One by one they started opening up to each other. Their stories had similarities. Yet each one was different. As the parents who had gathered in this living room began to share their feelings, I realized I could only imagine what this journey had been like for them. But when they started talking about their son or daughter who is gay, I understood. Listening to fathers’ hearts, expressing their love for their daughters and sons, and mothers sharing their desire to stay in relationship with their children no matter what, I remembered the power of my own parents’ neverending love.
The power of God’s unconditional love being experienced through parents’ love.
That’s made all the difference in my life.
Last week I met with people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for the launching of a support group for parents of gay daughters and sons. These are Christian families. Most have grown up in churches that could be described as conservative in their theology to varying degrees. For the vast majority of these moms and dads, it has been a difficult journey, a painful path of realizing that the children they’ve raised are different from them in their sexual orientation. Part of the pain comes from the fact that the difference in sexual orientation conflicts with their Christian faith.
But much of the pain for these parents comes from the isolation they feel in not having any safe place to share their feelings.
“It was two years after learning that our son was gay before we felt comfortable in telling the people who were closest to us – our small group at church,” one mother said.
After listening to parents’ stories, one of the first things I ask them is, “Do you have anyone at church – any friends whom you’re close to – that you feel like you could talk to about this?”
Most often the answer is “no, we haven’t shared this with anyone.”
Unfortunately, the stigma that remains in Christian communities for anyone who experiences same-sex attraction – and for their families –is so great, we dare not share this part of ourselves with anyone in church. As a result, we have families sitting all around us who are carrying what they feel as a tremendous burden – especially upon first learning their child is gay – without any support from their brothers and sisters in Christ. The very place we’re commanded to “bear one another’s burdens.”
So until we get past the shame of talking about same-sex attraction in our churches, we must create venues in which parents can share their feelings and connect with others who can relate to their experience. That’s why groups like this are so important.
Maybe we don’t need to have all the answers to provide a safe place for parents to open up. Maybe we just throw some cookies and lemonade together and invite people over to share their stories. Maybe they’ll hear a story that resonates with theirs and encourages them. Maybe they’ll exchange phone numbers.
Maybe they’ll feel a little lighter when they leave.
A little less alone.