The Biggest Impact You Can Have on a Wayward Child

The biggest heartache for a parent is to watch their child determined to go their own way. Turning their back on values they were raised on; turning toward beliefs and people that encourage him or her to embrace a whole new way of life.

A life that renounces what a follower of Jesus should look like.

This is what Joe and Maria were facing with their daughter, Jamie. They talked with me at the beginning of their daughter’s third year of declaring herself to be transgender. Two years of contentious discussions, on and off, had progressed downward to a chilly silence. Jamie has made it abundantly clear that this topic is off the table. Nothing substantial is ever discussed anymore.

Jamie has made up her mind to discover what this new identity of being transgender means for her. Next year she’s off to college. And Joe and Maria are desperate to find a way to break down the high wall that exists between them and the daughter they love.

If you have a son or daughter that has adopted a gay or transgender identity, you probably know what Joe and Maria are going through. It is flat out difficult to love a child that is bent on pursuing their own way. Parents are at a loss about how to lead their child to Christ when all of their efforts to speak truth are met with resistance. Even hearing the word “Scripture” may cause your child to cringe, let alone consider a passage or verse for them to mull over.

How can you possibly have a voice in your son or daughter’s life when they won’t talk to you?

I don’t want to minimize the pain of this situation, but I do think there is a way to move forward—toward your child—that will have an impact whether they acknowledge it or not.

1 John 4:10-12 (NIV) gives a strong message of hope to parents who have a child that is determined to pursue a gay or transgender identity.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Likewise, your relationship with your child will show the kind of God you represent. This kind of love goes beyond words; it is incarnational, embodying in the flesh the character of God through action.

This is familiar language to us, but take time to contemplate verse 12 again. “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” Your words may have little impact on your child, but the way you love others—and them—is the way God has designed relationships so that they might see Christ—through you.

2 Corinthians 5:20 (ESV) similarly puts it this way; “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” As a parent, the title ambassador is one of the most prominent roles you play in your child’s life!

Ambassador is a hope-filled word for parents! Yes, for many parents the primary means of helping a struggling child is by speaking, carefully sharing and sprinkling God’s Word at opportune times.  An ambassador does speak.

But it’s not the only thing they do. Though an ambassador speaks on behalf of someone else, it’s their entire being that also communicates what’s important. Their attitude and demeanor, all “speak;” they all point toward who they represent.

Likewise, your relationship with your child will show the kind of God you represent. This kind of love goes beyond words; it is incarnational, embodying in the flesh the character of God through action.

To put it bluntly, the biggest impact you can make in your child’s life is not in what you say. It is in the way you show love for them.

Let’s get specific

Let’s consider some specific steps you can take to become this kind of ambassador.

  1. Examine your heart.

Sometimes, if we are honest, we can be poor ambassadors of Christ. This particularly happens when we are in pain, and the pain and hopelessness we feel bleeds into our attitudes and behavior. But looking at whatever log is in our eye first is always the path God sets out for us.

Start with some attitudes and behaviors you need to put off: anger, impatience, harsh words, and the like.  Allow Colossians 3:5-17 to guide you toward attitudes and behaviors to put on: compassion, kindness, humility, patience, etc.

Now think deeper: what does your behavior reveal about where you are putting your trust? When you are filled with fear, do you try to take control through words or actions? Can you see that behavior like this is an attempt to merely fix what is wrong with your child? Does your child see love (I trust in God) or control (I need to trust in myself) in how you act toward them?

  1. Love in surprising ways.

This may be one the hardest things to do: be interested in what they are doing. Many parents are afraid of knowing things and afraid that asking is equivalent to approving. But staying interested in their life communicates that you still love them. It also expands your vision of your child, which may have diminished only to the issue that divides you.

So, ask how their friends are doing, what are their plans for the weekend, how school is going, if they have enough food in their dorm room, how they are really doing, and take time to listen and show you care.

Then, do something together: go out to dinner, take a bike ride, go shopping, see a movie, and find a neutral activity that you both can enjoy. These types of activities communicate that, in spite of the issue that divides, you still love and delight in them. Conversations may remain superficial, but God can use these activities to soften their heart and reveal His love for them through your kind gestures. We have a God whose kindness wins our hearts to repentance (Romans 2:4).

Finally, think outside the box! Don’t be afraid to joke around with them. Send them a funny meme or picture they would laugh at. Text your son or daughter out of the blue to share something funny. Humor is an effective way to release tension and even demonstrate love for someone in a nonjudgmental way.

There is a silver lining in this weighty burden of walking with a child that identifies as gay or transgender. That silver lining is this: God is using this situation to draw you closer to himself and conform you to look increasingly more like Jesus. If you allow Him to work this transformation in you, from the inside out, you will produce good fruit.

By God’s grace, they will see this fruit, and your child may see the love of God more clearly through your life, and return to him and his ways.


Chris talks more about this on his accompanying video: How Do I Represent Christ to My Child Who Won’t Listen to Truth? These short videos can be used as discussion starters in small group settings, mentoring relationships, men’s and women’s groups, etc.
Chris Torchia
About The Author
Chris Torchia is the newest member of the Men’s Ministry team at Harvest USA. As well as discipling individual men and youths, Chris leads support groups for men struggling with sexual addiction. Chris recently completed his MA in Biblical Counseling at Westminster Theological Seminary, Glenside, PA; along with a counseling internship at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF), Glenside, PA. He also holds a BA in Intercultural Studies from Lancaster Bible College, PA. Apart from his work at Harvest USA, Chris has been involved with a breakdance ministry for over 7 years that focuses on teaching and mentoring youth.

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