A few weekends ago, Greg and I had some good friends visiting us from Michigan. On an especially beautiful fall day we decided to drive up to the Northern Georgia mountains, which is one of our favorite things to do. We stopped in a quaint little town called Dahlonega, which reminds me of stepping back in time to where life was simpler, kinder, and less chaotic. As we walked around the town’s square, we stepped into this one small shop that had a variety of goods: Fragrant candles, lovely local pottery, and specialty pieces all displayed on the shelves. What caught my eye was a t-shirt in the corner of the store with the words “Love Well” on it. As I looked at it I thought to myself, “Oh what a sweet message”. However, I didn’t realize was there was a painful story behind it. As I was admiring other items in the shop, I overheard the store keeper sharing with a customer of how the “Love Well” t-shirts came to be. It turns out that a local teenage girl was being bullied in school by a some of her classmates. One day, as they continued to pick on her, the young girl decided to read her bible. As she was reading it, she came across this verse:
The other day over lunch with a good friend of mine I mentioned how thankful I am that God gave me a gay son. At first, my friend looked confused by the statement. I could see it on her face. How could I be thankful for having a gay son? Just to be clear, I would not have chosen this life for him; and furthermore, he would never have chosen it either. Members of the LGBTQ community face obstacles that often make their lives more painful. Having a gay son produced pain for me as well, but God has a knack for taking painful circumstances and transforming them into something beautiful. So, when my friend asked why I was thankful for having a gay son I offered more than handful of examples:
I was drowning in depression. It was a clear and sunny afternoon as I drove the 125-mile stretch of interstate from a meeting in Detroit back to my office in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At 80 miles per hour, I approached a bridge overpass just west of Lansing, the state’s capital. I had decided that the pain of failing as a dad and the judgement, embarrassment, and uncomfortable silence of so many friends and family members was more than I could handle. The bridge was approaching fast, and the expansion joints in the concrete highway made a slapping sound on the tires like a rapid heartbeat. As the shadow of the bridge closed in, I was within a millisecond of ending it all when I jerked the wheel back straight and aborted the collision. Having nearly scared myself to death, I pulled over on the side of the highway. My whole body was shaking as I realized how close I had come to doing the dumbest thing ever. I immediately called my physician, who agreed to see me at once…
Growing up in my family there was a saying that I heard repeatedly, “What happens in this house stays in this house!” Perhaps, you may have heard
those words in your home too. My family was very careful to never let their “dirty laundry” be exposed. Keeping their dirty laundry private shielded them from the possible judgement and rejection from their family and peers. When I heard those words I knew that I needed to keep my mouth shut.
Isn’t it funny how oblivious we can be to some very obvious things in our lives?
For the first 28 years of my life I thought that I was invincible. I was the guy who raced my Mustang through the neighborhood, and would ride my motorcycle 100 miles per hour down the highway. I thought I was completely in control of everything. But then my wife Lynn had a miscarriage and we lost our first child. I started to question if there really was a God.
As an adolescent, my son Greg Jr. and I would frequently have conflicts and in most cases, it was always over the same issue, follow-through. It could be forgetting to cut the lawn, pick up his room, forgetting his homework etc. At some point, I convinced myself that it was plain and simple rebellion on Greg’s behalf. It seemed if I wanted something done Greg was determined that he wasn’t going to do it. I remember my temper flying with raised voice and Greg growing increasingly quiet. My confrontations were placing a big wedge in our relationship.
Sometimes circumstances beyond our control force us to make choices that we never thought we would have to make. As a parent, I was no stranger to making difficult choices on behalf of my family. Candidly, I believed that I was doing a pretty good job as a parent. However, several months after I learned that Greg Jr. was gay I found myself paralyzed by a choice I never thought I would have to make. I was afraid that I would have to choose between loving God or loving my gay son. At this point you may be asking yourself, “Why in the world would she feel she needed to choose between them?”
The other day I was having a conversation with my son and when out of the blue he said to me "WWDD". At first, I thought he meant to say WWJD (What Would Jesus Do). You may recall that in the mid 90's WWJD bracelets were a common accessory and mantra among believers. But, after he explained the acronym “WWDD” meant What Would Dad Do? I thought to myself, "Wow, what a wonderful compliment from my son.” It was in that moment I saw just how far our relationship has come and how God has healed it.
When Greg Jr. was a young child he routinely woke up terrified in the middle of the night saying there were monsters under his bed or … in his closet. Consequently, my wife Lynn or I would get out of bed, go to his room, turn on the lights, and reassure him that there were no monsters and that everything would be okay.
Life often presents obstacles and situations that often feel too large to take on. It is not uncommon to react out of fear. When Lynn and I found out that our son Greg Jr. was gay we were both overwhelmed with fear. We were afraid of the potential diseases he might contract, the hate crimes he might endure, and what our family and friends would think of him and us if they knew the truth. However, the fear that kept us awake at night was that Greg might lose his faith and ultimately his salvation. Our fears left us paralyzed. We simply did not know how to respond to having a gay son.