girl at stream wide shot

6/ A Living Sacrifice

I recently learned something gross about cats. Cats are not my favorite animals (blame my allergies), so maybe I am biased for not finding this adorable, but I’ve heard at least three friends discuss this phenomenon lately: as a gift, sometimes cats will bring a dead thing to a spot where their owners will find it with great delight…or, y’know, horror: A dead bird in the middle of the bed. A wing in a purse. A mouse on the rug. The theory is that the felines are grateful to their owners for giving them food, so they reciprocate by bringing an offering to their owners to demonstrate their thanks and affection.

Um…

As much as I am repulsed by the thought of finding a dead bird in the middle of my bed, the idea of sacrifice-as-offering is one that I am familiar with.

Romans 12:1 reads: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

I was raised on this verse – and still love it today. Out of thankfulness to the Giver of life, we want to show our gratitude. The way many of us who grew up in the evangelical church learned to express our true and proper worship as kids/teenagers was by what we didn’t do: drink, smoke, say bad words, hang out with non-Christians, or have premarital you-know-what. Sure, we sometimes had to fight feelings of smugness (“don’t be proud”) because so many other people seemed to not do as good a job at being a living sacrifice; but yielding to fleshly desires was the least we could do for Him. In fact, the more difficult the sacrifice, then the greater your faith, love for God, and jewels in your crown in Heaven. Case in point: missionaries. No kid wanted to actually be one (it sounded terrible) but we could agree that they were living the ultimate life of sacrifice, and they were definitely going to be entering the pearly gates through the VIP entrance.

In high school, I felt particular conviction about something that many of us were taught was wrong, “according to Scripture:” interracial relationships. By the early 90s, interracial couples were noticeably being written into storylines on TV and in the movies; many in the church argued that it was being pushed down our throats. This left me with an uneasy feeling when I was at a friend’s house in high school, and the group popped in a VHS of The Bodyguard, starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. My conscience groaned that this wasn’t right, and I shouldn’t partake, so I sat in this person’s kitchen for an hour and a half while the rest of the group watched the movie. I didn’t make a big deal out of it or tell them they shouldn’t watch it; but it felt wrong for me to watch it, and sacrifice was my true and proper worship. As awkward as it was to wait it out in the kitchen, there was some internal sense of reward for ‘being good’ and doing what was I thought was right.

Of course, what I later came to understand was that the Bible does NOT condemn interracial relationships, and the roots of this bad teaching are grossly grounded in racism. (“Do not be unequally yoked…” was one of the verses used to condemn interracial relationships. Catch that word? Unequal??) Completely deplorable; I denounce this idea today. I am embarrassed that I ever subscribed to this view, and that I took a stand and sat in my friend’s kitchen like a weirdo over something I was wrong about, an idea which was fueled by a very un-Christlike belief system that has hurt many people and continues to hurt people today. I thought I was sacrificing for Jesus, but I learned that my conscience is not the same thing as the Holy Spirit; Jesus would not have encouraged me to see mixed-race relationships as any less “good” than all-white ones. My conscience can convict me and I can still be wrong.

This is the trajectory of life and faith, though, right? … We learn and grow and mature and inevitably look back on our former selves with a face palm: what were we thinking?? God’s Word doesn’t change, but we do. And our understanding does. And when we know better, we do better.

When our 8th grade daughter came out as gay last February, we were attending a large non-denominational church where I’d served since I was a teenager, where I’d met and married my husband, where we dedicated and were raising our 3 daughters…a church we loved which, in line with its former Baptist roots, subscribed to a traditional teaching on homosexuality as sin. Since I was raised with the same understanding, this was never a point of contention until we suddenly had a gay child and knew in our hearts that this characteristic was not a product of her sin, and did not feel that she needed to somehow change her orientation, or confess, or be punished. We were told she was still welcome. But as her mom, I wanted to know, is that the same as being wanted and accepted, just as she was? Was she safe?

I remember church youth group. I know how the teaching is, and all the what-not-to-dos. I remember the regular emphasis on purity and waiting for the right opposite-sex spouse to one day know, in the biblical sense. I could envision my daughter sitting there week after week, listening to everybody else freely share their experiences and hopes and dreams and deciding whether to keep hers to herself, or to share and possibly receive judgment. Kids can be cruel, and so can adults. It was suggested, as an incoming freshman, that she go to summer camp with the high schoolers. And all I could think about was, what if another student texts her mom from camp and says that there is a lesbian! in her cabin, and the mom freaks out and calls the youth leaders, and they react by pulling my daughter aside and gathering up her sleeping bag and pillow because she was going to be sleeping in another room with the adults for the rest of the week. What kind of traumatic thing would it take for my daughter to never want to have anything to do with God again? And how could we expect an organization to prioritize and protect her emotional well-being when the very thing that puts her at risk is seen as wicked? To what extent might my daughter be sacrificed as part of someone else’s true and proper worship?

A few posts ago, I shared the imagery that I held in my mind the first night that my daughter came out: like Abraham standing over Isaac with a sword in his hand, ready to sacrifice his son, a sacrifice he believed God wanted. In a similar sense, I felt that if I had responded to my daughter negatively, in a way that might’ve been consistent with the traditional pov that I’d held and therefore, what God wanted?, that it would have crushed her spirit, broken our relationship and severed her young spiritual roots.

Abraham and Isaac

And if you’re looking for a fun activity sheet for your Sunday Schoolers:

Abraham and Isaac Coloring Page

But is human sacrifice really what God wanted from Abraham? This is a horrifying idea, but ultimately, no. He stopped the sword before it plunged into his son. Was He really testing Abraham to make sure He was his #1, and that Abe would do anything to prove his loyalty, even at the expense of his own child? Or was Abraham participating in a ritual which would have seemed normal in his culture – so God could teach him that this was in fact not something He desired? Reinforcing this idea, there are multiple verses in the Bible that insist God desires MERCY, not sacrifice.

Is this Abraham-and-Isaac imagery so awful because we believe that a father murdering his son would have delighted the God we serve, or because a father was so willing to do it as his true and proper worship whether it was really what God wanted from him or not? Was this OT illustration a way of revealing a wonderful truth to mankind in a most memorable way: that God was not in the human sacrifice business, but rather in the mercy business?

Let’s take another look back at Romans 12:1: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

There it is, “God’s mercy.” We understand His mercy to be a life-giving gift of compassion and kindness, even when it was not deserved. So maybe the author of this verse was saying something like:

Y’all, please get this: Because of God’s compassion and kindness towards you when you did not deserve it, go and do the same thing for others – turn your body into a walking-and-talking mercy machine, and show compassion and kindness to everybody, even those whom you think don’t deserve it. This is how you can say ‘thank you’ to God.

Now let’s just quickly cross reference this mercy idea with the New Testament…

This is how Jesus loved the sinner:

crucifixion free image

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Many in the LGBTQ community have been mischaracterized, demonized, and rejected by the church, in the name of Jesus, as if this is how He has asked us to show our loyalty and gratitude to Him. But please do not for a second think that it brings Jesus delight when we drag any wounded or lifeless soul to the middle of the room for him to find, as our offering. If we think this is what Jesus wants, we are mistaken.


 

We’re all trying to learn and grow. Our family is still working through many things and trying to figure things out. What I hope you will join me for in the New Year is:

  • Recognizing that our consciences are not the same thing as the Holy Spirit; we can feel convicted about something and still be wrong
    • I realize I am still susceptible to this even now and am holding things loosely
  • Learning better and doing better; being known for what we ‘do’ more than what we ‘don’t do’
  • Being real-life mercy machines, showing compassion and kindness to our neighbors and especially our enemies
  • Never wounding, or making a sacrifice out of, another person and never falling for the lie that this is what brings our Lord delight

 

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5/ First Responders

Let me jump ahead for a minute.

Imagine you are attending a beautiful worship service, your heart still aloft in that other-worldly space where you’ve just communed with God, and as heads are bowed for prayer, the pastor gets up and asks the congregation to raise a hand if they have ever seriously contemplated ending their lives…and your stomach drops as you hear the sound of hands going up everywhere. Confirming what he has just seen and what you have just imagined to be true, the pastor begins to weep and administer words of life to this vulnerable group:

Your life has value. You are wanted. You belong.

This is an affirmation that hundreds of people traveled across the country to be reminded of at The Reformation Project conference I attended in Chicago recently. These are words that many of them still have a hard time believing because they have been told otherwise by their families and churches for so many years. And yet, as LGBTQ people of faith, they have come together out of their shared love for Jesus and His church, and hold deeply to a vision of unity and inclusion, a day when nobody needs to be un-told that they’re not enough, that they are somehow unqualified to receive Christ’s love.

When is the last time your worship service concluded with a post-suicidal show of hands? It was a first for me. And it sobered me to a reality I had been seeing unfold all year: how the church engages with LGBTQ people is a matter of life and death.


Okay, where were we… back to last March…

I was finally starting to understand both sides of the “gay vs Christian debate” after reading the book Torn, by Justin Lee. This was the first book that anyone recommended to me after my 13-yr-old daughter came out as gay and I was searching for resources, and I am so glad it was. As a self-proclaimed “God boy,” Justin shares his experience growing up in the church, realizing his gay orientation, praying for years for God to take this from him, asking for help from trusted advisors, seeking permanent orientation change through conversion therapy and searching for God’s will through it all. After years of prayerful study, he explains what he sees as two reasonable positions, either of which he believes a faithful Christian might earnestly arrive at through their study of Scripture: Side A, which emphasizes Biblical cultural context and says that monogamous, equal-status, same-sex relationships can be blessed by God, and Side B, which says a person may not have chosen their orientation but should not engage in a same-sex relationship. Both sides acknowledge that the orientation is innate and largely unchangeable, but differ in interpretation on what a person ought to do with this orientation.

Side B lines up with a traditional Biblical teaching (at least, on the “not engaging” part, though not really on the “orientation” part since that is a relatively new concept), which I had been taught my entire life. There are several thought-provoking points made in defense of a Side A position, which were new to us but certainly worth the long and careful studying we pursued through this and other resources.

For purposes of this story, here is a high level, unscientific, nutshell version:

There was a lot of NC-17 stuff going on in Bible times, which often involved man-and-boy stuff, man-and-slave stuff and temple prostitution, none of which the Side A crowd is promoting. The people of ancient Rome and Greece were, shall we say, phallically obsessed. You’ll have to google “ancient phallic art” for yourself to see images (Note: Not Safe for Work or Young Eyes) and read about the unbridled eroticism that permeated culture during those days. (If you think 2017 is hypersexualized, you should see the 1st Century AD. I don’t know of any friends who prepare their sons’ anuses to receive the ‘seed’ from powerful men today.)

Meanwhile, the word homosexual was not coined until very recently – the late 1800s, and was not added to the English Bible until 1946.

So – part of the argument rests on these questions: What was the Bible referring to when it condemned “homosexuality?” Were the original authors referring to lustful, abusive and unhinged same-sex behavior that occurred among otherwise-heterosexual men, which was common in their day, or were they condemning all monogamous same-sex relationships between loving, committed adults of equal status?

If equal-status same-sex relationships have been happening primarily in the closet until the past few decades, it is reasonable to imagine that these relationships would not have been widely known and recognized in ancient times, and therefore Side A suggests that this is not the situation that Paul was condemning.

Side A leans into the core Biblical themes of love and acceptance and sees same-sex orientation as part of God’s diverse creation. Similar, they say, to how the abolition of slavery was based on core Biblical themes of love and freedom, rather than on a static reading of Scripture, which some supporters used to endorse slavery.

But we were still students here, taking this in. How did this line up with Scripture?

Here’s what Paul says in Romans 1:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Romans 1:18-27

Paul’s description of idol worship and shameful lusts certainly jived with what I had read about the culture of this time. One of Paul’s contemporaries was a tyrannical emperor in Rome named Gaius Caesar (aka Caligula), well-known for his wild sexcapades with both women and men, murderous cruelty and extravagant self-worship. He had plans to erect a statue of himself within the Temple walls in Jerusalem, which would have been a gross violation of idol worship laws, before he was brought to death by a small group of royal conspirators. According to some reports, he was pierced directly in his genitals during his assassination.

Could Paul have had him in mind when he said they received in themselves the due penalty for their error?

It seems like a legit possibility, but I don’t know, I wasn’t there. I wish I could ask him. Although, I could understand this line of contextual Side A reasoning. Imagine if someone thousands of years from now were to read a writing from our generation that said, “DRUGS ARE BAD.” It would take some cultural context to understand that this brief statement was referring to a societal problem which involved illegal drug abuse, violence and families ruined by addiction and overdose. We were not referring to Tums and Tylenol. If this is what was going on in the Bible when it came to our reading of “homosexuality,” then it seemed that a relatively simple adjustment in our understanding could help us correct course.

Until Jen Hatmaker’s interview in October 2016, I had never once heard a Christian perspective that “gay was okay.” I didn’t know that books had been written and Christian scholars had been talking about this for some time. I didn’t know that faithful believers were coming to the same conclusion and with a clean conscience. I really didn’t know how much gay people in our faith communities were struggling…though it seemed like I was hearing stories of pain and heartache on the regular. In early March, Jen shared the link to a 44-episode blog/podcast called Blue Babies Pink by Brett Trapp, which chronicles a gay Christian man’s experience growing up as a pastor’s son in the deep south. (I highly recommend!) Before reading the blog, I assumed the title was in reference to gender norms, “blue” vs “pink.” But what he was really describing was the idea of an infant in distress, blue from oxygen deprivation, becoming pink as it finally takes in breath. Moving from death toward life. This was how he described his experience as he moved from shame toward acceptance of his own sexuality. It was very eye-opening to me, and is worth a read.


Meanwhile, I had just been introduced to the Mama Bears, a moniker held by thousands of mothers of LGBTQ children, many from faith backgrounds like mine, existing as a benevolent army in private Facebook groups. Like me, they’d found themselves in an unexpected situation as parents, and wanted to love their child and love God, too. The price of admission into the groups was acknowledgement that our children did not choose to be gay and that we were not trying not to change their orientation, and with that came a backstage pass to endless content – shared articles, videos, books, talks, blogs, guest speakers, personal stories – and even better, tons of support and encouragement.

In these groups, I read a million stories about other people’s experiences and was instantly comforted by the bond we shared. “Me too” is a powerful thing. It can turn strangers into sisters in a matter of keystrokes. Many had older children and had been on this journey a while, so while I was enjoying the “omg – me too!” camaraderie I felt with other newbies, I paid special attention to the “seasoned” moms. Some of them had earned wisdom through horrifyingly tragic circumstances — things that would break your heart right this minute — and I took their advice seriously when they emphasized the importance of providing a safe environment for our children and surrounding them with love and supportive people and churches. This, they implored, was the meaning of it all. If nothing else, this was a mother’s sole responsibility to her child. For some of them, it was too late, so they sought to redeem their heartache by helping to prevent other families’ suffering.

Check out Linda Mueller Robertson’s story to see what I mean.

As it turned out, perhaps because many of our lives revolve around our faith communities, a lot of the suffering their children and families had endured was related to their church experiences. This is something I heard from so many LGBTQ Christians I’ve met, as well. We might think the line in church is drawn at gay marriage, but for many, even just coming out looked like: being removed from a staff or leadership position, being asked to step down from the worship team, no longer being allowed to work with the children in Sunday School, being uninvited from their small groups, being refused communion, denied baptism, rejected from membership, etc.

Rejection from people you love and have served with is so painful, especially when it’s disguised as embrace. “You’re welcome, but…” “We love you, but…” Hey church, could we stop being but-heads for five minutes? This is not how we talk to anybody else, and for the person on the receiving end, it feels like anything “but” love.

For others who were not publicly out, they were still acutely aware of every damning abomination message, every snarky joke, every sneer as leaders spoke with contempt about the gay agenda and the church’s duty to fight against it, and as you can imagine, all of it cut deeply.

Theological position is one thing, but posture is another; and when our “hate the sin” barrel overflows, we spill poison all over our brothers and sisters. Someone at the Chicago conference said it well: “Our greatest need is not for the church to embrace our sexuality, but to embrace our humanity.” They are not an issue, they are human beings. Can we see LGBTQ people as “us” instead of “them?” Because whatever is going on is causing deep harm to so many.

It is worth mentioning that the instances of suicide, self-harm, substance abuse, depression, bullying, physical abuse, homelessness, etc., are extremely high among the LGBTQ community, especially youths – especially in “highly rejecting families,” which could very well have been mine if not for the grace of God.  LGB* youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth. And beyond this, LGB youth from highly rejecting families are then 8.4 times MORE LIKELY to attempt suicide than their LGB peers who come from accepting families. Try to visualize that. Let that sink in. I heard one of the Mama Bears say, “No matter what your theological position is, no parent wants to open the bedroom door and find their child hanging.” If this was the alternative, who among us wouldn’t wish we had made the effort to engage? Every parent, teacher and youth leader needs to lean in here and understand that kids in their care may be at risk right this moment.

*Note: Transgender children are in a much higher category of self-harm and suicide than LGB youths. And by the way, this community deserves so much attention and TLC. < More to come on this.

Mind you, when I say kids, I mean kids. Children. Not long ago, I wrongly assumed that same-sex attraction was something only adults and maybe older teenagers could really be susceptible to, but if we believe many gay adults today, they often say they knew when they were in elementary, sometimes sooner. This was certainly the case for my daughter, who is still young even now and says she knew this from her earliest memories.

I count myself very lucky that my daughter is healthy today and I am not sitting by her bed in the ER wanting to turn back time, begging God for a second chance at all of this, as many parents are. But still, I sometimes wish I could go back to my MOPS days, when she was in preschool and I was starting to notice things…and say what these seasoned mothers with valuable perspective would tell me – that it’s okay: she wants to wear ‘boy shoes?’ Okay! She says dresses hurt her? Believe her! She thinks that friend is really pretty? Be thankful that she has two healthy eyes that can appreciate beauty! A life without beauty, without love, would be a tragedy.


I got to thinking about love and how it is expressed, even at a young age.

“I made you a card”

“I’ll carry that for you”

“You can have my seat”

“I don’t mind waiting”

“I thought of you when I saw this lovely thing”

“You can have the last cookie”

What is the motivation that drives us to put others before ourselves? Love? Attraction? Think about your early crushes. Was there anything you wouldn’t do for the object of your affection? Whatever the drive was internally, it promoted us to be the best versions of ourselves: more patient, more kind, more longsuffering, more thoughtful, more creative, braver, happier, lighter…and perhaps even the thought of “dying for” that person would not have given us a moment of hesitation. That is goodness, and undeniably self-sacrificial.

Now imagine hating yourself every time you caught yourself feeling those warm thoughts, giving that goodness away to the wrong people, people who looked like you. Living in fear of love. Imagine the constant turmoil for a person who cannot turn off their attraction orientation but believe they might be sinning against God every time they are tempted to love someone. Julie Rodgers, a former “ex-gay” speaker, and the first openly gay staff member at Wheaton College, spoke about this in a keynote speech at The Reformation Project in 2016. I watched it on YouTube and it is so good. Describing a gay Christian’s struggle against their own loving nature, she said: the very best part about us is how we give our love away, and we are told this is our sin.

How does someone even reconcile this? We are taught as children, we are commanded as Christians, and we are drawn every day of our lives, to LOVE. We all agree that LOVE is the answer, LOVE is the greatest commandment, God is LOVE. And yet, “LOVE” is what gets LGB Christians into trouble, and leads many down a dark path of self-loathing and destruction as they fight this inclination toward goodness. I can barely comprehend this.

Recognizing that this was the struggle for many gay Christians, a fire began to grow in our bellies. My husband and I felt we had been so focused on the “right or wrong” question of same-sex relationships (ultimately a decision that was for our daughter to make anyway, not us), we failed to notice a much more urgent issue, one that we could actually, hopefully, do something about. The more we were confronted with this impossible idea of love as sin, and the more we became aware of acute human suffering happening right under our noses within our faith communities, the more we began to look at this entire situation in a new way.

Imagine you are driving down the freeway and you come upon a disastrous, flaming, multi-car wreck. This crash has just taken place…paramedics have not yet arrived on the scene. You quickly jump out of your car to find bodies strewn about. It’s obvious that many have not survived the impact. This is a horrifying scene, but you hear cries and know that some people are still alive and are desperate for help. Without hesitation, you follow the sound of the cries and pray for supernatural strength as you pull bodies out of the wreckage to safety and attend to immediate wounds. You are steadfast in holding them in your arms until help arrives, and they have hope because you have found them when they were trapped, alone and frightened; you tell them that they’re going to be okay and you believe it because you know the God who holds them in His loving hands.

This is where my husband and I have found ourselves after months of searching for support and accidentally getting to know LGBTQ Christians who are suffering. As first responders on the scene within the church, we have been given new eyes for this community, eyes that see so much pain, vulnerability, longing, sadness, loneliness, rejection, and risk. This is not the time to talk about the dangers of texting and driving or fighting for stricter seat belt laws. This is the time to roll up our sleeves, look for survivors, and tend to their wounds. You might even find a face you recognize among the wreckage.

As we approach the holidays, I want to encourage anyone reading this to look for the pain around you and do whatever you can to soothe it. You might have LGBTQ relatives that you’ll be seeing; please acknowledge them, please look them in the eye, please hug them, please ask them about their lives, please don’t treat them as other, please lean in, please be happy if they are happy, please love the people they love. If you have never asked them what their journey has been like, perhaps this is the year you can ask.

And if you are the person tentatively walking into the holiday scene this year, anxious about how your family will receive you, please remember:

Your life has value. You are wanted. You belong.

Let’s keep the people we love out of the wreckage, and give the pastor no reason to ask for a show of hands. As for my family and I, we will keep on looking for survivors. ❤

4/ First Church of Barrio

At home, it was business as usual – well mostly, plus the minor detail that I was struggling to hold back tears pretty much every time I spoke to my daughter and was making a point to constantly reassure her that I loved her so dearly and we would figure this out. She politely let me know that, while she was enormously relieved to know her place in the family was still secure, my response was becoming stressful to her – after all, the revelation that she was gay was news to us but it wasn’t news to her (and certainly not news to God) and could we please stop bringing it up, and for goodness’ sake, please stop crying.

(Pro tip: 13-yr-olds don’t like to see their parents cry, especially if they think it’s about them.)

I am a watery-eyed person by nature so keeping my face dry under this emotional duress was a big ask, but I tried to honor this request and reserved most of my tears for the car.

The tears were never because of her, though. I wasn’t disappointed in her or angry that she had revealed this difficult secret; it was the tension I felt between a long-held belief and what the implications for enforcing it might really look like, as well as general fear about what other people would think. As much as a parent can really know their child, I had nothing but admiration for my daughter’s moral character and kind, gentle spirit.

When she was a kid, I can recall going to her bedroom late at night to turn off the light, and find her wide awake, reading the Bible—and now that I was there, could we stay up extra late and talk about what she’d just read?

I can recall watching a video that a mom from school had taken during a class picnic, and off in the background, the footage revealed a child being teased (possibly in jest, but still) and my daughter physically wedged herself in the middle of the situation to create a human barrier between the pack of teasers and the kid being targeted, calling for peace and not allowing anyone to be hurt on her watch.

I can picture her holding the door open for streams of strangers at church, stores, restaurants, everywhere. “Honey, it’s okay, you can go in now…” But she would wait and wait until she was sure nobody else in the vicinity of the parking lot was headed toward the door before she would relieve herself from her station.

In 6th grade, she noticed that classmates were frequently crying in the bathrooms at school due to a myriad of issues and stresses, so she sought approval from her principal to display encouraging messages on the girls’ bathroom walls as a way to lift their spirits and remind them that they are worthy.

While she has never enjoyed great popularity or academic success, she has a heart of gold and cares well for others. She has never given us any problems, unless you count crying nonstop and not sleeping for her first three months of life, and I learned to forgive her for that a long time ago.

This is why things really didn’t add up for me when she came out. I remembered Romans 1, which is one of the handful of passages in the Bible where same-sex relations are spoken of. Paul says this about the people who had been turned over to shameful lusts (including “homosexuality”) after worshipping created things rather than the Creator, exchanging the truth for a lie:

“Just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” Romans 1:28-32

This didn’t sound like my daughter…and I couldn’t imagine God sorting her into the murderer pile for this benign characteristic, which seemed sort of like being left-handed. But maybe people were not supposed to use their left hands for some reason, whether we understood why or not; this was really the question. She was secure in her salvation, so I did not fear for her eternity on this matter. More than anything, I was concerned about the potential that she would end up rejecting her faith, or feel that God had rejected her. In my opinion, that was the worst thing that could happen.

************************************************************************************

My husband and I couldn’t think about anything else, it seemed, for the first few months. It was the first thing on our minds in the morning and the last thing on our minds at night. We still had our usual responsibilities with our three kids, work, etc and seemed to autopilot our way through most of it, but were consumed with researching and trying to understand as much as we could on this issue. It was difficult to have the kind of conversations we needed to have amidst all the bustle at home, though, so we started meeting for lunch and using date nights out to pray together and pour through articles we’d read, videos we’d watched, conversations we’d had, thoughts we were wrestling with, and shed those tears that weren’t supposed to be shed at home.

We had become regulars at our favorite local eatery, Barrio, and the table top had become our spiritual office. The servers knew our orders by heart but surely had no idea what we were up to during all these visits, and probably thought we were crazy (“why are they always sitting so closely and speaking so intensely?” “why do they have 15 sticky notes spread around their chips and salsa?” “is that lady crying?”) but it became sacred ground for us. Our safe place to wrestle and seek God’s will together. The First Church of Barrio, as we have affectionately renamed it.

Certainly, the Bible was paramount in our research, and we had our faces in it day and night, digging into the six primary verses that seemed to be responsible for our current understanding, as well as the gospels and other books from the Old and New Testaments. We zoomed in and out, not really sure what we were looking for but taking it all in, feeling somewhat unqualified, except for the Spirit that promised to give wisdom when we asked for it. But the more we searched the Scriptures for answers, the more questions we had.

What exactly was meant by homosexual offender?

At what point does an orientation of attraction become sinful?

Where were the Scriptures that said it was “acting on it,” and what qualifies as acting on it?

In addition, what exactly qualifies as greed, arrogance, envy, slander, gossip, etc and how come we don’t obsess over these things that we are ALL prone to, not just a minority of people?

How come we weren’t giving each other the truth in love about our weight problems or pride issues?

Why did Paul say to the unmarried people and widows in Corinth that he wished they would all remain celibate like him, but that, “if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than burn with passion?” (1 Cor 7:9)

Why don’t straight Christians abide by this principle? Or do they…? At the next wedding I attend, you know I will be picturing the bride and groom with a caption that says:

“It was this, or burn with passion.”

We derive from the garden story that same-sex relationships weren’t part of God’s original design, and that seems to be the answer given to a lot of secondary questions as well. But do you know what else wasn’t in God’s original design?

Children!

(And, arguably, Eve.)

Many, many questions were asked at the First Church of Barrio, and God heard them all.

One of the responses people often bounced back with when we started asking the wrong questions was, “the Bible is pretty clear,” as though a static reading of the text was fully conclusive and there was nothing more to understand. But is that really how we approach the Bible? This statement seems dismissive of the fact that we are reading a text without the authors present, and cannot help but interpret it through our own biases and experiential lenses. To understand the authors’ intent, versus our limited cultural knowledge and biased interpretations, has been the goal of scholars for generations. If it was very clear, why did we need historians, researchers, teachers, pastors, etc to contextualize and synthesize information for us?

I love the Bible and love learning more about it; the more that old stories are unpacked and deeper meaning is revealed through great teaching, the more I am blown away by what a beautiful treasure it is, and the more real it becomes. For example, as a Christian high school student and youth group regular, I heard many exhortations about being “on fire for Jesus” because God hated “lukewarm.” According to our teachers (and Revelation 3:15-16), if your faith expression wasn’t “hot,” it was actually better to be “cold” because the Bible says God will spit the lukewarm out of His mouth.

That seemed harsh. Really? God would rather us hate Him and reject Him altogether than to miss the mark a little and not be totally on fire for Him? But, okay, that’s what we were taught and I accepted it. I was good at being on fire anyway. I didn’t want to be cold or lukewarm.

BUT THEN, not too long ago, I heard a talk from a pastor who had taken a trip to Laodicea, an area in the Roman province of Asia that is evidently referenced multiple times in the Bible, and as it turns out – the ancient city dwellers there had access to a hot spring AND a fresh cold water source. Both had value and offered refreshment and life. Both were good alternatives to the gross, tepid, sulphur water that was also available nearby – the lukewarm water. Okay, so now “God would rather you be hot or cold than lukewarm” made so much more sense. Perhaps it wasn’t about the degree to which you enthused for Him, but that you were receiving the life-giving water and not settling for something murky. I was delighted to learn something new about a concept I’d heard a hundred times before. I never felt threatened that my previous understanding was incomplete or accused the pastor of twisting Scripture; on the contrary, if there was more to a Bible passage that the original audience in the original culture would have understood more clearly, then I wanted to know it too and receive the message that was intended.

There is a tendency sometimes to reduce the Bible to a collection of memes, adding our own backgrounds to phrases that inspire us – or admonish us – and build a narrative around a singular thought, without necessarily going back to understand the larger story or concept.

An example that seemed to pop up frequently in our current discussion was “The Woman Caught in Adultery” from John 8:1-11:

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

The message we received was, look at the end of the story: Jesus told her to Sin. No. More. That was the meme. He didn’t say, “it’s okay, go back to your adultery and enjoy your body” – he corrected her, and therefore, we must tell the LGBTQ community to sin no more.

A couple of things strike me as curious about this take-away. I have read the story several times now, as well as the surrounding chapters in the gospel of John. First, it seems to me the woman caught in adultery is not the subject of this story, she is the object. A better title for this section might be, “That Time the Pharisees Attempted to Trap Jesus…Again.”

This story is nestled in a string of other stories in which Jesus is doing what only He can do, healing the afflicted and generally being amazing, and the Pharisees are slithering around like cartoon villains, constantly trying to entrap him so that they can finally charge him with a crime and get him out of the picture. They didn’t seem to appreciate that the crippled could now walk and the blind could now see, and they certainly didn’t like the threat that Jesus posed to their religion.

They knew that Jewish law, the Torah, required that a woman caught in adultery should be stoned to death. So, not only were they seeking to entrap Jesus (perhaps anticipating that he would show her mercy, rather than fulfill the law to stone her), but they likely went to some shady measures to set this up. How exactly is one ‘caught in adultery,’ and by the way, where was the man she was adultery-ing with? Conceivably, they went and sought her out, perhaps even set her up, to use her as a pawn in their game which was, again, to destroy Jesus. The woman was just a means to an end. (And curiously, her co-adulterer is under no scrutiny in this story.)

Do we think Jesus didn’t see through all of this? Do we think the woman is the bad guy here? When my kids were little, I could absolutely tell when they were trying to frame each other to get the other in trouble, and the one who did the framing is always the one who would get disciplined. I have a hard time imagining that Jesus was more concerned about the woman’s behavior than the Pharisees’, especially considering that this scene was ultimately about them framing him.

But look how gently he draws attention away from her, most likely compromised in her dress, and seems to accept their challenge to stone her. He gives the green light – but only to the one among them who had no sin. They all dropped their stones and walked away. Their trap did not work on Jesus and it did not work on the woman they had captured. Grace wins. While Jesus had every right – and in fact, was compelled by the law, which was very clear – to condemn and kill this woman, he did not. The example we see in Jesus throughout the gospels, and I’m borrowing words from my friend Danny Cortez here, is that he never put the law above people. He healed on the Sabbath, He touched the unclean. God is love, and seeing this story with new eyes makes me love Him even more. Romans 13:10 says, “Love does no harm to its neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” :mic drop: If you’re a Pharisee, you hate this story. If you’re the woman caught in adultery a vile attempt to entrap Jesus, you love this story. This seems to foreshadow what Jesus would later do on the cross, the ultimate expression of mercy over condemnation. The cross took mercy to a new level and said: stone me instead.

As we continued to dig deeper into the Bible, I started to notice that, amidst the new and unexpected questions, a more mature curiosity (maturiosity?) was being produced in us, along with fresh eyes to marvel at things we had never noticed before. (They call these “easter eggs” in the movie biz and they are a thrill to find.) This was a good place to be when we got home from the First Church of Barrio one day and my phone buzzed. It was a message from a pastor I know out in the Bay area – the last person we had messaged in our what-do-we-do panic. His note essentially said, “I’m so glad you reached out; I think I can help you. Are you free to talk?”

An hour later, I had book recommendations, was getting connected with other moms of LGBTQ kids from similar faith backgrounds from around the country who were adding me to their private FB groups, and most importantly, felt heard. Felt understood. He told me about how his church had committed to leaning in on LGBTQ issues a while back and, recognizing the desperate need, devoted a long period of time to prayerful study and discernment in regard to how they felt God leading their church to engage. This included getting to know the LGBTQ people within their congregation and bringing in respected author/speakers with different theological perspectives to share their POVs first hand so the church could become familiar with the various ‘arguments.’

The thing that stuck out to me was, during this period of active discernment, a visiting teacher came to meet with his church staff. This person was not aware of the topic that the staff was studying, but approached the team with a call to consider the role of the church: is it to love people or to manage people’s sin? Do we want to be good or do we want to be right? As the church, what is the good thing to do?

Cue Micah 6:8:

“He has shown you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”

He told me what a wonderful investment their time of discernment was, and he thought that the greatest tragedy would be that LGBTQ people – especially my daughter – would never feel at home in church, would never have a connection. He was speaking to my heart’s concerns as well, the source of the tears. Fortunately, this conversation became the bridge to alllll kinds of new connections. Easter egg thrills, you guys. This part is going to take a lot of words, so I’ll pause here for now. Thank you for following along. ♥

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3/ No Such Thing as a Gay Christian

So, what do you do when you find out your kid has cancer? Or is gay, which is arguably the same thing spiritually? You look for resources! Information… direction… support… survivors and signs of life! Whereas an LGBTQ person may spend many years sorting through their feelings and determining how they should respond, I felt an immense pressure to have this figured out immediately. After all, I wanted to love my child but did not want to dishonor God, and there was palpable tension between the way my heart wanted to respond and what the voices in my head were saying. When your newborn infant is crying, you feel confident in your instincts to pick them up; but now there was this dark cloud hovering in my mind, shaking its finger, saying, “don’t do it. Don’t be too supportive. Don’t encourage this,” and I knew there had to be more to it than my current understanding allowed.

My husband and I wasted no time in reaching out to people whom we trusted as spiritual advisors, ministry leaders and any faithful individuals we thought might have experience with this in their ministries or families. It was a research frenzy. The beginning of a master’s class that I don’t remember signing up for. If I ran into you at the grocery store those first few weeks and you asked, “hey, how’s it going?,” there’s a good chance I blurted it all out to you beside the Lucky Charms in hopes that you had experience and, even better, answers. Given a more appropriate setting, we wanted to understand not just what the Bible said, but what it meant. Specifically, what it meant for our child, who discovered early in life that she just didn’t fit the mold. She was not engaging in any “behavior” that could be faulted, but having done her own research, also did not subscribe to the traditional teaching on the matter and was at peace about the situation – relieved, in fact, that this was finally out in the open and she could be herself.

The burden for her was the lie, and fear of the consequences that telling the truth might bring.

In a faith community as relevant and robust as ours, there’s no way we were the first ones to be dealing with this, so going into it, I felt confident that we’d find connection. I knew what a wonderful, loving group of people we had access to locally and afar – people in different ministry areas who’ve invested their lives in serving others, with a tender eye toward those who are often left behind in society – orphans, teen moms, the incarcerated, etc. If there was something for them, there had to be something for us. A safe place to not have the answers, a safe place to wrestle.

What we found instead was that the system really didn’t know how to engage.

We were grateful that so many lovely people were willing to speak with us right away, and the initial responses were generally kind-sounding, but the conversations inevitably trended toward familiar quips and phrases. As if relying on soundbites from popular rhetoric, many of the responses felt cold and distant and altogether irrelevant to what we were actually dealing with. Remember, this wasn’t a general discussion about an “issue.” We were talking about our family, and this was a most tender matter.

“Well, you know, there’s no such thing as a gay Christian.”

“Gay people are welcome as long as they don’t talk about it and try to lead people into sin.”

“Shame on those public schools, pushing the gay agenda down our throats.”

“It’s better to call it ‘same-sex attracted.’ Identifying as gay is like giving in to the sin, like saying you identify as a murderer.”

“I’m disappointed to hear she has chosen this lifestyle.”’

“You are still the parents; you set the rules for what is allowed.”

“Tell her that her identity isn’t in her sexuality; it’s in Christ.”

“The Bible is very clear…”

“I hope she doesn’t get her hair cut short and start suing bakers.”

Perhaps the posture they expected us to embody was that of anger, sorrow and an unwavering commitment to draw boundaries, not only with what we would allow our child to think and do but also with how we as her parents were supposed to not think, just believe. This would have fit the paradigm, and their soundbites would have made more sense. I learned quickly that if I made any mention to there being another point of view, which we were certainly curious about but hadn’t really heard before and hoped that they could shed some light on (after all, this was a desperate situation and we were talking to seasoned pros), that this line of questioning would be promptly shut down with pat answers and heeds of warning of false prophets. This was sci fi movie stuff: we don’t talk about that. We don’t ask those questions.

There was graciousness, too, though, and I sensed that most of them were simply not prepared to be having this discussion. They wanted to be helpful, but likely did not have much to draw from personally. Through their attempts to relate, we often and awkwardly received intimate details about their struggles with lust…which they must deny in order to live a life pleasing to God. The corollary being, just as they cannot sleep around as they may wish to, our daughter should repent and ask God for help with her struggle.

But what exactly did she need to repent for? And what if she wasn’t struggling? And if the Bible is so clear, then why can’t we dive in deeper together to understand it more fully because it sure would ease our minds? And, honestly, did they even hear themselves?? Did they not see that we were the ones struggling that day, having come to them for support, and were being pushed away with every insensitive sentiment? Why did this subject seem to trigger a need to defend a theological position while turning a blind eye to our humanity?

We’ve shed many tears, on our knees, praying to God for wisdom, understanding, discernment…asking the Holy Spirit to intercede for us because at times we just didn’t even know what to pray for. Others were doing this, too, and still are; for this, I am forever grateful. But after so many experiences with others where I felt like we weren’t speaking the same language, it didn’t take long to start feeling like outsiders. We were insiders just a minute ago, but whether real or perceived, I sensed that our faithfulness was being questioned, our motivations judged, our precious child mischaracterized. Our questions were certainly out of scope.

Honestly, though, if you were us, wouldn’t you feel the need to explore this too? I mean, think about what’s at stake. Think about the implications for a 13-yr-old who is told that God may have made her with – or perhaps allowed her to have, as a result of the fall – a certain orientation, but that her very existence is the proverbial short straw, and she can never have what the rest of us enjoy and celebrate, even if she has the same capacity and longing for love and self-sacrifice to another. If this is indeed how we understand the Bible, then I guess I would have expected the responses from our faith leaders to resemble the types of responses they might give to any other poor unfortunate soul who, for any other reason, tragically:

  • Bears the weight of lifelong aloneness with no hope of change.
  • Cannot have children, grandchildren, etc.

I could easily recall the Facebook posts of the individuals we had spoken with, and how they were full of photos of their beloved spouses, children, grandchildren… with beautiful, poignant paragraphs written on special days to honor these loved ones. If you asked any of them what the greatest blessings in their lives were, they would most definitely say their families. It is obvious and it is understandable. I can testify to the treasure they’ve found; it is my greatest earthly treasure as well. And yet, this is the very thing that was being carelessly written off as a “lust-adjacent” problem for my daughter. Erase every engagement, every wedding, every spouse, every pregnancy, every child, every grandchild from those photos, every ode, every anniversary, every birthday, every handmade gift, every recital, every prom, every graduation, every hand to hold for decade after decade until the time comes to depart this world, and also be despised for wanting those things…and then you have a rough starting point for understanding what a traditional teaching of Scripture might look like for a person in the church today.

This cannot be written off easily. I was beginning to see my husband and I as members of a jury, becoming more objective as we collected and evaluated the available information in pursuit of a clear determination that would permanently impact the way we parented our child, and potentially our relationship with her. To convict, we needed evidence, beyond the shadow of a doubt.

We started to think beyond our daughter’s experience to that of other LGBTQ Christians as well. If, in our traditional understanding, we grasp that this is a tragic circumstance for some people, who did not choose it, then how are we supporting them within the church? First, where are they? Why don’t we hear about them or, better yet, from them? Where are the role models living this life of victory that my daughter can see? I don’t mean, “well, I heard of somebody like this before,” or, “there’s a woman who wrote a book who does this,” but shouldn’t there be quite a few accessible representations of people living this experience, just as we know of many recovered addicts who spend their lives investing in others who are not there yet?

If 4-ish% of the population identifies as something other than straight, then that’s about 1 in 25. That’s one person in every couple of rows of seating in a church. There are many faithful Christians who are living for the Lord, and if 1 in every couple of rows is living faithfully to the traditional teaching on homosexuality, wouldn’t this be a fairly common occurrence? If they are out there doing this thing, and God is richly blessing them (as is usually the testimony of those who willingly lay their lives down for the sake of the gospel), the body of Christ would benefit from hearing this and witnessing their freedom and joy. The good fruit would speak for itself.

And if we agree that it is the church’s responsibility to support all the parts of its body, then, once we know who these people are and acknowledge their fixed state of aloneness, we have to ask ourselves: how are we committed to their emotional and physical well-being? Have we ‘adopted’ them into our families to enjoy close, intergenerational relationships that they certainly crave? Do we consider who will care for them as they become aged? Are we willing to sacrifice our own convenience to be family to them? Have we bothered to ask them what their journey has been like and what they need? And back to the first question, do we even know who they are?

I felt this was sort of like asking a person with seemingly healthy legs to submit to a wheelchair for the rest of their lives because there is just something inherently wrong with their type of legs, but then not making the environment accessible – no ramps, no wide aisles, nothing on the low shelves. Could someone do it? Possibly. But they’d better be pretty sure that this is how it had to be…and even then, could they do it without resentment and pain? Would it yield good fruit?

Maybe part of the problem is that the church at large doesn’t have an infrastructure to support these folks. Maybe the shame soundbites keep them from admitting that this is where they’re at, so we don’t know, and have never been forced to think about how we ought to retrofit the place. Or maybe this is a commitment that many just aren’t able to make. “Take up your cross and follow me” assumes that it’s a cross one can bear. “Stand there and hold this thing until it crushes you” is quite a different calling. So which is it?

Growing weary with the realization that other people didn’t have it all figured out even if their job title suggested otherwise, or that maybe we just weren’t willing to accept it, I remembered one more person we hadn’t reached out to yet.

Things were about to get interesting.

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hand in water

2/ Where We Stood

We learned that our 13-year-old daughter believed she was gay on a Tuesday night last February, after my 7-yr-old’s volleyball practice. (I’ll limit the amount of detail surrounding this event out of respect for my daughter’s privacy. She has given full consent to my sharing, but some things are still only hers to tell.)

She told me she had known this about herself for as long as she could remember, before she even had language to describe it, but had been too scared to tell us because she knew “where we stood” and was afraid that we might kick her out of the house, or at minimum feel differently about her and not be able to love her or treat her the same way. In fact, her plan had been to have fake boyfriends in high school and maintain a low profile until she graduated and moved away, finally announcing it on her way out the door: “BTW, I’m gay. Bye.” But this was only 8th grade, and she had no idea how this was going to go or if her worst fears were about to come true.

Soberly taking this all in, my first reaction was to embrace her and tell her that I loved her – unconditionally, and that everything was going to be okay. Mom instincts went into autopilot; comforting my baby came naturally. I admitted that I didn’t understand why the Bible said what it did on this subject, but that we could absolutely trust God with our hearts and the situation. He knows best and gives us boundaries because He loves us. We prayed. I cried. She cried. I held her tightly and promised nothing could change how I felt for her and that never under any circumstances would we ever kick her out and I was so, so sorry she ever thought that we might.

On the inside, though, I was terrified. Was it really going to be okay? She’s only a kid, how does she even know? What will my parents think? What will our church think? What will our friends think? What do we do about this? Who can we talk to? Who else do we know in this position? (I only had the answer to this last question: nobody.)

Raw with emotion surrounding this announcement, I didn’t know how to break the news that her dad and I had already suspected she might be gay – at least, we’d had our suspicions that she could be – or someday would be – or might one day struggle with it – (wasn’t really sure how to even define it) – from the time she was very young, like three years old. And it was something we feared, and prayed against, and never ever spoke about with her, nor encouraged. Maybe the things we observed in her were just normal “tomboy” behaviors. Maybe we were imagining things. Maybe once puberty hit, things would fall into place.

In our parenting, then, conscious that homosexuality might be something she would eventually wrestle with, we maintained what we felt was a loving posture: while the Bible clearly taught this lifestyle was sinful, a person who struggled with it could give it to God to work through, and really, some people just aren’t meant to be married and can do many awesome things for God and the world if they are single and not routinely obligated to others. It was no worse than any other sin, but certainly not to be celebrated. Everybody has sin, we all struggle with something, for some people it’s this, for other people it’s greed or self-control. It was somewhat of a relief any time our eldest declared she didn’t ever want to get married; it seemed consistent with how we viewed a “same-sex attracted” Christian’s calling, and perhaps this was part of God’s plan for her life.

But that night in February, as we talked more, the deeper truth of my daughter’s anxieties came to surface: she didn’t want to be alone forever. Surely I was the one who had put this idea in her head in the first place – and now, looking into eyes desperate for mercy, I felt like Abraham, standing above Isaac on the altar, knife lifted high, ready for sacrifice. What did God want from me in this moment? The thing I thought I knew no longer felt right to say to her face: “Well, kid, I hope you like being alone because this is what you’ll be for the next 70 years.”

That would have killed her.

Of course, that’s not how I would have said it, but that would have been the message she heard, and was obviously the message she had already received from us. I still believe that God’s plans are greater than our own and He is fully trustworthy, and that there is nothing “less than” or wrong with being single, but this did not feel like the Good News of the gospel and I couldn’t defend it in my heart of hearts. I recognized that her confession that she was gay was not an expression of lasciviousness or rebellion; all she was doing was being honest about how she had felt her entire life. Sex was not even an issue. She’d told me that, after years of knowing she was ‘different,’ it was not until 5th grade that she first heard the word “lesbian,” and, upon hearing what that meant, felt relieved and hopeful for the first time because, if there was a word for it, then there must be others like her. It broke my heart to know that my young daughter was suffering from a shameful secret all these years, and all the while, we were in the next room, suspicious and afraid of what people would think if we ever had a gay child.

It was time to get real: Was my understanding of the Bible on this matter correct? If it was, why did it feel like it would destroy her?

Going to bed that night, I was suddenly reminded of Jen Hatmaker’s scandalous little interview, and her “I’d gladly attend my gay friend’s wedding and would drink champagne” confidence had me intrigued. Was there actually more to this? What did she know that I didn’t?

I was determined to find out.

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hand in water

1/ Prologue

This month marks the one-year anniversary of when Jen Hatmaker publicly came out as gay-affirming. You may remember the shock waves her interview with Jonathan Merritt sent throughout evangelical circles last October; I sure do.

I was one of many who felt confused and frankly a little bit betrayed; as an enthusiastic fellow Jesus-follower and all-around JH fan girl (she had me at “Worst End of School Year Mom Ever”), I could not wrap my head around how a person of faith whom I admired and had learned so much from could arrive at an unbiblical conclusion that homosexuality was okay, much less call it “holy” as she did in her interview. If you were born and raised in the church like I was, then you probably know that the Bible is very clear about the sin of homosexuality; we don’t say it out loud, but in this culture, being gay is about the worst thing you can be. This is just what we had always been taught. And as an adult who hadn’t really ever studied it for myself, it wasn’t hard to Google, “is homosexuality a sin?” and find numerous writings that point to a handful of verses from the Old and New Testament which speak of homosexuality in an unmistakably negative way. There it is, clear as mud. So Jen……. WHY? HOW? It made no sense to me. I remember talking about it with my husband and we figured that maybe her big heart was just so big and tender that it was hard for her to speak the truth about this difficult subject, and somewhere along the way, perhaps she had been deceived into believing that this actually was okay. (Apple + serpent, anyone?) It must be difficult to stay grounded with the pressures of a career like hers, especially with a growing liberal audience, so I wasn’t exactly mad at her. But I do remember being let down.

What I did not know at the time was that this interview – Jen’s confession – was preparing me: a few months after the interview, my 13-year-old daughter came out as gay. Suddenly this was no longer an issue I could critique from a distance; despite my shallow confidence on the matter, I had never been more lost about what to say or do. This was when I took my husband’s hand and embarked on a journey that would change us forever.

****

Nine months after my daughter’s coming out, nine of the most dreadful, painful months of my life, I am going to try out that ‘vulnerability’ thing everybody’s talking about and share some of my experiences and what I have learned – and unlearned – thus far. This may look like an invitation to debate (it’s not), it may look like I think I have all the answers (I for sure don’t); no, what I am committing to here is leaning in to my own fears and admitting things that scare me, things I’ve misunderstood, things that embarrass me, things I’m wrestling with, and asking God to redeem this work in the hope that other families like mine would have a soft place to land.

On the subject of leadership, NY Times Bestselling author Glennon Doyle recently wrote:

“Someone looks at the world and notices a hole in it. She thinks to herself, ‘This thing, this idea, this service, this kind of person should exist to fill that hole.’ She waits for a little while, thinking about that. And then she stops waiting and starts creating the thing herself. She becomes the person she was waiting for. She creates the thing she needed.”

This blog is for me, 9 months ago.

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