If you want one of the most beautiful and yet humbling experiences a person can go through, become a parent. As a new mom, I’m often in the midst of intense events with my kids where I have no idea what to do. Because of this, I find myself looking to God for guidance.
I need God now in ways that, before becoming a mom, I had no idea I would.
And because I’m gay some of these “I have no idea what to do” moments occur around my coming out and the possible rejection and harm my children will experience because of that. I often pray prayers that go something like this:
I don’t know how to do this and my heart is breaking.
Protect my children and my wife from harm and hurt especially as it pertains to my sexual orientation.
We need you; I need your kindness and grace in responding to those who are curious about my family. I need your courage to answer with tenderness and confidence in the face of those I assume will reject me and, in turn, my kids.
Increase our resilience and ability to move quickly past the pain toward love and healing. And please, please, please give me wisdom in how to help my children. Help me know how to frame this experience for them as they grow, and give them a great capacity to understand what it means that they have two moms.
Begin to protect their hearts from any hatred or ignorance that will be thrown their way.
When I cry out to God in prayer, it’s comforting to know that many other moms have traveled this path before me.
I look to them for strength and guidance on how to do this motherhood thing, especially as a lesbian mom.
Someone recently brought up the story of the Canaanite woman to me, and I have begun to take great courage from her.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with her story found in Matthew 15—basically there’s this Canaanite woman and she has a daughter who is sick. We aren’t told what kind of sick, but it’s clearly bad enough for her to seek out Jesus and go through hell and back in order to get her daughter healing.
Jesus and the disciples are hanging out, and this woman won’t leave them alone.
The disciples are like, “Hey Jesus, get rid of this lady!” And even Jesus tries to shut her up; he tells her that his healing isn’t for her because she’s Canaanite, not from the chosen people—the Jews.
At this point she could have easily fallen to the shame and exhaustion she must have surely felt. I can’t even begin to understand Jesus in this story. He’s usually such an extravagant healer, and I’m not used to his resistance.
But this does not stop her, and I’ve begun to wonder if Jesus acts the way he does in order to let her be the hero of the story. She musters all the strength, courage and wisdom that a mother has along with the love for her daughter, and in the craftiest way possible, she finds a way for Jesus to open his heart and his healing for her daughter.
Because she would not shut up or back down, Jesus finally recognizes her faith and says that her daughter has been healed.
There’s something about this mother’s tenacity that gets to me.
I’m drawn to her; she gets something that feels fundamental about being a mom. And for myself, a mother who’s also a lesbian in a Christian world—I am the Canaanite woman. I'm learning that I need to start embodying her by hanging on and not letting go for anything.
I am the one who some Christians want to shut up or send away. I’m realizing my kids are going to need me to be tenacious, courageous and wise.
I’m also challenged by the Canaanite woman because she does not focus on herself; she could have been completely covered in shame by Jesus and the disciples. She could have left without the healing, feeling even more alone and devastated.
Instead, she focused on her daughter's needs and pressed forward.
Lesson learned—don’t make it about me. Don’t put my fears, sadness and sense of limitation onto my children. Instead I need to use that wonderful stubbornness and persistent mother-bear that lives within me to help my kids find a way to be in the places they desire to be.
For instance, what if we go back to the scenario I wrote about in my last blog for Believe Out Loud and imagine that, while standing on the sidewalk listening to a worship band and the worship leaders asks me about my spouse, I say with grace and confidence that I have a wife, and we are a family who loves music and Jesus, so we’re happy to be there?!
And what if when my kids want to go to a new Vacation Bible School, I sign them up and teach them to have confidence in the love we have as a family so even if someone says something negative to them about having two moms, instead of it creating fear and anxiety, they have the capacity to respond with dignity towards themselves and tenderness towards the other?!
And what if instead of running and hiding, I gently and boldly speak to the pastor of that church just as the Canaanite woman spoke to Jesus in order to ensure my kids’ safety in church?!
While I’m not exactly sure what I would say to such a pastor, I do know that I would not leave until I got the answer I was looking for. And I know that I would have the Canaanite woman’s story deep in my heart, and I would believe just as she did that my children are worth holding my ground and not falling to the shame and exhaustion.
In fact, it’s this very thing that makes me glad Jesus responded the way he did.
It helps highlight the Canaanite woman's strength even more. I have faith to believe Jesus might have known that, having wanted to her shine and feel the power and beauty of being a mother. Which is exactly how I will begin to think about the opportunities I’m faced with daily in coming out and facing vulnerable and sometimes awkward questions about my family.
I will see these conversations as a time for me to connect to and embody the power, grace and strength that is within me.
Photo via flickr user Patrick Slaven