A month later, John and I left for France. Our itinerary called for traveling for two months, and I anticipated the sharp scent of autumn, lumbering wagons hauling grapes, vineyards turning red, wrapping myself against a cold snap. France wears a coat of full fall, and I relish it.
I did not want to take John along, but he plaintively asked to go, and it seemed cruel to leave him home. Paul and Ann, our friends from Dundee, joined us for the relaxing first week, and then Ann and I left the men in France and accompanied Marie-Louise on a rollicking road trip, taking us to minister in Italy and Switzerland. Marie-Louise, an inspiring French woman, and I had become mutually admiring friends in Bible school, and she now pastored a church in Sospel (no connection intended with Gospel). Unsuspecting of the discomfort they caused, neither of them knew of John’s “condition,” the two women chattered about us as a couple as if nothing were awry. Since I wasn’t ready to reveal anything, I felt like taffy being pulled on an automated machine, demonstrating its wares in a windowed candy shop.
After Paul and Ann left, John and I visited with Charles and Barbara, staying in a little apartment cozied underneath the welcoming home of the newly-elected director of the Christian Businessmen’s Club. Pampering us, the harvesting weather stayed warm, which facilitated our use of the toilet just outside our front door, couched in a cubicle tucked under the stairs. The shower had a 5-liter capacity, which meant you got soaped up and ran out of hot water! But these people were such a blessing to us. Beyond the toilet, like an exquisitely appointed tea tray, laid a beautiful garden, and I had peace and quiet to write my sermons as I ministered in various places in the area.
One Saturday evening I preached, and afterwards, Charles and Barbara invited us to dinner, eating at midnight, complying with French custom. Charles asked, “John, what did you do all day?”
“Oh!” John replied with enthusiasm, “I had a wonderful time! I took myself out to lunch and walked down to see your beautiful train station and sat in the park for a while enjoying the flowers. It was a wonderful day.”
Charles and Barbara laughed, and she asked, “You mean you didn’t fast and pray all day for your wife’s anointing tonight?”
John looked confused as if to say, why should he do that? I was relieved that I had told them about John’s orientation. Trying to cover his self-centered behavior occupied too much of my life.
After ministering in that region, we went to Paris to visit JJ, now practicing law there. We cramped his lifestyle, I suppose, and definitely his living quarters, but I loved being with him, filling up his one room with double height ceiling and sleeping loft. His apartment sat equal distance from Les Halles and Notre dame, affording us beautiful walks. If France has Yuppies, JJ lived in their neighborhood.
While in Paris, someone stole my purse. Driving down a broad, heavily trafficked boulevard approaching the Port d’Italie, I stopped in the left-hand lane at a stoplight. A car pulled around me swiftly from the left, slamming on its brakes, which I thought strange, but the French can be in such a hurry, especially Parisians. It stopped at an angle in front of my little rented car effectually preventing me from going forward. Before I could blink a man stepped from the back seat of the intruding car, broke my rear window with a hammer, and grabbed my purse innocently lying on the back seat. I heard the noise of cracking glass tinkling to the ground but didn’t comprehend and couldn’t move until I saw my purse go sailing by me into his car. I leapt into action as they sped away.
Honking the horn, yelling out the window, ”Stop! Stop! Arret! Arret! Somebody help! Aide-moi!” I chased after them continuing to yell out the window.
I heard the sound of John barking at me, but his words didn’t register, and I continued to pursue the thieves like being in a car chase in a spy movie when suddenly I heard John yelling, “Stop driving! For God’s sake, stop the car.” I looked at him as if he were crazy. He yelled, “If you catch them I’ll have to fight them!” I almost laughed. The image of quaking John assaulting those three big men gave his words such an impact that I pulled over, turned the car off, stopped shaking and prayed. I commanded my purse, in the name of Jesus, to be returned to me with everything inside.
Fulfilling my prayer, two days later the American Embassy called my house in Texas and left a message on the answering machine that my purse could be retrieved at the Embassy. My daughter relayed the message. When I picked it up, I found the contents intact, including the credit cards, the passport, which they could have sold, the driving license, my address book, JJ’s keys, only an offering from a little church where I had preached, about $80, was missing. Even though I had ordered a new passport, new credit cards, and a new driver’s license, when I put my purse up to my chest, clutching it to me, such peace filled my soul. My God answers prayers!
Since JJ’s house keys and address had been nestled in my purse when it was stolen, we called him right away and told him of the measured and professional manner with which I had been robbed. He rushed home and called a locksmith. Doors in Paris are designed to be snapped into the top of the door jamb, one clicked into the floor and the common garden variety one actually locked into the side. To replace all this hardware cost us $1000.
Somehow this incident seemed symbolic. My identity had been stolen and then had been returned. The new lock and the offering were monies lost, except we had insurance, so we knew they, too, would be restored. It seemed like an old pattern of Satan stealing my identity and stealing my money, and then God restoring them to me with more than what I lost. I should have recognized another satanic attack was on the way because they always arrive in groups of three.
But with my passport secured in my pocket, my purse restored, leaving the danger of Paris and passing through the tranquil, sleeping countryside, I let my guard down. From Paris we drove to Vichy to attend a minister’s conference organized by my friend, Marie-Louise. Vichy abounds with baths. People go there for the “Cure” in order to soak in a tub filled with mineral water and to sip the disgusting healing elixir in the process, a most appropriate place to host a conference giving a spiritual cure.
Being flush with money derived from my network business, I had invited a young couple to attend who were pastoring in the west of France. Hard pressed in the ministry, they needed encouragement. I had also invited a seasoned couple from the east, but they could only join us for a day. They also needed a touch from the Lord, and I believed the couple from the west would provide that, which they did. So we had an entourage with us wherever we went.
The couple coming from the east brought their well-behaved son with them. The boy, nine years old, bright, cute, sweet-spirited, took a liking to John. The child exuded pure innocence served up on a brioche. John tickled him, wrestled with him during our lunch together, and teased him. It seemed a little much to me, but John can get that way with children, and in front of all these endearing people, I really didn’t know what to do about it. The succoring couple from the west prayed for the boy and received a prophetic word indicating something about this child. Evidently, God has big plans for him, which I pray Satan will not deflect!
We sauntered to the meeting that afternoon, admiring the goods displayed in boutique windows, and when we arrived at the church, I went inside. I’m accustomed to John hanging around the back during meetings and coming in late to sit down, so I thought nothing of it not to find him by my side. The meeting had been progressing for some time when the Holy Spirit urged me to turn around and look at the back of the auditorium. About twenty rows back, sitting alone, the heightened colors of their faces resembling two flowers growing in a garden of brown empty chairs. John sat with the boy plastered to his side. With his arms wrapped around the child, his hands rubbed the boy’s arms and legs amorously. No longer cute and teasing, John caressed the boy with agitated passion.
Using my eyes as flashing road signs, I glared at him trying to tell him to take his hands off that boy. John’s eyes were wild, his mouth hanging open loosely. He looked at me and swung his head toward the front as if indicating to me that something wonderful was happening up there that I should be listening to instead of paying attention to him. There was nothing wonderful happening up front. A panel discussion inched through the atrophied afternoon. That familiar alarm clanging in my head demanded to know why the men sitting, facing the audience, at the panel table, didn’t see this atrocity occurring before their eyes. Three times I sent John my visual message, flashing my best dominating looks. My children always hastened to obey my threatening look, but John continued undaunted. I sat petrified as the boy looked at me with eyes round as saucers, seeming to be dazed, as if asking, “What is happening to me?”
Just as I was about to get up and go tell him to get his hands off that child, John released the boy and leaned on the chair in front of him, dangling both arms over the back, his forehead practically touching the wood, no longer catching my eye. He looked like a man whose energies were now spent. I wondered if he had come to a climax. The boy didn’t seem to understand why John had stopped, he looked from him to me and threw himself on John’s back, wrapping his arms around him, and he hung there, his cheek pressed against John’s shirt.
My heart pounded so hard I didn’t hear the rest of the meeting. Afterwards the father fetched his son, and we walked them to their car as they were returning home. My demeanor belied my trembling insides as we said our good-byes and waved as the car disappeared down the road. Sending our other friends off to the hotel, we walked around town, sat for a while sipping tea, and when I calmed down sufficiently enough to speak, we went back to our hotel. I turned some music on loud enough so no one could hear through the walls.
“What were you doing with that child?”
“Nothing,” he replied with complete innocence.
“John, you were amorously crushing him to your body. You were caressing him.”
“No, I wasn’t. I was just massaging him a little, that’s all.”
“John, I know what I saw. I have never received that kind of treatment from you. What you did today was reprehensible.”
“I didn’t do anything!”
“Did you ejaculate? Did you get off on that child?”
He looked horrified and indignantly said, “Of course not!”
I insisted, “Well, you looked like it.”
“Well, I didn’t!” He practically spit the words in my face.
This kind of dialogue went on for a good twenty minutes until finally I decided to take another tactic. I said, “Look, if we brought our oldest little granddaughter over here, and the father of that little boy took a liking to her, sat with her in the back of the room, and did to her what you did to that little boy, how would you feel?”
John looked at me for a long time. I wondered if he were ever going to answer. His eyes changed from indignation to contemplation to sadness, and then I saw what I wanted to see. I saw truth come into his eyes. His body slumped and he said, “I am a sick man.”
Nonplussed I asked, “Why did you say ‘a sick man’ instead of saying ‘a sinful man’?”
“I don’t know,” he replied a touch defiantly. “That’s just how it came out.”
“Homosexuality is not a sickness, John, it is a sin. Probably someone treated you like that when you were nine.”
“Oh,” he harrumphed. “I couldn’t possibly remember.”
“Yes, you could,” I argued. “If you wanted to remember, the Holy Spirit would help you remember. You just don’t want to. If you would allow yourself to remember how those homosexual spirits came into your life, you would have the ability to get rid of them.”
After a profound silence I asked, “Did you come to a climax?”
He spoke in a low voice, “No, but having that boy in my arms felt better than anything has felt in a long, long time.”
He didn’t say anymore after that. I didn’t feel like asking questions, either. Too many years of trying had already gone under the bridge. Too many lost hopes, too many failed efforts.
When we returned to Charles’ and Barbara’s, I spoke to them privately telling them what had happened. I asked John to go with me and talk to them, but he declined. They encouraged me to tell John they wanted to talk to him also, and help him, but again, he declined. Barbara commented on how much John lived for himself, thinking about what he will eat, where he will sleep, what he will wear, whether he is bored or amused. She noted he seemed to be self-contained, his own best friend, enjoying himself more than anybody else. She was right.
I needed counsel and asked them what I should do. Charles, adamant, said, “Marty, you’ve got a ministry to consider. You need to cut it off right now. He’s had plenty of time to get his life right. Divorce him.”
Barbara, ever the softie, said, “Oh, don’t be so harsh. Give John six months. Tell him he has six months to get rid of the demons in his life. And if he doesn’t, then you’ll divorce him. Everyone needs a warning.”
I chose to give John the six months.
In Paris again to spend more time with JJ and to catch our flight home, I told him what had happened between his father and the little boy. JJ sat with his back to his father, facing me, and after taking in the information he turned toward his dad, like an efficient lawyer and said, “What are you going to do about this, because from what I have just heard, I recommend Mom leave you.”
John said, “When I get home, I’m going to get rid of this thing.”