The icy blast of a Chicago winter was a sucker punch to the gut as I stepped out of the ‘L’. Wet snow seeped into my Carolina boots as anxious dread of the unknown seeped into my heart. What was I doing here? Stuffing my slush lined jeans into my frozen boots, I hoisted my book-bag and scanned the lamp-lit streets to get my bearings. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me…but, can I do this?
“God help me.”
As my words pierced the gathering darkness, it occurred to me that I had uttered this same plea a year prior on the day my daughter came out to us. I never saw it coming, never imagined our family would find ourselves in this new and mysterious place. I was dumbfounded and painfully aware that my daughter’s brave and vulnerable statement would literally flip my safe, content and shallow faith upside down. How could I remain authentic about my own traditional faith convictions about God’s design for marriage and sexuality while simultaneously loving and supporting my daughter in her own expression of identity? It seemed a no-win situation.
Though my church family was loving and accepting, no one was equipped or willing to dialogue with me about what loving like Jesus looks like lived out loud…in this place. I needed to locate people who understood this strange tight rope walk, people who shared my faith. People who loved Jesus. People who wouldn’t judge or demean my precious daughter…and who wouldn’t judge me or label me a hater because of my personal spiritual struggle.
I prayed, then googled ‘Gay Christian’ and up popped The Gay Christian Network. I devoured the site, feeling hope build with every word I read. It seemed like a place I could go with all my confusion, pain, questions and fears and find a community of Christian people gay and straight who were navigating the same journey as me. There was a conference coming up. I was terrified to venture out of my comfort zone, but I needed help to save my relationship with my daughter. Our relationship had become awkward and cumbersome since she had come out. I felt muted. Separated from her. Afraid of my words which so often seemed wrong and hurtful even as I tried hard to understand and connect. My heart was breaking and I was willing to do anything to find a way forward that honored my Lord and edified my daughter. I registered for the conference online and, with great fear and trembling, made plans to travel to Chicago to attend my first ever GCN Conference.
As I walked into the venue, I felt like I was wearing a giant sign with these labels written for the world to see…
Woman’s Ministry Director, AKA “Church Lady”
Traditional Christian, AKA “Closed Minded”
Struggling with the idea that my daughter is gay, AKA “Judge-mental”
Would I be judged? Would I make a fool of myself? Would someone see me here and think that I was gay? (Yes, that was one of my fears.) Instead I was immediately welcomed in out of the cold, directed to nice folks at the registration table, introduced to other parents and generally made to feel like I was a long lost relative. It felt like home. I felt like I belonged.
To tell you the many ways I experienced the grace, peace and love of Christ at my first GCN Conference and the many I have attended since that cold January weekend years ago would take too many words for this post…or this lifetime. It’s one of those times the phrase “You just have to be there!” is not cliché, but actual truth.
Can words convey what it’s like to watch transformation from hopelessness to joy? Is a blog post enough to share what my heart felt as I held another mom’s child in my arms as they wept? How can I make you feel the tangible presence of God as precious LGBTQ people allowed this simple Christian Mom, bringing nothing but my questions and my imperfect love, the privilege of embracing them with the love of Christ…and the love of a mother? How can I convey what it feels like to finally feel heard and welcomed into a body of believers who actually believe the gospel is true? Have you ever had the intense and humbling experience of worshipping God together with folks who had previously judged each other?
I have found an extended faith family in GCN. Perfectly imperfect people who actually believe that Jesus meant it when He said, Nothing can separate you from my love and My grace is enough for you. People who aren’t afraid to speak of things we seek to understand yet haven’t yet grasped. I have been deeply touched by what I have found in this beautifully diverse body of believers.
No, a blog post will never quite do it. But you can experience this weekend for yourself! Come join me and several hundred of my extended family members from all over the world at the GCN Conference in Denver this January! Even better…come and pay it forward with a generous donation for someone else to experience the deep and transformative love of Jesus in an environment that welcomes each of us, as we are.
Will you help someone else to know what it feels like to be welcomed out of the cold and into the love of the family of God? Will you give so that someone else can know what it’s like to finally BELONG? Your gift can literally save a life! When you do, YOU will feel what it’s like to be an…
Instrument of God’s grace in a very cold world.
See you on the mountain in January!