Homosexuality: A Family Matter
Usually, when homosexuality becomes known in a family, the greater attention and focus is normally placed on the individual that has announced his or her being gay. However, when homosexuality comes a knocking on your personal front door, it affects much more than just him or her. Immediately, the crisis becomes a family matter with the family having to work through the blow of learning of a child’s homosexuality.
For Christian parents becoming aware of a child’s homosexuality, it becomes very tempting to respond with “How can you be homosexual? You’re a Christian!” Parents become immediately flooded with questions such as: What will people think? What did I do wrong? or How are we are going to deal with this?
Without a doubt, it is just as difficult for the individual to disclose their battle with same-gender attraction as it is for the family to hear. In the majority of cases, the individual struggling with same-gender attraction has been in an intense battle for a very long time especially if the individual is an adult. The very moment the admission comes out of the individual’s mouth, all of the anxiety, turmoil, fear, shame, anger, disillusionment and more, is immediately transferred to the parents (family).
Parents naturally want to protect their children and rightfully feel a huge amount of responsibility for their lives. As a result, it is absolutely imperative that Christian parents establish boundaries when facing and dealing with a child’s embracement of homosexuality. In their book Boundaries, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend describe boundaries as “what define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.”
Without a doubt, parents experience a huge amount of loss when they find out about a child’s homosexuality. Almost immediately, grief, despair, disillusionment and fear surface launching parents into a process where they ultimately must give themselves permission to grieve and not pretend that nothing is wrong or that their world has been turned upside-down.
Every year, I receive numerous inquires for guidance from parents wanting to know what are some of the do’s and don’ts when the holidays are fast approaching. During the holiday season, parents in particular become overwhelmed with the various looming scenarios related to a gay identified child coming home for Christmas and bringing “a friend.” The line(s) between acceptance and approval, love and condoning a sinful behavior can often become a bit blurry and challenging during this time of the year.
Anita Worthen discusses the issue of inviting a child’s partner for the holidays in her book Someone I Love is Gay. “Your child’s partner is not the enemy. He or she is someone God loves – just as he loves your son or daughter.” However, that doesn’t mean you welcome the couple into your home as if nothing was wrong. Ignoring the obvious has a name – denial.
A good rule of thumb in ultimately coming to a decision of how to handle the situation is to ask, “How would I handle it if my child wanted to bring home an opposite-sex partner?” I believe the majority of Christian families would probably invite that person into their home, but clearly define the appropriate boundary line of separate sleeping arrangements. However, if parents are completely uncomfortable with the entire gay scenario, being honest is the very best policy for all involved. Because each family is unique, each family has to find a way to handle the various situations that will undoubtedly surface. There isn’t one universal answer that works for everyone.
Frankly, there aren’t any easy, pat answers for a family working through the awareness of a child’s homosexuality. There are no magic cures, no shortcuts. However, God is more than able and willing to bring the entire family into a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him since the family, by God’s own design, was designed to be a support system and a place of love and safety. Ultimately, only through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the indwelling presence of His Spirit, will any individual or family be enabled to overcome homosexuality and the many related issues.
Being a very practical individual, I encourage all parents (families) to consider that the crisis does not rest solely with the homosexual child. Within the mix of the various and numerous contributing factors to any individual struggling with same-gender attraction are family and relational issues the enabled the situation. Therefore, I believe parents, the family, need to be willing to (1) educate themselves on the homosexual behavior, (2) seek spiritual guidance for themselves, certainly their feelings and emotions, (3) be patient in embracing the reality that healing is a process and (4) release the child into the God’s care. Admittedly, the last point is much easier said than done. However, it is when we let go of a child, a friend, or a spouse that we do stop taking responsibility for them but we do not stop fulfilling our responsibilities to them. Homosexuality is not just about an issue. This is about people - people that God loves and people for whom Jesus died.
When homosexuality surfaces in a family, it isn’t just a child struggling with same-gender attraction; it is a family issue and needs to be healed within the family.
“The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.”Psalm 9:9
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