This past weekend my parents visited me for a week. I’m fortunate enough to have a strong relationship with my parents. In fact, even as I processed my sexuality for the past eight years, they’ve loved me unconditionally throughout it all.
See, they maintain the position of sexuality that asks celibacy of gay individuals, but they’ve come so intimately familiar with the gay/Christian dilemma because of my life. Their sensitivity and heart for gay issues has dramatically grown. They’ve deeply sought to understand my life and they continue to love me as if nothing had changed.
They value my relationship with my partner, because they know I value it. They see that my partner is an important part of my life and so they support us accordingly. When I’m being stubborn or insecure in this relationship, they’re some of the first people to hold me accountable. They offer advice and nearly demand that I continue to be the man they’ve raised in my relationship—regardless of the nature of my relationship.
A word to parents: Try to be this at all costs. Your children will never lament it.
All of that to say, I’ve been tremendously blessed to have parents who love me in this way, so I always look forward to spending time with them.
Their visits always tend to bring out a sense of reflection in me. We see each other around three times a year. Usually their last tangible memory of me is from month’s prior, so they hold a sort of bird’s eye view of my life. So, naturally they see me change in a cadence that most don’t.
One of the nights while we were in their hotel room, my mom and I got into a bit of a deep conversation. In the middle of the conversation, she asked me a question that I can’t seem to shake from my mind. Throughout the conversation she stood relaxed, looking down, fumbling with her jewelry and rearranging things on the hotel desk. For my whole life, this woman has never been able to sit still during a conversation. Continuing to rearrange, she causally asked me, “Do you feel happy?”
Knowing precisely what she was asking me, I paused for a second and then asked her for more specificity. She restated, “Are you happy with the changes you’ve made?” I suspect that was her polite way of asking if I was happy that I came out as gay to all the Christians in my life and essentially reordered most of my world over the past two years. You know, basic small-talk.
I wasn’t completely sure how to answer her question. My reply was terse, explaining that it’s a mixed emotion I feel these days. Since she asked me, the question keeps running through my mind, so I thought I’d be worth examining.
It could be easier...
- It would have been easier for me to continue to hide my sexuality from the Christian church.
- It would have been more comfortable to continue to disassociate myself from the community of gays.
- At times I wonder if I shouldn’t have challenged the stigma of sexuality so that I could still feel like a fully functioning part of the Church (serving and even leading).
- It might have been easier to ditch my faith and engage in a life that, frankly, felt immature and reckless.
- Sometimes I wonder if it was worth frustrating family and friends with this reorientation of my life.
- It’s challenging not knowing how to approach life when it seems that every experience I encounter is novel.
- I’m happy that I’m living with a full sense of transparency and understanding of who I am.
- I’m happy that I get to witness a God dramatically transform who I am and what I think of Him through this all.
- I’m happy that I’ve encountered many in the Church who desperately long to see people like me (gay) fit in to the structure in some way.
- I’m happy that I actually get the opportunity to witness/feel/encounter the depth of God’s tremendous love when I look at my partner.
- I’m happy to finally be living a life consistent with two identities that have felt deeply distorted and at odds for the majority of my life.
- I’m happy that I get the opportunity to live out a new narrative of sexuality that hasn’t fully played out in either the Christian or gay communities.
I suppose answering mom’s question is a bit more complex. Short answer? Happiness is an emotion—it’s one that comes and goes like the weather. I feel a divine sense of joy in my life. I guess there’s really not much more I can say at this point. I'm grateful for good questions.