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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Conversation with Juliet Van Heerden - Part 2

John Bradshaw - Conversation with Juliet Van Heerden - Part 2

John Bradshaw - Conversation with Juliet Van Heerden - Part 2
TOPICS: Conversations

John Bradshaw: Juliet Van Heerden, welcome to "Conversations".

Van Heerden: Thank you.

John Bradshaw: Great to have you... back, I should say, welcome back to "Conversations," really good to see ya.

Van Heerden: It's good to be here again.

John Bradshaw: So, you've written another book. We're gonna talk about the book...soon, but first let's rewind. I always like to go back and talk about the person... or have the person I'm talking to talk about themselves just a little bit. So, tell me a little bit about you. You're a school teacher right now. You teach what grades?

Van Heerden: Yeah, so I've actually taken a break for the last couple of years, and I'll just be going back this coming school year. So, I always work with lower-grade students, first grade, second grade...

John Bradshaw: Oh, fantastic.

Van Heerden: ...teaching kids to read.

John Bradshaw: Yeah, and then there are people like me who think that anyone who could work full-time with first and second graders deserves a medal.

Van Heerden: I love it.

John Bradshaw: Is it tough?

Van Heerden: It can be.

John Bradshaw: Yeah?

Van Heerden: It can be

John Bradshaw: Is teaching changing. as time goes by? Should I say, when you first began teaching, do you notice a difference in what kids were like then or what they're like now?

Van Heerden:Of course.

John Bradshaw: Oh, you do?

Van Heerden: Absolutely.

John Bradshaw: Yeah? What's driving the difference?

Van Heerden: Media.

John Bradshaw: Yeah, it's media, isn't it?

Van Heerden: I think it's media making the big difference. It's hard. It's hard to be the dog-and-pony show that keeps their attention.

John Bradshaw: Yeah, yeah. Oh, that's really interesting. So you're from...where? In the beginning, from roughly whereabouts?

Van Heerden: I grew up in Texas.

John Bradshaw: Okay.

Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Yeah. Texas is home, the nation of Texas.

Van Heerden: "The nation".

John Bradshaw: And as well as being a teacher, you are very involved in ministry. Tell me a little bit about why you have such a close involvement with ministry.

Van Heerden: Well, my husband's a pastor.

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Van Heerden: And I have a nonprofit that works with people who are struggling with financial crises, emotional crises, and we do a lot of support and encouragement for people. Lately it's been refugees from Ukraine.

John Bradshaw: Oh, interesting.

Van Heerden: And so I just have a heart and a passion for people who are going through struggles.

John Bradshaw: Yeah, yeah. What sort of stories are you hearing from Ukraine and from people who have been affected by Ukraine? What are the kinds of experiences you are learning about?

Van Heerden: Well, it's really close to home for us because we adopted two teenagers from Ukraine in 2016.

John Bradshaw: Oh.

Van Heerden: And so the stories that we're hearing are from family members of theirs and friends that we made when we were there. So we've sponsored six Ukrainian refugees so far. Four of them have been living with us in our home. And we hear the stories almost daily of people that they're communicating with back in Ukraine, and it''s scary. It's scary for them and scary for those who are still there.

John Bradshaw: I ran into a woman recently who has fled Ukraine. She was involved in... I'll just say church work tangent, not even tangentially, quite involved in church ministry...

Van Heerden: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: ...asked her what her family's going through, and it's just so heavy on someone's heart as... it's easy, I think, to forget that that war is actually happening in the lives of people, in the homes...

Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: the communities of people. And it's not something that's, we're entirely disconnected from.

Van Heerden: Exactly.

John Bradshaw: What a real challenge. Yeah. So, pastoral ministry, so your husband is the pastor, but, I mean, you can't escape it all together. You're very involved.

Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: You and he are one, so, what was the transition like, going from not being a pastor's wife to being the wife of a pastor?

Van Heerden: It was tricky. There are a lot of unspoken expectations for the wife of the pastor, and I hadn't read that book. So...

John Bradshaw: Ah-ha.

Van Heerden: ...I've been learning along the way. 13 years later, I'm still learning.

John Bradshaw: Still learning, and the expectations differ from place to place to place to place?

Van Heerden: Yes, yes.

John Bradshaw: Yeah. When you realized you were about to become the wife of a pastor, did that fill you with some trepidation? You know, there are some women who say, "I would never marry a pastor. And so if you're a pastor, consider me out of the equation". Were you fearful, concerned, worried, or no?

Van Heerden: I didn't really think about that part of it. I just saw him as a human being. And I had come out of a marriage previously that was really not good at all, and so it was wonderful to have a normal relationship, and so when we were dating, I didn't, I wasn't really overwhelmed by that thought. It was only after we got married and I moved to the district and moved into the church and into that role that it really hit me, "Oh, no. What have I done"?

What have I got myself into here?


Yeah. Well, 13 years in, you seem like you're doing pretty good.

We're doing well.

It's working out okay.

Praise to God, right?

Yeah, really good. Hey, so let's start talking about, I'm just gonna pull it out here, the second book. Am I correct? Second book you've written?


I know it's the second book we've spoken about.


Yeah. "As I Walked: One Man's Quest for Sexual and Spiritual Identity".


Gimme the rundown of what this book is about. First, what it's about, then we'll get into the whys and wherefores.

Okay, so this is the story of my stepfather and my mother. They've been married for 33 years, happily married. No... no side sex, no porn, no junk...


...but just a beautiful marriage that I've been able to witness, and... he turned 80 a couple of years ago, and I said to him, "You're not allowed to die unless you, until you let me tell your story". And we laughed about it, but I was really serious because he has an incredible faith story, and I wanted people to know about it. And they've lived their marriage very happily and quietly for themselves. But I just felt like it's not fair that we don't get to know all of their stories. So I spent quite a bit of time with them asking questions and maybe knowing more than a daughter or daughter-in-law should ever know about her parents. But it's his story. It's his story of his walk with God and how he just clung to Christ and to the truth that is in the Bible about who we are as opposed to how we feel.


And he was molested as a young man, well, I would say probably about 12 years old, by a man. And it really messed up, we call him "Mr. P," my stepdad; his last name is Pennock, so we call him "Mr. P", but the book is his story of how he took that pain and allowed God to heal him from the way that he felt and the struggles that he had as a result of his first sexual experience being with someone of the same sex.

Mm, mm. Okay. So where did that go? Where'd that lead him? How did that impact his life? One would expect, and having seen the book, life took some...difficult turns for him.

It took some difficult turns for him. He was a Christian, he knew what the Bible said, and he felt constantly aware of God's presence in his life. He wanted to have a relationship with God. And yet this experience...pulled him in a direction at that time, it was actually illegal. If you, in England, if you were homosexual, it was really, really bad.

That's right, yeah.

And he lived a life of secrecy, of shame. He didn't act out anything for quite some time, but eventually he did. And he spent 20 years in the gay lifestyle. And it was a very painful experience for him. And he often went back and sought help from Christian people, and he couldn't find it. He was told to get a hobby at one point. Get a hobby. But that doesn't heal a broken heart.

No, no. Okay, so with a young man or a child is molested, this impacts his life...

Yes. numerous ways. Later on in life, he finds himself immersed in a homosexual lifestyle.


So, I'm just gonna ask the obvious question. You are drawing a connection; you are linking those two things together. Not every molested kid ends up gay. Not every gay person was molested.


We're talking causation or correlation. You're talking about correlation here, aren't you? Or causation... I should get that right.



He feels a definite...

Yep. Sure.

...connection to, to that experience.


And then there were other pieces of the puzzle, so to speak, a poor relationship with his father, a mother that he was maybe overly close to, and so there were, you know, there was a mix in his life, but he will pinpoint...


...right back to that experience.

Now, based on what you said a moment ago, it sounds like he was in the lifestyle... unhappy, unfulfilled. You said it brought a lot of pain into his life. Wouldn't one expect that this alleviates the pain? You're being your true self; you're following who you really are. Surely then one would be fulfilled. Why the disquietude? Why the angst?


Why the unhappiness?

He never felt fulfilled in that lifestyle, and he said that his feelings didn't reconcile with what he read in the Word of God.

I see.

He couldn't match it up. And eventually, he just had to take a real stand to walk by faith and not by sight. And that's the powerful part of his story, which, I believe, this book can speak to any of us with any issue in our lives where our feelings don't reconcile with what the Word of God says, no matter what it is. And his example of choosing to believe who God says he is and walk that out until he becomes, his lifestyle becomes a reflection of that. Does that make sense?

Mm-hmm, sure.

It's really powerful and incredibly encouraging.

There's so much I wanna ask you about this, but first I want to ask you, you were aware of your stepdad's life, previous life.


You felt like that story should be shared with the world. Okay, why? Why do you think this was a story that ought to be told? I'm gonna ask you how you broached that subject with him and convinced him to have his life story told...


...stories that many people would just keep a secret. But why do you feel like this was something that people ought to know?

Because I feel like people need to know that there is hope that they don't have to be stuck in a cycle that's painful for them. And I know many people, personally, who are unhappy with their choices, whether it's a sexual choice or something else, an addiction or whatever, but they feel caught in a cycle and stuck. And the tools that Mr. P uses and that are outlined in the story are praise, thanksgiving, and repeating who God says I truly am. And also, his life verse is that God loves... he says it this way: "God loves me as much as He loves His Son Jesus Christ".

Mmm. So true.

And when his eyes opened to that truth, something clicked and something changed. And so I've witnessed his life. Every day he sings, he prays, he praises God, he thanks God for who he is in Christ, and he walks this walk that I feel like people need to know that they can too. It's not just his story. It can be all of our story. And I've been so encouraged by just being the daughter-in-law for the past 33 years and watching this man in his spiritual walk. And I just felt like so many people are, are sad and stuck and hopeless. And many people, if you wanna look at the homosexual lifestyle, many young people commit suicide.

Yes, that's so true.

Because they don't know what to do, and I would say people who maybe have some kind of a moral compass that pulls them in a certain direction, if it's based on their faith or their Christianity or their upbringing or what they read in the Bible, something just isn't reconciling, and they're unhappy. Now, there are people who are perfectly happy in a certain lifestyle.


But this is for those who aren't...


...and who feel hopeless and who feel stuck. There is hope. And that's why I wanted to write the story, because there is hope.

So it's a story of hope, not just for people who are wrestling with homosexuality...


...and don't want to be in that lifestyle. But you're saying this is, the principles are universal. They apply to a person...


....who's stuck in any situation, because this isn't just a book that deals with somebody's... somebody's immoral existence. This is a story...


...of victory and recovery.


That's what I find so encouraging about this book. It's clear, and it shines from the pages. This isn't about the descent; it's about the ascent as somebody recovers.


And I love what you say about finding a person's identity, who a person is in Jesus.


Okay, now I've gotta ask you this, and who knows how much time this will take, or if we have enough time.


I have to ask you. You went to somebody, your stepdad.


And you said, "I've gotta tell your story because your story needs to be told". And he looked at you like this. This is what's going on in my mind, like, "Seriously, Juliet"? But so many people are gonna be helped. So many people are gonna be helped. Okay.


So you tell me to openly discuss, first with you...


...and then with the world, some really private and challenging and difficult experiences. You know, I'm gonna give you that look first, and then I'm gonna ask myself how in the world I can do that.


So speak about your stepdad and what you and he went through together to get to the point where the story was even told.

It was tough. And I can't leave my mom out of it...



Oh yeah, think about that. She's...

Right, right.

...she's right here on the front page of this thing as well.

They are two peas in a pod.


Van Heerden: And you know, you have to be willing to allow this story to be told about your spouse and about you... and you know, and it's really, I mean, it's a great love story. If for no other reason to read the book, it's a great love story between the two of them. I really had to talk a lot to them.

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Van Heerden: And he said, "Why would anyone care about my life? Who am I? That was so long ago". You know, so much of it had just been put aside. But I just really kept working. I probably worked on him for about 10 years... really. But for the past, at least the past four years, I just said, "Please, please, let's do this". And so, finally they came to me and said, "Okay, we agree". It was like out of the blue, like, "Okay, we're gonna do it". "Really? What"? So it was exciting to me. I said, "Okay, how soon do you wanna start"? But then I had to start asking hard questions.

John Bradshaw: Yes.

Van Heerden: I had to dig into places that were uncomfortable for all of us. There were lots of tears. He cried. Mom cried. I cried.

John Bradshaw: Was there ever a time they said, "Enough, we can't do this; it's too raw; it's too revealing; it's too painful; it's too difficult reliving this"? Did you ever get to that place, or once in, they were in?

Van Heerden: There was a piece that we were going through where he said, "I can't talk to you about this, but I will write. I will write it down for you, and you can take it from there".

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Van Heerden: So he went out into the garden with his notepad, and he wrote several pages and left it on the table for me.

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Van Heerden: And I knew then that it was a real gift. Like...

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Van Heerden: makes me cry. It was a gift...

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Van Heerden: ...that he gave. Because that's, you know, a lot of us don't share our private world...

John Bradshaw: Right.

Van Heerden: ...especially when it comes to sexuality.

John Bradshaw: That's right.

Van Heerden: And this isn't like, you know, grossly sexual book in any way, shape, or form.

John Bradshaw: This isn't "The National Enquirer". This isn't anything sensationalized.

Van Heerden: No, but...

John Bradshaw: It's beautifully written.

Van Heerden: ...but it's someone's very personal struggle...

John Bradshaw: Baring their soul, yeah.

Van Heerden: ...and experience and growth. So that was, I think, as close as we got. We had to take some breaks, and they don't live, they live a 16-hour drive from me, so, you know, I would go and stay in their home, and we'd do some work, and then we'd get together again at another time.

John Bradshaw: Yeah, well, the result of all of that is "As I Walked: One Man's Quest for Sexual and Spiritual Identity". And it's my good fortune to be speaking to the author of this book. Her name is Juliet Van Heerden, and I'll be back. We'll be back with more of our conversation in just a moment, brought to you by It Is Written.

John Bradshaw: Welcome back to "Conversations," brought to you by It Is Written. My guest is Juliet Van Heerden, and her second book is "As I Walked: One Man's Quest for Sexual and Spiritual Identity". And what's really interesting about this book, there are stories like this everywhere, of course. What I mean is many people have gone through experiences and challenges in a variety of lives, but the person you're writing about is your stepdad.

Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: And you had to go through the process of extracting the story, often a very, very personal story, from a man who's been a big part of your life for more than three decades.

Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: So that's kind of a unique one, isn't it?

Van Heerden: It is.

John Bradshaw: Yeah. So, so explain to me, I'm gonna ask you to sort of outline the story.

Van Heerden: Okay.

John Bradshaw: But first I'm gonna ask you to outline what you did. You sat down, had interviews, pressed "record" on the tape deck, and had conversations. Is that kind of how it went?

Van Heerden: I just sat in their home, and I had my laptop out, and as they were talking, sometimes I would just type the things that they were saying. We dug out, he has kept a suitcase full of letters that he wrote to his mother and back and forth...

John Bradshaw: Oh, how interesting.

Van Heerden: ...for all these years. So, my mother dug out those letters, and she kind of organized them. It gives a great glimpse into British life...

John Bradshaw: Yes.

Van Heerden: ...back in the day and also into his life and his relationship with his mom and who he was as a person, a young person.

John Bradshaw: Yeah, you mentioned he's English. From where in England, roughly, is he from?

Van Heerden: He grew up in Yorkshire, England...

John Bradshaw: Yorkshire, up north.

Van Heerden: ...little place called Dewsbury...

John Bradshaw: There you go.

Van Heerden: ...with a very heavy, heavy accent.

John Bradshaw: Yes, I bet. Yorkshire accent's fantastic, if you can understand it. And that's just a really English part of England, so...

Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: But he's in the US now, so let's talk a little bit about, so you explained you wrote and listened and talked and asked questions.

Van Heerden: Yes, yes.

John Bradshaw: And you mentioned before some of it was written down where the conversation may have been just a little difficult.

Van Heerden: A little difficult.

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Van Heerden: And then we, during the pandemic, we ended up on lockdown in Spain together. And my husband and myself and my mom and stepdad were all in an apartment together for about six weeks. And so we had lots of time to talk and write and work on things, and so it was interesting, interesting process. It wasn't... I wouldn't say it was a normal process. Sometimes I spied on conversations between the two men as they were talking about things, and I just made notes of every single thing, and then I went back and put it together and turned it into what it is, so...

John Bradshaw: Fantastic. And the intent is not just to tell a story, it's not just for people to peek through the windows into a person's life.

Van Heerden: Oh, no. No.

John Bradshaw: But this is a book of redemption and a book that you know can be a blueprint to help people with really any kind of spiritual struggle in a life.

Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: It doesn't have to be something of a sexual nature.

Van Heerden: No.

John Bradshaw: I wanna say this. I really wanna start asking about your stepdad's life, but there's a tendency for people to look at moral issues, homosexuality, transgenderism as the worst sins that could ever be committed.


They're just not, are they? Sin is sin. There's a hierarchy, killing someone's worth and stealing a loaf of bread, no question about that. But for some, this is the worst.


I think that's inaccurate. And it may serve to close doors rather than build bridges.


Right. So we need to keep that, I think, in some kind of perspective, if that's possible.


So talk to me about this man. Raised in England, he left, he spent some many years living in Switzerland, so what was going on in his life?

Yeah, so he became a nurse, and he left home at a fairly young age, home meaning England, and he moved to Switzerland.

Why would you go to Switzerland if you're living in beautiful England? I mean, okay, Switzerland's beautiful too. But what drew him there? Was it work? Was it a desire to escape? What took him there?

He's always loved to travel.


And so I am not sure exactly why he decided to land in Switzerland. It could have been work, actually.

Yeah, yeah.

He started working in a hospital there.

Did he decide to, did he decide he was gonna stay for 30 years when he went there? Or did that just, that just grew?

Maybe not, I think it just, it kind of happened that way.

Yeah, just put roots down.

Right. He started out in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

Yeah, sure.

So he had to learn French.


And then he ended up in the Italian-southern-Switzerland Lugano area, and so he...

Many people don't realize Italian is an official language in Switzerland.


There's quite an enclave of Italian speakers down south.

Yes. So all of his work for nearly 30 years in one hospital was in Italian...

Oh yeah?

...Italian language.

Well, how about that.


How did he...find himself? You spoke about the incident that occurred in his life when he was 12.


But that happening and then... deciding you're a homosexual, realizing, choosing, whatever word you want to use...

Mm-hmm. did that, how'd he cross that bridge?

I think it was a really slow process, just putting one toe in the water and then going further and further and feeling very... I think he felt very isolated in the world, very alone. He became estranged from his father. They had a very difficult relationship. He had a lot of pain and hurt in his heart. And he... he started acting out in ways that he felt would help but didn't, and in the end, isolated somewhat, because he wanted to... he wanted to be a God-pleasing person, but he didn't feel that he was.


And whenever he reached out to people of faith, he didn't find the answers he was really looking for. And...I think isolation kills. And when we become isolated within ourselves with whatever we're dealing with, whatever our pain is, when we don't have the hope and we don't have an outlet and we don't have people who understand us, there is a feeling of isolation and hopelessness. And he ended up in that kind of a place in his mind, in his heart until he, when he moved to the Italian part of Switzerland, he made friends with some people who really began to love him and accept him as a person.


And... Men, especially, who, I mean, he'll say, his best friend was named Walter; he's passed away now, but he says, he just said to me this the other day, Mr. P said, "God told Walter to put his arm around me and to... to be affectionate toward me in a nonsexual way". And that was really an important piece of his healing, that he had male friends who weren't afraid, heterosexual male friends who weren't afraid of him, who weren't afraid to touch him, who weren't afraid to sit with their arm around, it's kind of, I don't know, maybe part of an Italian-type culture, you know, men...


...a little bit more expressive than they are in our culture, even as...

That must've been a difficult time, too, because... well, let me ask the question.


Was he open about his homosexuality when he lived in Switzerland? Was it open? Or was it, was he what, "closeted," to use a quaint term.

It depended who he was around.


It depended. If he was around church people or Christian people, probably not open.


Maybe around his family, not open.

Because as you mentioned a moment ago, it was illegal, at least in Great Britain, his home country, to be homosexual.

Mm-hmm, yes.

So, being openly gay then, I mean, you're gonna be openly in prison or some such thing.

Right. There was a point when that law did change.


But yes, I mean, he grew up in fear and shame, and those things are very damaging to people. So, he wasn't always completely open about his lifestyle when he was involved in those things, and yet he was always searching, always reaching out for some kind of help, for some kind, I feel, like, for love from the body of Christ. And when he found that, it made a huge difference in his life and his healing.

So, yeah, let's talk about, he lived as a gay man for many years,


...and then decided he wouldn't... and then didn't. How did he...

How does that happen? does that happen? And of course, there are several things that prompt me asking the question. One, it's a remarkable transformation, no matter how you look at it.


And also, we are told, "Once gay, always gay"...


..."and you don't change. and it's not a choice".


He clearly made a choice to no longer live that lifestyle.


I'm not gonna say he made a choice to feel the feelings that he felt earlier, because that might be a horse of a different color. But how did he go about transitioning out?


He clearly wanted to. He didn't experience peace that he maybe thought he would. He was wrestling with God's will versus his own desires. How do you go about stepping away from that?

He bargained with God. He made a deal with God. And he said, "If You give me this thing that I want, then I'll give You an hour a day of my time"...

Oh, interesting!

..."in Bible study and prayer".

We wouldn't teach that.

The thing...

We wouldn't recommend that.

No. No. And the thing that he wanted was not a godly thing that he was asking God for.


But what happened was he's a man of his word and he kept his promise, and he followed through with his hour a day with God.

How about that.

And what happened as he spent an hour a day reading the Bible, praising God, praying, something began to shift in him.


And he started to see that...he had an identity in Christ, that God's Word says this is who I am, and he recognized that despite his feelings, this is who he is in Christ.

Oh, that's interesting.

And so he said to me that he began to walk by faith and not by feeling. And he would say out loud, "I thank You and I praise You, God, that I am heterosexual and whole," regardless of however he felt. And he kept doing that. He would go out and walk in the, hike in the Valle Verzasca. It's a beautiful place in Switzerland. I've been there a couple of times. And that was, he said, "That was my church. And I would go out. I would scream at God sometimes," he would say, just because he was so frustrated and so, and he would scream, "I want a wife. I want to feel like I want a wife".


And then he said he would sing for hours. He would sing and praise and thank God, "This is who I am. Thank You for making me this way". And he just literally walked... that's why the book is called "As I Walked". He walked out this experience with God until...that lifestyle no longer became his lifestyle. And eventually, those feelings were no longer his feelings. And when he met my mother, he said to me yesterday, "When I met your mother, I felt feelings that I had never felt before, and I knew those were the feelings from God".

Okay now, here's what someone's wondering.


It could sound like this was mind over matter.


"I think I'm straight; therefore I am. I think I'm not gay; therefore I'm not gay".

Van Heerden: Right.

John Bradshaw: But we would not say to anybody, "Hey, just think you are straight, and you'll be straight".

Van Heerden: No. No.

John Bradshaw: I understand what you're saying, but I want you to flesh this out a little more so no one thinks that if we just, if we have a mantra "I'm straight, I'm straight, I'm straight. I thank God that I'm this that I'm, this, that I'm this". So, I just want you to open it up a little bit further and explain how this is righteousness by faith.

Van Heerden: Faith. Because the word of God is powerful.

John Bradshaw: There you go.

Van Heerden: The word of God created the universe.

John Bradshaw: Yes.

Van Heerden: The word of God created us. The word of God created our feelings and our emotions and our desires. And when we go back to the Word of God and believe God for who He is and what He says He will do in our lives, that is where the power comes from. It's nothing to do with us, nothing.

John Bradshaw: He was going to the Word of God.

Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: He identified what the Word of God said and then just claimed it in his life believed it.

Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Sounds like he didn't let God off the hook either.

Van Heerden: He did not.

John Bradshaw: Yeah, and see, many people do. Some sins have such a stronghold, sexual sins, they run very, very, very, very deep.

Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Addictions of various kinds, they go so, so, so deep, and so it's not always easy to leave something behind.

Van Heerden: No.

John Bradshaw: And it calls for tenacity in hanging on to to the Word of God. And evidently, he clung to the Word of God and refused to not believe what the Bible says.

Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: That's faith.

Van Heerden: He said, "I will not let You go unless You bless me"!

John Bradshaw: Yes.

Van Heerden: I mean, he said it a million times to God, "I will not let You go". And he just clung to what God's Word said about who he was, that about what God said He would do in anybody's life. And, I mean, the Bible says that we are a new creation. It says that we are forgiven. It says that "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us" and "cleanse us from all unrighteousness". Well, if we're cleansed from all unrighteousness, and He gives us the Holy Spirit, it doesn't matter how we feel. That's the truth, regardless of our feelings. And that is the power of Mr. P's story.

John Bradshaw: Amen, that's a powerful story. Now, question for you. So you've chosen to tell the story of a gentleman who lived a homosexual lifestyle for many years, and for many years has not. The power of God delivered him. You know what year it is, and you're walking in a minefield here because there are some people are gonna tell you, "How can this even be true? It's not possible".

Van Heerden: I know.

John Bradshaw: "It cannot change".

Van Heerden: I know.

John Bradshaw: "You are choosing to frame homosexuality in less than a glamorous, approved lifestyle". Are you a bigot? Are you intolerant? And are you a hater?

Van Heerden: No.

John Bradshaw: Why should we believe you?

Van Heerden: I'm not politically correct, and I know that, but... I love people, and I love what God can do in a person's life. And I want people to know that they're not stuck. And no, I'm not any of those things that we get labeled as being when we believe a certain kind of way. But I have been a witness to this man's life for the past, you know, 34 years. And I see what God can do. And I know that before that, from what he has shared with me, he was miserable. He was suicidal. He was...wretched. You know, what does Paul say in the Bible? "Wretched man that I am! Who can [save me] from this body of death"?

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Van Heerden: And that's how he felt, like, he was just miserable in his life.

John Bradshaw: He was suicidal.

Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: I don't want you to just gloss over that.

Van Heerden: No.

John Bradshaw: 'Cause the statistics say some pretty frightening things about certain groups of people and suicide. And he was suicidal.

Van Heerden: Because you get to a place where you're just so hopeless and depressed, and that's how he felt; like, there was just no way out at a certain point in his life. And yet...

John Bradshaw: And it's true. There's no way out...if you are your own solution, right?

Van Heerden: Right.

John Bradshaw: There's no way out if it's up to you to change yourself.

Van Heerden: Exactly.

John Bradshaw: There's no way out if you have to will yourself out. There's no way out.

Van Heerden: No.

John Bradshaw: So, question, we've answered this, but I want you to, I want to give you the opportunity to frame it in more words. Even when you choose Jesus and the Bible as the way out, or in, the way wherever you're going doesn't make it necessarily easy, does it?

Van Heerden: Not with any issue that we have in our life, not with anything that we struggle with. It's not always easy, because, you know, yes, there is a Savior, Jesus Christ, but there's also a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. And so we all have hereditary tendencies or weaknesses. We all have things that have happened in our life or shaped us as a child or whatever that make us vulnerable. We are all vulnerable prey in different kinds of ways. And we have to be aware of that and know...that there are weaknesses in my life, and I need to know about them, and I need to build a wall of defense against them. And that wall is in the truth of God's Word of who we are.

John Bradshaw: Amen. Well, there's more to talk about. I can't wait. Juliet Van Heerden has written this book; it's her second book: "As I Walked: One Man's Quest for Sexual and Spiritual Identity". It's a powerful story of deliverance that, as Juliet has said, doesn't just apply to matters of a sexual nature but matters of any kind of spiritual nature where somebody is looking for deliverance from a certain challenge, whatever that may be. Okay, we'll be back in just a moment with more of our conversation, brought to you by It Is Written.

John Bradshaw: Welcome back to "Conversations," brought to you by It Is Written. My guest is author Juliet Van Heerden, who has authored... it's a very powerful book and a practical book and a helpful book, and it's very real. We spoke a moment ago, Juliet, about the reality of the struggle when someone is looking to get sin out of their life, frankly, whatever that sin is. Sometimes, I expect, in your vast experience in ministry, you've met people, say, quit smoking. They prayed, and God took it just like that. But then you may have met others, and it was a struggle that took seemingly forever.

Van Heerden: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: With Mr. P, who's written about in this book, the subject of this book, the battle against his former lifestyle wasn't over in a moment.

Van Heerden: No.

John Bradshaw: But it was a process.

Van Heerden: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: I'm asking you what you think, now, and you may choose as biblical as you like about the science of it.

Van Heerden: Okay.

John Bradshaw: But why do you think, in this situation and in multiple others like it, God doesn't just remove that and say, "In this instant, you are healed of this situation, and you'll never have another worry about it"? Why doesn't He do that?

Van Heerden: I wish I could say that I know why He doesn't. I know some of those stories where instantly things do happen, and I've experienced something personally where instantly it happened, but I've also experienced the long, drawn-out process of walking through a valley...

John Bradshaw: Mm-hmm.

Van Heerden: ...until you get to the top of the mountain.

John Bradshaw: Mm-hmm.

Van Heerden: And it's long and painful. I think... one of the things that I believe what the Bible says is that we overcome by the blood of Jesus and by the word of our testimony. These kinds of long walks create a testimony that people can identify with and that can give us compassion for others. Sometimes we tend, as Christians, maybe to be like bootstrap people, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. "If I quit smoking in a day, then you can too".

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Van Heerden: And that's not everybody's experience whatever it is, and so I think these kinds of long, drawn-out experiences give us more compassion for others who are going through the valley. It gives us...a deeper relationship with Christ and a dependence on Him. There is a verse, it's, I think it's 1 Corinthians, chapter 6, maybe...9-11, somewhere in there, that talks about all of these sins or areas of weakness, and it says these we once were, as we once were, and then it says we were washed; we were sanctified; we were justified.

John Bradshaw: Some will recognize it and say, "And such were some of you".

Van Heerden: "And such were some of you".

John Bradshaw: Powerful words, aren't they?

Van Heerden: Yes.

John Bradshaw: "And such were some of you". "Were".

Van Heerden: Exactly. It's the "were" part: "And such were some of you". But that sanctify, you know, washed, sanctified and justified, that sanctifying process sometimes takes a while. If I spill grape juice on my white dress, it doesn't come out immediately.

John Bradshaw: Right.

Van Heerden: It's got to have some work.

John Bradshaw: And the other thing, too, if you see a grape plant on a vine or any vine growing, that vine didn't wrap itself around the trellis in an instant.

Van Heerden: No.

John Bradshaw: That took a while. And after a while, it was so intertwined with the trellis, it'd take you forever to separate the two.

Van Heerden: Exactly.

John Bradshaw: And the struggles we go to, I wonder if God allows them so that we become inextricably bound up with Jesus...

Van Heerden: Yes, yes.

John Bradshaw: a plant wrapped around a frame. And it's the challenges we go through. If everything happened in a moment, we may wonder what we really need Jesus for.

Van Heerden: Maybe it's too easy.

John Bradshaw: Yeah, yeah.

Van Heerden: No, that's a great analogy. And that, I mean, in my own experience, I've experienced that, where I just, I've struggled with something for so long and gone back and forth, and there comes a point where, you know, you just depend on Christ to get you through it and to teach you what He wants to teach you.

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Van Heerden: And you don't wanna go backwards. I don't wanna go backwards. I don't wanna relearn those lessons. I feel like I'm just, I'm clinging to Him for dear life. And I think that's where Mr. P was in his experience. He got to the place where "I am clinging to You with all that I am, and I will not let You go because of everything that I've been through," and that vine just wrapped around.

John Bradshaw: Issues like this of a moral nature, homosexuality and other things of that nature, it seems to me there was, once upon a time, that most of us could get through this world without ever really having to deal with that. And I'm not saying because we were heterosexual, but because...if there were homosexuals around, you know, they kept a pretty low profile.

Van Heerden: Right.

There weren't so many... I'm gonna say, I'll just say there weren't so many. I mean, where I grew up, oh, everybody knew about this one gay guy. People got on with him okay and accepted him. But you'd have been hard pressed to think of a second or a third.


But today...


...homosexuality is far more prevalent, far more accepted, far more mainstream. It's mainstream now. So...everybody's gonna have to deal with this issue, in their family...

Yes. Yes. their church, at their place of work. Once upon a time, you could be intolerant and get away with it and probably be thought a bit of a hero for your intolerance. Now, intolerance, it's not accepted. It's not effective. It doesn't help anybody.


As you studied Mr. P's life and you spoke with your stepdad about the things that he went through... how do we relate to our children when they come home and say, "Mum, Dad, I'm gay"? How do we relate to nieces and nephews, family members, parents...


...extended family? You can't be intolerant because Jesus wasn't intolerant. Intolerance was never the Christian way. How do we go about... and maybe you can share a little bit about how Mr. P was loved by people and encouraged by people. The book deals with community as being important...

Yes. an experience like this.

Yes. One thing I know is that shame does not work. And so when we meet people and shame them, "Shame on you" was the old-fashioned saying.


My great-grandmother used to say... it doesn't work. Love is the only thing that brings healing. And... that love has to be the love of Christ.

"But, Juliet, if I love my gay child, and show unconditional love, am I not showing acceptance for the lifestyle that I'm convinced God does not approve of? How do I find that balance"?

Mm-hmm. It's difficult for parents. For Mr. P and his experience, that love and acceptance of him as a human being by the people who were in his faith community made all the difference.


It actually kept him from committing suicide and being a statistic in that way. He will share that it was the love and the acceptance of his friends, who were Christians, who did not shame him, who did not treat him, like, shun him or treat him like his sin was any blacker than their sin, that was what really made a difference in his experience and what allowed him to see Christ, to grow as a Christian. We often, as Christians, I think, try to put people in our own box, and we expect them to be where we are, even if we birthed those people or raised those people: "Well, you know how you were raised," or, "You know how we"... yes, but do you know that child's experience? Do you know what they've been through as a young person? Do you know the secrets that they haven't told you about their sexual experiences that maybe have hurt them in some way? I'm not a psychologist. I'm not a counselor. I'm no expert in this area. I'm telling the experience of my stepfather and my mother. But also as a friend and as a family member, I can say personally that every person that I've spoken to who has a struggle with their sexuality, there is some kind of pain root to it. Every single one has a story that it started with some kind of, some kind of pain, some kind of trauma, that unless that is dealt with, there's just all this stuff on top that's covering up the core, the core pain.

If someone's wrestling with sexual sin, they don't need to be told that they're sinning sexually because they're wrestling with it, and they know.

They know.

If they're not wrestling with it and they don't see it as wrong or aberrant in any way, and they're perfectly happy as they are...


...confronting 'em and telling 'em they're sinners probably isn't gonna help anyway, right? So, it's when the Spirit of God is working in a person's heart, and then you come alongside somebody, it seems like that might just make a bit of a difference.

It makes a huge difference. And you're right; Mr. P has two friends that he's had for all these years. They are gay, they've lived together for, I don't know, decades. And they're happy, and they have their life. Now, he's not gonna go beating them over the head with his story and his life, but he has kept an open communication with... they live in England, with them through sending a letter at the holidays every year for years or just checking on them. And at some point, you know, maybe they want to know his story, maybe they want to ask him a question, and maybe there have been conversations. But no, that's not the way you change anybody. And it's when the Holy Spirit begins working, and there is much power in the prayer of a mother, the prayer of a father, the prayer of a loved one who cares enough to intercede, then when God starts working in that heart, when we are there to walk alongside, to love and encourage, to offer hope, to offer a book or a story that might encourage them to keep walking in a certain direction, that's when change starts to happen.

Okay, two questions, one I'll ask quickly because you made a point. You think the book is appropriate to share with somebody who is in a situation that they're wrestling? Is the book good for that?

I think so.




Wrestling, not just with sexual sin...


...but with any kind of an issue, really.

Because this book demonstrates no matter how hard the challenge, God is big enough and strong enough to get you through, over, around... well, through that challenge and bring you to a place of spiritual health.


And that book shows you that, I think, beautifully. Something that I'm really fascinated by, and you allude to this or you demonstrate this, and that's the role of something I think many people wouldn't have put together with recovery: the role of forgiveness.


How'd that work in Mr. P's experience? And what's the role and why is there a role for forgiveness in someone recovering from sexual sin or any other kind of sin as well? Why forgiveness?

Well...forgiveness is a decision that we make, and somehow it is a key for unlocking healing in our lives. When we hold bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness against somebody, even if it's a perpetrator or a parent or whatever, it is hurting us in some kind of an internal way. And in Mr. P's experience, his relationship with his father was not good at all. And he had to make a decision to forgive his father. Even though he didn't even feel the feelings, he made a decision: "I'm going to forgive my dad". And it's a powerful chapter in this book, that story of how he went about it, how he went to his father and said, "I love you, Dad," even though he didn't feel the feelings of love to his dad, he expressed it, and how at the end of his dad's life, their relationship was able to change because he chose forgiveness. But that was, maybe it was good for his dad, but it was great for Mr. P because that helped to free him from that bondage of bitterness.

Forgiveness is always more profound in the life of the forgiver...


...than in the life of the one being forgiven.

It's amazing.

And I'm really happy for that emphasis because unforgiveness is just, it just eats away at you like a cancer.


The damage caused by that just knows no bounds.


So...your stepdad has just put himself out there in this book.

Whew! He's allowed me to put him out there.

Yeah. How does someone... I guess it's a question for him, but you've probably asked the question: How does somebody live with their life story, warts and all...


...being on full display? I mean, many people would like the sanitized version of their story to be told.

Yes, yes.

So now he's... how's he dealing with this story having been told far and wide?

It's interesting because he doesn't mind so much about the strangers. It's the people...


...that are close to him...

Sure., like, the people in his family or in our family, close friends, it's those people, who, when they say, "Oh, where can I get a copy of the book"?

Right. know, he'll, like oh, that... I don't know what the feeling is, but it's, I call it "the shame blanket," from Brené Brown, but that shame blanket comes over you, and you just, like, "Oh, I just wanna crawl into a hole".


And then you're like, "No, this is my story of redemption". But there's something that the enemy tries to do...

Oh yeah.

...with a person who tells their story. It happened to me when I wrote my memoir. And you have to fight it. And I think he has had, he has struggled. He has definitely had to fight it.

Well, we can't know exactly what we're gonna remember when we get to heaven, but David's gonna have a lot to live down and...


Peter will forever be the man who denied Jesus three times.

Yes, yes.

And Eve is gonna be there, and we're all gonna look at Eve and go, "What were you thinking"? And I think what it is, is, "There, but for the grace of God, go [all of us]".

That's right.

A little grace goes an awful long way.


Hey, so, the book, where do we get the book? How can people get a copy of the book? I want people to know.

Okay, they can go to Our website for our ministry is


Yeah, good.

And there's always Amazon.

Yeah, of course, of course, of course. So after telling your own story and after telling the story of your stepdad, and it's a whale of a story and a life-changing, his life was changed, and others' lives will be changed. What's next for the author Juliet Van Heerden? What do you do next?

Oh, wow, so, I published my first children's book recently.


And I've written the second one, waiting on the illustrator. So the second one is a fun story. It's called "Princess Venus: Far From Home". And it's the story of the little girl who lives with us, the Ukrainian refugee. And it's her story of how they escaped from Ukraine and went into Romania. So it's a picture book for children to help kids kind of understand... I don't know, a lot of classrooms are showing up with these children from...

Yes. know, refugee situations, and maybe it will give a little bit of compassion to kids who have someone new walking into the classroom, help them understand their story, what's a refugee, and where do we come from, so that's what I'm working on right now.

Well, I wanna thank you for this, for your ministry. And it's a very broad ministry. Does it take courage to write a book like this?


Yeah. I think it takes courage for a man to allow his story to be told, too.


Thanks for having that courage.

Thank you.

Because what you know is that a story of deliverance is a story of deliverance. This is a beautiful tale, story, account of someone finding freedom through Jesus, and we want more people, not less, to experience that.


Juliet, thank you so very much.

Thank you.

And thank you for joining us. It's been great to see you. She is Juliet Van Heerden, I'm John Bradshaw, and this has been our conversation.
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