In Part 5 of my story I mentioned Peter asking to go to the Gay Christian Network Conference and my reaction to that request (Don’t judge). This weekend Steve, Peter and I boarded a plane for Houston, along with several friends from our church and went to the Gay Christian Network Conference (Don’t judge).
Maybe I packed my suitcase with other things in mind. Like inclusivity in the church, how to better be a support to other parents, understanding transgender issues, maybe a little theology, and I was really going to try to tackle that vocabulary! Turns out I made all kind of mistakes in that department.
I made an effort to change my vocabulary and my husband made an effort to change his shoes. You see, he was wearing a pumpkin colored shirt, a black wool cardigan, jeans, and neon lime green running shoes.
“Steve, you have got to get go up to the room and change those shoes. You are standing out!”
With upturned palms, he shrugged and looked at me.
“How can I stand out here?”
“Ok, believe me you are.”
Peter, confirmed this little detail as he walked along side us in the corridor with his head turned away and his hand blocking the fluorescent glare.
Today I want to write about this life-changing weekend. But I am sitting here at my computer feeling like anything but a writer. I could share with you what we learned in the incredibly engaging workshops. But I don’t have the words. I could share in heart wrenching detail the stories we heard of the hurt experienced by so many at the hands of their families and churches. But more eloquent writers are doing that right now. So I am thinking this. I packed my suitcase last week as a mom. I experienced the conference as a mom. And what I took home in my suitcase in the end was the power in the resilient, unconditional love of a mother and the pure uncomplicated love of Jesus.
Uncomplicated because when you stand shoulder to shoulder in a room of almost 1,500 LGBT people and those who love them, worshipping the same God you all love, it feels a lot like, in their words, “coming home”. And that’s not complicated. At least it shouldn’t be. For some, it is the one time each year they “get church”. You see many told us they were:
politely asked to leave the church
told to seek counseling and come back to church when they were healed. You know, “get it together and we’ll be here waiting to love you again.”
fired from a ministry job
Asked not to come home for Christmas
Asked not to be near nieces and nephews.
Excommunicated. (Steve leaned over and whispered to me, “Is that even a thing anymore?” Apparently).
I knew I would be privileged to hear stories this weekend. I looked forward to learning how these followers of Christ experienced life and navigated their faith. What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming amount of pain experienced by these people at the hands of their churches and families. One after another we listened, we hugged, we laughed, we cried, we wore little “Free Mom Hugs” and “Free Dad Hug Buttons and we simply went around doing what we’ve been doing for 27 years. Hugging “children”.
No one was better at this than the crazy “Mama Bears” roaming the conference. Seasoned lovers of LGBT children who knew how to spot a lost cub. A kid standing alone, purple spikey hair and a ‘what have I got myself into’ look of terror on his face was quickly spotted by these mothers and approached with eyes that said “come here baby ”, with arms simply running on muscle memory, and were quickly and quietly folded into a gentle warm embrace. The kind of hug that feels like fresh cookies and warm laundry and…coming home.
Some of these moms were there with their kids. Dads were there as well. But many of their children have grown up long ago and were off parenting their own kids. Still these beautiful, courageous mama bears show up year after year to hug other people’s cubs.
So while I learned so many meaningful things at the workshops and from the speakers, this is what I was left holding on to.
Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender men and women etc. are someone’s children. They are Image bearers of God. Warmed by a mothers hug, revived by a father’s affirmation and safe in the Savior’s love. And they are longing to come home.
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything.
– Tim Keller