I am a mother of a son who is gay. I would like to tell you my story. I was brought up in a Christian home and have attended the same Evangelical Covenant Church all of my life. My grandfather was a founder of our local church in the late 1800’s. I met my husband there. We have three grown children: two daughters and a son. Our involvement at church has always been an important part of our lives and it still is. We both sing in the choir and have served in many different capacities. It was 19 years ago when our son, Jim, moved into his own home that he had just built. I began to notice that he seemed lonely, sad and distant. Of course, I was praying that he would meet a nice Christian girl. He had many girlfriends but, one by one, they were getting married.
As a mother, you know your child. I knew that Jim was deeply unhappy. I mentioned to my daughters that I was concerned. For the first time, I began to question Jim’s sexual orientation. One night, I was so concerned for Jim that I could not sleep. I went into the den and knelt down and cried out to God. First of all, I prayed for Jim, asking God to surround him with His love. Then I prayed that God would restore Jim’s sense of peace and joy. Finally, I prayed for myself. If Jim was gay, how could we accept this? I was taught when I was growing up that the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin. How would our church handle this? What would our friends and family think and say?
It was 4:00 in the morning and I could not sleep, so I put on the television. As I was flipping through the stations, by “chance” I heard a woman’s voice saying, “If you have a son or daughter and they tell you that they are gay, love and pray for them.” I could not believe it! Here, at 4 a.m., God had intervened. There was a woman speaking right to my pain and deepest fears. I felt that the message was intended to reach me exactly at that moment. I learned later that the woman was Barbara Johnson, a well known Christian author and speaker, who also had a son who was gay. I was in such an emotional state that I did not hear everything she had to say but I did remember the most important thing: Love and pray for your children.
Somehow, I knew that Jim was gay. I decided to contact Barbara Johnson because I needed to talk to someone who could understand. I called a phone number in California and she answered! She advised me to share this with someone else that I could trust, but I explained that I could not do that because Jim had not confirmed to us that he was gay. She had a ministry to parents of gay and lesbian children and sent me materials each month including stories like mine. Someone else was feeling the same way I was feeling! It was so all-consuming that knowing others were experiencing the same things was a great comfort.
A few weeks later, Jim came for dinner. That evening, he told us he was gay. We shed many tears. We told him we loved him unconditionally and knew that he was a Christian. I remember feeling badly that Jim had kept the truth to himself and had to be alone in his struggle. Jim seemed so relieved! We all knew that life would change and there would be difficulties but that together we could get through them. When our friends at church began to hear that Jim was gay, at first they seemed supportive. Soon after, though, it became clear that some members could not accept that he was gay. He was asked to step down as children’s church leader and to give up all of his leadership roles teaching and serving at church. I should mention that he is a teacher by profession in the public school system, where he is well-liked and accepted by the community and his peers. It was devastating to Jim and all of our family to know that some members of our church family could not accept him and he was made to feel unwelcome in the church he had been a part of all of his life. I lost some of my closest friends in the church and it was terribly painful.
It has been many years now and some friendships have healed and we feel totally accepted. I know this experience has humbled me and has increased my faith. God has been with me every step of the way. Jim has a partner, Kevin, who is a wonderful caring man. They are both very happy and no longer lonely. Our family is closer than ever, although my husband and I are the only members who remained at our church. My daughters and their families felt that they could not stay because of the way Jim was treated. It breaks my heart that we can no longer worship as a family and that three generations of our family have left the Covenant. Our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are greatly missed and we have been impacted by this loss. My husband and I remained at our church, determined to hold our ground and stay because of our faith and love for the Covenant. Time does heal and I am glad that we did not leave our church. The positive side is that relationships have been healed. Every day is new and I know we all will continue to change. My hope is that the Covenant will become more inclusive and people will learn to be more compassionate and less judgmental.
In my own journey, I have learned so much about homosexuality and Christianity. I am convinced that being gay is not a choice and that sexual orientation is determined at birth. I think it is most important that we love and care for each other the way God loves and cares for us. I know God simply loves us as we are and his will is for us to do the same.