of what a sexual relationship is supposed to be. And I’m not believing on Scriptures [that] established that in the very beginning between a man and a woman. But even out of just the natural human heart, they see that as such an abnormal relationship. And to many, the very thought is disgusting, that a man would be interested in another man, or a woman interested in another woman sexually. And we rate that very high on the scale of sins. And we don’t think about it in the same vein of Christians having sex with one another outside of marriage, or young couples sleeping together and not married. Somehow that’s not as bad a sin, but the Bible doesn’t make that distinction.
Jim: Well, I’ll put a stinger in here. What about divorce for unbiblical reasons and remarrying?
Jim: The Bible’s really tough on that.
Ann: Well, we’re really good at categorizing sin and putting it on a scale of which ones are high. And one of the things you hear right away, an abomination, the Scripture says that homosexuality is abomination. And I went to the Scripture, ’cause I said, “Okay, God, I’ve gotta know what You say about this.”
And one of the things I started asking the Lord, “Well, what does the Bible really say about it? Not just the words, but what is the meaning and the context behind those words?” And of course, homosexuality is listed as an abomination, the practice. And I think that’s a distinction we have to make early. It’s the act of a relationship, same-sex relationship—
Jim: Not the attraction.
Ann: –not the attraction that God condemns.
Jim: Well, that’s a good disclaimer.
Ann: Yeah and I think that’s the important distinction, because I had to come to understand he did not choose to have the attractions. In fact, I said to him one time early on in our journey, somethin’ about his choosing to be gay and he looked at me with almost a horrified expression on his face and said, “Mom, who would choose to be this way?”
Jim: Well, I’ve heard that many times and you know, I think it is an unfair label that many will attach to that community, because even Dr. Dobson used to say, this cannot be simply a choice, because who would choose—
Ann: Yeah, exactly.
Jim: –to do that? And I think someone who understood child development as he did, I mean, he knew there were complexities that occur in a young boy, a young girl’s life typically, that begin to set them in a direction that disorients them when it comes to their sexuality.
You mentioned and we went by it pretty fast, this abuse that Dan, your son, experienced. As he opened up to you about that, how old was he? What took place within reasonableness, if you could describe that?
Ann: Sure, this was a young man that had been, his abuser was a young man who had been a friend of our family for years. My husband had taken him under his wing. He even lived with us for a while a number of years prior to that.
My husband had helped him get established in a ministry that he was doing, claimed to be a Christian. And we found out later, he had sexually abused many boys, but for Danny, his father died when he was not quite 13 and so, I asked him—
Jim: Critical time.
Ann: –critical time; he was hurting, wounded, no dad. And I asked him one time, “When did this start?” And he said, “I can’t remember exactly.” And then he gave me some kind of a reference point, but I said, “Well, that had to be right after your dad died,” the following month when he was so vulnerable, so in need of just a Christian man’s relationship with him and feeling.
And so, I didn’t think anything about his going over to his house as much as he did, this man’s house. He was married. I knew his wife, a sweet Christian girl and he claimed to be a Christian. And in our studies, he was very quick to open up and share Scripture and everything, so I had no reason to suspect him at all.
And then we found out, not about my son, but about some other young men that he abused that came to light. And that’s when I first maybe suspected Danny had been abused. But what happened is, he began this sexual relationship with Danny that went on for several years during his preteens and adolescence. So, as we talked about it, I realized a homosexual relationship had existed between these two.
Then, but of course, with Danny, it was the first time he had ever experienced anything sexually and it’s in his development at that point of his own sexuality developing. And one of the things I read in a lot of study and research I did, that so many young men who had been molested by an older man in adolescence and especially an ongoing relationship, almost invariably in adulthood they are a practicing male homosexual, because that’s how they learned to function sexually. And so, felt I was walking a tightrope and I just had to say, “Well, I need to learn how to do this. How do I show love to my son and him not interpret that as accepting the behavior?”
Jim: You’re listening to “Focus on the Family.” I’m Jim Daly. Today we’re talking with Ann Mobley, author of the book, If I Tell You I’m Gay, Will You Still Love Me? And Ann, I need to press in on that a little bit–
Ann: All right.
Jim: –because I think that is the tightrope and many people listening are thinking, yeah, but where is God’s truth in all this love and affection? We understand God’s love, but how do we express His truth? And that’s the tightrope you’re describing and I think most Christian people, for us, when insults are hurled at us for being bigots or homophobic, that really isn’t the issue. There is going to be some behavior that certainly exemplifies those negative attitudes and that’s unfortunate. It’s shameful, because that’s not the heart of God.
Jim: He loves all of us. We’re all created in His image. No one is a super friend and then lesser friends of God. I do believe that. In fact, in Luke 7, the Scripture is, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking and you say, ‘Look at Him, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’”
Jim: So, they accused Christ Himself, the Son of God, as being a friend of sinners and that’s what we should all be accused of.
Ann: That’s right. I say in my book, I think He took that as a badge of honor, because He was a friend of sinners. And that’s what the Lord really began to show me. I said, “Lord, I need to go to Your Word. Let me see it with fresh eyes.” And it was like the first thing He reminded me of was John 3:16, where it says, “For God so loved the world.” And it was like He said, “Who’s in that world?” There are homosexuals, homosexual individuals, and they’re a part of that world that He loved and Christ died for. And so, that’s where God began to prepare my own heart, is God’s love for people, that He was not turned off by their sinful behavior, so that, but He continued to love them and of course, Christ died for us.
And so, then I began to look in the Scripture and say, “Well, how did Jesus [relate]?” and I had seen that Scripture that He was called “a friend of sinners.” And I said, “How did Jesus relate to the people of His day who were considered the untouchables, so to speak of His day?
You know, there was a tax collector and the Scriptures talk about, that they gathered around him to hear him. They wanted to hear him speak, and then there was the woman at the well, and there was a woman taken in adultery.
And what I began to see in every situation, Jesus did not reject the individuals. He showed love and acceptance, but he also stayed always on the path of righteousness and truth. You know, He told the woman taken in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you, but go and sin no more.” In other words, don’t continue to live a life of sin.
Jim: Well, so in this context, holding your feet to the ground here—
Jim: –how did you and how do you maintain that line, that plumb line of truth with your son, Dan?
Ann: Well, it was interesting, because even that very Sunday afternoon, I felt it was important to keep stressing; [I] kept stressing my love for him. But I felt it was important to say, “But your behavior is wrong, son and there’s no way that I can approve that, because that’s wrong before the Lord.”
Jim: And how did he process that? I mean, how did that not feel like rejection from you?
Ann: Well, you know, it was interesting because several weeks later, when we’d been going through this for several weeks, he told me, he said, “Mom, if you had responded in any other way than the way you did,” in other words, loving him, but holding onto to the truth of Scriptures. So, I think one of the things I’d said to him that Sunday afternoon, that my first obligation is to be faithful to the Lord and to honor His Word. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love you and that I love you any less. I still love you and care for you and I want us to have a good relationship.
But he said, “If you had responded any other way than [the] way you did, I would’ve lost respect for you.” And I went, “Wow!” That told me a lot, that he did not expect me to deviate from what he knew I would want to do is follow the Scriptures. But [at] the time, he didn’t want to be rejected by me.
Ann: So, to respond in love, but to stand firm on Scripture truth actually increased his respect for me, which I thought was really interesting.
Jim: Oh, no and I don’t know that it’s an art and maybe that’s where we fall short, because temperaments can play into this, life experience can play into this. So, you have some parents who have tried to live their lives well. They live and this isn’t a criticism, but maybe they’re more black and white in their thinking and they live by the rules really well and they understand the rules and they can uphold to the degree they can, the Ten Commandments and they feel comfortable with that.
And then all of a sudden, they realize, okay, their son or daughter isn’t doing that and it can be that embarrassment that you described. And then they don’t know how to cope with it, because it reflects on them as a parent. We did the formula. We taught ’em the Golden Rule. We taught ’em all these things, and here this has happened. They probably feel betrayed by God. Did you ever feel a betrayal by God?
Ann: I went through one little brief period of rebellion. God had been so faithful over the years and I had what I call my “standing stones” in life, you know, when Joshua crossed over the Jordan River and they were told to pick up the stones and build a memorial on the other side? And when your children ask what this memorial’s for, you tell them, that’s to remind us what God did here.
And I could fill a whole couple programs with how much God had really worked wonderfully in my life and provided and guided me and made provision for me. And so, when I realized how much God was doing and yet, when this happened, you know, I’d lost my husband. I’d lost my son, and now this. And I remember sayin’, the road ahead looks so black and so lonely. I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone. I was business administrator at a large church down in Florida.
Jim: That says something right there.
Ann: Yeah, and I was afraid, how would they feel? How would they treat my son? Because he still did occasionally go to church with me there. And so, I was very, very concerned about all of that. And so, I really just got angry for a little bit. I just said, “Lord, this is not right. I’ve had it. This is the last straw.”
Jim: You sound like the female version of Job. (Laughter) I mean, really—
Jim: –in the losses that you had in terms of your husband, your son, who died.
Ann: But I just momentarily, it didn’t last very long, I just said, “Lord, I want out of life. I am tired. I can’t deal with this anymore.” It looked like just a long, black lonely road ahead of me. And I didn’t know who I could tell or talk about it. And I said, “I just want out of life. I want to walk away from everything. I want to walk away from You, God.” I mean, and I’ve been a Christian for a long time, and that was so out of character for me.
And yet, I felt like so quickly the Lord just kinda said softly, “And where will you go? Who will you turn to?”
Jim: He connected with your heart.
Ann: Yeah and I just said, “You’re right, Lord. There is no one else. If I walk away from You, I’m walking away from all hope for myself and for my son.” And so, I came running back real quickly and said, “Lord, I just gotta trust You through this.” And then what I said in the next chapter in the book is, “I’m not looking at my standing stones. I’m not looking at the memorials that I have of God’s faithfulness of the past. If He’s been faithful there; He’s gonna see me through this, and He really has.
Jim: Ann, I want to dig into this idea of talking to that mom or dad who has had a more negative attitude. Speak to that person. They’re there and I know you can hear it right now and probably there’s something in your heart stirring, where you want to write an e-mail to us, that you’re so displeased with this program today. But I’m hope what Ann is accomplishing in this discussion is to simply appeal to that God nature in your heart, to say that we’re all broken.
Jim: And this is a really broken area of many people’s lives. our sexuality. And yet, God still cares for us.
Jim: And He knows that we live in a world that is full of sin, and that there is no one sin greater than other sins. I mean, we lift David up, King David as one of the bright spots of Scripture. He was a murderer and an adulterer.
Ann: That’s right.
Jim: There’s no way around that. You have to face it and yet, God said, he had a heart for Him. How do you square that? You can’t do it if you’re livin’ by the rules.
Jim: You gotta live by something far greater, and that is God’s love for us and His grace toward us. That doesn’t mean we languish in our sin. We have to find the rope out and we have to knock on that door. We have to enter into His peace, into His salvation. But speak to that person, Ann, who’s already upset with us, that we would even air something like this, because their son or daughter has embarrassed them, and they don’t know what to do. They’re not equipped to do it. What do you tell them?
Ann: Well, I was looking for hope. I was looking for hope at that time, and I didn’t have any for a while, ’cause I didn’t see any answers to it. But I felt like my resource had to be [that] I had to settle some issues in my own heart. Was I going to trust the Lord through this? Was God trustworthy, even though this had come into my life?
And then I also began to realize as I searched Scripture, was that the Bible talks about a number of things that are called “abominations.” And we skip over those and one of ’em is pride. And that’s one of the things the Lord began to convict me of, of pride in my own heart and the reason I wasn’t telling people, I said I was protecting my son. And God said, “No, you’re protecting yourself. You’re protecting your Christian reputation. You’re protecting what people might think about you.”
Jim: That’s cuttin’ a little close, Ann.
Ann: I know. (Laughing)
Jim: Ooh, that hurts.
Ann: And I just had to get honest with the Lord and say, “You’re right.” And think about the parent who’s so upset about this, [but] God often wants us to look at our own hearts, because we tend to categorize sin and some sins, like homosexuality is way at the top. And yet, God says every one of us sins before Him and He’s so gracious to us and so full of grace, that He forgives us and takes us back.
Jim: So, today, for you and Dan, where is he at today and what does your relationship look like?
Ann: He is still in a homosexual relationship. He has been with his present partner for about 18 years now, very fine young man. And I hope we have time for that. I want to share how the Lord really impressed upon my heart how I was supposed to be and treat toward his partner.
But so, he’s still there. I’m still holding onto hope for that situation, but we have a very, very good relationship. He calls me at least once a week, usually two or three times a week. When I was in the hospital recently, he called me very day to see how I was, very concerned.
I go to visit him in their home and I’m welcomed by both him and his partner. And he called me today just this morning. He’s just a very attentive, caring son and I think we have a very, very good relationship.
Nothing has changed as far as my position and he knows that. And he used to tell his partner, “My mom will like you. She’ll probably have you over for dinner, but she feels our relationship is wrong.” So, he sort of set the stage for me in my relationship with his partner. And then just looking for ways that I could show love and grace to both of ’em.
Jim: Boy, that is so honest and so, I think refreshing to hear that kind of discussion and the openness that you share and you have together. Even though love and truth are present, you can still have relationship. And I think that is the purpose of the Lord. I think, you know, there’s no question that Dan still has days ahead of him and hopefully, he would be able to think where he’s at and hopefully, embrace Christ in a full way.
Jim: But you can’t control that.
Ann: No, I can’t. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit and His response. You’re exactly right.
Jim: Ann, there’s more questions I’d love to ask you. Can we hold over and talk more about this and come back next time?
Ann: That’s great, because I’ve got some more I’d like to say.
Jim: (Chuckling) Yeah, I bet you do. I bet you do. Well, let’s do that.
Ann: All right, thank you very much.
John: Well, quite a conversation we’ve had today and there are so many things that we’ve learned along the way. And I trust that you’re going to be filled with more compassion and understandin