Jesus connects family strife to bearing a cross (Luke 14:26–27), and I’m beginning to understand these verses personally. Following Jesus has led to a type of death between my oldest son and me, my wife, and our other children.
My son professed faith in Jesus at a young age. He consistently engaged in spiritual conversations with me, our family, and our church family. We taught the Scriptures in our home through words and actions.
So it came as a shock to us when, last year, he stated he had gender dysphoria and wondered if he was transgender. Within a few months, our 18-year-old firmly believed he was transgender and that an LGBT+ identity was compatible with Scripture’s teaching.
My wife and I had many questions swirling in our minds: What had happened to our son? Did we do something wrong? Why didn’t God protect him? As we look back on what contributors might have led our son to this lifestyle, we can only land on a few.
First, an old friendship came back into our son’s life during COVID shutdowns and grew over time. This friend was moving through the spectrum of the LGBT+ community. My wife and I encouraged our son to be faithful to the Word, which included showing love and grace to his friend.
Second, a few other people who had meaningful relationships with my son expressed to him their belief that LGBT+ lifestyles can align with Christianity.
While my son currently believes all LGBT+ identities are compatible with Christianity, he has also admitted his relationship with Jesus isn’t great. His mom and I know that if he’s a genuine believer, he must turn from the sin he’s in, because “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19–21; 1 Cor. 6:9–10). If he embraces this lifestyle, he doesn’t give evidence of genuine trust in and obedience to Jesus.
Since my son made his decision, I’ve read about potential triggers and causes for why individuals can be drawn into LGBT+ identities. Whether there are real internal or external pulls, I’ve come to realize that, at some point, I have to simply surrender to the Lord that I don’t know what I don’t know. I pray that’s not a lazy response on my part but instead an admission of surrender to the Lord. He knows and he sees, and the greatest answer for my son and for my family is Jesus. But saying that is much easier than living it out.
Loving Our Son
For months after his announcement, our son was mostly closed and antagonistic toward us. As he became more confident in his views, he opened up more. Today he’s cordial, but there have been many roadblocks on this journey.
For example, when he was finally willing to talk with us, he communicated his hope that we’d call him by his new chosen name and pronouns. We knew we couldn’t do that. At one point, he said that by not using his preferred name and pronouns, we weren’t doing the bare minimum to love him.
Hearing that crushed our hearts. But we thought, How could we affirm an identity that ignores God’s goodness for him and ignores the goodness of the physical body? How can we ignore that our son is making himself central and not Jesus? And, God, why is this happening?
How can we ignore that our son is making himself central and not Jesus?
During one conversation, when we said we couldn’t use his preferred name and pronouns, he said to us, “Then I can’t guarantee I won’t kill myself.” He eventually went to his room, wailing and weeping profusely. My wife and I were also crying, feeling helpless. Certainly, it’d be easier to simply call him by his preferred name and pronouns. Certainly, it’d be easier to celebrate the things he celebrates.
In these moments, it’s hard to remember that the change he’s asking for will harm him not only spiritually but also mentally and physically.
Last year, my son suffered severe depression and suicidal ideation, admitting himself to the ER during Christmas break. It was the bleakest Christmas my family had ever experienced, and those weeks led to months of wondering if I would find my child dead in his room. Our questions persisted: Why can’t we just hold him and make everything better? Does God care?
Loving Jesus More
When my son thought we hated him, he didn’t realize our love for Jesus (and for him) is greater than he could imagine.
In Luke 14:26, when Jesus tells his disciples they’d have to “hate” their children, he wasn’t speaking of literal hatred. The Scriptures are replete with God’s good commands to enjoy and sacrificially love our children (Deut. 4:9; Prov. 17:6; Isa. 49:15–16; Mal. 4:6; Col. 3:21; Eph. 6:1–4). Jesus doesn’t contradict this. Instead, he’s emphasizing the degree of the sacrifice you make when you love Jesus. Your love for Jesus can be viewed by your family, even your children, as hatred.
The reality is that my wife and I love our son, and we’ve always wanted to love what he loves because we love him. Yet in this, we couldn’t affirm him. We couldn’t “delight in evil.” We had to “delight in the truth” even if our son felt like our love was actually hatred (1 Cor. 13).
She and I must die to ourselves for a few reasons:
1. Jesus is life and the only way to living life to the fullest.
2. Our words and actions can point our son to his need for Jesus.
3. We trust that dying to self leads to greater life and praise to God.
We know every parent has to die to self to truly love his or her child. It’s a pattern we set from the beginning. Our children don’t always know what they want or what’s best for them. And we don’t either, which is why we have to trust Jesus and his Word.
We trust that dying to self leads to greater life and praise to God.
Regularly, my wife and I admit the only way we can follow Jesus through these tumultuous waters is by the sustaining grace God gives in Jesus. My son’s struggles have shown us our dependence on Jesus. And as we gaze at our Savior, we see how Jesus’s death was the only one that blossomed into resurrection life—not only for himself but for all who trust him as their Savior and Lord.
If I’m resting in Jesus and looking to him, my continued death—resulting from my child’s spiritual blindness—can only mean more life. This doesn’t mean I’ll always get the things I think I should receive. But it does mean God wastes no deaths that share in Christ’s suffering.
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