I haven’t yet seen the new movie Boy Erased (starring Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe), but several people have expressed concerns to me, and it’s caught my attention, too.
When I was in the midst of my own struggle with sexual sin, God surprised me repeatedly in ways that moved me toward Him. And so many times, He did this through the good help of people—wounded and loving healers who extended to me what they themselves had received. (For more like this, check out our current podcast series, Stories, below.)
This unfortunately has not been everyone’s experience. In a world racked with sexual wounds and unwanted sexual desires of many kinds, more loving healers are needed.
Boy Erased looks to be a powerful and troubling film. Based on the memoir by the same name, the movie follows Jared, a gay 19 year-old from a Southern Baptist family who is outed to his parents and pressured into attending a “conversion therapy” program. The movie’s trailer shows scenes of attendees being forced to play sports, one being beaten with a Bible, and a leader insisting Jared tell his father how much he hates him. It also shows leaders of the program yelling at the young men in drill sergeant fashion, “Become the man you are not!” Or, “Fake it ‘til you make it!” In one heart-wrenching scene, a leader tells Jared, “God will not love you the way that you are.”
And this is just the trailer.
These are depictions of emotional abuse. Those who struggle with homosexuality (or any unwanted sexual desire or behavior) need Christlike care and support. Where the film may discourage people from getting help or trying to give it, the reality is that this is a place where Jesus (and those who follow Him) are needed, where loving healers are needed. If you’re looking for help dealing with any kind of unwanted sexual desires or behaviors in your life or help for someone you love, here is some guidance I hope will help steer you toward the kind of loving support you’ll need:
1. Loving healers treat your freewill as paramount.
As much as someone else’s desires may matter to you, ultimately your freedom to seek change or not is what matters most. If you do seek change of some kind, good helpers will respect what you will or won’t do, say, feel, or believe in the process. This is your journey, and if you aren’t free to choose, then it ceases to be your journey. God doesn’t force, pressure, or manipulate you, and loving healers won’t either.
2. Loving healers won’t leverage self-loathing, they’ll seek to remove it.
Good helpers understand that many people seeking to change deep-seated patterns, feelings, and beliefs are vulnerable to shame and self-loathing. When I first came to Regeneration, I wrongly believed that self-loathing would help me change. Thankfully, the good helpers here understood that self-loathing is a part of the problem and so can never be part of the solution. Self-acceptance, not self-loathing, is how change happens.
3. Loving healers work toward integration, not erasure.
Our experiences, feelings, and behaviors (including the unwelcome ones) are a part of our stories. Good helpers don’t ask us to deny these, don’t push us to pretend we’re someone else, and don’t put us down for who or where we are. Instead, loving healers listen long to our story, help us learn more (not less) about ourselves, and walk with us through ups and downs as we discern the larger story the great Author is writing for us.
4. Loving healers set and hold boundaries.
Again from the trailer, Jared sits with a well-meaning woman who tells him he doesn’t have a problem, “You are a perfectly normal, very healthy teenage boy.” He surely is a normal teenager, not chronically unique, but we all have sexual, emotional, and relational sins and brokenness in our lives. We may be normal in that way, but we aren’t healthy. To which Jesus says, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Suggesting there’s nothing needing repair is to say we don’t need Jesus’s cross and resurrection. Again, each of us is free to choose.
5. Loving healers trust in the One who heals.
Instead of turning the process of change into a quick formula and promising specific outcomes, or on the other hand, contending that some struggles can’t be overcome, good helpers look to the crucified and resurrected One. In an age where people seek pleasure rather than God, and hold to a form of godliness but deny its power (1 Timothy 3:1-5), trustworthy healers make space for you to grow in intimacy with Jesus, the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Romans 8:29), who leads you in the unique path He has for you. In this way, loving helpers view both miraculous healing and life-long sanctification as gifts from God, and both joy and suffering as seasons in which God is present and good.
6. Loving healers give love unconditionally.
For each of the above to be authentic, they have to come without condition. Good helpers won’t hold hostage your freewill, self-worth, or acceptance while you journey. Where they see you faint-hearted, they’ll encourage you; where they see you unruly, they’ll caution you firmly; where they see you weak, they’ll help you (1 Thessalonians 5:14). But through it all, God’s love for you is unconditional, while you yet sin, while you yet struggle, while you yet doubt, and even should you choose to walk away from their help or even from God Himself.
7. Loving healers are a part of a community.
If the trailer is a good representation, one of the most heart-wrenching and heart-warming parts of the movie revolves around Jared’s family and church community. One of the most moving lines so far comes from his mother (Kidman), who tells him gently, “I love God, and I love my son. For your father, it’s a little more complicated.” She is a woman trying to hold her family together. Good helpers know how important relationships are with family and friends, and how challenging these relationships can be since everyone is broken in their own way. Let’s have grace for each other as we all journey together.
In summary, through their listening, grace, wisdom, prayers, and other gifts of the Holy Spirit, a loving healer seeks to help you experience the life-changing love of Jesus.
If you haven’t already, please listen to this week’s 20-minute podcast from our current Stories series. It’s an interview with a young man with same-sex attractions who came to Regeneration ten years ago at age 19. We had no idea when we recorded or scheduled it to run how fitting it would be for such a time as this. You can find it on the Regeneration Ministries podcast anywhere you listen to podcasts or by clicking here.
If our team at Regeneration can walk with you, let us know. And let’s be and become loving healers for those who have been wounded where they needed the loving healing of Jesus.