I have been the mom of an LGBT child for almost 22 years now. Granted, I only found out about the LGBT part 10 months ago. You have known that I’m the mom of an LGBT kid for approximately 5 months or less.
As our family continues on this journey, there are a few things I want you to know about us and other Christian parents of LGBT kids.
First of all, there are many more of us, even in church, than you are aware of. Many of us don’t ‘come out’ about our children for various reasons. Some are angry and embarrassed by their children; some just think it’s no one else’s business; some have children who aren’t ‘out,’ yet, and therefore will not share that information before they do come out. And some are just plain scared of how the church members will treat their child and their family.
But we all need the church body to come around us and let us know that we, and our child, are still loved.
If you’ve never experienced this in your family, let me tell you a few things about the process I’ve gone through. (I won’t speak for my husband on this so I’ll refer to myself from here on out. This is the journey to acceptance I’ve undertaken.)
First, you panic… Especially if you’ve been raised in an Evangelical or Fundamentalist church environment. Fear of God turning his back on your child is a very terrifying thing. Your child acknowledging something that you’ve been taught your entire life is sin and knowing that they can’t just pray it away fills you with fear.
Next, you cry. You cry because you now know that the life your child is going to have will probably look nothing like the life you imagined. And now you can only imagine the worst. You cry over the possibility of your child being alone, hated, abused and looked on with disgust by all the ‘bad’ people and ‘good’ people as well.
Then, you begin to pray and study. Where once you had the luxury of doing a cursory reading of your Bible and confidently stating, “My Bible says it’s sin!”, you now read and study all theology written on those few verses. You study what was happening in the day and time in which those verses were written; you study the definition of words and what those words meant to the original writer and hearers, and you contemplate the heart and ministry of Jesus and how He treated all people. And then you pray that God’s love really is as high and deep and broad and long as you’ve been taught it is.
Finally, you begin to come to acceptance. You realize that this child that you found out 10 months ago is LGBT is the same child you knew 12 months ago. You know she had a heart for God 12 months ago and didn’t throw it out the window 10 months ago. She is who she has always been. She still loves God. She is still committed to serving Him. And He is still committed to her. And she, like you, will need Him greatly to navigate this world for the rest of her life.
But the steps to wholeness for you as a parent are not over. Physically, the months of your journey to acceptance have taken their toll. You have a permanent knot in your stomach and a physical shaking in your body that are only alleviated by sleep, conversations with your spouse, or an occasional anti-anxiety med to help you calm down. And you realize, just like your child realizes, that this is something that you will live with the rest of your life.
Because you see, I now trust God’s heart and His ability to be with my child as she follows His leading in her life. What I’m left with is the fear of God’s people. While I will be forever grateful to those affirming church friends who have been my rock this past year, for the most part, where I once considered my fellow believers to be the safest people in the world unless they showed me otherwise, I now see them as unsafe until they show me otherwise. I’m afraid of what they’ll say to my child. I’m afraid of their rejection of her. I’m afraid that their reaction to her will be mistaken for God’s rejection of her.
The knot in my stomach comes back when a Christian professional tells me that “there’s treatment for lgbt people” (Which, by the way, there’s not. Could YOU be treated into having a same-sex orientation?) when I tell him why I have anxiety. Then when I tell him I’m afraid fellow Christians will make her think she can’t have a relationship with God, and he states, “I think it’s their own sin that keeps them from God, not other Christians,” the panic comes flooding back in.
When someone emails me because I’m married to the pastor and wants me to reassure her that my church will not become affirming, and I assure her that it won’t, because it’s a denominational church and can’t be officially affirming due to its affiliation (I didn’t tell her that there are affirming people who attend the church), and I hit SEND, I realize that I have just reassured her that the church I love will never let people like my daughter think that they can have God’s love and acceptance. I get up, knowing that I just set myself on fire to keep someone else warm.
For those of you who are hearing my heart and not getting angry or defensive and have kept reading, these are the things on this unchosen journey with my child that I need.
I need you to not act like my child doesn’t exist. She is still who you knew. She hasn’t changed.
I need you to speak to me. If you are uncomfortable with this new knowledge of our family and don’t know what to say, I’ll always welcome you telling me that you’re praying for our whole family as we navigate this new reality. You see, the problem is, your silence speaks even louder than your words. And I’m the one left to fill in the blanks. Because in this new silence toward us, I don’t know that you still love us (or my daughter) and those blanks get filled in in the worst way possible.
Next, please read. It’s worth it. Some day it may be your child or grandchild who tells you, “I love Jesus, but I’m gay.” At least if you’ve read, you’ll have perspective on both sides of the theological issue. Reading both sides may not change your beliefs on the subject, but your argument will be much more respected if you’ve thought through all sides of the issue. (I can give you the titles of books that have helped me.)
Finally, remember when you talk to me that I’m not dealing with a theological issue, I’m dealing with the young adult who stood in front of me and shared a terrifying truth. You can, and should, discuss the theological issue with others and you should study, but it probably won’t include me. You see, if I discuss this with you, 10 minutes after we’re done, you may be deciding where you want to go for dinner that night. On the other hand, 2 days later I’ll still be on the floor recovering from our time together. We would not be having an equal conversation-my stake in the conversation is not equal to your stake in the conversation.
I hope you have been able to hear the heart of a parent and not taken this as an indictment on the church. It’s not. I love the church and have given my teen years and adulthood to it. I’m not done giving. But this is a topic that will not go away just because we don’t know what to do with it. And I have peace that if I’m wrong on this issue God still has the power to convict and convince people of sin. When I stand before God some day, I’ll be able to say that I loved unconditionally. However, if I take the other route, saying that having a same-sex orientation disqualifies one from Heaven and I’m wrong, I will have helped keep a whole group of people whom God loves, away from Him.
I’ll risk grace…