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…
So how did I ever get to such a dark place in my life? Greg Jr. had come out some months earlier, and Lynn and I had been doing a lot of finger pointing at each other as to which one of us had more responsibility for him being gay. By this point, we had gone public with our family’s secret. One family member had called to tell me, “You better get your son under control.” Most friends were compassionate, although they had little to say. Some close friends who used to hug Greg Jr. upon greeting him now literally kept him at arm’s length, which was horribly painful and shocking for Greg Jr., Lynn, and me. Talk about being made to feel like a leper. In their defense, not having a gay child or knowing people who struggled with their sexual identity left them in a position where they didn’t know what they didn’t know. We had great Christian friends, and yet none of our friends had issues like we did or so we thought. We felt like we may as well have been living on a desert island.
Today, Greg Jr. has shared that he believed I was more concerned about convicting and judging him than loving him at the time—and with good cause. I had tried unsuccessfully to convict Greg Jr. of his sin. Several of our friends suggested we encourage Greg Jr. to seek God’s truth for his life. Far less than a handful ever suggested that we simply love him where he was at. The more Lynn and I judged and tried to change Greg Jr. (and his friends), the more we pushed them away.
Greg Jr. tells the story that there were 2 full years in his life where we had very little contact, and he felt as though he had been abandoned by both Lynn and me. It was only after the damage was done that we began to realize that we had forfeited having voice or influence in Greg Jr.’s life.
It’s ironic that, in the beginning of our journey, it was our desire as godly parents to want to fix our son, saving him from a lifetime of pain and saving ourselves from embarrassment. Yet, in the end, it was the Bible that set us free to love Greg Jr. unconditionally and put our relationship back on the road to recovery.
One of my very favorite stories in the Bible is in Matthew 22:37-40, where, having been asked which of the commandments in the law was the greatest, Jesus responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Then the big breakthrough happened. Several years ago, Lynn and I read a quote from Billy Graham that forever changed both of our lives. Billy Graham’s family was attending a rally in support of President Bill Clinton after his sex scandal was made public. A reporter asked Billy, “Why are you here supporting this man after everything he has done to this country?” Billy responded, “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.”
All at once, it hit me like a ton of bricks. In the early years, I had my role and responsibilities horribly confused. For me, reading Billy Graham’s quote was a big “Aha!” moment. Maybe somewhere early in my walk as a Christian, I had unconsciously concluded that it was my job to convict people for their sins; and if they didn’t change, I also made it my job to judge them. When we condemn and judge others, it overshadows the love, compassion or grace we attempt to show them. Think about your own life; look at your children, your spouse, or even your close friends. These people know that you love them not because you tell them you love them, but because of your actions.
A few months ago, a friend of ours, Aaron Harris, was addressing a group of parents with LGBT children and discussed the various roles of the Trinity. Aaron asked the following questions pertaining to which role of the Trinity we identify with most.
Think About It
Whether your children, friends, or coworkers are straight or gay, which role would they say you most often play?
Imagine a life whereby, in understanding your role, you are free to love everyone who God puts in your path.