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Father’s Emotional Rejection Leaves Deep Scars with Son

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“I loved my father as much as my father seemed to hate me. I craved my father’s love. I became an overachiever just to get my father's – his acceptance or his approval.”

Stephen Bennett never could win his father’s affection. Unlike his dad, who was an alcoholic, Stephen preferred art over sports, and the company of girls. That brought on a barrage of insults from his father, and his peers, that Stephen feared were true.

“Always struggling, feeling that I was different, struggling with my identity, "Am I gay? Am I queer?" said Stephen. 

Then at 11 years old, Stephen was molested by a man who was a friend of the family.

“I just climbed into a shell for all my teen years. I never told my mother or my father what happened; never told anybody.  And I sank deep into my art work, into music, being a loner, and that really affected me and my own thoughts of who I was as a male.”

Throughout his school years he fought a desire to be with men. Then, in his freshman year at Pratt Institute of Art and Design, he had his first homosexual encounter after a night of partying. Now 18 years old, he decided it was time to stop hiding.

Stephen said, “And so when I did finally come out that next day, it was very freeing.  It was freeing in a sense that I could finally say, ‘Okay, I'm a gay man, this is who I am, and this is who people need to accept me to be.’”

But then he continued, “And that for me began an 11-year descent into the homosexual lifestyle which really screwed me up big time.”

After dropping out of college, Stephen became a thriving portrait artist. The year was 1981 and the AIDS epidemic was headline news. The disease had claimed the lives of many of Stephen’s friends and partners driving him to use drugs and alcohol.  As much as he claimed to embrace the lifestyle, he knew he was living a lie.

"’Am I gay?  Am I really gay?’"  And while I believed it, I guess, if you will, on the surface and people would tell me I was born that way, and I would parrot that same phrase, something deep, deep within me knew that that was not really who I was.”

Through rehab, Stephen overcame his addiction to drugs and alcohol, but for years was still deeply involved in the homosexual lifestyle. One day his childhood friend, Kathy showed up at his door.

(She asked,) “’Can I come and talk to you about Jesus and about your homosexuality?’ What do those two have to do with each other?”

Stephen met with her and listened quietly as she read verses from the Bible pertaining to homosexuality.

“So she finally gets to a verse that I’ve never seen before in the Bible, 1st Corinthians, chapter 6, verses 9 through 11,” said Stephen. “The extortioner, the adulterer, the murderer, the homosexual, all of these people will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”

He continued, “But verse 11 was the one that was life-changing for me. It said, ‘and such were some of you, but you've been washed, you've been sanctified, set apart for God’s holy use. You've been justified, made right before God.’"

“And I never saw that before and I said to her, ‘Wait a minute. Are you telling me that gay people can change?’”

Kathy reassured Stephen that God loved him and with His help, he could.  But Steven wasn’t interested in changing – he was in a relationship he believed would give him all the love and acceptance he needed. That is until his partner suggested they be with other men.

“When he said this to me, it just jabbed me in the heart with a knife. I mean, that's basically what you did. ‘I'm not good enough for you. You need somebody else.’ And when he said that to me in my mind I said, ‘you know what, it’s all the same;  it’s never gonna change.’”

Rejected, Stephen turned to the Bible and even went to church looking for answers.

Stephen said, “So for the next year and a half, little by little, that word of God started to change me literally from the inside out until it got to a point one night where tears were coming out of my eyes. God removed the blinders from my eyes, and now here I was crying out for forgiveness to a God I didn't even know.” 

He called Kathy and explained what had happened.

“In the best way that I knew how I prayed with her that day, in my partner's home, on the phone, crying and I asked Christ into my heart, and literally at that moment I felt a peace come over me. I could never explain the way that I felt.  It was like a ton of bricks was lifted off my shoulders.”

Stephen left his partner and began his new life in Jesus Christ. In time he learned that his father also had a difficult childhood and forgave him. He remembers the day he told him.

“That day my father gave me a hug, he gave me a kiss on the cheek and for the first time I can ever remember my father said, ‘Stevie, I love you.’ He also said, ‘I'm sorry.’  And that moment is when I can honestly say my homosexuality broke.  You see, all of those years I was looking for the love of my father, in the arms of other men. Not sexually of course. But I wanted my father's love and now I had the real thing.”

In 1993, he married Irene and they later had two children, who are now teenagers. They also started a ministry that reaches out to the gay and lesbian community with the message of love and hope that come through Jesus Christ.

“I've had numerous partners who I've buried in the ground, and friends who've died from HIV/AIDS. It's a miracle I was never infected. But I'll tell you, what God has done in my life, I thank God every day for my wife and for my children. He has taken my story, which was a nightmare, and my reality today is sometimes I feel like I'm living a fairy tale,” said Stephen.

“I never, ever want to go back to that old person who I was. I have no reason to. I have the truth today, I have the real thing.” 

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