Love is very much like courage, perhaps it is courage,
and even perhaps only courage. – Galway Kinnell
The following piece was written by Meredith Indermaur.
Meredith is a member of Serendipitydodah for Moms, a private facebook group for moms of lgbtq kids, and like so many moms in the group, she has discovered that love is very much like courage.
Nearly ten years ago, a dear friend gave me a Willow Tree figurine for Christmas, as she does every year. In fact, she’s the one who got me interested in collecting the unadorned, faceless sculptures, and I’ve been hooked on them ever since. Beautiful in their simplicity, they have a childlike, innocent quality about them. They are striking on their own but stunning en masse. Each little figure represents something meaningful (like hope) or commemorates an important event in life (like a new baby). The angel I unearthed from her box that winter’s day is called “Courage.” She stands about 5 inches high with arms outstretched in a V-shape, her little head turned upwards toward the sky, looking like every other child I know who’s ever scored a soccer goal or aced a math test. My friend explained that she sensed I’d be facing some situations requiring me to be “bold and courageous,” and this gift was her way of reminding me to remind myself of who I am in Christ. That’s funny, I thought, because I’ve never considered myself to be particularly courageous, statue or no statue.
The artist penned these words about her “Courage Girl:”
“I sculpted the first Angel of Courage in 2001 to celebrate the triumphant spirit, inspiration and courage we call upon to face challenges in our lives — whether they be our health or the well-being of our loved ones. In response to an overwhelming request for this sentiment, I re-sculpted Courage in 2006. I hope this figure can be a reminder of people in our lives who inspire us with their strength and courage every day.”
Two years later, our oldest son came out as gay to my husband and me in a letter he wrote before leaving for church camp for a week. He was afraid to be home when we read it. At the time, his fear made perfect sense, given off-hand comments I’d made over the years about “biblical truth” and “the LGBT lifestyle,” but when I think about it these days, I shudder. That I’d put him in any position to fear me for being honest about himself shames me to my core, which seems fitting, given how I’d unwittingly shamed him. I’ve sought and received his forgiveness, thank God, and we are and have been on the same page for a long while now. I take none of this for granted; I know how easily I could have lost him.
As a high schooler who was born and bred in North Carolina, I inhaled every book Thomas Wolfe wrote with the same gusto I give today to a bowl of kettle corn. Too young at that time to comprehend the deeper meanings attached to his own life experiences, I missed a lot of what he was trying to communicate in my favorite of his works, “You Can’t Go Home Again.”
My teenage self really didn’t understand anything about “home” – and would not – until I’d grown up, moved away, and returned for visits a couple times a year. I thought Wolfe was trying to convey that New York City had a hold on him that Asheville, North Carolina, which must have seemed backwards by comparison, could never have. But he was writing about something much larger, much more intense, and much more true than I could grasp in my limited experience. He was writing about the pains and gains of growing up. In effect, he was reiterating Jesus’ parable that begins, “Truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
“Something has spoken to me in the night…and told me that I shall die, I know not where. Saying: ‘[Death is] to lose the earth you know for greater knowing; to lose the life you have, for greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth.'” – From You Can’t Go Home Again
Death and resurrection. Loss and gain. Putting away childish things. All these take courage.
Growing pains are real. I remember my eight-year old legs aching when I’d lie in bed at night and my mom reminding me that they hurt because my bones were growing. Spiritual growing pains are real, too, but by the time I began experiencing them in full force, my mom wasn’t here to reassure me that all those “something[s] greater” à la Wolfe were awaiting me. In fact, I was terrified I was losing my faith, tumbling down that proverbial slippery slope, and keeping company with all those people who’d “traded the truth for a lie.” I was nothing if not steeped in what had morphed into what I call American evangelicalism – the thing that lived off fear like a fungi lives off its host – rather than steeped in the Jesus kind of evangelicalism that simply proclaims, by word and by deed, the Good News of God’s loving presence to everyone.
My son’s coming out forced me to take another look at my previously held belief system, and I don’t mean “take a look” as in revisit some things but actually roll up my sleeves, grab a shovel, and dig down deep, turning everything over and over again. 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 helluva lot of courage to begin and to persist. 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 LGBT people, starting with my son. I got connected to other Christian moms of LGBT kids. And I prayed – oh, how I prayed. This was a true labor of love, which I owed my son, if nothing else. It was also my faith deconstruction, an often fear-filled, messy, and lonely business that gave me a deep appreciation for what my son and others like him 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. Many of the beliefs of yesterday that built and carried me – in fear – are the ones 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 didn’t want to waste mine; in fact, I want to continue welcoming it.
“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.” – From You Can’t Go Home Again
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 and through my son and others like him. 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 and are now a part of my own experience, which is the only way any of this could ever make sense to me at all.
I am finally putting my face on the little figurine as I stand with my arms in a V-formation with my head tilted upwards toward the sky. I don’t stand alone but alongside my son and others in the LGBTQ community who are the epitome of courage.
And we are stunning en masse.
Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. The group was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 2,500 members. Each day moms of LGBTQ kids gather virtually to share a journey that is unique and often very difficult. The group is a place where they share a lot of information, ask questions, support one another, learn a lot and brag on their kids. Our official motto is “We Are Better Together” and our nickname is “Mama Bears” The group is set up so that only members can see who is in the group and what is posted there. The space was specifically created for open minded Christian moms who have LGBTQ kids and want to develop and maintain healthy, loving, authentic relationships with their LGBTQ kids. However, moms do not have to be Christian to be a member of the group. In addition to providing a space for members to share info and support one another, a special guest is added each month for a short time so members can ask questions in the privacy of the group. The guests include authors, pastors, LGBTQ people, bloggers, medical professionals and public speakers.
Serendipitydodah for Moms also has two extension groups:
Serendipitydodah MTK is for trans specific conversation and is mostly made up of moms of trans kids.
Serendipitydodah Blue Ocean Faith is for members of Serendipitydodah for Moms who want to connect with and become a part of the Blue Ocean Faith Ann Arbor community via it’s online presence. Blue Ocean Faith is a faith community that fully includes, affirms and supports lgbtq people and those that support them.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to join or for more info.