More than once I’ve been faced with the assumption by others that if circumstances were to change in my life and in the life of my family, my beliefs would also drastically change. That myself and my siblings would, as they say, “be singing a different tune” when it comes to our convictions about God and sexuality.
I’ll be honest, if your goal is to see me angry, this assumption has been the fastest way to get there, not because it’s a sensitive area for me, not because it causes me fear or anxiety, and not because it calls into question (which it does) my faith in my dad. No, the reason this assumption can take me from zero to seething in the time it takes to make it is because it calls into question my faith in God and the very nature of my relationship with Him, as well as that of my siblings.
Facing this recently I realized that I’ve never actually taken the time to sit down and address the assumption head-on. Honestly, I’ve been so caught up in being angry that most of the people making it have never voiced it to me or my family personally and given us an opportunity to answer their questions, it never even occurred to me to spell it out myself so it was available to those who wouldn’t ask.
So, in case you were wondering what I would do/feel/think if my dad decided to embrace the identity of a gay man and settled down with a male partner, this blog entry is my attempt to answer those unasked questions and speculations.
I understand that most people have had to do very little thinking about their parent’s sexuality and the effect it has on their life, but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about for most of mine. I haven’t thought about what would happen if my dad left us for a relationship with a man once– I’ve thought about it thousands of times in my 32 years of life. When people start to speculate over what we, my dad’s children, would do if he changed his mind about the type of life God called him to, they always ponder it from this mentality that it’s a possibility that we’ve never considered, the reality of which would be completely devastating to us.
Being closely involved in my parent’s ministry for the majority of my life, I have seen up-close the pain and devastation of family’s being ripped apart by same sex attraction. I have witnessed the most steady stumble and the strongest of strong broken into bits. The possibility, no the inevitability, of my parents stumbling, failing, or falling and the pain it would cause our family has never been lost on me. I have never felt sheltered from disaster or lulled into believing that based on my Dad’s choices we have some kind of immunity from suffering. My parent’s relationship was never a veil of perfection, and I say that with the deepest respect and love for both of them. It was very raw and honest. But these very real possibilities that have always been present in my life, are NOT sources of fear for me because if my parent’s taught me anything it was to trust God more than I trust them.
What I believe isn’t built on the foundation of my Dad’s behavior or even on what he believes. My convictions have been formed through years of knowing just how perilous the road we walk is and how much risk there is in taking it, but learning along the way that through it all God is good. God is love. And God is faithful, so “even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close”.
I can say today, with complete confidence, that my circumstances will always change, but God does not, and in that knowledge I invest my hope and security.
If my dad came home with a partner tonight I would feel angry, upset, and hurt. I would grieve, and I would believe he was wrong, but it wouldn’t change the reality of who I know God is and what my relationship with Him convicts me is true.
My love for my Dad would be the same. He’s my Dad, and I know him to be a man who struggles for righteousness in spite of himself and in spite of his occasional shortfalls and it isn’t the shortfalls that define him or my relationship to him. It’s not as though a change in circumstances would be forcing me to confront my Dad’s sin, as though I never had. At the end of the day people want to act like SSA is somehow an especially rebellious sin and it isn’t. At the end of the day someone’s pride, or their other deeply internal sins are far more deadly because not only can we not see them as clearly to help, but they may not even see it themselves. At least with something like SSA, the issue is obvious and everyone knows what it is.
I have nothing to fear from what is exposed and out in the open and I relate to my Dad, a person who sins, as a person who is, myself, also a sinner.
Just like we need to stop putting labels on people that categorize them because it objectifies the subject, we need to stop talking about “relationships” and talk about “relating” because its the same problem. A relationship is an abstract object, but you relate to a subject. We talk about “having a relationship” like it is a thing we possess rather than relating to a person. We also tend to use relationships as a way to exercise control over other people, threatening to abandon the relationship if our expectations are not met. The nature of relating, however, is humble, it’s open and vulnerable. Isn’t this the example Jesus gave us? People have this sense that God “had to” become a human and die to fulfill some kind of cosmic blood debt that he owed himself but he could have done anything he wanted to do. He’s God! But God is love and love relates. So He became us to better relate us to Himself.
I wouldn’t believe that my father had fallen from grace, I would trust that he had fallen into it and rest in the understanding that God’s love for him is bigger than sexuality.
On the flip side of that coin, neither would I be tempted to recant my beliefs about what the bible says about sexuality and I wouldn’t change where I stand on speaking truth and love. It wouldn’t alter what I believe about salvation or grace or redemption.
I know there are some who will say that this is all easy to say, easy to convince myself of when it’s not my reality, but please, while you’re assuming and speculating, consider for a moment that my life has involved harder realities than the reality of my dad sleeping with another man would be, and here I am and God is still God.
*Also, I’m not making an attempt here to speak for my sibling, even though I know how their answers to this question would go, they are entitled to their own way of expressing their feelings and I don’t want to strap them to my own.