Hi guys! It’s a snowy, cold night here in Colorado, and as I wait for Linds to make the long trek home through crowded highways and icy streets, I am thinking of family.
Linds and I have been talking some recently about the tragedy of losing one’s family of origin when you are honest about who you are and whom you love. When I say “losing” I mean that in many different ways because I know that there is a wide spectrum of experiences when it comes to coming out and family reactions. Some gay people are entirely shunned, entirely cut off by their families of origin (and friends too). Others are just treated differently or not fully accepted no matter how much time goes by.
Either way, it is an incredible loss.
Either way, the reality is that finding one’s self in such circumstances is excruciatingly painful.
Even those last two words don’t do any justice at all to the amount of pain that comes with such rejection. I know from personal experience what it feels like to be seen as “lost,” to be labeled as “on the wrong path” or “far from God.” I know what it feels like to lose siblings and to have my parents refuse to support me and to not have my family of origin attend my wedding and to have conversations where my heart is painted in every other possible light than the reality of where it is and how much it loves.
Recently, Lindsey and I were having lunch with a friend (and her sweet wife) who shares similar experiences with me in the area of loss of family of origin. It was amazing to me to sit and share the pain and burdens of our hearts together with our supportive and loving wives lending their agreement and sympathies over the difficulty of the whole subject. I was struck by the power of community in the midst of great pain and loss.
And God used it to gently nudge me in a new direction when it comes to being gay, being christian, and having the pain of loss of family of origin.
My first thought has been how important it is for us to have community. It is a healing salve on great and gaping wounds that, sadly, so many family members have inflicted. It makes such a huge difference just to say: I’m here. I know. I feel it too. You’re not alone.
My second thought has been how important it is, for me, to talk about it. Yes, it’s true. I’ve been incredibly wounded by my own family of origin. But that’s not where my story ends (and hopefully not where the story with certain family members ends either), neither is it where your story ends if you’ve experienced such loss as well. I’ve seen progress over the years in some places (even if I haven’t seen anything budge at all in other areas). For example, my brother and I were best friends growing up, always so close. And when I came out, he was going through difficulties of his own, and our relationship struggled. But he has gone through a lot in his own life, and somehow (through the incredible power of love), God brought us back together, and we are the best of friends again. It’s such an incredible blessing in me life! But the truth is that many of the family of origin places in my heart remain places of great sadness.
And again, I say, that is not where my story ends. I am sure that God will work everything out for the good some day. I trust Him to heal me and help me and work in the lives of my family of origin as well. This doesn’t make the painful parts any easier to feel! But I believe in God’s fierce redemptive power, and that does give me purpose and hope as I lay the pain at His feet.
My third thought from God’s sweet movements in me, is that of the family that God has surrounded me with no matter what I go through. Leaving one’s parents and creating a new family unit with one’s spouse is probably not supposed to be this sad or painful. But I can’t tell you how sweet it is to have created and be able to daily cultivate this little family that Lindsey and I have. And I am profoundly thankful for something so healthy, so full of love, so full of growth, so God-ordained and blessed as this marriage that Lindsey and I share. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!
And beyond that, God has given me so many sweet and loving in-law family members that have welcomed me with open arms and loving hearts, and I am so continually thankful for all of them and blessed by them.
For those of us who have lost family in this culture and religious war, who have lost friends, who have lost securities and traditions and the ability to share our wonderful new families with our families of origin… We have lost much, yes. And we are still also whole in the Lord and the power of His redemptive love.
It hurts so much. And it is hard. AND there is much reason to hope, to reach out to community, to tell your story, to embrace God-given family. To believe in the power of love.