I am in a large evangelical crowd. Dad – someone’s Dad – walks up to me, leans in, and hurriedly requests, My daughter is a lesbian…do you have a book about the sin of lesbianism that I can give her? Hmmm….
I picked up on some kind of shame – how, I am not quite sure…but it was evident. So I asked, Dad, can you share with me something special about your daughter? He replied, What do you mean? She’s lesbian. There’s nothing special about that.
With this response, I am getting a better picture of the situation – it’s not pretty. So I said, Well Dad, surely there is something you’ve always thought about when you think of your daughter – you know, how special she is. How is she special? He became somewhat frustrated and said, Well, I’ve known she was going to be this way for a long time and I just don’t see anything special about her life.
Like I said, not a pretty picture. But I don’t ever give up…
Dad, you held your little girl in your arms with tears when she was born; you danced with her like she was a princess when she was 3; you helped her learn how to ride a bike at 6; you watched her play soccer at 9; you watched your little girl grow up into a grown woman. She has gifts. She has talents. She has interests. She has the image of God stamped into her being. She has a personality.
At this point, I reached for Dad’s hand and asked again, Can you share with me something about your daughter that is special? He said, Well, she loves animals and she’s into social justice. I became his life coach, Excellent job Dad! I knew you could do this. (he laughed)
Now that we got the issue out on the table, there was now something to work with. She loves animals and social justice and he wants a book about how lesbianism is sinful. First, let me say that there are some good resources available on lesbianism – more today* than ever before. And I am not suggesting that families avoid such books.
That said, my experience is that such books are better for parents, families and friends than they are for the LGBT+ loved one. What we want is not to convince our loved ones that God is only concerned about one area of their lives…we want to share the presence of Christ or plant seeds that the Holy Spirit will bless later on in bringing to their conscious the presence of Christ. We want them to know that God desires their whole heart, their whole life.
This changes our entire approach to outreach and relationship development. Instead of targeting our focus (and the focus of resources) upon their homosexuality, my sense is that we should target their entire being…their holistic self…that is inclusive of their personality, their interests, their gifts and their talents. So if loving animals and a commitment to social justice are the gifts and interests, that becomes the starting point for thinking about appropriate resources!
Forgive me: Are ALL lesbians into social justice? I hear this all the time! Ah, yes, many are and for good reason. They feel some deep way in which they have been dealt an injustice and so they tend to be attracted to social justice concerns. But before we stereotype lesbians, let us remember that all teenagers becoming young adults have a developmental sensitivity for justice. Even that is the image of a ‘just’ God stamped into their being. So I believe with my whole heart that this is not a lesbian issue in the way we might be tempted to stereotype it.
Now keep in mind that our conversation lasted all of 10 minutes so I did not say all this to this Dad. But this is what I did offer him: If you holistically want to point your daughter toward Jesus Christ, I have a thought. You could get her the autobiography of Saint Francis of Assisi. He had both a love of animals and practiced social justice. Further, the story of his life unfolds his path toward the Cross and describes in full what whole-life surrender to Jesus looks like. But Dad, when you write your inscription in the front of the book, sign it:
“This man reminds me of you. He is a man of God who lived with the concerns that you share. When I read his story, I thought of you. I specifically thought how much I love you and how proud I am of you. I trust Jesus to care for you, my sweetheart. He loves you. I love you, Dad.”
This approach is so simple…so relational…and it does not avoid truth. Rather, it avoids ‘telling’ and instead ‘draws’ our children toward Jesus. It plants seeds in their hearts with a resource they will actually be drawn to read. It affirms them as a whole person and draws out their identity beyond their sexual identity.
If we are frustrated because LGBT+ children tend to define their identity or personhood based on romantic attractions, then the best thing we can do is engage them according to their broader identity – their entire God-given identity – instead of focusing so intently on their sexual identity. To do this, it is critical for parents to get outside the box…
* POST-NOTE: On April 30, 2008, InterVarsity Press released a new book titled, The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction. An additional resource that we often recommend is The Return of the Prodigal Son by Dr. Henri Nouwen. This book does not deal with lesbianism – it does however minister to the holistic identity of us all. This book has radically impacted me and many others who have read it. It is our number one recommended book to give to any child off on various ‘prodigal’ journeys.