The Mama Bear Story Project is a collection of portraits and autobiographical essays from members of Serendipitydodah for Moms – a private Facebook group for open minded Christian moms of LGBTQ kids.
“I’m gay, please don’t make me leave, I like living here, I like our family, please don’t make me leave …”
My heart shattered. I’m not going to lie, the homosexuality part terrified me to my core, but what shredded my Momma heart was knowing my precious son really thought we would kick him to the curb because of it. My beloved boy who was once a literal part of my body and was then a living, breathing, 17-year-old piece of my heart walking around in a man’s body. Not possible that I would ever turn him away. And I felt like a total failure as a mom that I had not gotten that message clearly and deeply embedded into his brain.
A seed of determination was planted that day, although I didn’t fully realize it in the swirling vortex of negative emotions that overwhelmed for the next many months – fear, isolation, despair, regret, guilt, doubt, anger, depression. As a conservative Christian, I believed my trusted, worn, NIV Bible said homosexuality was a sin. I knew Satan was a lion seeking to devour, and I believed my son was on the ground, belly exposed to those snapping jaws. It was my job, my DUTY as mom to swoop in and save him from the devil’s blood lust.
I had been dropped into the most desperate spiritual battle of my life. And I was going to call on the power of my mighty God, and we were going to win.
That IS what happened. But not exactly how I envisioned it.
I am one of those weird people who enjoys playing Monopoly. But only once I’m actually playing it. Prior to that, I avoid it like the plague, knowing that once I commit, I’ve given up the next several hours. I say no to whoever is asking me to play and stand strong until lots of begging finally plants me in front of that time-suck colorful cardboard square. God simply skipped the cajoling part, shoved a little metal shoe in my hand, placed me emphatically on square one and yelled “GO” in big red letters into my ear. He knows me so well.
My wise, all-knowing Father and I started rolling the dice and making our plays. What is interesting to me in hindsight, is I thought He and I were playing the same token. On the same team, as partners, working towards the same winning move of saving my son from the temptation of his same-sex attractions. What I came to realize much later is that I, in my human fallibility, could never be partners with God. We were on the same team, but our mission was different. I was working towards a win for my son; God was working towards a win for me.
What, ME? I’m not gay; this couldn’t be about me! There is nothing wrong with me …. Oops, ok, maybe some self-righteousness in there, but nothing as bad as homosexual- … yes, ok, I heard that one. Serious self-righteousness going on here. God, I got Your message, I’ll get to work on that so you and I can go back to the goal of fixing my son.
I’m kind of dense sometimes.
Many months and many grace-filled Get Out of Jail Free cards later, and I knew why God had made me play with the broken shoe instead of the cool car. I needed to get me out of the driver’s seat and let God lead me where HE wanted me to go.
If I’ve lost you in analogies, what I’m trying to say is I had it wrong all along. I thought the issue that needed addressing was my son’s homosexuality. In reality, the issue was my self-righteousness and lack of faith. In God’s seemingly backwards way of doing things, He used my son to get to me. To work on me. My son’s homosexuality changed my Christianity completely. Beautifully. Not in spite of him being gay, but because he is gay.
As I studied the various word choices in biblical translations, as I studied the culture of the time in which the bible was written, as I let the word of God come alive with the Word of God (Holy Spirit, see John 1:1) the verses spoke to me in different ways than ever before. Instead of attempting to read a 2,000-year-old book through a modern lens, my goal became reading a 2,000-year-old book through a 2,000-year-old lens and applying it to modern times. Big difference. Passages I had read hundreds of time in my Christian life took on new meanings. I saw the scriptures on homosexuality as they were intended – addressing rape and pederasty (abusive adult male to young male sexual practice that lasted through many hundreds of years in ancient Greek culture) and overindulgence, not modern, loving, monogamous same-sex relationships. That gave me peace, and was a nice appetizer, but the main course was still being served.
God opened my heart to people. All people. To His humanity. To the fringe, the hurting, the outcast, the poor.
Along the journey, God and I made a pit stop with Free Mom Hugs. Free Mom Hugs is an organization of Christian Moms of LGBTQ kids who are loving their kids unconditionally and sharing that love with others. At the time, I hadn’t quite gotten to where I saw homosexuality as a part of God’s beautiful creation, but I recognized His love when I saw it. The first time I put on a Free Mom Hugs pin at an LGBTQ event, I was overwhelmed at the need. Kids and adults alike were drawn to the Mom love – something I had always taken for granted, and something that should be a given. I saw that it wasn’t. I was humbled to the point of embarrassment, and still am, when LGBTQ people tell me thank you for giving Free Mom Hugs. For supporting my son. I want to shout, “That’s what ALL moms should do!!” It hurts me and angers me and moves me. Moms, and dads, should love their kids. Period. End of story.
But the reality is, unconditional love isn’t just the realm of moms. It is the realm of Christ. Of Christians.
God used homosexuality to show me how wrong I had His message. I’m not here to identify the sin in others. I’m not here to change others. When I start to think I’m even capable of that, I know I’ve fallen back into the pit of self-righteousness and need to climb my way back out again. I’m here for one thing and one thing only – to love God completely and to share God’s amazing, empowering, unconditional love with everyone I meet. (Ok, two things.) God has got the rest.
My story as a Christian mom of a gay son has changed. The story I would’ve told even a year ago was the story of how I made the switch from non-affirming to affirming, and the difficulties and challenges I faced. How we lost some of our family in the process. How scared we still are that we might lose more. How silence has become the norm when the topic comes up. I would’ve (and have) told of the different books I’ve read and people I’ve met and talked with and fallen in love with. How I see Sodom and Gomorrah differently. How Paul’s life and times affect how I now read his books. A year ago, I talked about conversations I had with my son in which he shared what it really was like to be gay, and how different it was than what I had always thought. How that affected me.
Those things are all true. That story is important. And I’ve watched many moms and dads and siblings go through that same journey. It’s such a hard one. But, fellow travelers, when you battle your own fears and make the trip, it’s so much different than you expect. So much better. God fills you with love … such love …
My chains are gone, I’ve been set free!
My God my Savior has ransomed me.
And like a flood His mercy reins.
Unending love, amazing grace.
I look back three and a half years ago to when I saw the world as I knew it crumble. I remember the failure I felt as a mom that my son thought even for a second I might abandon him for something I then saw as sin. That wasn’t just a Mom failure, that was a Christian failure.
I have been fighting the spiritual battle of my life. But it wasn’t for my son’s endangered soul, as I had thought. It was for my own. And my God and I, we are going to win.
Dena Edwards is a member of Serendipitydodah for Moms and is helping to make the Free Mom Hugs 2018 Tour a reality.
The Free Moms Hugs 2018 Tour plans to take off from Oklahoma on May 4, 2018 and stop at 10 cities over a two week period. One of the highlights of the tour will be a visit to the Matthew Shepherd Memorial on Mother’s Day. You can visit the Free Mom Hugs Facebook page here for more info.