Toil on, son, and do not lose heart or hope. Let nothing you dismay. You are not utterly forsaken. I, too, am here–here in the darkness waiting, here attentive, here approving of your labor and your dream. – Thomas Wolfe’s You Can’t Go Home Again
My child’s coming out in the summer of 2008 forced me to take another look at my previously held belief system. I don’t mean “take a look” as in “revisit some things.” I mean actually rolling up my sleeves, grabbing a shovel, and digging down deep. I worked up a mean sweat for nearly three years. A mom will do that for her kid, and I have to tell you, it took a hell of a lot of courage for both of us to do this work, given the faith community we were a part of at the time.
A researcher by nature, I sought out alternative translations of Scripture and studied any verses hinting at homosexuality in their original languages. I pored over scholarly articles, psychology journals, and medical books. I listened to and learned from LGBTQ people, starting with my own kid. I got connected to other Christian moms of LGBT children. And I prayed – oh, how I prayed. This was a true labor of love. It was also a deconstruction of my faith, an often fear-filled, messy, and lonely business that gave me a deep appreciation for what my kid and others like them experience on a daily basis.
My fearful reliance on certainty was blown to smithereens, so I’ve learned to peacefully co-exist with doubt. The God I thought I knew – the disapproving, occasionally angry, and ever-disappointed One I was introduced to in childhood – continues to fall by the wayside. In that god’s place is Someone who embraces and sustains us all, who finds delight in us, and who continues beckoning us to step outside our tight theological boxes for open pasture. The fear-fueled beliefs of yesterday that built and carried me are now what I offer again and again as a sacrifice to this embracing, sustaining God. I was overdue for a dismantling. I now know from experience that spiritual maturity, among other things, is birthed out of a good shell-shocking, and I don’t want to waste mine; in fact, I want to continue welcoming it.
Having a child in the LGBTQ community is a gift of the highest order. This gift is God’s invitation to stand on the outside and in the margins with others that He loves but who may not yet know that love. This gift is God’s invitation to view Him and others with a different hermeneutic – one that takes to task a small, narrow, restrictive, and exclusive belief system and offers us a more expansive and inclusive one. It’s also God’s invitation to see Him in my child and others like them. This is the heart of God’s heart. Thomas Wolfe’s words about death and resurrection, about losing something for gaining another thing, about leaving something in order to find something else, are really Jesus’ words. They are now a part of my own experience, which is the only way any of this could ever make sense to me at all.