I remember thinking something like this at the age of 15 after coming out to my parents. I grew up in a Christian home where we went to church every Sunday. Mom sang in the choir and dad juggled hats as Sunday school teacher and deacon. The church I grew up in looked more legalistic than grace-filled. So when I professed those ill-fated words—“I’m gay”—my parents went into overdrive. They tried convincing me otherwise and urged me to step back from the Hell bound cliff I absolutely would plunge into if I didn’t “straighten up”.
They didn’t have a clue! They didn’t know what was going on in my head or heart. They didn’t understand the freedom I felt by finally acknowledging what I struggled with before I even knew what ‘gay’ was. How could they not be happy for me? For two years I pursued homosexuality, disappointed and frustrated my parents wouldn’t accept me. Then the Lord called me back to Him, and I left my gay identity behind to pursue Him.
In the eight years I’ve been on this journey I’ve learned that, as a son who has same-sex attraction, I didn’t have a clue. I didn’t have a clue of how my confession would impact my parents, how it would crush their dreams, or how it would cause them to feel like failures. I didn’t have a clue that they battled with my “revelation” in secret, knowing the people at church would only judge and condemn. In those times of healing and recovery when I had so much bitterness towards them for failing me, I didn’t have a clue that they were human just like me. They had their own baggage and broken hearts from experiences growing up.
Neither one of them had the quintessential “Cleaver” family as children. In fact, my childhood was much better than what they endured. I learned I had no right to punish them for something I could have easily done. My grandfather didn’t work, making my dad and his siblings work to provide for the family. My dad thought being a good father would be providing for the family. So he worked very hard and was gone most of the time on business. My parents gave me the best with what they had and with what they were capable of.
We’re all human—fallibility does not differentiate between parent and child. It’s such a freeing thing to be able to view ourselves in the light of God’s perfect grace—knowing we are imperfect and the perfect Being accepts us, loves us, and forgives us. This humbled me and scraped off the mucky attitude of injustice towards my parents. I was finally able to see them as people just like me—striving to do their best with what they had. One night dad and I listened to Gordon Dalbey’s talk on fathers and sons. Afterwards, he told me his father never told him he loved him or showed him how to be a man. Learning that little bit of my dad’s story helped me better understand him. He had a limited amount of love to give because he never received love himself.
There’s nothing wrong with grieving for what you never had. I grieved the presence of an emotionally and relationally close father, one who could instill in me what biblical masculinity was. Before, that grief turned to hatred towards my father, and bitterness built a wall between him and me. Hearing his story and his perspective was like a boulder that demolished the walls in my heart. I learned he did the best he could do. The grief no longer gave way to hatred, but I honored my father for what he did do, instead of always seeing him for what he lacked.
When I finally allowed myself to see that my mom had made mistakes too, I was able to extend the same grace to her that Christ had given me and I had given my father. Even in the midst of hurt, rejection, misperceptions, and brokenness, the Lord has redeemed, restored, and molded my family and me more into His likeness. Most often I am thankful for my lot in life, because of the man Christ has made me into today. He’s used my past to bring healing and restoration to others, and used my parents to encourage others with their story. I would have to say my parents are my biggest fans in ministry today. My family truly represents the redemption of God. It all culminated when I finally realized, yeah, my parents didn’t have a clue, but neither did I.