"You are what? You're going to move in with whom? You want me to be what?" That moment it all came rushing out of my beautiful daughter's mouth. A lesbian? This is who she's always been; she just wants me to be happy that she's being honest. Is she for real?
Give me a minute, give me a minute. Another one of those halting moments in my life, time to examine my heart, my faith, my depth of love, my understanding of grace, all in a 40 second time span. "I love you" It really was all I could say.
It was a life altering time, but one I wouldn't trade for anything. It did force me to look deep inside of myself (for more than 40 seconds) and find the ability to love more deeply than I ever had before.
You know this really shouldn't have been such a shock. I grew up with my mom, dad, five siblings and what I would call a stable suburban family; for most of my life anyway. I was sixteen when we were all told that mom and dad were going to get a divorce and mom was going to move in with her "friend" Jan. Mom told each of us that she was a lesbian and had always known and that she was finally happy. Being 16 and developing some interesting views of the world and ready to be grown up and opinionated, I was going to embrace this no matter what anyone said. I was going to support my Mom no matter what. And so I did, I probably wore through the top of more than one soapbox.
Then a new path presented itself in my life. A newly separated single mom with two very small children, living on my own and then someone knocked on the door and opened my life to the Bible, God and a church family who embodied all that I believed that spirituality could be. With this new understanding of God and his will for my life, there certainly was some reevaluating of my belief system, as faulty as it was. The first thing to do was to look at how I viewed sin and grace and specifically my mother's lifestyle. I knew God wanted me to love her, but how could I with her living in such a blatantly sinful way.
First, I needed to look into myself; was my sin any worse or better than my mom's? Was it really my job to judge her, to change her? I worked hard on just loving her and leaving all the implications of her lifestyle separate and apart from how I interacted with her. I felt free to love her and serve her without the burden of judgment.
We moved forward, God guiding me through the years of childrearing. I had dreams for a husband, for the perfect family life that I trusted God wanted for me. I prayed for a father figure for my children, someone who could love them and be my partner in teaching my children the fundamentals of a life as a disciple of Christ. I prayed every day for my children to become disciples, to marry godly and loving spouses, all those hopes and dreams we have for our children. "God, give them discernment, open their hearts to you, give them great faith and a desire to serve you" (I'm sure God still has those prayers on file). So back to the conversation in the first paragraph, what happened and why was this so hard to wrap my mind around? Didn't God listen to my prayers, didn't he see my heart? Was this a test? And another journey began.
With my family history I really thought I had this one down pat; I had an edge, an understanding of the lifestyle, having seen my mother go through a few relationships. I'd thought this through and come to some deep convictions, but it becomes a whole different place to go when it's your child. She explained that she had fought so hard to be something that she thought I wanted her to be. She had tried so hard to be what God wanted her to be. She couldn't deny what she really was any more. You know, I taught my children when they were young that homosexuality was a sin and God wouldn't create a person to have sin, so therefore it was a choice, plain and simple. That is not what I saw in the face of my daughter or heard in the outpouring of her heart. How could a sin be so different, wasn't sin just sin, no levels or variations? How could I say to my daughter, "Just repent" when that would have attacked what she believed defined who she was? I had always believed that as a parent it was my job to build bridges of love and trust with my children. There were so many things that developed barriers, puberty being at the top of that list; I worked hard to keep the lines of communication open.
Here I was back to looking deep inside of myself for answers. I knew that God loved unconditionally, I based my faith on that. How could I do anything but imitate that love? But, what was the difference between love and support? Should I go to the PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) meetings? Should I march in the Pride parade with her? Should I wear the button she gave me, "I'm proud of my lesbian daughter" (new jewelry trend for Sunday morning worship)? I would politely decline stating that I loved her, but wasn't comfortable with that. Do I make a big point, pull out the Bible, preach on the consequences of sin? I had deep convictions that that method would prove fruitless, but I often walked away feeling like I'd somehow let God down, that I'd missed the opportunity to share my faith or put things straight (no pun intended).
My heart would break, but I knew I could never stop loving her.
There were lots of questions and tears, but mostly the opportunity to look at the heart of God. To dig deeply into what grace is, not only for me, but for my children as well and his grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). I have found comfort in knowing that God's thoughts are higher than my thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9) and that it isn't my role on this earth to be her judge. I have tried to keep the bridges we've built clear of debris and that has required lots of prayer and lots of love. I know that God is in control and that he gives us situations in our lives to refine our faith so that it is of greater worth than gold. I love my daughter deeply and will do whatever I can to support her and walk beside her wherever the path may lead.
Kathy MacBrien is the Director of Family Ministry with SIW. She brings rich experience to this unique area of ministry; she was raised by a lesbian mother, and also has a daughter who currently lives a lesbian lifestyle. This has led Kathy Kathy on a very profound journey of learning how to emulate God's heart of grace and compassion. As well, she has been a vibrant and active member of a strong Christian community for almost 30 years in Toronto, Ontario, Canada as a member of the Toronto Church of Christ.. She is amply qualified to offer practical, and Christ centred support and advice, to Christians who have a family member who is homosexual. Kathy has a background in pediatric nursing, and as a result, has worked with children with a variety of special needs for almost two decades. She is currently employed by the Toronto District School Board working with children who have autism. She is married and has raised two amazing children and is now a grandmother.
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