Reflections on a Support Group for the Parents of Children Who Experience Same S3x Attraction or Gender Dysphoria.
Gap Fillers – Jesus heart for people in same s3x attraction lifestyles.
It was the first time I had sat with a group of parents whose children were experiencing same s3x attraction and gender dysphoria issues. Their young adult children had come out as gay, bi, or trans. Some were going through gender transition. One is a drag queen. I listened to their grief and pain and saw all their tears. It was hard to hear. Vulnerable and raw, mums told the exact words that hurt worst of all, and dads told where they were when they heard. The process of their kids ‘coming out’ was full of shame, deceit, fear and a sense of betrayal in both parents and the young people involved.
Four common themes emerged:
- Almost all of them talked about balance – they wanted to say two things clearly to their kids; firstly that they loved loved, loved them and always would, and secondly that they believed their lifestyle was destructive and wrong. They wanted both and getting it right was very hard; they were always correcting that balance.
- Most of the churches they belonged to had let them down. Pastoral attitudes included avoidance and awkwardness, reducing it all down to a ‘hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner’ meme that was offensively simple, or an acceptance that never spoke about sin. One couple had left their church.
- They wanted to have their kids home again – to eat meals with them and relax in their company; to interact without this giant issue dominating the relationship.
- Their best hope – their prayers for their kids were all the same; that of their own free will, their beloved children would choose to turn. They would return to family and to faith. Distilled from their stories were these four ideas: balance, comfort, church-pain, and the hope of a turn.
I reflected on that gap fillers group meeting for days. Their faces and words haunt me. This is the summary of my thoughts. What would Jesus do? Read the gospels. Imagine the scenes at the home of Simon, at the tax collector’s booth, in that dusty street confronted by that mob who shoved that half naked woman forward. Jesus refused to be pushed by religious leaders into an act of condemnation. He called them on hypocrisy in their values. He said, “I’m coming to your place to eat.” He knew. When Simon said if only he knew what sort of woman she is he would never let her touch him. He already knew. He knew better than Simon. He was piercingly kind. He suffered to be kind.
Some themes emerge.
- Balance. In public, Jesus defended the woman caught in adultery from the stones of religious leaders, in private, He said go and sin no more. He held love and correction in balance.
- Comfort. He was relaxed and comfortable with them. He ate meals in their homes, he chatted and drank and hung out in ways they loved. He was not awkward or judgemental and was censured for exactly that attitude.
- Church-pain. His sharpest rebukes were for the religious leaders and their hypocrisy. He was disappointed that the church of God failed to represent God rightly in this area. And
- He invited people who struggled with sin to turn. He respected their autonomy and right to choose.
I have lived and worked in a wide range of Christian communities. Parts of that I have loved and people from them I have loved very much. Many Christian communities have subtly given themselves permission to snub and despise certain types of people around them. That is not what Jesus did. I have never seen a Christian community with an attitude as near to Jesus’ as the attitude of those parents. Is it because they are their own true children? Is it because lifelong parental love is as close as we can get to like God’s care? Perhaps. I want to learn to love all people – including people struggling with challenging issues – the way Jesus did. Is it as simple and as hard as this: love people as if they are my own kids?
Another generation is coming behind this one. They are watching us. People will leave churches in droves unless we get this right. Hurting parents and families will leave. Young people looking for answers and experimenting with sexually fluid identities will leave. I want to be part of a Christian community that chooses a Jesus-like love for challenging people. I believe we will suffer to love like that. I believe we will become more like those parents weeping and praying for the turning of their beloved kids.