My child is gay

In a circle with our knees touching

The windows open on a world of Irish green, but it is the Free State after abundant rain. We are sitting in a small group during a workshop for young upcoming Christian writers. With our knees so close together that they touch, we discuss themes that broach the real need and questions of the children of God in the twenty-first century. And there are so many questions, so many needs! Taking medical progress into account, may we not now choose our own date of death? How do I forgive the person who killed my child, or my life partner? How do we keep on believing in a modern world? What does one do about loneliness? The themes multiply.

The question about the concluding paragraph

These young people are open-minded, they are thinking people, young Christians full of the Holy Spirit. We connect like snap-in tiles. I ask a question for which I have wanted an answer for a very long time. As I ask it, I send up an inside prayer: ‘Talk to us, Lord!’

‘What would you put in your concluding paragraph if you had to write a thousand words only to parents of a young Christian who has just told them that she or he was gay?’

‘Or perhaps the young person has not come out yet, but the parents have become aware of a huge struggle in their child’s inner life.’

Why this question?

The young Christians don’t ask why this question is thrown at them. They know.

Many of their gay friends do not want anything to do with traditional Christian faith. They don’t want to come to church anymore. They have been hurt by the way in which Christians judge them because of their sexual orientation, and their parents’ lack of understanding has wounded them. After all, no one finds it easy to work through the confusion, to live through the initial secrecy, the emotional and spiritual struggle accompanying the doubt and coming to terms with one’s sexual orientation.

There are so many more young Christians who have sleepless nights about this than parents worrying about negative bank balances, retrenchments at work, gran who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, or the possibility that they themselves may suffer from cancer. A man eventually starts to open up about prostate cancer. A negative bank balance can be discussed with your wife. But what if you had to tell your mother and father, who think that you are heterosexual like them, that you know or suspect that you are gay?

Why this question? Because a child who goes to her or his parents to speak about her or his sexuality is fragile, vulnerable, scared and worn out from sleepless nights. Because parents’ reaction can make or break the child. Because the parents’ reaction should reflect the love, grace and wisdom of Christ. Because a child in this deep moment of naked honesty and fear must not find anything in her or his parents other than Christ’s attitude.

What answer does Jesus give?

Jesus Christ reaches out to people: the women whose bleeding made her unclean according to the law, the short tax collector Zacchaeus known as a cheat, mothers who don’t stop pleading and asking, fidgety toddlers, crowds of people with hunger eating at them, a man cutting himself with stones where he lives alone among the graves, ordinary people with questions and doubt. To each of them he offers a life in the kingdom of God, on earth and later in heaven. He embraces each of them and invites them to enter into a relationship with him. None of them could enter the kingdom of heaven in any other way than through his substitute death on the cross that paid for their corruption and sin. His promise and his assurance are true for each of them:

I tell you the solemn truth, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.’ John 6:47-48

The tax collector’s generous contributions to the temple’s treasure after his conversion would not buy him eternal life.

Neither would the mothers’ heterosexual lifestyle assure them eternal life.

If one of those children had a gay sibling who, a little apart from the others, was also listening to Jesus and who acknowledged him as the Messiah of this world and, yes, acknowledged him personally as Saviour, being gay would not be a wall cutting off life in Christ. Jesus would put his arms unconditionally around the gay child. This child would also be saved through the blood of the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.

Asi, one of the lovely young people attending the workshop gave her answer from her heart and in her strong faith: ‘If I had been that parent, I would have said to my child: “My child, I know that you are on a journey with the Lord. This is a very difficult part of your life’s journey. I love you so-o-o much. You must always remember that I love you immensely. And you must remember this: We, as parents, are praying for you on this part of your journey.”’

The young people explained: ‘If you struggle with something in your life and you take someone into your confidence you may:

  • be attacked verbally;
  • have to hear how deeply disappointed in you this person is;
  • have to hear how shocked this person is;
  • be confronted with all kinds of prejudices or an approach of either-right-or-wrong;
  • be put before the choice of either getting your life straight and getting over your depression, your sexual orientation, your drinking problem, your academic failure or spiritual relapse, or face the rejection of the person you have taken into your confidence.

You will flee the person you thought you could trust. You will look for people who will not reject you.’

There is a better way

On the first stretch of our child’s long journey, we can open our hearts and our arms.
We can hold our child tightly and say:

‘My child, I know that you are on a journey with the Lord. This is a very difficult part of your life’s journey. I love you so-o-o much. You must always remember that I love you immensely. And you must remember this: We, as parents, are praying for you on this part of your journey. Remember: the Lord is with us and he loves you even more than we love you.’

This answer is sincere, without prejudices and there is no pretence of knowing all the answers. This answer is wise, because it creates a safe, loving space. It brings healing for your child, for yourself and for your relationship with each other.

Isn’t it better to react with wisdom rather than to hurt and drive away?

‘Who is a wise person? Who knows the solution to a problem? A person’s wisdom brightens his appearance, and softens his harsh countenance.’ Ecclesiastes 8:1

‘The words of the wise are heard in quiet, more than the shouting of a ruler is heard among fools.’ Ecclesiastes 9:17

‘With God are wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his. He reveals the deep things of darkness, and brings deep shadows into the light.’ Job 12:13,22

‘But if anyone is deficient in wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him.’ James 1:5.

‘But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and not hypocritical. And the fruit that consists of righteousness is planted in peace among those who make peace.’ James 3:17-18.

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