In the heat of an argument over the choices her son was making, a mother’s defense mechanism arose to support her son. “I’d rather have a gay son than a dead one,” she said. I could certainly see how overwhelmed this mom was and the frustration she felt of others not walking in her shoes to comprehend her situation. Instead, she was met with judgment.
I, too, had been in this mom’s shoes of judgment for various reasons. Many could not understand my daughter’s choices and destructive lifestyles. They also could not fathom the emotional and mental toll my daughter was suffering from either. In both cases, these kids were struggling with severe depression, low self-worth, a lot of anger, as well as suicidal tendencies.
In the past ten years I have talked with many youth just like them, who were raised in the Christian home, but were met with challenges to which their peers and parents had a difficult time comprehending. These young people were very broken inside. Is this necessarily the fault of the parent? This can be answered with a yes and a no response.
For me, it was partially my fault for being in denial of the real help my daughter needed. However, in other circumstances, and by my daughter’s own words, “I made my own choices knowing full well what I was doing wrong and was willing to deal with the consequences,” the responsibility laid upon her.
Automatically, the world sees Christian parents as hoverers, manipulators, brain-washers over their children without knowing the whole truth. To those I say, “Step back. Don’t look through your own lens, but through the parent who is struggling with a child in crisis.”
Walking my own journey, I met parents along the way whose stories were similar to mine and yet, far more challenging than I could ever imagine.
Such was the case of several parents I personally know whose children have taken the steps to surgically alter their bodies in order to transition to the opposite sex. For another parent who has been a dear friend of mine for years, witnessed the marriage of their child to another of the same sex. All of these parents love their children very much and have discussed with them what the Bible says very clearly about their lifestyles and choices, but they also let their child know that they care immensely for them. However, they needed their child to understand the ramifications that their decisions would eventually produce.
These parents did not demean their children. They did not belittle or embarrass them. They simply told them the truth and where they stood on the matter as well as what the Bible says. Praying for their children is of the utmost importance if change is desired. This is a huge difference to someone who disowns their child for their actions. Sadly, this can happen, Christian home or not.
Even my own daughter blamed God for not giving her a choice of being male or female. Given time, patience, and prayer, her outlook on life, her body, and even her belief in God, changed dramatically. To the boys and girls she grew up with who were going through major identity crises, she shared these thoughts…”They are so confused and feel so worthless that they will go to anything or anyone, or change themselves to be something completely different to fill that hole they have in their life. All you can do is pray and love them.”
When a child is in crisis, oftentimes a parent is too. This is one reason why we need to extend grace, love, and compassion for both. Is it not easy being a teen or young adult and it is not easy being a parent to them either. If you are a parent in crisis, remember, there is another parent out there just like you.
For our children, we can learn a lot from them. They can teach us things to learn about what kind of life they are struggling in as well. We can be just as harsh and critical of them and not understand the emotional rollercoaster they are going through. Maybe we need to take a step back again and see things through their eyes instead of our own. This does not mean we are supporting their destructive behaviors or risky decisions. It only means that as parents, we don’t want to miss the cues and hints, and often the shouts and cries for help.
Their crises could be from an eating disorder, self-harm, addiction issues, low self-esteem, in an abusive relationship, identity issues (body, gender, sex, race, etc…), mood disorders, suicidal thoughts, rebellion, and more. Each family has their own elephant in the room to deal with.
The one personal thought I can leave you is this….We are not perfect parents. We will make mistakes and fail miserably. We will try to rescue our children and we will also make tough decisions and boundary lines. Each parent must weigh the complicated choices in how to help their hurting child. One fact remains. We cannot heal our children. Only God can do this. This is why God encourages parents to pray for their children.
More than anything, remember that God is the only one that understands what it means to walk in another’s shoes. He knows our minds, thoughts, and emotions. He knows where each of us has gone and where we are going. He created every part of us, therefore, He knows exactly what we need.
To every parent out there that feels alone, you are not. There are thousands just like you walking in their own set of shoes.
Tips of what has helped me in my journey –
*People will judge – let it go. God knows the whole story so only answer to Him.
*Find a counselor. Whether it is for you or for your child, you need someone to help guide you through your turbulent times and give you a piece or two of wisdom and tools to cope.
*Communication – leave the door open in a non-judgmental way between you and your child. Remember, they are trying to figure things out too, and despite how you feel about your child’s actions/behaviors, they need you. A counselor will help guide you to good questions that are not judgmental but ones of searching to understand their position, behaviors, and actions.
*Let your child know that you are praying for them and offer to pray for them. Even if they don’t accept your prayer, you can still privately pray for them.
*Always tell them you love them. They may not want to hear it. They may not believe it. One day however, they will remember it. It will not happen overnight. Some things take time…..lots of time. This is where you have to place them in God’s hands and allow Him to speak into their life in His own way.
*Stay close in God’s Word. That is where you will find His promises for you and your family. Your hope is built on the encouragement you receive in His Word. The scriptures are not just to inspire you but to keep you moving forward in strength, peace, and faith.
Today, walk in Christ’s shoes and not your own. He will take care of the rest.