January 20, 2014

One of my children is gay.

We parents love our children. No, we fall in love with them. From the moment they are born, we marvel at their tiny fingers and notice each new development as if it were a miracle. Sitting up, crawling, talking, walking, running, riding a bike, reading...all these things filled me with awe as I watched my children and helped them develop their talents.

One thing I didn't notice about one of my children was that she is gay. I didn't live in a world where gay people existed. I didn't know a single openly gay person, and I didn't think it was possible to be born gay.

But one day, when she was 18 years old and we were dropping her off at college, Missa asked to go on a walk and talk. She said she had been praying and trying not to be gay, but finally felt peace that it was OK. God still loved her and in fact, He had made her this way.

I hugged her and told her I didn't understand, but I wanted to learn, and I was happy that she still loved God and wanted to continue her relationship with Him.

I spent the next year in silence. I didn't tell a soul about this. Missa and I stayed close, texting almost everyday, and weekend visits were frequent, but we didn't talk about this part of her life. I was in shock. I was processing. I was hoping it would go away. She was very patient and kind to me.

After one year away, she moved back to our hometown and started going to college here. I continued to stay silent until I found a book that helped me tremendously. It's called Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs Christians Debate, by Justin Lee. His background and experiences were so similar to Missa's that I finally understood. My view on this topic has completely changed. I now see how a person can be gay and a Christian and that my views of the Bible passages were wrong.

Many people say it takes knowing a gay person to help us confront our long-held opinions. That's what happened to me. I never had to think about this issue because it wasn't part of my life. Little did I know I was raising a gentle, thoughtful, talented gay individual.

Missa has started a blog of her own, talking about her struggles to reconcile her faith and the reality of being gay, what she went through before she came out to us, and what she thinks now.  

I could kick myself for being so blind and so lazy, for not studying this issue for myself, and for using pat answers. She forgives me and we are still best friends.

For you parents NOT stuck in the mud on this issue, yay for you!! I don't talk about my faith much on this blog, but it's the main reason I didn't know what to do when Missa came out.  

I found these realizations to be the most helpful for me as I emerged from my year of silence:

1. People are born with a certain sexual orientation.
2. Homosexuality is not contagious or learned.
3. The Bible verses that seem to condemn homosexuality are not as clear as I had believed. Studying for myself using the tools on www.blueletterbible.org was very eye-opening.

If your kids are "testing the waters" by asking questions and they sense you are against homosexuality, they might retreat from you and have to handle this on their own. To be preemptive, read Torn, do your own Bible study, listen to your kids, and don't be afraid.

Another mom's story  
The Gay/Christian Network
Essay: A Mountain I'm Willing to Die On
Video: The Bible and Homosexuality by Matthew Vines 
Book: Bible, Gender, and Sexuality by James V. Brownson


Debby said...

I am on the same journey of loving my kind hearted, precious son. My Bible based fear caused him to live in silence in our home. We saw signs when he was 3 and he didn't tell us until he was 25. I love how God has assured me of HIS love for my son.
I do hope that parents will take your advice. Living in fear and causing our child to feel all alone is my biggest regret as a parent.
We are blessed to have our son, just as he is.

Laurie said...

Thanks for sharing your story, one that many of us are on. Like you, I discovered that much of what I had been "taught" in the evangelical community wasn't accurate when using the same interpretation tools that I was using for most other passages. :)

Marlene said...

I am also the mom of a gay daughter. I had begun to question the conservative position on homosexuality several years before my daughter came out at 17, but it was still a shock (we also didn't see it coming). The one thing that immediately came to mind was, "This is my precious daughter, and nothing changes that," and then "I really need to understand what the Bible says about this." Like you, I started on a long journey of studying, asking questions, reading and praying. And, like you, I know that this is how God made her and that He does not condemn her. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

Deb T said...

Thank you for sharing this! I have a 21 year old daughter who is gay also. The more we share our lives and the journey we have been on, hopefully it will open other people's eyes to the fact that you can love Jesus and be gay. You have a beautiful, loving daughter and so do I! God made her the way she is!

Meredith said...

What a beautiful, thoughtful post! Your story epitomizes grace. You've shared such an important message, and I thank you!

Lisa said...

Thank you for showing your love for your beautiful daughter. I agree that it often takes hearing stories and seeing faces for us to study this issue for ourselves. I recommend 'Torn' to everyone too. It's such a helpful resource. May God bless your family with many more years of love.

Anonymous said...

thank you for setting such a beautiful example for other families to follow. and thank you for posting about this topic. it is very admirable of your family to come forward and help others. all the best to you and your family.

Traci DeSheles said...

It has to be a difficult journey. I know that no one asks to be gay. I love that God loves us no matter what! We are all children of God!

Carol said...

I have loved reading your blog and connect with you on many levels. Today's post was precious! Thank you for being so vulnerable and for loving and accepting your daughter. You both are beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I am so proud of Melissa and so impressed (always impressed by you Jena) by your loving embrace and words to share.

Love to all of you.
Niece/Cousin Jessie

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your story. It is so important for LGBT kids to not only know their parents love them unconditionally, but God does as well. No strings attached.

Jena said...

Wow! I am overwhelmed by your comments. Thank you so much. It brings tears to my eyes. You have blessed me.

TanaRhea said...

What a wonderful and thoughtful blog! It is so beautiful when God can show us how to love each other, no matter what our differences. We are all precious in His sight!

Kathy Baldock said...

Jena -- please list my blog as a resource for parents as well. Although both of my children are heterosexual, I do share one thing with many of your readers-- i did homeschool them.
I too did not understand this issue until relationship forced me to MAKE SURE what i thought I believed was the truth.
The issue is fully settled for me. I see the misinformation that has plagued the church on this issue since the 1970s.
For those who do not understand how a child, a person can be both gay and Christian, slow down, forget what you know and start over again discovering God's truth with good Bible study methods. And go and meet gay people. Listen to the Spirit of God and try not to offend LGBT people in the process. Put those judgments on hold and you and God work it out.

Coleen said...

This is a beuatiful story. I see LOVE. I remind myself everyday....if people don't understand our gay children like we do, try to educate in a loving way. Which I can see you will do. We have healthy kids. They are not in the hospital with some unfortunate situation. Be grateful they are healthy...help them to be happy. As mothers we are that nuturing example. Thank God for your beautiful healthy daughter. The light in your faces shines through. May God richly bless you on your journey...

carol Baswell said...

Thank-you for having the courage to post this Jena. You and your daughter have such a beautiful relationship. We too raised our children in the church and were taught so many things about the LGBT community that simply are NOT true. When our son came out to us, we too did our homeowrk, and it paid off with a peace of mind that we would have never received in the church. The most amazing thing is that God has NEVER for one second left our side during this sometimes very difficult, tension filled, journey that we walk as gay affirming Christians. You and your precious daughter are just beautiful!!

Fanny Harville said...

Your daughter's patience with you as you worked through what you bought you knew is a beautiful testament to your mothering. I hope I have that kind of relationship with my child when he is grown.

Cathy said...

Thank you for sharing. We never stop learning and growing from our children, do we?

Casey said...

I came upon your blog through another post, and I enjoyed it. I checked to see if your blog was still active, and I was moved by this post. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. You and your daughter have a beautiful relationship, and I am fortunate to have been given this glimpse.

Olivia said...

You are a good Mama :)

Penny said...

The support you show your children and the way you approach life has always inspired me. Thank you for sharing your family's journey.

Anonymous said...

I am humbled and inspired by your beauty and bravery, and that of your incredible Melissa. Wow. If you haven't read Glennon Doyle Melton's essay "A Mountain I'm Willing to Die On", PLEASE read it! You can find it at momastery.com or can google it. I am currently in my fourth year of homeschooling my daughter, age 9 and son, age 7. A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon some of your supportive and insightful blog posts on simplehomeschool.net. Your wisdom has kept me steady on many a rocky day! Yesterday, upon seeking some much-needed homeschooling encouragement, I visited your blog, on a whim. I read this post and just sobbed over the beauty of the post. I was raised in the church but left in my late teens due to some hurtful experiences. I was also extremely disgusted by the homophobia that I experienced. How could a loving God and the church, claiming to love in God's honor, condemn my incredible gay friends and family members? Like Melissa, I figured I had to choose between my Christian faith and supporting my gay loved ones. I walked away from organized religion and have just recently, in the past few years years, found myself being drawn back to my deeply rooted faith. I'm currently reading "Torn" and have experienced a movement of sorts, among many of my Christian friends, which embraces our gay brothers and sisters. You are one incredible mother and your dedication to your family is and always has been evident. Thank you for loving your beautiful daughter unconditionally. Know that I am raising my children to know God and to know and celebrate their gay friends. You and Melissa are truly working for the glory of God, there is no doubt in my mind!

Jena said...

Thank you, everyone. Anonymous above, thank you so much for writing. I needed some encouragement today. :) I think the church is on the verge of alienating a whole generation of people on this issue. I just read the article you suggested, https://momastery.com/blog/2013/03/26/a-mountain-im-willing-to-die-on-4/ and all I can say is WOW! She says things better than I could. I'm going to add it to the links in my post. I am so sorry for your past church experience and I'm so glad you are seeing a "revival" among your friends. Thank you so much for commenting and everyone, please feel free to email me anytime at yarnsoftheheart@gmail.com if you'd like to talk more confidentially.

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