I’m having a hard time balancing the need to tell the hard stories – stories of pain still being experienced by my LGBTQ brothers and sisters who are turned away by their families – with the overwhelming number of stories I am hearing from parents who couldn’t imagine abandoning their child. For any reason.
Maybe you’re thinking that the difference is driven by the parents’ beliefs about the morality of their child’s sexuality.
Not at all.
Most of the time, parents who tell me they could never sever ties with their LGBTQ son or daughter have very similar beliefs regarding homosexuality as parents who walk away.
The only stories we hear, though, are the horrific stories of moms and dads cutting off contact with their children.
There’s a need to tell those stories, so that we know it’s still happening.
Still, after all this time, Christian families who believe that the right response to a child who is questioning or who declares himself to be gay is to sever relationship – physically, financially, emotionally.
We must share those stories so we can realize the need to teach a better way, a more Christ-like way to respond, even when there is disagreement between parent and child. I know far too many of those stories and at times I’m absolutely horrified at what still happens within families of LGBTQ children. I’m tempted to write those stories. But I think sometimes it just stirs up more anger. And while anger is at times a necessary motivator, it often leads us in the wrong direction, and we end up simply lashing back at the very people who also need our love – parents who are acting out of hurt and confusion themselves.
I love the parents I get to interact with. They remind me of my own.
So I’d much rather tell you about them. The countless parents I know who are committed to loving their children, regardless of whether they ever agree on what they believe Scripture calls us to in the expression of our sexuality.
Parents who would sooner lose their own lives than to walk away from their child.
Parents who truly believe they are called to love unconditionally.
Parents who remember that their son or daughter is more than his or her sexuality and don’t let this override every conversation, every interaction.
Parents who will love who their child loves, because God does.
Parents who are willing to read and talk and learn all they can about what it means to be gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, to better understand their child’s sexuality.
Parents who aren’t afraid to have conversations with their child about sexuality.
Parents who are willing to sit down calmly, and sincerely ask a son or daughter, “what’s this been like for you?”
Parents who listen to understand, rather than to interject their own thoughts and feelings that can often sound like judgment.
Parents who love their children need a safe place with peers, within their extended family, and within a church family where they can freely express their own feelings. They need church leaders and friends who listen and love them – and their children – unconditionally.
Church, that’s where we come in.
The reason we don’t hear about these parents – the ones who are trying desperately to love their children unconditionally and not walk away – is that they’re scared to death to tell us.
Just like their children, parents are terrified to “come out of the closet,” too. If they do, how will we respond to them? Will we interact with them the same?
And more importantly, parents fear how we will interact with their children.
So, more often than not, parents don’t say a word.
Oh, they’re quietly loving their gay son or their lesbian daughter or their transgender teenager. They’re hurting and confused because this is new and unexpected and we’ve had nothing from a Christian perspective to prepare them to respond, but they’re not about to turn their backs on their child. They just can’t tell us that.
Yet these are the stories we need to hear. So we’re going to have to be intentional about creating safe space for parents to share their feelings without fear of being turned away, or worse, ostracizing their children.
You may be thinking you don’t have any of those stories in the pews of your church.
But you do.