“I gave birth to two sons and two daughters. I now have four sons.” This, the stripped down, vulnerable admission from a dear friend over dinner. Said with her signature humble smile, it was nearly impossible to discern just how much strength it took for her to say the words out loud. I flashed back to what now feels like a lifetime ago when, sitting among our cherished group of friends during our weekly Bible study, she made the nervous announcement that they were expecting their fourth child — a girl.
The world was different then. At that time, I’m not sure I even understood what the terms transgender or gender dysphoria meant and I’d submit not one of us in that room could have forecasted so many of our youth today would be struggling with their identities. We were just a group of moms trying to get it right and leaning on our faith to balance the joys of motherhood with the stress and fear that creeps its way into a mama’s heart. We prayed for our children, for their health and safety and for the wisdom to guide them. Looking back now, it is clear that we were perhaps praying more for ourselves, for the protection of a love so fierce that any threat to its stability and soundness forces us to our knees.
Our babies are grown now, several in college and most carrying the title of teen. Our prayers for guidance and wisdom have taken on a different urgency as we are called to let go more and more. While much has changed, what remains the same is our deepest desire as mothers to love our children well. And sometimes, in the midst of trying to get it right, we unintentionally serve as examples to the rest of the herd trying to find their way.
This particular fellow mama and friend has done exactly that for me. In her, I see a true example of selfless and limitless love for her children. I see a love and deep respect that transcends any boundary tested by the wanderings — the searching — of a teen heart. Truth be told, I haven’t spent enough time alongside my friend to understand how this journey has been for her or to ask how her heart is keeping up with this reality I would guess she never thought she would face. All I can do is place my own, potentially misguided, thoughts around it all. In doing so, I imagine stages of grief, fear, anger and confusion.
Normally, I’m ashamed to admit, this whole topic would fall into the category of “for others to deal with” and I’d put all the wrong labels on it as someone watching from a distance. Judgment would be quick to creep in and I’d let my confusion cloud the empathy desperately needed and deserved. However, by watching this mother I so admire try to figure out how to carry this cross, I’m forced to consider how I would relate to the same. And I see now that, for her, carrying it with her children, while holding strong to her faith, she is forced to ask what is perhaps the most critical question; what would Jesus do?
There was a moment of silence around the table after this heavy statement. Only a few seconds passed however before she followed it with the seemingly simple proclamation that further affirmed the beauty of her heart. “What am I going to do?” she asked. “Stop loving them?” She won’t change her love for her children any more than Jesus will change His love for them, or for her.
I won’t pretend to know anything about the intricacies of the church’s position on transgenderism. I imagine I could spend days reading opinions from one end of the spectrum to the other. What I do know is when issues such as this are viewed outside the boundaries of who Jesus is, anger always seems to be the focus and that never solves anything. The little I do know is that Jesus’ position on each and every one of His children is love. The purest love any of us could imagine — the kind of love that meets a broken woman at the well, that holds the weight of a man as he walks on water, raises a beloved brother from death and endures the greatest of sin on our behalf.
We are each called to offer that kind of sacrificial love to one another. From parent to child, that can often be a painful journey. To lay down our hopes and dreams and allow our children to travel their own path — it can be heart wrenching. This friend of mine, and her husband, could get angry, turn away from their faith and leave the Church. They could get angry and disown the children God entrusted to them. But they’ve done neither. They have chosen to love — in the midst of whatever confusion they are feeling and in light of whatever sacrifice they must make. They’ve done so with this incredible surrender to the Father they know will bring their family through whatever trial they encounter. By choosing to love they are allowing God to work His mercies, shower them with His grace and hold tight to the children that were never truly their own to begin with. Their love is steady. It is strong. And their example is powerful.
Copyright 2019 Nicole Johnson