With my family’s permission, I would like to share our story. It is one that changed my and our family’s life. A couple of years ago our younger son came to my husband, John and I, and told us he was gay. We have always intentionally sought to love and support our sons, and we told him we did still, but we still didn’t want what he told us to be true. We wondered if he really knew yet. Maybe he will change his mind in a few years, and realize he really wasn’t gay, that it was just part of his developmental confusion. I spoke with a therapist who told me, she’d known a few teens that discovered later they really weren’t gay. So I told my son, you know, why don’t you pray and live with it for awhile, and see if you still feel that it rings true. I genuinely meant that, but we were also afraid. We didn’t want this to be his reality. We didn’t want it to be ours either. We had had different dreams. It had felt like the rug had been pulled out from under us. I think as human beings we don’t deal with things unless we have to. Unless an issue affects us, we’d just as soon ignore it, especially if it is controversial. Though a few friends had told me before they were gay, I didn’t really deal with it on a deeper level, until my son told us.
I didn’t want to deal with this. What I heard growing up in the church was that it was a sin. Since those few friends told me they were gay, and they are people I love and respect, and whose faith journey and faith in God I trust, I have been confused. What do I do with this? And though I listened and supported my friends on one level, I am sure I failed them on another because I didn’t understand on the level they needed me to. I wasn’t sure how to understand it, beyond friendship.
I knew with our son telling us I had to deal with this now on a deeper level, though I didn’t want to. What do I do with this? What do I do with what I had previously understood? I talked with people I loved and respected and I prayed much. I began to read, but I was also afraid. I am a Covenant minister. I knew the stand the denomination, in which I grew up, took on this issue, and which I have supported. What will they say to me, if they hear I have a son who is gay? This is the church I love. This is the denomination that has been a part of my life in deeply significant ways. This is the church I serve. I am not pleased to say that I was filled with fear. However, this was also my son who I love dearly. This was personal, and not just another theological issue to discuss and debate.
I wanted my son to feel free to talk about it, but where it was safe. I wasn’t sure church would be a safe place for him to talk about it or for me. I was also still trying to work it out within myself. (We were at different churches). So I asked him if he could talk with his friends but just not talk about it at church. It is deeply humbling to admit that now, for I realized how wrong it was. At the time, I didn’t understand. I was in denial and struggling to understand, but I hurt my son. I then told him to tell those who would be supportive him. I have to say he has amazing friends, and I am so grateful to them for their wonderful support of him, for I know it is not everyone’s story. I must also say, that we have amazing friends who have also been a wonderful source of support, as parents need it too.
Well, I continued to pray, seeking God from the depths of my being. As I prayed, trying to figure things out, I felt the Lord tell me, to just love and accept my son. That was the turning point for me, when I was able to let go and just focus on that. My son mattered more.
He went to a Christian conference. He was listening to the speaker challenge teens to take off their masks. He was texting me from where he sat. He told me he couldn’t live behind masks anymore. He needed to be free to be who he was. I told him, yes, (finally) he did. He needed to be free. He worried about me, and I told him not to. It didn’t matter. What mattered most was him, and he took his mask off.
When he came home, I asked him if I had made him carry my stuff. He was quiet with tears in his eyes, and my heart broke. I told him I was more sorry than I could ever say, and my son forgave me. I also told him, if he would rather, I would leave the pastorate, because he mattered more.
This is our story. It is not a pretty one. It is filled with pain, but also with grace, God’s grace and my son’s grace. I so wish I had done it better, but I was changed by it and I learned through it. John and I have two wonderful, amazing sons. One is straight and one is gay. We could not love them more or be more proud of who they are. The way will certainly not be easy, but my son’s words ring in my heart. “Mom, if God made me this way, why wouldn’t it be okay?”
Since then, others have shared their story with me of being gay or lesbian, and this time I have listened more deeply. I have compassion now for those in this place, because I have learned of the inner trauma and the depths of pain they go through. I understand it is not something they choose, why would they? It is too hard. I have heard people say that they asked God to remove this from them, and it didn’t happen. I have heard the news stories about kids who commit suicide because there was no one to love and support them, or because they were bullied. I have also learned that most of the teens living in the street here have been kicked out of the house, because their parents found out they were gay. All of these things break my heart.
A friend of mine who is a lesbian told me that parents have their own coming out process. I guess this is part of mine. I am still reading and learning, and have much more to understand. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. There are those who are much farther down this path than I am. And I wonder, is it possible for those in the Covenant church to gather around the table together to study, to pray, and to listen deeply to each other and to God without reacting? Can we commit to approach scripture without bias or presumptions and truly study what it says together slowly?
The Marin Foundation is seeking to do that, to bring people together to listen and learn together. Maybe we can learn from what they are doing.
There is also a book by Jack Rogers worth reading, Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality. I like it because he is a Biblical scholar who comes from an evangelical background. In the Covenant we are evangelical, who care about where it is written. Maybe we can look at these things together.