Heartache, Hope, and the Gospel

The following (paragraphs in italics) is taken from the journal of a parent. This is shared as a tool to help our understanding of what a child or a parent may be going through when a family member comes out as LGBTQ+. We recognize that each person and each family may have their own version of this. This is one story. One example. However, all such journeys carry strong emotions. All situations require open hearts and open ears, as you can see, on both sides.
I am writing this account for two reasons. First, so I don’t forget. I don’t want to forget how it feels to be so low, so in need of relief that I am certain it is only the Lord who can provide it.

Second, as an invitation. Please pray. Please pray often. If you keep a written list of people to pray for, please put my spouse, my children, and myself on it.

We are in the process of being refined by the Lord. Aren’t we all? Life is hard, and the challenges we face draw us nearer to God. But this situation has put me flat on my face before him.

Grief is often described as “deep sorrow,” “sadness,” or “heaviness of heart.” For me, in this situation, I would define my grief as “deep sorrow over shattered or unmet expectations.”  It’s private and personal, yet at the same time, it needs to be known so it’s not in the dark. This grief needs light.

Years ago, we began a long journey with our son. In early high school he shared with us his struggle with same-sex attraction. We handled this news as we knew how—with the tools and people we had, with the support of our family and pastors, with God’s provision and timing. It was terribly difficult and messy. We wrestled with what we believe God’s Word says to us, what our son believes and how he will live his life, what this means for our future and our son’s future, the milestones we planned for but may not experience in the way we expected. We grieved many things—many of which our son may never fully understand. And we know our son wrestled with emotions we will never fully understand.

However, with time, we have been given the gift of reconciliation. It is a gift from God that our relationship with our son is now stronger than ever. He has said that he deeply wishes it weren’t so, but the fact remains that he is gay. We are able to continue to have honest, difficult conversations with him. And most importantly, in light of the gospel, we continue to remind him not only of who he is, but whose he is. That time years ago was the hardest season we had known, until now.

On an ordinary Monday evening, another child took a deep breath and blurted out to us that she was gay. That she had known this for many years. That she was too afraid to say anything after seeing how it took its toll on our family once already.

We did not see that one coming. She had just confided in her brother weeks before, needing to tell someone, but not wanting to disappoint us, her parents.

The relief this dear daughter felt was visible, palpable, as finally she voiced a burden that she had been carrying alone for so long.

Here is a very familiar feeling. A gut punch so hard that I cannot breathe. An immediate knowing of the dismantling of assumptions and expectations that is to come. A depth of love and a depth of panic that I don’t know what to do or say next. And a depth of responsibility to be oh-so-careful about what to say or do next.

Grief, comparison, and pride are thieves. Guilt rides shotgun next to them—guilt for not knowing my child was in silent pain, guilt for focusing on my own feelings before recognizing how hard this has been for her.

The following days are a blur. It’s the end of summer, and we have a precious five days together. I’m supposed to have joy as I soak up every moment they are home. I’m supposed to pray over them, cheer them on, and be here when they need me. But, I can’t.

I’m in my body, but not really present. I want to hide. I cannot focus. I cannot sleep well. I don’t want to cook or laugh or socialize. I can’t look at shiny family photos on social media feeds. I can hardly hold a normal conversation. Emotions and tears are constantly just under the surface.

So in the following days, we did the best we could. We had honest, hard conversations. We cried. We talked about the love of God. We talked about wavering faith. We talked about our own sins and Jesus and the cross. We affirmed our unconditional love, reminding each one that they are made in God’s image, and that their identity is in Christ above all else. And as parents, we once again bore a weight in our hearts that was all too familiar.

We tried to do some “normal” things, too. We laughed when we could. We played our favorite family game. We had family meals. Then we did laundry. We packed plastic bins, and we packed cars. We slipped cash into the hands of each kid like we always do before they leave. Then finally, we waved goodbye to three sets of taillights, to three different kids, at three different times, with silent tears and hearts burning high in our throats. Is it possible to be constantly praying under one’s breath for five days through tears and laughter? Is it possible to hold such pain and sadness in tension with loving someone so very much? Yes, it is. But it’s exhausting.

I do not want this right now. I can’t avoid it, and I don’t want it. My heart hurts.

But what I want, I cannot have.

Nor is it likely what I need.

What I need is only what God can give. His comfort, his presence, his Word, his timing, and his shoulders that can bear this—his heart that already knows every emotion that I feel. His hands that made me are now holding me.

And isn’t that exactly what my son and my daughter need—to be known and loved?

Isn’t that what we all need?

It’s a level field at the foot of the cross. And as I lay here, looking up at the cross from the puddle of uncertainty and grief, I know that I’m probably right where God wants me: remembering that I am his child, made for his glory. Just like my children. His plans are better and higher than ours. He says that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Thank God for Romans 8.

So that is why I’m writing this.

One, because I don’t want to forget how this feels. I know that what I am experiencing will be used for God’s glory, even though right now I cannot see how. I know that even though I feel very alone, the Lord is closer than ever.

And two, I ask you please… pray. Pray for my family as we journey through this season. Pray for other families that may be going through their own journey. Pray for those who are feeling alone and scared, and uncertain about their identity. Pray that they will find their identity in Christ, at the cross, where he wants to meet them and love them.

Perhaps even dare to pray “Lord, adjust my posture to love others as you have loved me.”

And so, we continue on this journey. To quote Eugene Peterson, it’s a “long obedience in the same direction.” Our focus has shifted away from guilt and regret (which is just where the enemy wants us) to a heightened awareness of our own need for Jesus. And isn’t that where God wants all of us? So, of course, we keep loving our kids and their friends. We keep walking toward the messiness of relationships and sitting with the marginalized. It’s complicated. It’s hard. But it’s also sacred. And it’s the family the Lord has given us to shepherd, to love. And we do.
The author of this article is anonymous for the sake of the privacy of the individual and this family.
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