Revive Our Hearts Radio

Loving a Prodigal

Leslie Basham: Christopher Yuan had rejected his family's wishes not to pursue a homosexual lifestyle. He was surprised when his mother showed up at his door.

Christopher Yuan: When my mother showed up at the dental school in Louisville, it was, like, “What are you doing back in my life?” It was not what I wanted, not what I expected, but she came and said, “I love you.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, August 31, 2015.

Today’s program isn’t graphic, but if you have young children at home, please know that we’ll deal with some mature themes. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, if you didn’t happen to catch Revive Our Hearts yesterday, let me encourage you to go to our website, ReviveOurHearts.com, and go back and either listen to the audio or read the transcript of yesterday’s program because we started a story that we’re going to pick up on in the middle today, but I want you to be able to get the background.

We’re talking this week with Christopher Yuan. He’s an author. He’s a speaker. You’ll hear a lot more about that in the next couple of days. We're also talking with his mom, Angela Yuan, both of whom are with us here in the studio today. Christopher and Angela, welcome back to Revive Our Hearts.

Christopher: Thank you, Nancy.

Angela Yuan: Thank you, Nancy.

Nancy: Thank you so much for being willing to share your story. You’re doing this with audiences all across the United States and internationally in some cases. You’ve written your story in a book that I know many of our listeners are going to want to get a copy of.

The book is called Out of a Far Country, which is a reference to Luke chapter 15 where the prodigal son went, in his rebellion, out into a far country where he just totally wasted his life. And in this case, there was not just one prodigal, there was a prodigal mother as well. But like the father of the prodigal in the New Testament, who was longing for his son to return and received him with open arms in celebration when he did come back, we have a heavenly Father who seeks us, who waits for the prodigals to come home, and who, as we’re hearing in your story, engineered circumstances, providentially, to bring us back to Himself.

Christopher: Yes.

Nancy: So this story is a beautiful picture of God’s pursuing love. Some have called Him the “Hound of Heaven.” I love that phrase. And God certainly was the hound of heaven in your lives.

The subtitle tells a little bit more about your story: A Gay Son’s Journey to God and a Broken Mother’s Search for Hope.”

I know we have a lot of listeners who are at some place in that journey, who are perhaps broken, seeking hope, or have a son or daughter or grandchild or a mate or a dear friend who is in that far country. I think you’re going to find a lot of encouragement and hope in this story.

Now, we picked up the story yesterday where you are at a family dinner table. Christopher came home from dental school in Louisville, Kentucky, at the time. You’re in Chicago, and he says those three fateful words, “I am gay.” That turned your world upside down, Angela.

You shared with us a little bit about how your marriage was already hanging by a thread. You didn’t know the Lord. Your husband didn’t know the Lord. Your kids didn’t know the Lord. Twenty-eight years into your marriage, you’re seeking a divorce. But your issues with loneliness and emptiness and desperation really started even much younger because you had not known what it was so much to have a family that functioned as a family should when you were growing up back in Taiwan.

Angela: Yes, Nancy. When I grew up, my father was a sailor. So he was out of country most of time. I probably saw my father twice a year. And unfortunately, my mother, she was a career woman. So her pursuit was as a politician.

She actually was an elder woman in Taipei, Taiwan. So she was out all the time. So I was raised by nannies. I was always dying to have my parents home. I remember in the middle of the night I would cry, “I want my mommy. I want my daddy.”

That loneliness just carried through into my marriage, that need for somebody. I needed somebody to make me happy. First, I thought my husband would make me happy. Then I found out my husband was more loyal to his parents, my in-laws. I felt like I was not important. I was just a stranger to him after we got married.

And then I thought, Okay, I have my two sons. So I am holding my sons. I think that trying to engage with that happy family, that desire to belong to a happy family, it helped, I think. But thinking back, I became controlling. “I want you to please me. I want you to do this. I want you to say this.”

Thinking back, I didn’t have the Lord, so I feel that all my focus was on my husband and on my children.

Nancy: And, Christopher, had you felt, as a teen, as a young man, the sense of being tied to mom’s apron strings? Was that part of the fabric of your life?

Christopher: Well, I definitely saw the tension between my parents. I mean, growing up, I don’t think a single day would go by where there wasn’t some bickering, some arguing. I think, unfortunately, on both sides, my parents didn’t have good role models at all of how to be a parent, and of how to be a loving husband and wife, to be that one-flesh union that we get so well throughout Scripture.

So they came into the marriage with expectations. And then once they started the marriage, it was just not what they expected. So there was a lot of tension. I mean, they would be arguing over silly things—toothpaste, or just anything.

As a child I saw home not as a safe place. I saw home as a place of tension. I think, as adults, we need to always be conscious of our children. “Is this a place where children can come as a haven, a place to come for rest, a place to come for comfort?”

We’re all imperfect. So I’m not talking about to have a perfect place, but even in the midst of our differences, to be able to foster that place of love in the midst of differences, because I think that’s true love. So I did sometimes feel that tension.

In this book I’m the prodigal, but as we grew up, I was actually kind of the good child. My brother was kind of the one that was a little bit more of a rebel.

Nancy: Marching to a different drum.

Christopher: Yes. In high school he was the popular one who going out and being out with friends and stuff. I was always the one that was the kind of good child and stayed home. But I felt that tension. So even though people could say, “Oh, you were tied to your mother’s apron strings,” I felt like that was my way of getting attention, of being good and getting the accolades of my parents, especially my mother.

Nancy: When you decided—and our listeners need to go back and listen to yesterday’s program if they didn’t get a chance to hear that—but after childhood exposure to pornography and beginning to struggle with same-sex attraction, you ended up in dental school and coming out-of-the-closet with your friends. Then you come home and tell your parents, “I’m gay.” At this point, Angela, your world falls apart because now you have nothing left to live for, from your perspective.

And keeping in mind, I want our listeners to understand that the huge issue here was there was no Christ in the picture, as far as you were concerned. He was in the picture, but you didn’t know that yet.

When we left off yesterday, you had headed to a minister, even though you had no Christian background, you considered yourself an Atheist. But he gave you a little pamphlet, and armed with that pamphlet and your purse—was that all you took?

Angela: That’s right.

Nancy: You went to the train station, got a one-way ticket to Louisville because you were going to tell your son goodbye before you took your life.

Angela: Yes. That’s right.

Nancy: And you didn’t even tell your husband that you were leaving?

Angela: No. I didn’t think he cared, so there was no sense to tell him. So I just left to Louisville. On the train I was reading that small pamphlet. And thinking back, I just think God is just amazing. He didn’t give me a book because I did not like to read. If He had given me a book, I probably would not have read it. So He gave me just enough—like twenty pages—enough for me to understand what was happening.

I remember I was holding on to that pamphlet on the train, and I started reading that pamphlet. Through that pamphlet, it was the first time I understood unconditional love. I thought I loved my children, I loved my husband, and that was not it. I understood what God’s love is. It’s unconditional, no matter . . .

Nancy: So the pamphlet was talking about the love of God for us.

Angela: Yes. Even though the pamphlet was talking about the homosexuality, it showed how God loves even the homosexual, and even me, as a sinner.

Before, I didn’t realize I was a sinner, but on the train I thought, Am I a sinner? Even if I am a sinner, God still can love me. That just blew my mind away. I heard somebody say that we love the sinner, hate the sin. I heard this, but I never understood it. But that day, somehow I think the Holy Spirit just opened my mind. I understood what it truly meant. You can still love the sinner even though I’m a sinner.

Nancy: So when you started that train trip, you could not have imagined how you could love Christopher when he was acting out this homosexuality?

Angela: Yes. Before, I just didn’t think I could ever love him because he said he was a homosexual. But during that train ride, I'm thinking, I should love my son even though he says he is gay.

Nancy: And part of that journey was coming to grasp that God loved you. That was a new understanding, too, right?

Angela: Yes. That’s one thing, God can love me even though I was a sinner, and the second was it was the first time I "saw" nature. It was so beautiful. That train ride was during the spring season; it was May. You see, before I never noticed. It was just so amazing. I never noticed the beauty of the nature. But during that train ride, I looked out the window. I didn’t see anything, only the green—the crops that were just coming up—even the sun just shining on the green. I was looking out the window.

At that time I didn’t have a Bible. But now I realize that’s why it says in the Bible that since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse (see Rom. 1:20). That was exactly describe how I felt at that time. I thought, There must be a God, when I was looking at that. That was what went through my mind.

Nancy: So here you started on that train ride, intending to take your life, and in a way, as you were encountering Christ, you were getting a whole new life.

Angela: Exactly. That was the time I experienced God.

Nancy: For the first time.

Angela: The first time. And somehow I even felt a little voice telling me, “You belong to Me.” Some people probably cannot believe that was how I felt. Evidently, I was wanting to belong to somebody.

Nancy: All your life.

Angela: All my life I longed to belong to my parents, but they were not there. I always felt so lonely. And then when I get married, I thought he would love me, and I can belong to him. But then I realized, “No, he loves somebody else more than he loves me.” That was his parents. But actually, thinking back, it was my selfishness. I shouldn’t have had somebody to only love me. That was just my selfishness. I wanted my parents to only pay attention to me. I wanted my husband to only pay attention to me.

But then I said, “Okay, my husband does not love me, so I will go to my children.” But then I felt my children should belong to me, or I should belong to them. But then I found out that they rebelled. So that’s what caused my hopelessness.

And then finally I realized, “Wow, God told me that I belong to Him.” That was just a new realization.

Nancy: I know there is somebody listening to your story today who is feeling very hopeless, like they don’t belong to anyone and are not feeling the love that’s longed for from family, parents, children, husband. Maybe God is using what you’re saying today to remind them, or to tell them for the first time, God loves you, and you can belong to Him. You can have a relationship with Him.

I think that in life, all of those disappointments and unfulfilled longings are supposed to point us to Christ who is the only one who can truly fill the deepest longings in our heart. And so, really, when you look back on it, those disappointments and longings were a blessing because ultimately they turned you to seek the Lord in a way you might not otherwise have done. If things on this earth, if all those relationships could satisfy us perfectly, we probably wouldn’t cry out to the Lord or become desperate for Him.

Angela: Yes. Exactly.

Nancy: So you were in a process of being spiritually awakened here as you’re heading on that train ride.

Angela: Yes.

Nancy: Now, when you set out on the train, you were going to see Christopher, and you were going to tell him, “Goodbye.” You were going to end your life.

Angela: Yes.

Nancy: When you got to Louisville, you were in the process of being born again, getting a new life. So, Christopher, do you remember when your mom came to see you in Louisville? What  happened there?

Christopher: I was not expecting it at all. She kind of showed up at the dental school. And I thought, What in the world are you doing here? Because in my mind I’m thinking, Finally, I’ve cut off my family. I don’t need my family. I have my own.

Nancy: This is just days after that dinner table conversation?

Christopher: It was just days after, and, in a sense, as I was going back to Louisville, I just felt freedom. I just felt I could begin this new life with the baggage of my parents just dropping away. So when my mother showed up at the dental school in Louisville, it was, like, “What are you doing back in my life? I wanted you out.”

But in my mind, it was my mother who cut herself out because she couldn’t accept me, so I was justifying it. And so it was not what I wanted, not what I expected. But she came and said, “I love you.”

Nancy: Which was really not what you were expecting.

Christopher: Which was really exactly the opposite of what I wanted because that was not playing into the narrative that all my friends had been telling me. But I just thought, Okay, so what? I’m going to continue doing . . . that’s not going to change the way I’m going to act or live.

Well, my mom ended up, she didn’t want to go back to Chicago because of the broken relationship with my father. So my mother actually stayed in Louisville, and I just kept doing my thing. My mother stayed there for six weeks and was discipled by another lady. I knew that something was going on, but I just thought, Well, maybe my mom’s just doing some crazy thing now; let her do her own thing, but I’m just going to keep living the way I’m living.

Nancy: And in the meantime, you’re in the process of . . . God’s awakening you, drawing you to Himself.

Angela: Yes.

Nancy: And you find a woman who gets you into the Word?

Angela: Yes.

Nancy: How did you end up getting your first Bible?

Angela: Let me go back a little bit. It is just amazing how God prepared me to realize, first there is God; then God even prepared me to say what I was not prepared to say, “I love you, Christopher.” Before I got on the train ride, I was just going to say, “Bye, this is the last time.”

Nancy: So God changed that script.

Angela: Right. Thinking back, after I realized that unconditional love from God, then, when I saw Christopher, I really had that love. “I love you.”

Nancy: It’s God’s love.

Angela: It’s God’s love. "Even though you told me you are gay, and even though you choose what I don’t think is the right thing you should do, I still love you." But I didn’t have that feeling before I got on the ride.

Nancy: You really couldn’t express that kind of love to him.

Angela: I couldn’t.

Nancy: Until you received God’s love for you.

Angela: Exactly, Nancy. That was that train ride. I still vividly remember how I changed totally on the inside. I can tell myself. Before, I couldn’t say, “I love you.” But when I said that I love you, it was truly from what I received from God.

Nancy: Supernatural.

Angela: Supernatural, unconditional love. "I don’t care what you choose, even though I don’t agree, but I still love you." There’s no way I could do that before.

Nancy: That’s such an important point because I know we have listeners, and I have talked with some of them over the years, who are struggling with how to relate to a prodigal child in whatever kind of lifestyle, or prodigal husband or prodigal parents or a dear friend who’s gone off in a wrong path. It’s really impossible to express unconditional love if we haven’t received it from God first for ourselves. If we haven’t seen ourselves as sinners that God has loved because of His mercy and His grace, then we have no love to be able to give to others.

I know there are just listeners right now who are struggling with, “How can I love this son or daughter or other person who is living this kind of lifestyle—whatever it is?” And I think what you’re highlighting here, Angela, is first you have to come to see yourself as a sinner who does not deserve God’s love but that God does love because of His grace and His mercy. And then as you receive that, you can be a channel to extend that love to a person who’s doing things that are very unlovable.

Angela: Yes. Lately, God really showed me specifically where I was a sinner. You see, on the train ride, I was beginning with the thought that, Oh, maybe I’m a sinner. But just amazingly, after I got off the train ride, that was another highlight of my spiritual walk. I realized I was truly a sinner. Amazingly, when I found out I was a sinner, I was happy. I was so glad. I was a sinner, so I didn’t have to pretend anymore.

All my life I pretended that I was a good person. I was a perfect mother. I was a perfect wife. It was unfair how my husband treated me, how my children treated me because I was so good, until I found out I was a sinner. That experience was just amazing. I don’t even know how to describe it, that moment.

Nancy: There’s something very liberating about not having to pretend that we are perfect when we aren’t.

Angela: Yes.

Nancy: And coming to see ourselves as God really sees us, to be honest before Him about the darkness of our own hearts, and then realizing that there is grace for sinners.

And it’s interesting, here you were getting ready to deal with a son who had just said, “I am gay,” but God was putting the focus on your heart, not on his sin, but on your own sin, which, in comparison to his didn’t seem that bad.

But God was bringing conviction that you were the one who needed a Savior, which was really the starting point of God being able to use you, ultimately, to be an instrument of healing in Christopher’s life.

Angela: Yes.

Nancy: And, once again, we have run out of time on this program, but we’re going to pick up the story. You can see glimmers of grace, glimmers of God. Now, Christopher, you’re still out in the far country. Your mom’s in the process of coming back, but there’s still a lot to unfold here, so I hope our listeners will join us again for the next program of Revive Our Hearts.

And in the meantime, would you give us a call and, if you make a donation of any size to Revive Our Hearts, to help us continue reaching women like Angela and prodigals like Christopher, we’ll be glad to send you a copy of the book they’ve co-authored called, Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God and a Broken Mother’s Search for Hope.

You may not have a gay son. You may not be dealing with a situation that is quite like theirs. You may be, but your situation may be very different. But I promise you that your heart will be moved as mine was just a few days ago reading this book for the first time—just to see the power of the love and the grace of God in the way that He is writing our story to glorify Himself.

So I want you to have a copy of this book by Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan, and we’ll be glad to send it to you. Give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, or, if you want to visit us online, you can do that at ReviveOurHearts.com. Let us know that you’d like to give a gift to Revive Our Hearts to help this ministry to continue, and we’ll be glad to send you a copy of this book.

And be sure to join us for the next Revive Our Hearts as we continue to hear how this story of amazing grace unfolds in Angela’s life and in the life of her son Christopher.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.

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