As parents, we want to parent well. We love our children deeply and want the very best for them. There are many things that shape the values and philosophy we carry into the raising of our children—spirituality, beliefs, culture, family, traditions, preferences, not to mention the often unshakeable manner in which our parents parented us. However, nothing should ultimately dictate the attitudes and actions we manifest towards our children more than unconditionally, unconditional love. No matter what parenting mantras we adopt along the way, however holy and seemingly righteous, without unconditional love taking center stage, we are powerless and bankrupt of true influence with our children.
The journey of being a parent is a daunting one where the playing field is constantly shifting beneath us, each stage along the way requiring careful adjustments. Parenting often feels like a constant tripping down the stairs where the main goal quickly becomes to simply stay on our feet and manage the fall—none of us our perfect or have the inside scoop. Yet, there is no greater opportunity to win the heart and shape the life of our children than in the giving of unconditional love when our children need it most.
When a child finally steps to the edge and invokes the God-given courage to reveal themselves as being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, there will perhaps be no greater moment and opportunity in all of our parenting to reveal to that child that ours has been a hug, all along, from birth until now, that is truly unbreakable and unstoppable—no height, nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation will separate the embrace of love, loyalty, and pride we have gripped around them. There was no fine print in our parenting that is now called into application. There were no loop holes or contingencies that warrant us a way out or a justified shrinking back. The very same joy we had when they came out of the womb is still the very same joy we have when they “come out” of the tomb of living a lie in fear of being fully known for who they truly are—lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Whether in agreement or disagreement, whether in affirmation or in confusion, we still declare in determined resolve, “this is my child with whom I am well pleased.”
This, is unconditional love when it’s needed most.
Yet sadly, while Jesus is calling our Lazarus-children to “come out” and truly be alive and fully live, unwrapping from the burial clothes of fear and condemnation that suffocate them—we can miss the moments, and even, intentionally or not, turn our children back towards the grave, wrapped once again in fear and shame. For ours is a powerful voice.
No, our children are not expecting nor desiring nor needing our perfection, but rather they long for a simple, unyielding, unbreakable, undeniable connection of loyalty and unwavering pride, sealed by an unconditional love for them that nothing can reverse or restrict. We are all born with this ancient sense deep within that this kind of love is not only possible, but ultimately the essence of God and life—and thus, the most important gift we can give, especially when everything within us or around us would tell us not to do so—when we feel those voices of our faith, culture, family, or inner convictions telling us to place conditions, to put up walls, to tighten the grip, or even condemn our very own children.
Regardless of the situation, regardless of our creed, we never make a mistake when we give unconditional love—we always make a mistake when we withhold it. Leaning on our own understandings to the reduction or removal of unconditional love always creates a detriment and depravity God never supports.
See, the truth is, we are constantly sending letters to our children, whether we intend to or not. Every day is charged with cosmic opportunity—messages of life welling up from our souls colliding and reverberating into the atmosphere of our children’s living and being. Never underestimate the power of the living letter we are forever composing to our children. The most beautiful and transformative words we can write within these verses and inject into their veins by script and action—”I love you no matter what,” “I’m forever proud of you” and “I’m sorry, I was wrong.”
Nothing can change the course of things like these kinds of words spoken and displayed genuinely from a parent.
Whatever has happened, whatever path has traveled beneath your parenting feet, it’s never too late to write that letter.
It’s never too late.
Perhaps, today is the day.
For today is a new day, full of Grace, truth, and promise.
Now is an opportunity as good as any other to give echo to the Father’s heart through your voice spoken into the life of your LGBT child.
And maybe, here is the place to begin—the kind of letter you can write, the kind of letter you should write, and I pray, the kind of letter you will write.
Son / daughter,
You are beautifully and wonderfully made, as is—whether lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, it matters not. The One who holds all the stars in the sky holds you with deepest affection. You are not, nor ever will be, a problem to be solved, a question that needs an answer, nor a mistake that needs transformation—you are a finished, divine work of art. I am always proud of you and there will never be a day I don’t take great joy in calling you my child, no matter what. You are of the greatest gifts from God in my life. No, I am not a perfect parent, and yes, there have been desperately important moments I so wish I could have back that I missed showing the relentless loyalty and love I have for you. I am sorry, at times I have been flat out wrong—wrong about God, wrong about you, wrong about life, wrong about most everything. I’ve done a whole lot more talking than listening, selfishly absorbed with myself. Yet, this remains true and the deepest desire of my heart, that the same unconditional, affirming love the Father has for me, is the same love you know and experience to have from me as well, as much as I am capable of humanly doing so. For He loves you, delights in you, is proud of you, believes in you, and so do I—He will never leave you nor forsake you, and neither will I. I stand with you, by you, and for you, forever.
With deepest love,
Mom / Dad
Chris, for a long time this is what I most wanted to hear from my family. It was not meant to be. Both my parents grew up in a different time; both were born before 1920. They believed all the lies and misinformation about what it means to be gay. In my fear of being rejected, I researched all the (then) current modalities being applied toward “Conversion Therapy.” I tried working with Mental Health Therapists (six different times); I tried dating (4 different young women) I prayed frequently and spent years attending multiple different Retreat Programs (the last one being Cursillo). And eventually I went off to Seminary to become a Priest (I am now a “recovering” Catholic). All to no avail. From the time of my 14th birthday when I entered High School (1970) until November 12, 2010. On the 12th, I was reading a book of the various Coming Out experiences of different men and women.
One in particular caught my attention. The young man shared how Jeremiah 1:5 demonstrated to him that God had created him to be gay. The very words, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” came as an answer to a several years long prayer. I had experienced a Gift of Faith in the Fall of 1992. Jesus touched my heart and I knew he was/is my Higher Power and He was/is God. That quickly gave way to the realization that He was/is the essence of Unconditional Love. The question of my orientation continued to nag me after that, so my prayer became, “Jesus, I won’t accept this unless I am absolutely sure you’re ok with it.” His sharing and understanding of Jeremiah 1:5 felt strongly like my answer. I walked out into our kitchen and told my Sister-in-law that I was Gay. Within two years, I eventually Came Out to over 130 people I know as friends, family and co-workers.
Before my mom died in 1996, I think she caught on. She would get in my face and tell me, “Anyone can learn to like apricots!” It was her funny way of telling me I could change. Those times kept me just inside my closet, clenching the knob of the door pulling it tightly inside. I had an opportunity to Come Out to her before I went back to Seminary (in Wisconsin) for what was to be my final Semester. I considered it for all of a few seconds-felt like an eternity-but decided not to. Her health was failing and I knew she didn’t have much time left. I didn’t want to destroy her remaining months before her death. I don’t regret not saying anything.
My journey since that morning as been a struggle to constantly grow and learn how to love others in a way befitting to who I know myself to be. Spending 40 years wandering in the desert of my self-deception stunted my growth and maturity. Now that is changing.
One of the key themes I’ve noticed in your blog is the struggle between Conditional and Unconditional Love. Conditional fractures and divides us from each other; only Unconditional Love unites us and makes us whole. I enjoy reading your writing and hope you will keep it up.
Brian, what a powerful story, and I am so grateful to hear and be moved by it. You are brave and a true inspiration! Thank you for reading, commenting, and bringing life into this comment thread!