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 made him feel ashamed, unloved, and rejected.
I said things a loving mother never should, and I will deeply regret it for the rest of my life.
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 can’t remember the order of all that happened but I will attempt to tell you some of the things that 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 our family and me. He wasn’t always kind and loving—he made mistakes just like we all did, but he never gave up.
My turning point came to me one day as I was reading a blog comment written by a gay man 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”—it struck me then that if I were 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 was judging him.
Within a day or two, I found an opportunity to let Nick 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.
At least one person has to be trying to maintain a relationship.
Another thing that helped in my journey was hearing the same message over and over again: “Love Nick, and focus on having a good relationship with him.” I recall the feeling of knowing I had been given an opportunity to choose to put the things God had been teaching me about love into practice. The few people my husband and I confided in at the time echoed the same message.
I want to be clear: I don’t believe we were lucky, or even that God was orchestrating everything. I believe we could have as easily found people who would have focused on condemning Nick, yet we were very intentional about seeking counsel and support from people we believed demonstrated Christ-like love in their lives.
And from this, I learned to love unconditionally and to be careful to whom you go for counsel.
Lastly, the last thing that guided my journey was being a part of an open-minded Christian conversation group. Not only did this group give me a place where I could work through my doubts and anger towards God, it also gave me an opportunity to hear other sincere followers of Jesus Christ giving voice to a variety of opinions about same-sex relationships. The conversation was particularly helpful in teaching me to be more humble about what I believed.
This gained humility led me to go to Nick and ask for his forgiveness for acting like I had a monopoly on “the truth”—for being so convicted that I was right and he was wrong. This attitude began to open up a safe space for Nick and me 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.
Be humble about your knowledge, listen to all sides with an open mind, and put yourself in the other person’s place.
I share my story for three reasons. I want to address the warning of how my initial reaction could have had a much more devastating result—one that could have caused me to lose my son forever. Many young people have attempted to take their own life when rejected by a parent because of their sexual orientation, and sadly, some have succeeded.
If you are a parent 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 my story to give hope and encouragement to anyone who has been deeply hurt or rejected because of their sexual identity. Please know that there is still hope. If I could change, I believe anyone can. Yet 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, and live it!
Affirming our LGBTQ children is about so much more than who is right and who is wrong.
I believe this issue places all of us at a crossroads—in one direction is a road paved with hate, leading to the destruction of relationships and life; and in the other direction lies a road paved with love, leading to healthy relationships and life.
Whoever you are, whatever you believe, I hope and pray that my story encourages you to CHOOSE LOVE.
Liz recently started a private Facebook support group for moms of LGBTQ children. If you are the mom of an LGBTQ child, and want to join the support group please contact her via email—enter “Mom’s Facebook Group” in the subject line.
Photo via flickr user Jason Hill