*originally posted 3 yrs ago at FaithFilledFamilyMagazine
I’m a 39 year old straight woman professing Christian faith and raising two boys aged 11 and 14. My approach to parenting has always been to tell my boys the truth in a way they can understand while treating them with utmost respect.
When my boys were potty training and learning body parts, I called everything what it was, never using nicknames like wee wee or hoo hoo and never giggling or whispering in hushed tones as I believe we should not feel shame over our bodies. Additionally, although my husband is a fantastic dad, I was the logical choice to give the sex talk. Why? Because I am and always have been so matter of fact. When it comes to how we’re created and why, I feel no shame or embarrassment and therefore my kids don’t either. Why do I mention this? Because I feel that this day and age, it’s more important than ever.
Today, our schools, the internet, and the rest of the world are telling our kids it’s okay to explore or be confused about their gender and sexuality and we need to have a solid history of trust built in our relationships with them as we present thoughtful responses to their questions and declarations. Is it okay to explore and be confused? My answer is yes, because if we’re proactive instead of reactive with a full measure of grace and truth, we’ll point them to their identity and value in Christ.
Now before you slam down your remote after muting Fox news and spout every “the good book says” you know to me with the tweeting passion of Trump on a rampage, hear me out.
Historically, We’ve Responded to this Conversation Incorrectly
It seems whenever a Christian is presented with something happening in the world, they respond with a hearty and very matter of fact, affirm or reject. There’s never an in between. Consequently, what the world hears is love or hate. There’s never any grace.
If my son were to come to me and tell me he thinks he may be a girl or he might be gay or any variation thereof, what would my response be? I really don’t know, but it’s time I consider it. Because these conversations and topics (whether with our own kids or other kiddos close to us) are not going away and in order to be proactive rather than reactive when the opportunity presents itself, we need to be prepared. Do not turn a blind eye. Do not only pray it away. Engage. Fight the good and beautiful fight (1 Timothy 6:12).
Okay. So How?
I’m so glad you asked. When imagining this scenario playing out with a kid you love, first ask what your motive would be in your response. So,
My son approaches me…
His friend approaches me…
My niece approaches me…
A kid at church approaches me….
“I think I was born the wrong sex”
Before I respond, I need to consider my motive in moving this conversation forward. Is my motive to speak out against the sin, or love and value the individual? Maybe it’s both! In that case, what’s the priority? Do I lead with theology or love? For me, it will always be love. I’m sure we’ve all heard “they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” Whoever said that holds the wisdom of Solomon in my opinion because it’s so true. My response is love.
“Oh yeah. Tell me about that. What makes you think so? Do you have any questions that go with that? How have others responded when you told them?”
It’s Really About Identity and Value
It’s my firm personal belief that these conversations are not about right or wrong but of identity and value. We live in a day where sexuality is our God. Sexuality is our idol. Tim Keller says “an idol is anything that you turn to and say ‘save me’” What does “save me” mean? It means make me feel better, give me value, take away my pain, show me who I am. Sexual answers have always been a good go to for salvation. What we need to remember, however, is that what we want or feel should not carry the weight we give it. We must always point back to Christ. Christ gives our identity and value. Honoring Christ with our lives means we lay down our wants and feelings for our identity in Him (Luke 9:23).
Use a Full Measure of Truth and Love
So, yeah…the bible does say we were created male and female. It does say that unnatural relations are an abomination, but guess what? When a young person comes to me with a statement like that, in that moment I don’t care. For this moment, I’m to point back to Christ in my mannerisms, my words, my tone of voice so that they experience genuine love and value and begin to find their identity in their creator. I want them to get to the point that they love Christ because He loves them so they’ll lay down their wants and desires to follow. Their confusion and exploration is okay by me because I’m going to point them to the one with the answers without (and this is key) giving them the answers myself. If I can simply convince them that they’re loved and point to the one that loves them, the Holy Spirit will do the rest and I have to trust Him to do so.
All I need to do in my encounter with them is administer as my colleague, Aaron Denn, would say “a full measure of truth and love”. Notice he didn’t say a mix of truth and love, but a full measure of both. I love that. Responding with a mix of truth and love might come off as a lecture whereas responding with a full measure of both makes you a listener and empathizer.
But but but….What About the Sin?!
But, Jen, you say, what about the sin? Shouldn’t you speak against it? What if they think God made them that way? Well, fellow parents, what if? Here’s the thing (again, just my opinion)…the bible says we were all born into sin (Psalm 51;5; Romans 3:23 & 5:12). The thing is we can’t judge others just because they sin differently than we do. Maybe they were “born that way”…I don’t know! I mean, goodness! I believe most all men are born polygamists! However, the bible is clear that we are to choose one spouse (1 Corinthians 7:2; Mark 10:8). Therefore, if a “born this way polygamist” decides that Christ is his king, he will lay down his feelings or desires to follow what God has for him, and by golly, by the power of the Holy Spirit he will (Galatians 5:17; Matthew 26:41; Romans 8:1-39)!
It’s the same for all of us. We all have our “stuff”. On our journey of choosing the one who chose us, we lay that stuff down for better stuff. How? By the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27). Not by the lecture of a good intentioned Christ follower.
Yes, there is a time and place for a good ole lecture in truth and love. The secret sauce is wisdom in knowing when and where. When in doubt, opt for the full measure of both.
Oh…and one more thing. Back to that whole tendency for christians to affirm or reject. Why must we be so polarizing? Take sexual or gender identity for example: It seems to me we put so much emphasis on manly men and feminine women as being the only way to be that the effeminate male and tom boy gal feel left out and lost! No wonder confusion makes its way in.
Start affirming metro sexual guys who love fashion and athletic girls who hate make-up. It’s still in those men to protect and it’s still in those ladies to nurture…just let them do it in their own God-given way. Encourage and affirm them in it.
Remember, the conversation is identity and value with a full measure of truth and grace.