As followers of Jesus Christ we must ask ourselves, Did Jesus come for all humanity or just for those we believe are worth saving? If the church is to be the Church that Christ called it to be, it will need to learn many of the same lessons that God has taught families impacted by homosexuality.
In 1998 when I heard the words “Mom, I Am Gay” come out of my son’s mouth they were anything but welcome. I desperately wanted to rewind the tape and put them back. I reasoned that if the words could go back our lives would not have to change forever. I asked God a thousand questions, like: How can this happen? How can you sentence my son to death, if he didn’t choose these attractions? Who in the church can help me sort this all out? Where can I go for help? Who will understand what I am going through?
After the barrage of questions without answers flooded my mind, the protective maternal side kicked in accompanied by an assortment of what-ifs. Perhaps someone would try to physically hurt my son (a not so gay friendly society in 1998). Maybe my parents and/or his father would reject him if they found out. Would people begin to see my son through the lens of his attractions instead of who God made him to be? I didn’t want any of the what-ifs to play out, but I feared they would.
Deeply embedded in the Christian community, I watched and waited for responses from Christians when the topic of homosexuality came up. The subject took on a different and more personal meaning than it had in the past. What I witnessed were the crude jokes being made about homosexuals and words that dripped with judgement and disdain. I secretly thanked God for helping me stay silent about my son’s homosexuality. I could clearly see that the Church was not a safe community when it came to this issue. The ache of my heart would not be comforted there.
After five long years of hiding, God brought my secret out of the dark. I discovered that I could never be free by concealing my pain. God wanted to fully heal me and that can only be done out in the open when exposed to His light. Satan had hoped to keep my pain hidden and unhealed.
Little by little I disclosed my secret to my entire family. Everything I had feared about their response did not come true. They were very loving and did not reject my son at all. However, there were many people who, rooted in their own fear, were not helpful. God brought others who didn’t understand the issue, but who were compassionate and gracefully pointed me to people who could help me. I finally found the help and understanding I was looking for in organizations like Focus on the Family and Exodus International.
God used other hurting families to shed light on the issue and they offered a community where we could openly grieve. Sadly, I was unable to find a group in my own state so I had to travel to another state to find help.
In 2004, my husband and I founded Waiting Room Ministry and I realized how God was able to use my pain and what He was teaching me to help other families impacted by homosexuality. In the nearly ten years that Waiting Room has been in existence, God has been actively doing His work to transform the lives of families, and as He does, the gay community is being reached with His love.
One of my fears was that people would see my son through the lens of his attractions instead of a man who is created in the very image of God. So if I wanted others to see my son as God created him, I needed to see him that way first. I needed to look beyond the label of homosexuality, directly into the heart of the one God entrusted me to love.
Many families come to the ministry stating they will never be open to meeting or interacting with their child’s partner. As God works in their lives, they slowly begin to reach out, and step-by-step they start to care for the partner too. They have found the secret. They know through their many failed attempts that it is not about changing attractions. It is not by any human words, might, or power, that brings about any change; that is the sole work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the only one who is able to soften and change a heart. They no longer attempt to remove the speck out of their loved ones eye, because they are intent on working to remove the stick in their own eye. If they are going to error in the process, it will be on the side of love.
God called His followers to be in relationship. He didn’t tell us to isolate ourselves in a safe and comfortable, like-minded environment. He called us to trust Him. To overcome our fears and carry His Light into dark places that He would take us to if we were willing. His light exposes the lies of the enemy. His light is what transforms lives.
I still don’t have many of the answers to the questions I asked God so many years ago. I do know that God’s word does not say that my son is sentenced to death because of his homosexuality. The only thing that separates any of us from God is not accepting the free gift of salvation that was purchased by Jesus on our behalf.
I don’t know if my son has a genetic predisposition towards homosexuality. I don’t know if environmental factors and life circumstances contributed to his attractions either. I am content in knowing that there are many things that I will never have the answers to and I am good with that because God does and He is good.
However, what I am certain of is that homosexual behavior is not part of God’s will and design for mankind. I am equally certain that God did not call me to be the judge of my neighbor. I am called to love God with all my heart mind and strength and to love my neighbor as myself. True love does not withhold truth either, but when it is spoken it must be from a heart of love rather than judgement and/or pride.
The Church, moved by the heart of God, has stepped out to comfort the lost and needy in every corner of the world. They go to prisons to minister to those incarcerated who need to hear that God loves them and that there is no sin that Christ’s blood cannot cover. They take to the streets to minister to the homeless, those overwhelmed by addictions, others selling their bodies. They erect pregnancy centers to save the lives of mothers and their babies that might end abruptly through abortion. They build homes, shelters, recovery houses, all in the Name of Jesus. They are living examples of Jesus when He said that when you care for the least of these you care for Me (Matthew 25:24-40).
They welcome the lost, without condition, the message come as you are. So, why is the message altered for those in the gay community? Why is it that Christians do not have that same heart for those who have homosexual attractions or those who are living out of these attractions? Far too frequently the actions and attitudes the Church delivers is a vastly different message. The Church often communicates that homosexuality reigns at the top of God’s most unwanted list and they are unable to see that they are part of the least of these that Jesus talked about. They are hungry, thirsty, unclothed, sick, in prison, and the Church has treated them like a stranger and has not invited them in (Matthew 25:41-46).
If the Church realized their true calling, it would not be difficult for them to minister to their gay identified brother or sister. Many, if not most of those with homosexual attractions have left the church because they couldn’t find the hope their desperate hearts longed for; the one thing that the Church was called to offer.
Those who have same-sex-attractions didn’t wake up one day and say, “I think I will be gay”. Countless men and women desperately asked God to take away these attractions and when the attractions didn’t disappear, they assumed God didn’t love them, or He didn’t care. Their Christian friends and/or pastor didn’t put their arm around them and tell them it was going to be ok. There was no voice telling them that they didn’t understand why they would be having these attractions, but reassuring them that no matter what, they would walk beside them in their journey; encouraging them to trust God with it all and being a tangible representative of God in their life. Quite the opposite is the norm for the Church. Many are shown the door and told not to come back unless they change.
I think of how lost and alone I felt with my son’s news and then I stop and consider what he must have gone through. The same questions without answers were certain to flood his mind too as he battled to understand why he had these attractions. He was sure to have heard the same cruel jokes and felt the judgment. My expression of disdain toward homosexuals must have hurt him the most. Perhaps it was all too much for him to overcome so he fled to a community that would not judge him or his attractions.
Recently, the ministry that proclaimed the message that freedom from homosexuality was possible in Jesus Christ, closed its doors. The President, Alan Chambers, used to say that success, as far as the ministry of Exodus was concerned, is that they would shut down because the Church was finally able to be the Church to those impacted by homosexuality. The last night of this year’s conference I told Alan, the Church is not ready to assume this role. He nodded in agreement. I told him how much I was going to miss the community of Exodus, especially the conferences. The community that came together was a perfect picture of what God meant for His Church to look like; full of compassion, grace, truth, and overflowing with gratitude for all that God had done. No one was under the allusion that they had arrived and conquered sin, but each one knew intimately the One who did and He would help them be faithful.
I have mixed emotions on of the closure of Exodus, but I trust God’s plan is moving forward. Key leaders are embarking on another ministry to help the church communicate love and reduce the fear that is so prevalent in the Church.
As for families in God’s Waiting Room…We are actively waiting on God to transform us, transform the lives of those we love, and transform the Church, so they can reach all the lost and hurting. Our children, spouses, parents, friends, and neighbors with homosexual attractions are the least of these and they need to hear that God loves them no matter what and He came to seek and save them too!