Today’s post is from a friend, Nora Seemann. She leads a support ministry, Circle of Love, which is a part of Recovery & Support Ministries, under Vineyard Columbus (Ohio). I asked Nora to share some of her story and “lessons of life,” being a parent of a gay child.
My name is Nora Virginia and I am the mother of four children, two daughters and two sons. I was a single parent for 10 years, from when my kids were 4-11 yrs until 14-21 yrs. In those years, I learned many lessons, including how to be both mom & dad. However, I learned I could never quite fill “Dad’s” shoes. While I loved (and still do) my children with an unconditional love, my children needed a father’s love, his strength and affirmation. There was joy in knowing that all my children had committed their lives to Jesus Christ at any early age.
Shortly before my oldest daughter had her 21st birthday, my fiancé (Fred) and I were shopping for our wedding rings at a local Mall. After making the purchase, we turned to walk through the mall and froze in our tracks. There, before us, was Beth and a girl from our church – walking hand in hand and kissing. This was the beginning of a 24 yr journey, going up and down on an emotional roller-coaster; we struggled alone, too shamed to share our fears and grief with others.
Fred still married me a few days later and we had our 34th wedding anniversary in January 2013. I want to share some of the lessons we’ve learned during this 24 yr journey with our daughter Beth.
God & you come first
The greatest lesson we learned through these times was that we must decrease, and Christ must increase. Troubles and trials face everyone – often daily. However, when we are constantly connecting ourselves to God, we remember that He’s with us in every concern that crosses our path. Whether our concern involves our child, our health, our employment, or any other crisis, God always provides His comfort, His peace, and His joy. Staying connected with Him is our first priority. He will keep us through any pain and heartache.
Parents, hug your child
I remember hearing of a young man who told his parents about his same-sex attractions, “I was so afraid you wouldn’t want to ever touch me again, never hug me or love me.” Teens and adults who are dealing with same-sex attractions are in fear of rejection, especially from mom and dad. Parents, please touch, hug, and love your child without conditions. Unconditional love has no requirements that they behave in a certain way before you love them. This is so important!
Trust God to fulfill the plan He has for your child. Even when our loved one strays, we need to remember the Good Shepherd seeks the one lost sheep. He is ever mindful of the one who is lost and struggling to find their way. God does not fail, nor does He forsake those He created.
Compassion is central
I used to say you don’t have to discuss the issue every time you are in each other’s presence, and I still believe this. However, I read an article by a young man whose parents never talked with him about the elephant in the room. He wrote he just felt they didn’t care. Do talk, but pray and ask God for wisdom and compassion first. Beth never said “I am gay” and, in our presence, never showed affection toward any of the friends she brought home. We faced each day with great suspicion and questions. My husband Fred learned that confrontation was not always the answer; rather compassion towards Beth went a long way.
Don’t drive your loved one away, but be interested in their feelings, their concerns and even their friends. Remember, their friend is someone’s child, too. Perhaps you can be Christ “in the flesh” to your child’s friend or partner, as well as to your own child. Let God lead you.
Dad, your child needs you
So often, moms are the ones who worry and fret over their children. Dads, I want you to know you are greatly needed in your child’s life. You are the one who mainly affirms your child’s gender. You are needed to encourage them in the activities to which they have a natural interest. Is your son artistic, musical, gentle, compassionate, or a fantastic chef? These are attributes to celebrate. Your son doesn’t have to be the rough and tumble, sports loving, rolling in the mud, type of guy.
Does your daughter enjoy tinkering with automobiles, climbing trees, and not wearing frilly dresses? So what, celebrate the woman she is growing up to be. Not every son and daughter has to fit a mold that we call normal. Help them embrace their uniqueness, and encourage them to flourish in the talents God has given them. His love and creativity pours over your child. Be there for your son / daughter, Dad. They greatly need you and your affirmation.
To be honest, I sometimes feel the more I read the more confused I am. This isn’t an easy topic to grasp. However, we can learn so much from reading, and the more we learn, the more our questions will be answered. Check out the books from Exodus International, and this blog. At these sites, you’ll find books regarding sons, daughters, spouses and more. Don’t overwhelm yourselves, but don’t ignore the issue either.
Give yourself permission to grieve
Grieving is a normal reaction to hearing or suspecting “Mom & dad, I’m gay.” Let God enter into your grief. It’s possible you will go through the cycles of grief many times and this is to be expected. Learn how to turn it over to God and walk in His presence, trusting Him in every step.
When I first became aware of homosexuality and the situation with Beth, I immediately began to blame myself. As a parent, I felt directly responsible for this. I finally realized every parent makes mistakes. We learned our lessons on how to be parents from our own parents, who were also broken people who learned from their parents. No parent is perfect. If you realize you’ve played a negative part in our child’s life, apologize and ask for their forgiveness. This may be a truly healing act for you and for your child. But do not turn the blame and shame on yourself, as this creates more harm than good.
Don’t neglect community
Fred and I had no support during our 24 yr journey. We, like so many, tried to keep that “Sunday smile” while our hearts were breaking. This is not what God wants for His people. God has given each of us a gift in our lives – not to keep within ourselves, but to use to bless our brothers and sisters in Christ. Christians are to share each other’s burdens. As a church community, we are to encourage each other in the Word of God, in fellowship, and in prayer. Find a support group where you can express your concerns and know others will ‘walk with you’ through your pain. Anyone wishing further help, may write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maintain your marriage
You and your spouse will need each other’s love and strength to walk this journey. Look for things you can do together to just have fun. Don’t lose your ability to laugh and, by all means, don’t let this issue control your life. Life does go on, and it is important that your marriage stand strong. This alone will be a great witness of God’s intent for marriage to your loved one. Encourage each other with scripture and devotions, and build on your joint relationship with Christ. Remember, while God is working on your child’s life, He is also working on yours. It might surprise you what God has in mind for you. It certainly surprised me.
Journal your Journey
The blessings of God, His love, answered prayer, scripture verses and even the ‘low times’ recorded will help you see how God intervened and worked in the lives of all concerned. You will find, in times of defeat, that this will be a real blessing to you and the memories will uplift you and renew your joy.
Pray, enlist others to pray, trust God and enjoy life with your family. Find that joy, peace and happiness in God, despite the heaviness of your heart. Let your life reflect your trust in your Heavenly Father. It will speak volumes to your child. And never forget, “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”
In January 2001, after a 24 year journey, and during a time of crisis in her life, Beth left homosexuality. She is currently living a celibate Christian life, happy and content in God. She is active in her church, and ministers to parents of gay children along with Fred and I. A happy ending isn’t always promised to us parents, especially while on this particular journey. However, God remains faithful and steadfast. Nothing will change the love you have for your child, and nothing will change God’s love for them either.