When Scott, our middle son, was leaving after a visit home, he told his father and I, “You might as well know I have a boyfriend, and we are living together. I'm gay.”
My husband and I were shocked and had to process a situation that we never saw coming. Scott knew where we stood biblically on the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and we also knew that he was responsible for making his own decisions concerning his life. Yet we still wrestled with feelings of wondering what we had done wrong as parents.
These are the same feelings that parents get when an unmarried daughter says, “I’m pregnant”; their college student drops out of school; a son is arrested for drunk driving; and so many other situations. These actions demonstrate how adult children may no longer embrace the values they grew up with in your home, but their actions aren't necessarily an accurate measure of your success or failure as a parent. Their decisions, though, require a response from you.
One of the first things I did was call those who I knew would pray with us and for us. Shel Harrison, a family counselor and attorney, advises parents on how to balance conflict with adult children: "Parent struggles are universal, and there are others out there who can lend guidance about options that have helped and strategies that did not. Whether it's short term-participation in a support group or professional counseling, find a community that helps you recognize that you are not alone."
I purposefully sought biblical counsel from other moms traveling the same road with their kids, and I referred to other wise resources to help me understand our new “normal.”
Going to God
Harrison says, "Pray before you say. That split second, in-the-moment prayer may be the exact amount of time needed to avoid saying something you’d regret later." After all, we can’t change our adult children. We can't send them to their rooms or require them to do what we want them to do.
What we can do is pray continually and not allow grief and disappointment to fester and grow into bitterness. When we are honest about how we are feeling, we are better able to give those struggles over to the God who created us. He can deal with our gritty reality.
When our kids cross the threshold from childhood into adulthood, they become responsible for their own decisions. Some will reap wonderful benefits, and some will result in heartache, grief and other consequences. Being able to balance your personal convictions and the relationship you have with your adult children can feel like riding a unicycle while juggling gold fish.
At Christmas, I struggled with the fact that we would not all be together and the new dynamic of our family. I read the passage in the Bible about Jesus restoring the severed ear of the high priest’s servant when the mob came to arrest Him in Gethsemane (Luke 22:47-53). Jesus, knowing what was ahead, took the time to reach out and offer this gesture of kindness and healing.
So I boxed up Scott's gift and put it in the mail, along with something I had made for the person he had chosen to be with. It wasn’t easy, but I knew I needed to extend grace and kindness to someone else's son, for the sake of my own son. Later, Scott called to tell us he was grateful to know that we still loved him.
Part of keeping communication open with adult children is allowing God to work on your heart as well as theirs. We must be teachable to understand what grace and mercy look like, even when we feel stretched far beyond what is comfortable or known. We can choose to do our part to keep communication open without compromising our convictions, and we can trust that as shocked as we might be over choices our kids make, nothing surprises God. He loves our kids even more than we do.