Choosing Love – One Mom’s Story
Nick is my first born, and when I held him in my arms for the first time I discovered a love inside of me that was stronger, gentler and more fragile than I could have ever imagined. He has always been a good son. His love for life is contagious. His relationships with family and friends are his highest priority. He has a persevering spirit and a positive attitude. He is a lover of God and others. Over the years he has brought a ton of joy and energy into the life of our family. I not only love him dearly but I like the person he is. He is a bright light.
About 2 ½ years ago, at the beginning of his second year of college, my son, Nick, told me he was gay and that he didn‘t believe same sex relationships were sinful. I am embarrassed and ashamed to say that I reacted horribly. I attacked his character, threatened to sever my relationship with him, and told him I didn’t want anyone to know. I made him feel ashamed, unloved and rejected. I said things and acted in ways a loving mother never should and I will deeply regret it for the rest of my life. The only thing that I regret more is that I was not a safe person for Nick to come to when he was growing up and realized he was gay. It breaks my heart every time I think about Nick having to deal with that all alone when he was growing up.
You will probably be surprised to hear that today Nick and I have a wonderful relationship. How did it happen? Well, it is hard to tell that part of the story because it wasn’t linear. I was a mess for a long time. I cried myself to sleep many nights and some mornings I would begin to shed tears before I was fully awake. I was angry at Nick, at God and especially at myself. I felt alone, confused and afraid – and Nick was having a similar experience. We didn’t have a plan and I can’t remember the order of how everything happened but I will attempt to tell you some of the things I believe helped us move in the right direction.
One thing that helped the process along was that Nick continued to fight for the relationship. Even when he was angry and hurt he always said he wanted a relationship with me and our family. He wasn’t always kind and loving, he made mistakes just like we all did, but he never gave up. One day I was reading a comment on a blog that a homosexual had written to someone saying he didn’t want to be friends with people who thought it was sinful for him to have same sex relationships because he was tired of being treated like he was “less than other people” and “a second rate citizen”… and it struck me that if I was in his shoes I would probably feel the same way. I realized it took a lot of love and grace for Nick to want to keep having a relationship with me, knowing I disapproved of what he was doing and of what he believed. I wasn’t just disagreeing with him, I was judging him, and he knew I had declared him guilty – yet, he still wanted to be in relationship with me. That was a real turning point for me. Up until then I had thought if I was to continue having a relationship with Nick I would be the one showing him a lot of grace but that day I realized Nick was much more filled with grace and love than I was. Within a day or two I found an opportunity to let him know I recognized how much grace and love he was showing me and how much I appreciated it. I told him I was not only thankful, but I was, as his mom, proud of him.
Another thing that helped was that I kept hearing the same message over and over again: “love Nick and focus on having a good relationship with him“. Very early on I remember sitting in church on a Sunday morning and thinking about what it would mean for me to love Nick in the way Jesus loved me. I sensed that the answer I was getting from God about our situation was to simply “love Nick“. I even remember thinking that I was being given an opportunity to choose to put into practice the things God had been teaching me about love. In addition, the few people that my husband and I confided in echoed the same message. Our pastor and his wife, a small group of Christians that we had been meeting with on a regular basis, a few close friends all emphasized that our priority should be to demonstrate our unconditional love to Nick and work on having a good relationship with him. I want to be clear that I don’t believe we were just lucky or even that God was orchestrating everything. We were very intentional about seeking counsel and support from people that we believed demonstrated Christ-like love in their lives. I believe that we could have just as easily found people who would have focused on condemning Nick.
Something else that made a big difference was the fact that around the same time all of this happened I had begun to enter the emergent conversation. Not only did this give me a place where I could work through my doubts and anger towards God, but it also gave me an opportunity to hear other sincere followers of Jesus Christ giving voice to a variety of opinions on the issue of same sex relationships. I listened and read what they believed and how they believed one should respond. However, I think the conversation was most helpful in teaching me to embrace a chastened epistemology, and out of that some much needed humility was born in me. It was because of that humility that I was able to go to Nick and confess that I knew there was a possibility my beliefs were wrong. It was that humility that gave me the courage to ask his forgiveness for acting like I had a monopoly on “the truth” and for being so certain I was right and he was wrong. This attitude began to open up a safe space for Nick and I to genuinely connect again, to have real conversations instead of wrestling matches, to share our thought processes and feelings, and to really hear what the other person was saying. It seemed that when we stopped trying to convince one another we were right it became evident to us how much we loved one another…and in the end it was love that stopped all the negative and hurtful things from continuing.
I also spent a lot of time studying scripture. I studied the passages that spoke about homosexuality, the original language of the verses, the historical context, and paid attention to who was speaking to whom. I tried to approach the scriptures without any preconceived ideas, but I confess I did think I would find evidence to support my beliefs. Surprisingly, I didn’t. Today I don’t believe that there is enough evidence in scripture to condemn a loving, monogamous same sex relationship and without that evidence I believe it would be unjust for me to declare it to be wrong. However, I want you to know that Nick and I were able to have a healthy, loving, happy relationship before I came to that conclusion. I think that was possible because we both made our love, respect and consideration for each other the number one priority. I also want to make it clear that although I didn’t find scripture to be helpful in specifically addressing same sex relationships I found it to be most helpful in knowing the heart of God – and it was the heart of God that led me back into a loving relationship with my son.
I share my story for three reasons.
One reason is to warn that my initial reaction could have had a devastating result causing me to lose my son forever. Nick could have decided he didn’t want to have anything to do with me or, worse, he may have been driven to harm himself. Many young people have attempted to take their own life when rejected by a parent because of their sexual orientation – some have sadly succeeded. So, if you are a parent and reading this I urge you to put your relationship with your child and your love for your child above everything else. DO NOT RISK LOSING YOUR CHILD FOREVER.
I also share this story to give hope and encouragement to anyone who has been deeply hurt or rejected by someone. Please know that there is still hope. If I could change, anybody can. However, even if that person never changes, I believe with all of my heart that God will provide you with people who will love, accept and support you. Your life is a gift – treasure it, nurture it, live it.
And finally, I am sharing my story because I believe that this is about so much more than who is right and who is wrong. I believe that this issue places all of us at a crossroads – in one direction is a road paved with hate and it leads to death – in the other direction is a road paved with love and it leads to life. Whoever you are, whatever you believe, I hope and pray that my story encourages you to choose love.
My name is Liz and I am a follower of Jesus Christ who lives in Texas (Dallas/Fort Worth area).
I am married and have two sons. I enjoy reading, blogging, listening to music, going to movies, the emergent conversation and hanging out with friends and family. I recently started a blog called Grace Rules (http://gracerules.wordpress.com/ ). I named my blog Grace Rules because although I have a history of letting things like rules, regulations, law, convictions, and stuff like that rule my life, I am determined to become a woman who is ruled by grace and love.