Loving but Honest
My oldest daughter, who has married another woman, called to tell me that they are now expecting a baby. Her partner has been artificially inseminated and is 6 months pregnant. I know she was hoping I’d be excited but also knew that I didn’t approve. I tried to tell her graciously how I felt about this, and I know she could tell from my voice that I wasn’t excited. I just don’t know how to respond to this. I feel so bad for her because her siblings all are married and have children, and I’ve been excited for each of them, but for this daughter I am not. When I said something, she responded, “I knew you’d criticize me and put me down.” I admit during her growing up years, I did criticize a lot and had a hard time finding things to compliment her on, and for this, I feel responsible for her homosexuality. Our relationship was not very good. I see in retrospect how differently I could have handled situations with her and loved her through all the difficulties we had. But now, I just feel so bad that with the decisions she has made, I don’t agree. I just don’t know what to say to her. She moved to the other side of the country and now there will be an innocent child that I will be a grandmother to, although long distance.
Like I said, I just don’t know how to respond to her. I know what truth is, and how God wants our families to be. I don’t approve of her lifestyle, but I love my daughter.
Thank you for any advice you can give.
Lori, your letter has a number of issues interwoven within it. I hear your heartbreak and concern for your daughter, your guilt concerning your past treatment of your daughter, and some important questions about the future. Let’s take them one at a time.
First, although none of us are perfect parents, when we know we’ve made specific mistakes, we need to own those personally and ask God for forgiveness (1 John 1:9). I encourage you to find some uninterrupted time alone and ask God to show you the specific ways you have not loved your daughter in the past and the things you believe you did that were wrong. Then I encourage you to bring those specific acts and attitudes before God the Father and ask for His forgiveness based on Jesus’s work on the cross.
Second, you need to communicate to your daughter, totally apart from her lifestyle issues, your sincere regret for your past actions and ask for her forgiveness. It will be important to be specific and share some specific times or instances that you most regret where possible. A face-to-face is always hardest, but best; but if that is not possible, a handwritten letter that owns your failure and sin, expresses the depth of your sorrow and regret, and asks for her forgiveness is another powerful option. Let her know you want to rebuild the relationship as a mother and daughter.
Next, be gentle but forthright about her lesbian lifestyle and her decision to marry a woman and have a baby with her partner. Express that you understand her deep desire as a woman for a loving relationship and to be a mother. Those desires are legitimate and God-given, but His design is for these to be fulfilled with a man. Let her know you love her and you want to be a part of her life as much as possible, but that she needs to own the implications and consequences of her decisions and actions just as you have done. You deeply love her, but can’t condone or agree with her choices or lifestyle. Admit that your lack of excitement is because you are torn and conflicted personally. Help her understand, as best you can, how painful and difficult it is for you because you want to affirm her as a person, yet can’t accept her behavior and choices that are in direct contradiction with the clear teaching of Jesus and Scripture.
She has the freedom to choose to live in whatever kind of sexual lifestyle she chooses, but she must also realize that her choices have placed you in a difficult position. As kindly as possible, you want to communicate that she needs to accept that, as much as you want a relationship with her and as sorry as you are for past mistakes, for you to condone her lifestyle and celebrate those choices would cause you to compromise your obedience to Christ and His word.
The final step is to agree that your love for her and commitment to her doesn’t change, but the expectations and ways in which to express that love will have boundaries and limits based on her choices. Let her know you want to talk with her and explore together what it looks like in your particular relationship (and family dynamics) to express love, have regular interaction, and build a relationship in a way that you honor her choices (which you disagree with).
As I talk with Christian parents, there is a tendency to allow the son or daughter who has “come out” to frame the conversation and set the new paradigm. In other words, the person “coming out” says, This is how I’m going to live (based on the false premise that it’s who I am); therefore, if you don’t accept my decisions and actions to live a homosexual lifestyle and continue to enjoy all the family relationships and privileges as before, then you as a Christian are unloving and, therefore, a hypocrite.”
It’s critical in these initial conversations to set aside the emotions, grief, and fear that this moment involves and clearly frame the relationship moving forward in light of “who moved.” You want to communicate your willingness to respect and honor their right to make lifestyle choices, but remind them that with those choices come implications and consequences. Just as they want to honor their lifestyle and convictions about their sexuality, so they must understand they must honor your lifestyle and convictions as a follower of Jesus Christ.
Having dealt with this issue numerous times, I know the temptation is to avoid this difficult Truth in Love approach. The Truth Only approach is often characterized by emotional outbursts and anger and cuts the person out of their lives, stops any interaction or communication, and reinforces the “bigoted Christian” stereotypes. The Love Only approach refuses to face the issue honestly and Biblically and hopes things will change someday. Family members passively act as though nothing really has changed. The lack of honest, loving confrontation communicates that family members condone the lifestyle and the sinful behavior publicly while often living in angst privately.