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.