My friend just texted me: “I’m causing quite a stir with my meeting with the pastor!” She just met with him to talk about her gay son, whom she supports 100%.
She spent a year afraid her son was going to hell – and because she was loving him unconditionally, she was in danger of hell, too. (Isn’t it a sad state of affairs that people threaten hell for the LGBTQ issue?)
She and her husband knew their son was gay long before he ever said it. I have met this boy. Wild horses trained by Exodus would not be able to change him. But, the ‘gay-fear’ spewed by so many is like mold that won’t come out of carpet. And even when you can’t see it, the pungent smell just won’t go away.
Still, the more she studied and prayed and trusted God, the more she took her Bible seriously, the more God confirmed for her that no one was going to hell over this. That all she’d heard was misinterpreted, manipulated, incorrect and way out of context. Simply untrue.
She learned that unconditional love, acceptance, and affirmation of her child was actually consistent with her faith — consistent with the truth and the heart of God.
So she met with her pastor to explain her new position, the shift in her beliefs. He disagrees, as she expected. She does not know how it will all fall out.
Still, as her text said,
“I’m causing quite a stir!”
I smiled, remembering a text from a friend a year ago saying that my blog was causing quite a stir at my old church! Perhaps it’s too easy to cause a stir in most churches—perhaps Christians are too easily stirred up!
You know, causing a stir can be a very good thing–especially in much of today’s evangelical church. “All of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakeable things will remain.” (Hebrews 12:27)
I texted my friend back, and said,
“Welcome to the Dark Side!”
But it’s not dark.
It only looks dark from the dim room illuminated by a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. That room is dim indeed — crowded with fear of rejection, fear of hell, fear of shame.
To get out, you must go through the only door — low, so you must bend — into a darkened corridor — of doubt, of uncertainty, of not knowing. That right there, that not knowing, will keep people trapped in that bare room for decades…. That’s the door of questioning what you’ve been taught, biblical interpretation of many issues — not just LGBTQ, but sin and acceptance and conditional love.
The door is hot-red — probably from so much fear about hell. And beyond it is only darkness, and probably some teeth-gnashing. Those in the single room cannot imagine wanting to go through that door, into the darkness.
Once you brave the door, you’re in a dark corridor. You don’t know how long the darkness goes on, and you can’t turn back if you want to: they won’t let you back in! But even more, whatever courage got you through that door won’t let you go back.
You can’t go back… which may mean months or even a year or more of having no idea of how things will all work out. You don’t know if they’ll ever come together again, because it feels more like it all will fall apart!
The Christianity you once knew has unraveled — not God, not Jesus. But the religion of it all.
Suddenly, you are in a dark corridor with no turning back! The very place they had all warned you about! Words like “heretic” and “apostate” and “wickedly-deceived” come to mind! Is that what those words mean?
Are they talking about you?
But then you notice something profound. You are starting to feel more peace.
Your back is straighter. Your burden is lighter. You are not fretting nearly as much.
Shafts of light begin to open up, and you see that there is light out there after all! And sooner than you thought!
You are not instantly stricken and sent to hell because you dare to ask questions! Not at all.
You have simply let go of what you knew to be true (or were told was true — like gays are going to hell — even though it didn’t seem to make sense). Now that you have decluttered, the light pours into the corners of your mind. You see life as you hadn’t seen it before.
Just beyond that corridor is an open field! Sunny and bright and full of life. You’re free! God is infinitely bigger than you could see from that single room!
Sure, your eyes may take some adjusting. After all, you hadn’t used them fully for so, so long. But it is all good! Soon life is fuller and more peaceful than you ever thought it could be.
You feel a little nostalgic for those left in the dim room, with all their borrowed fear. You may even shout back, “It’s okay! Come on out. It’s beautiful out here!” But they can’t hear you. They are too shut in. Their own fear is droning on, drowning out the call of God, preventing them from hearing anything but what they have already put together.
You realize in that moment that life is so much better lived when examined — when you let God take it apart, and refit it in a way that works, than when you fight with all your strength to hold it together when the parts don’t quite line up.
And oh the sweet smell of freedom, of joy, of loving others without worrying so much.
The precious aroma of unconditional love.
Take a risk. Bend, come through that low door, out into the corridor, to the bright sunshine!
You’ll see the dark side is not dark at all!
And we really do have cookies. 🙂
photo credit: “Light from Heaven,” Alice Popkorn – flickr, cc
SUSAN COTTRELL is a national speaker, teacher, and counselor with years of Biblical study and discipleship experience. Her books include: Mom, I’m Gay – Loving Your LGBTQ Child Without Sacrificing Your Faith, as well as How Not to Lose Your Teen and The Marriage Renovation. Through her nonprofit organization – FreedHearts.org – Susan champions the LGBTQ community and families with her characteristic tender-heartedness, and she zealously challenges Christians who reject them with her wise insistence that “loving God and loving others” are the foundation of the rest of the scripture, just as Jesus said.
She is the Vice-President of PFLAG Austin, and her “Mom, I’m Gay” book has been endorsed by The Human Rights Campaign and others. Sharon Groves, PhD, HRC’s Religion & Faith Program Director says, “I often get asked by parents for resources that can address the struggles of raising LGBT sons and daughters without having to leave faith behind. Susan Cottrell’s book, Mom, I’m Gay, does just that. This is the kind of book that parents will love.”
She and her husband have been married more than 25 years and have five children – one of whom is in the LGBTQ community. She lives in Austin, Texas, and blogs at FreedHearts.org and here in IMPACT Magazine’s FreedHearts and Jesus Blog columns.