As I sat in church last Sunday, watching as the families file in and take their places in the pews, I began to cry. I missed my son.
As children, both of my sons attended church with me regularly. Even then, it was difficult for me to watch the “families” enter the sanctuary, as my family was a single-parent family. We were different from most others, and I felt it more than ever in church, a place which steeped in reverence for nuclear families. Lucky we were that in time, I came to realize that First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Shelbyville, Indiana, was not a church that shut out the unconventional. We were welcomed. We were loved.
I remarried several years later, and it was an honor to sit next to my new husband as well as my sons, now teenagers. But as I sat in church last Sunday, crying over the absence of my son, Logan, I found myself again longing for the wholeness of my family.
My son, Logan, is gay. His absence is not because he refuses to go to church, nor is it because I forbid him to come. I simply haven’t asked. And I think he fears asking.
I’ve known about his sexuality for about a year now, and it has been a very emotional journey for me. I have found that many parents of GLBTQ children, no matter how open-minded they are about homosexuality in general, still struggle with embracing the news. On one hand, I’m proud that he is so strong and sure of himself that he is able to be open about his sexuality. I’m happy that he has trusted me enough to come to me with it. On the other hand, I am concerned for his safety and his feelings when other people are filled with hate and disrespect. And I think that as a mother, it is normal to feel concerned about the feelings of others when your child may make them uncomfortable. And thus, like having a crying child in a restaurant disturbing the dinner of others, I don’t want to disturb the worship of others. While I would like to invite my son and his partner (a really nice kid…I couldn’t have asked for more…) to church, I fear that it could make others uncomfortable. This makes me feel like a failure not only as a mother, but as a Christian. And a Democrat, no less.
Interestingly, this is not a reflection of those whom with I worship. My church has made it clear that all people are accepted with love and respect. We are not strangers to those who are gay. While it would not be a moral issue in our congregation, just like my single-parenting was never an issue, it is rooted somewhere inside of me, that fear of angering others, or angering God. I’m once again the little girl sitting in a pew with my elderly neighbor, listening to the preacher call for sinners to be “spit into Hell” by a vindictive God. That isn’t the loving church, nor the loving God, I know today. But it still haunts me, just a little.
Each day, I work to overcome my fears. I am working with our minister to create a support group for parents like me, who want to move forward with love and devotion to their children, and their congregation, together. Perhaps if we can share our Good Friday fear of loving and accepting others without retribution, we can put away our defenses and embrace the joy of the resurrected Christ, which is an open invitation for us all to share in God’s love.