Don’t give me a spiritual pass because my child is gay!

It happened again a few days ago. Someone, upon learning that I am affirming of the LGBTQ community, stated, “Of course you are, and you should be!” The implication was, “You’re the mom. Of course YOU’LL be affirming!”

May I say that just because I am the mom of a gay child it doesn’t mean that I will automatically be affirming. If you could hear the stories of people who have been disowned by their families, not only would you be heartbroken, but you would realize that being a parent doesn’t guarantee acceptance.

See, here’s the thing. When my acceptance is passed off as being because I am the mom, everything I’ve studied and the amount of time I’ve spent in prayer trying to discern God’s voice regarding my child’s orientation is negated. I’m given a pass for trying to make all this okay spiritually because that’s “what any mom would do.”

To be honest (although I hate to admit it) my child’s recognition of her orientation was definitely the impetus to beginning my journey to affirmation.  There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m just sad that it took that to make me rethink the issue. I’ve studied. I’ve prayed. I’ve talked to others, including LGBTQ people and their parents. I daresay that what I’ve studied and done during this time of adjustment has been a lot more than what most non-affirming Christians will ever do. You see, most non-affirming Christians have no need to study. They just know that, “my Bible says it’s sin!” There’s no reason to study what the Biblical words meant to the original hearers or what the culture was at the time the words were said. It’s all clear to them. No studying needed…

What I’ve found is that, for me anyway, this is not a black and white issue. And that’s because I have read, studied and prayed; not because I haven’t. My faith has grown exponentially as I’ve reflected on the heart of God and on the love that Jesus demonstrated while He was here on earth. My faith is stronger, not weaker, and I don’t think that would be the norm for someone who is walking away from God by trying to convince herself that her will is God’s will.

Affirmation is not easy: don’t ever assume that it is. It messes with all kinds of things in my life – who my friends are, what church I attend, and how I feel about the marginalized in our world. Basically, it makes my heart hurt for others, both those who are marginalized and those doing the marginalizing.

It makes me hurt for the church. Do I attend an affirming church where they agree with me or do I go to a non-affirming church so that any sexual-minority person who shows up will be greeted by a friendly face? Is attending a non-affirming church a betrayal of the LGBTQ person? Is it a betrayal of the non-affirming church to attend, knowing I don’t agree with their stance? Is there room for disagreement in the church on this issue? I truly don’t know the answer to these questions. But I know if we continue to look at this as a black and white issue, the lines will be increasingly drawn to exclude, not to include.

I do know that I will not hide my affirmation. It’s too damaging to the young people who sit in our services struggling with a same-sex orientation or not feeling comfortable in their own bodies. You may disagree with me, but I’ll pick them over you. You see, they’re the ones struggling. They need to know God is still there for them and loves them, no matter how their struggle is resolved. I’m going to tell them that.

May I ask, if you were the parent of a child who has an LGBTQ orientation, which of the following would you want your child or grandchild to be told by someone in your church?

  1. “Being gay is a sin and God can deliver you from that if you just pray.”
  2. “Being gay isn’t a sin but if you ever act on it, even in a monogamous lifelong relationship with someone you love, you’ll be sinning. God (and the church) says you have to be alone if you’re gay.”
  3. “Being gay isn’t a sin and you need to stay so close to Jesus that the two of you together can work out what He wants for your life. If He (not the church) calls you to celibacy, it’s okay, and if He allows you to enter into a lifelong monogamous marriage, it’s okay. I trust you to hear His voice and I’ll accept what you have heard.”

I choose Number 3. And God help all of us as we try to get this right.

 

Dear new member in this group we never chose to join:

Hi, Fellow Mama!

If you are reading this in our mutual online group, then you are the mom of a child who newly identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (or a host of other labels as well). I see by your first post that you are scared and my heart goes out to you. I’m only about a year and 5 months into this same journey on which you have embarked. Those initial days of coming to terms are still fresh in my mind. So, here are a few little tidbits that might help.

First of all, if you’re like I was, I imagine you are terrified – terrified of what people will say and do when they find out about your child’s orientation; terrified of how he or she will be treated; terrified for their safety; and if you have a religious faith, terrified that God and your faith community will no longer accept your child. You lie awake at night or you get to sleep just fine but wake up halfway through the night to a clenched stomach and shaking legs, unable to fall back to sleep.

May I tell you something? All of this gets better over time, but, honestly, it will probably be a while. Be gentle with yourself. You have just been given info that’s new to you, even though it’s not new to your child. In some cases, your child will be way ahead of you in dealing with this. In other situations, your child may still be coming to terms with their orientation at the same time they allow you to join them on the journey. Either way, it is a great honor that they trust you and your love enough to let you in.

And remember, none of this is a surprise to God. He knew it was coming. He knew ahead of time what your fears would be and how you would react. He knew when your child was created that that child was lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered. Whether or not you can see it right now, He has prepared you and your child for this time in life. In my case, He had begun releasing my husband and me from a 30-year pastorate shortly before our daughter came out. Today I thank Him because I could not have dealt with the stress of my husband leading a church while also coming to terms with the changes in our family. God has your back!

Your fears about family and friends’ acceptance will come true with some people. I’m sorry to tell you that because I know it hurts. But you’ll also find acceptance from others that will surprise you. You will be amazed by how many, after they find out about your child’s orientation, will come to you to share about someone they love who is lgbt. You will become a safe resting place for them, and they for you. The lack of acceptance from others that you love will gradually change your relationship with them, and that’s okay. Some relationships are only with us for a season. What you are about to learn and how you are going to grow will never be understood by those who only think of this as an issue and not as a person they love.

The greatest thing about this trip is that, if you allow yourself, you will learn more about God’s grace than you’ve ever known in your life! You’ll find that His love is wider, longer, higher and deeper than you ever imagined. You will learn to trust that for yourself and for your child. God will literally carry you and your family through this. Don’t back away from Him because you fear His lack of acceptance. You’re about to find out just how much grace covers in this world and in the life of your child and you. When you discover that, it will be a holy moment.

And most of all, don’t let yourself (or your child) believe that they can’t have a relationship with God if they’re gay. Instead, urge them to stay as close as possible to God in their daily life. He’s on this trip with them and wants to guide them. It’s unfair to tell your child God is not available to them because they have an orientation they did not choose. They, and you, need God more than ever to navigate through life. You can trust that God will still talk to your child and can guide them into the life HE wants them to have. Why would we ever tell them God is now off-limits?! They have to know that God still wants relationship with them, and you’re going to be the one who will convince them of that.

Again, mama, I’m sorry for the stress and anxiety you feel right now. Like I said, it gets better but it will take time. Please give yourself that time without judgment. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to feel physically sick over it. It is okay that you can’t imagine right now that you will ever adjust to this news. It’s all okay. God knows you; He knows your kid; He knows the people, both accepting and non-accepting, that you will deal with.

God’s got this!

In the meantime, until you can hear His voice clearly, you’ve got a whole group of fellow mamas who know what you’re going through. Lean on us!

You can find me here at carolstout.com and you’ll find the moms’ group online at Serendipitydodah for Moms – A place of unexpected discoveries.

 

What lens do you use?

Whew! I’m glad to have this past week behind us.

On Wednesday, May 12, our state news outlet published 3 articles dealing with LGBTQ students attending Christian universities in Michigan. They had contacted our daughter a couple of months ago asking if they could interview her for the report. She agreed and was interviewed a few times, beginning at the close of the Fall semester.

I was not looking forward to what I thought would be this one article coming out because I was afraid of any further hurt being done to her due to her participation.

Anyway, the 3 (!!!!) articles were published online and I held my breath. I asked a few friends to pray that I would have the strength NOT to check out the comment section below each article. I knew if I read them that many would be hurtful to me.

So I read the articles and skipped the comment sections, except for 3 or 4 of the first ones made.

The comments I did read included several people asking, “Why would an LGBTQ person want to attend a Christian school? There are other schools out there that would accept them.” I thought about this for a while and I could see how that would be a question that others would have. But the comment bothered me and I couldn’t figure out why.

And then it came to me.

This belief that a person who is LGBTQ shouldn’t want to attend a Christian school is an indictment of the lens through which some straight Christians view their world, not an indictment of the LGBTQ Christian. It’s the lens that allows us to look at someone who has a same-sex orientation and assume they want nothing to do with following Jesus Christ. To us, it’s a given that the terms, LGBTQ and Christian, can’t possibly go together. It’s the lens through which we look but it’s not the lens through which the LGBTQ teenager raised in the church and getting ready to go off to college looks.

Most of the LGBTQ young adults who attend Christian colleges have been raised in the church. The church is what they know and they have a desire to grow spiritually. They are not at a Christian school because they have rejected God. They may be there because they are scared and think the school will help them not be gay; they may be there because their parents have made them enroll for the same reason; or, just possibly, they may be there because they have a relationship with Christ and want to grow in that relationship. They don’t realize until they get there that Jesus will be withheld from them if they can’t get rid of their orientation.

One of the things that hurts this mom is the assumption that our children have turned their backs on God by being gay. Nothing could be further from the truth! The students I know want to follow Jesus but most are taught very quickly that their spiritual walk will not be honored or respected by their fellow believers. They grow discouraged over time and begin to believe that what fellow Christians think of them is what God thinks of them. No wonder so many eventually give up on their spiritual lives.

I pray for the day straight Christians put down their faulty lenses and peer at these people through the same lens that God uses. He sees His beautiful children. He loves them as they are. He wants them to be allowed to grow in their relationships with Him. He wants their spiritual brothers and sisters to love them. And He wants this mom to be an encouragement to them as they follow Him.

___________________________________________

I’m sharing links to the article I mentioned. Feel free to read the comments: just don’t share them with me. There’s only so much this mama can take!

http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/page/refusing_to_choose_lgbtq_stude.html#incart_big-photo

https://www.mlive.com/…/christian_college_policies_on.html

http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2018/05/recent_grad_to_christian_colle.html

https://www.mlive.com/expo/erry-2018/05/3bd44abcfe7912/ive_learned_what_church_is_sup.html

His grace is sufficient for me (and you, too!)

I used to be kind of jealous when I would hear a brand-new Christ-follower share their story. I envied how easily they could believe in grace, not only intellectually, but down deep in their souls. They were always so grateful and so trusting of God’s love for them!

I, on the other hand, had been raised in grace. I heard it taught in Sunday School. I heard it described from the pulpit. I knew from an early age that it was defined as, the free and unmerited favor of God. My problem was that while I heard it taught, for safety’s sake, the adult Christians I knew added a whole list of “do’s” and “do not’s” to it. Just in case grace didn’t actually cover, I guess.

To this day, I can still recite many items contained in that do’s and don’ts list that I was taught to live by. (I’m going to date myself here…)

Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. No dancing. No short skirts. No shorts. No mixed swimming. No movies. No going out to eat on Sundays. No gossip. No anger (because Christians don’t get angry). No bad attitudes. And, if possible, be male, because although God loves girls, males are more important to him than females.

And on the “do” side: Have your devotions first thing in the morning (I guess it proves you’re thinking of God first.). Be at church whenever the doors are open. Do any ministry asked of you, whether or not you are up to the task. Always have a Christ-like attitude about everything. Be more excited about God than you are about anything else. And ABOVE ALL ELSE, do not fail! Failure means you aren’t trying hard enough to love God.

Looking back, I did fairly well at most of these tasks. I really tried! Hard! I wanted God to love me, although it really hurt that no matter what I did I knew He wouldn’t like me as well as He liked the boy sitting next to me. I wanted so badly to be important to God, so I tried harder. In high school I had my daily devotional time; I served on a team that went out to other churches to sing and minister; I went calling to invite people to church (a true disaster); I was a leader in my youth group; I carried my Bible to school; I made sure my non-Christian friends (which were all the kids that went to a church that wasn’t mine) knew I was a Christian. I was a WITNESS!

And then, you know what? I got tired. Tired of trying to be perfect. Tired of trying to make God like me. So I gave up.

I decided I would be one of those people God would let into Heaven because I believed in Him, but He would not particularly like me. I would not be special to Him. And I would learn to live for Him anyway. That’s just the way it was. Not every Christian was meant to be dearly loved by God.

But I kept hearing about grace… And although I knew the definition, I had no concept of not using what I ‘do’ for God as proof of my love for Him.

In Philippians, Paul tells how he struggles with this same concept. He had a spiritual pedigree that was without fault. He states,

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

However, after listing his qualifications, he goes on to say,

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ— the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

Somehow Paul found a way to put aside everything he did for God to prove his love and he was able to understand loving God and being loved by God, through faith alone.

Now I’m no theologian, but I say it was because he was finally able to grasp grace.

Paul came to the realization that what he had done in the past in the name of God was evil in God’s eyes. He was totally done in, I’m sure, by what he saw when looking at himself and his self-righteousness. There was no chance of undoing the wrongs he had committed. There was no good thing that he had done that could possibly make up for the evil he had committed. At that point, God’s grace was all he had. He grasped it in desperation and discovered it would hold him.

Grace is what my friends who are brand-new Christ-followers have grasped. They know they don’t deserve God’s love and they revel in the fact that they have it anyway. But me? I had spent a lifetime really, really trying to please Him. I had done the correct things spiritually. I had proved my love by not doing evil (at least not outwardly). So what was grace for me? I didn’t have a lot to be saved from, so my goodness should count for something…

And then, almost a year ago, the bottom fell out of my life. I stepped away from my spiritual community; I left my job; I found myself in disagreement with Christians whose views I respected; and I was challenged by outside circumstances to question everything I believed about God, what it means to follow Him, and who is qualified to receive His love. (I think they call it “deconstruction” and “reconstruction” of faith. It’s not for the faint of heart…)

I now believe God let everything I depended on fall away so that grace would be the only thing left to which I could cling. I have clutched it desperately and it has held me. It is all I have.

It is all ANY of US has.

If you’ve taught Sunday school for 30 years and led people to Christ,
GRACE IS ALL YOU HAVE.
If you’ve been involved in working in the church most of your life,
GRACE IS STILL ALL YOU HAVE.
If you’ve studied the Bible and have knowledge unsurpassed by anyone you know,
GRACE IS STILL ALL YOU HAVE.
If your theology is correct (as if any of us are going to be right more than we are wrong) and you can defend it when asked,
GRACE IS STILL ALL YOU HAVE.
Even if you’ve loved your neighbor as Christ would have you do,
GRACE IS STILL ALL YOU HAVE.

We are all dependent on grace alone.

My hope for you is that somehow God will bring you to a point where you will know His grace (love) and that you, (as Paul says) being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

And may I say, if you come to this point through the loss of everything else, it will be worth it.

 

Dear Friend: in answer to your questions…

You asked me a lot of questions regarding my daughter and her school yesterday. I had talked about a blog post that was added to facebook by a Christian University president in Oklahoma. He was so adamantly against an article published by my daughter’s University newspaper that talked about the lgbtq community in a non-condemning light that he wrote a reply on his facebook page. Incidentally, he was a previous vice-president at my daughter’s school. You know him and several members of the current Spring Arbor University administration as personal friends.

After reading his article, you asked the following questions of me: “Can someone please explain to me exactly how these students feel unsafe and/or in fear? Have they been threatened? Attacked physically? When they’re saying they want to be heard, what exactly does that mean? What do they need to say that isn’t already being said? By saying they want to be heard and affirmed, does that mean they want to be able to walk around campus holding hands with their partner? Or sitting in chapel with their partner as a couple? I’m truly trying to understand what exactly they feel they are not being heard about or not getting. I haven’t read about anyone being kicked off campus. As sassy as this may sound, I’m truly not trying to be. I just honestly want to know. When saying “affirming” I want to know what exactly is their goal by that word?”

First of all, let me say that I don’t believe the students are asking for affirmation. I know that affirmation is not my daughter’s goal and I haven’t heard that from any of her friends. They know that SAU is a denominational school and doesn’t have the option of being lgbtq affirming. There is no argument with that.

If you don’t mind, before I continue I need you to do something for me that you may think is silly, but it is not to me. It is deeply personal.

Ready?

Let’s imagine that your son is gay, instead of my daughter.

You’ve watched him grow up and you’ve seen him act out of his growing love for God. You’ve gone in his room and seen his well-used devotional journal and his Bible laying on his bed. You know they are there because he uses them.

As he gets ready to go to college, he wants to go to a Christian school where he can grow spiritually while also getting a degree. He enrolls at SAU.

Still pretending? I hope so… You won’t understand if you make it about MY daughter or if you only look at this theoretically as an “issue” rather than a person.

Okay. Midway through your son’s junior year he comes home for Christmas break and he asks to have a serious talk with you. You sit down, ready to be a good listening ear in order to help him.

“Mom,” he says. “I love God, but I know I’m gay.”

At that point, what do you say? You know he loves God. Nothing in his life indicates to you that that has changed. But, he’s gay.

You make it through the school break and then send him back. All of the sudden, it matters to you how the school will treat him, what will be said to discourage him from continuing to seek God, and if he will even be physically safe…

As he begins the new semester, incidents start happening on campus. Maybe a chapel speaker (or 2, or 4) compares your celibate son and his lgbtq community to murderers and adulterers. Maybe a community member comes on campus and starts yelling at a group of lgbtq students, including your son, with vile insults while other students gather around to listen. And then, when an administrator comes out the door, your humiliated child hopes that he is going to make this person stop. Instead, he comes to your son and his friends, and tells them to leave. Then he talks to the community member…

In answer to the incident, the administration sends out a letter to the students stating that all students are valued. However, added to the end of the letter is the assurance that  the school believes that these students are hell-bound if they live lgbtq lives. Your son is told that the letter was for a “wider audience” so that’s why they included the admonition.

And then, an article written by Dr. Everett Piper is published, stating that “We are the Imago Dei! We are not the imago dog… One is not defined by his desire to engage in aberrant sex any more than one is defined by a desire to persecute Jews or burn crosses. In both cases, because we are human beings and not animals, we are simply supposed to just not do it.”

So, Friend, at this point is your gay son “safe?” He, recognizing that he has a same-sex orientation that he did not choose and cannot change, carries the “imago dog” and he is now considered an animal as opposed to a human being. And no one in leadership from his school calls out the language used about its own students. Rather, the defense posted on Dr. Piper’s page by SAU president, Brent Ellis, is a defense of the school’s theology and the hope that “we enter into dialogue expressing the character of Jesus.” There was no disagreement with the choice of words used against SAU’s lgbtq students.

At this point, your son, like these students, knows that no one has their backs. That is all they are asking for! Just that the school would have their backs by affording them the same dignity given to other students on campus. There have been multiple meetings with Administration over this issue.

I’m not on campus and I haven’t been in any of the meetings with Administration so I don’t know if they are overthinking what the kids want or what the problem seems to be. I know that the advocacy clause in the student handbook is problematic to the students. The clause states: “All students, regardless of age, residency or status, are required to abstain from cohabitation, any involvement in premarital or extramarital sexual activity, or homosexual activity (including same-sex dating behaviors). This includes the promotion, advocacy, and defense of the aforementioned activities.”

The problem for my daughter and her friends is in that last sentence. They have no recourse to defend themselves when anti-gay oppression happens. And they have learned that no one else will protect them either. If they are sitting in class and having a theological discussion, technically they are not free to acknowledge that they are lgbtq and share their perspective (without being afraid of what will happen to them). They cannot advocate for one another if mistreatment occurs. And I don’t even get the use of the word, “promotion.” No one is recruiting other students to be gay, especially since it’s not possible to switch who you are attracted to (When did you choose to become straight?).

I know this has gotten long, Friend. (And I do mean it when I call you that.) I guess all I can say is that there are many ways to not be “safe.” It’s a scary thing to know that no one has your back and you are on your own in your life, your job, your school or sometimes your own home. At least these students have each other.

Maybe there’s safety in numbers…

article by Dr. Everett Piper

 

Nothing to hide, nothing to prove, nothing to lose

“Nothing to hide, nothing to prove, nothing to lose.” The first time I heard this phrase, several years ago, I was drawn to the freedom that living by it would entail. I never considered myself as someone who tried to hide who I really was: I used to joke that my friends and acquaintances all knew I was a spiritual and emotional mess. And by the grace of God, I was placed in a church setting filled with people who did not make me prove my worth. They just loved me anyway, recognizing that I was growing as a person and a Christ-follower. And as far as “nothing to lose” goes, I really didn’t see much to lose. My friends were Christians, my job was in a Christian environment among people I loved, and I was confident that God wouldn’t take that away from me. Why would He? It was all positive stuff that honored Him and where I could serve Him.

And then in June 2016, my husband and I felt that God was leading him to step down from his position as pastor at our church. After 30 years. This was not only our calling, but our jobs; our friends; our family; our social life; our place to grow spiritually and to serve. It was a painful process that culminated in our last Sunday at the church we love on October 1, 2017.

In the middle of this transition, we also learned that one of our adult children identified as LGBT. Still nothing to hide?

Because we have always championed authenticity in our fellowship of believers, hiding our daughter’s “coming out” was not an option we even considered. We were, and are, proud of the person she is and we have refused to act as though she doesn’t exist when talking to friends and family. We stand by her, without apology.

During this time I read a post by John Pavlovitz, a fellow blogger, that helped me tremendously. Entitled, If I Have Gay Children, he states, “If I have gay children, you’ll all know it. My children won’t be our family’s best kept secret unless they choose that. I won’t talk around them in conversations with others. I won’t speak in code or vague language. I won’t try to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, and I won’t try to spare the feelings of those who may be older, or easily offended, or uncomfortable. Childhood is difficult enough, and most LGBT kids spend their entire existence being horribly, excruciatingly uncomfortable. I’m not going to put mine through any more unnecessary discomfort, just to make Thanksgiving dinner a little easier for a third cousin with misplaced anger issues. If my children come out, we’ll be out as a family.”

So, no, nothing to hide. I’ve got this one wired.

Nothing to prove is a little tougher for me. Although God has done a great work in my life over the last year and a half, and I have finally been able to accept that His grace in my life is all I need to be in right standing with Him, I realize there are things I still have an unhealthy need to prove to my fellow believers. The biggest one in the past year has been the need to convince fellow believers that my daughter, and others like her, are still accepted by God and welcomed into relationship with Him. I’ll admit that some of this comes from being the mom of an awesome person and wanting everyone else to agree with me that she’s awesome, that she is following God, and that He has great plans for her. (As I said, “I’m the mom!” What do you expect?)

As time goes by, though, I realize I don’t have the power to make people agree with me. God is showing me that that’s okay. There will always be people who disagree over scriptural interpretation. What He calls me to do is to love everyone, including both the marginalized and those doing the marginalizing. (Do you know how hard that is to even write? God’s still got work to do in me.) I don’t have to prove to others that someone they personally condemn can still have a relationship with God. I am, first and foremost, called to love the marginalized in such a way that none of them will ever take my reaction to them as God’s rejection of them.

Nothing to prove. I don’t have this one down, but God and I are working on it.

And now, nothing to lose. God certainly has a sense of humor, doesn’t He?

Although I’ve always known that the time of leadership at our church would end, there was no way to prepare for the sense of displacement. God has wiped out the comfort zone that let me take for granted my future, my place in the Body of Christ, and the people with whom I would journey. However, He has replaced all this with a trust in Him I haven’t had before. I know we have followed what He wills for us and I know He’s “got” us during this time in our lives. That’s not to say that there aren’t days where faith is harder than others.

One of the more difficult things for me to risk losing is the approval of others, but I’m getting there. God is giving me the assurance that His call on my life is far more important than my fellow Christians’ approval. His desire that everyone would know His love for them trumps my desire that fellow Christians will think I’ve got it all together spiritually. I am instead trying to live the blessing that states, “Send me anywhere you would have me go, only go there with me. Place upon me any burden you desire, only stand by me to sustain me. Break any tie that binds me, except the tie that binds me to you…”

And whatever I lose, it will be worth it.

 

Room at the table

My heart is full today and I am thankful for all God is doing in the life of my family. This past Tuesday my daughter finished her classes at Spring Arbor University and will participate in graduation ceremonies this May. She packed up her dorm room and came home Wednesday evening. On Thursday, she received two calls from one of the seminaries to which she applied for graduate studies for next year. The first caller told her that Candler School of Theology (Emory University) had received her writing sample and that it was “flawless.” The second caller informed her that she is one of their top candidates and is being offered a spot in the next graduate class, tuition paid. They let her know that an additional stipend may be available for her living expenses—she just needs to apply for it.

But wait, I’m not done…

Today, she interviewed for a job in Jackson that will help her build a small nest egg before she begins her graduate studies. She was hired on the spot and begins next week.

After the experiences of this past school year at SAU and having watched the incidences of non-support of the lgbt students, it means so much to me to find a school that not only believes it is possible for an lgbt student to have a relationship with Christ, but to believe it enough that they will invest in that student’s future.

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As I’ve been excited for this new happening in my daughter’s life, I’ve also been thinking about those who would say that a person who identifies as lgbt cannot be accepted by God or the church. My thought is this:

You may be able to keep an lgbt person out of the church, but you can’t keep them away from God if they desire to have a relationship with Him.

One of the scriptures that kept coming to my mind shortly after our daughter talked with us about her orientation was Romans 10:9-13. I’ve included it here with the part I’m referring to in bold. “…If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

I cannot tell you how hard I clung to that last phrase while trying to wrap my head and heart around our new reality. I believed (and still believe) what I read, but I struggled with the thought that many other Christians will never accept my child as a fellow believer. I still have a hard time with that, but I realize that what others think is not my problem to solve.

I also realize that while being lgbt is a deal-breaker and a ‘sin’ to some Christians, other sins are easily overlooked. The same people who would say that the Bible stands against same-sex orientation often ignore that it condemns gossip, slander, greed, pride and many other things. But, the people who practice these things are welcomed and accepted in the church (and they should be). We encourage them to grow and to learn how to walk with God, and the church body stands by them to encourage them.

Why, then, for the Christians who believe a same-sex orientation is sin, do we not stand by our church children who come out to us? Why would we not encourage them to stay as close to Jesus as they possibly can, instead of telling them they can’t have Jesus? Why can we not tell them that God loves them and wants to walk with them as they navigate this now-understood reality in their life? And above all, why can we not accept their spirituality and trust God and the lgbt person to weed out anything HE thinks is sinful in their life? We give grace to others we think are participating in sinful practices. We say, “Oh, they’ll mature spiritually.” Or, “God will show them what He wants.” But we still accept them as fellow followers after Jesus—just followers who don’t have it all together yet. As if any of us DO have it together!

Please don’t hear me saying that I believe having a same-sex orientation is sin. I don’t. I believe that what following Jesus looks like for an lgbt Christian is for that Christian to work out with God. They should strive to live as Christ wants them to live, the same as I should strive to live as God wants me to live.

And as we strive as brothers and sisters in Christ to live for Him, we are invited to eat at the same table. And the table is big enough for us all. We just have to be willing to sit next to each other.