Would you be willing to save a life?
Have you ever lost something and had to search for it? The older I get the more often this happens (smile). How about losing something precious to you? Ever have that happen?
When my dog Lucy was a puppy, we called her the Houdini dog. She could escape through the smallest hole in the fence. In fact, she could escape even when there wasn’t a hole in the fence…she would just dig her way under it! There were times when I would let her out and moments later find her in my neighbor’s yard “asking” if her doggie friend could come out to play. She loves their dog. Sure enough I would see a fresh hole dug under the fence. Then there was the time when I thought I lost her forever. She wanted to go out and just as I let her out the phone rang. I stepped back inside to grab the phone and when I went back out…she was gone. And she wasn’t in the neighbor’s yard this time. My heart sunk. I always hate seeing the “lost dog/cat” posters on the street light poles in the neighborhood. Makes me so sad, and I didn’t want to see my Lucy girls face on one of those posters. I immediately ran out to try to find her, but she was no where in sight. I grabbed her leash and made my way around the neighborhood calling her name. I walked the same streets looking for her as I did when we would go out on our nightly strolls together.
It was a very stressful time when we got her, but she was a good distraction. Training classes and the homework we were given kept my mind off of things. We got Lucy about a year after I found out my son was gay, and I didn’t know anyone else with a gay child…it was very isolating. The people I once felt safe with I was no longer sure I could trust with this piece of news. Walking Lucy each night, I would look at the houses and wonder if the people living there had a gay child. I would walk her in the evening so no one would see my tears as I pleaded with God to change him. It wasn’t just that I didn’t want him to be gay…I didn’t want him to suffer…and he was suffering badly. As strange as it may seem to those who aren’t dog people, Lucy kept me sane back then. She could make me smile no matter what the circumstances were because she just simply loved me no matter what. I could tell her my secret and she didn’t care.
Halfway through the neighborhood, my phone buzzed with a text message. It was my daughter McKensie telling me that she found Lucy. Relief! I thanked God the whole way home. I just couldn’t imagine losing what felt like part of my lifeline back then.
June is Pride month and this time of year seems to be a common time for kids to come out. They are going to be searching for someone safe to share this truth about themselves. If you are chosen, how you respond is important. I invite you to read Brett Trapp’s words about what it’s like for them to tell you. He wrote his coming out story in “Blue Babies Pink” and this is an excerpt from it about a child coming out to a parent…but kids (or adults for that matter) don’t always choose to come out to a parent so the person they choose may be you. Here are Brett’s words:
I think a lot of really good parents act really terribly towards their gay kids because they’re reacting out of their own pain.
The news has a victimizing effect on parents I think. And victims don’t empathize well with other victims. This is tragic because a child never feels more like a victim than they do in that very vulnerable moment. And victims need help. They need someone to listen and ask them what they need. They need long, enduring empathy and tears from someone who is trying—albeit imperfectly—to understand their pain.
I wish I could find every parent who will eventually have a child come out to them, look them in the eye, and tell them:
When you least expect it, a battered child who’s been lost at sea will show up on your doorstep. This is your child, but it’s a version of them you’ve never met.
They will be haggard—long tangled hair, skinny, ragged clothes, dirty feet. They look like this because they’re worn out—exhausted—from many years at sea, alone in a lifeboat with no water, no map, and no paddle. You had no idea, but that’s not your fault.
Next, welcome them inside. Offer them a drink.
After a few moments, they’re going to swallow hard and tell you they’ve been on a journey. Know that by the time they get to your doorstep, they will have had to muster every last ounce of courage and energy. In fact, getting to your doorstep may have been the hardest part of their journey.
Your next job is to listen. And believe what they tell you.
When they tell you they were on this journey for all those years, alone and scared, believe them.
When they tell you they never asked to be on that boat believe them.
When they tell you they tried to get off that boat many times and swim to shore, for God’s sake, believe them.
If they feel like talking, ask them what it was like out on those seas . . .
Ask them about the storms. Ask them about the wind and the rain and the swells. Ask them if they were scared. Ask them what they did to survive. (Remember, this child of yours is very strong, otherwise they wouldn’t have survived this journey.)
Ask them about sleeping in a raft alone under midnight skies.
Ask them if God was there—if they felt him, if they talked to them. (They might have, but you must remember that God feels very distant for people in lifeboats alone at sea. They might even be mad at God or think he doesn’t exist at all. That’s okay.
Remember that theology lessons aren’t helpful when their clothes are still wet with seawater.)
Regardless, remind them that God loves his little lost sailors very much, and that he never stopped loving them, even on those nights when it was just them and no moon and big shadows circling in black water. Remind them.
And dear parent, whatever you do, don’t lecture them.
Don’t shame them for being in that boat. Don’t tell them that God hates people in lifeboats. Tell them that God loves those few souls in rafts just like he loves the rest on land. And remember, that you aren’t the survivor here. They—THEY—are the ones that have been on a long, lonely journey. Remember this.
Ask them if they ever saw land in the distance.
Ask them if they ever saw land-dwellers on the horizon and if they ever screamed for help. Apologize for those people that didn’t hear them or the ones who held up giant signs saying, “GOD HATES PEOPLE IN LIFEBOATS.” Tell them you’re sorry they had to see that and that you would have ripped up those signs if you could.
Ask them if they ever put a message in a bottle and tossed it into the sea, hoping it might reach someone on land.
Tell them you wished you’d found that message. In fact, grab them by the shoulders, look them right in the eye, and tell them you would have done anything to find it if that meant getting to you sooner. Tell them you would have drowned yourself to get to them. Then tell them you wished we didn’t live in a world where scared kids had to put messages in bottles. Tell them that’s unjust.
And finally, tell them they’re no longer alone, no longer out on those high seas.
Tell them they’re on land now and land has homes. And homes are filled with love, and love is the thing that makes the boat stop rocking. Love is the thing that calms those storms. Love is the thing that scares off black shadows in black waters. And that as long as they are breathing, they will have a home, and they will never ever be alone.
I wish everyone would read Brett’s story. I encourage you to do so…even if you don’t have a gay child. It is a quick summer read (way shorter than a book)….just 44 of what he calls episodes. You can also listen to it as a podcast. Many people ask me for resources, or ask how they can get involved in helping the LGBTQ community. I say start here. Read his story. And if you do…let me know what you think. I would love to chat about it with you.
Losing my dog for that brief time was hard, but I can’t even begin to imagine losing the very people who are supposed to love me. As you can see, this coming out process is a tough one. And the people coming out are searching for a safety net or life-preserver to cling to. Some will lose the very people they love and trust the most in this world. They will search for a community that they feel comfortable in…somewhere they can be their true authentic selves. Something precious to them. Be that person.
How you respond can save their life. Will you be their life-preserver? Can they step out of the lifeboat into your loving, caring arms? I hope so. They are searching to be understood…and most of all loved.
Because love matters.
*If you find yourself without a safe place to land, please know that you are not alone. In this world of modern technology, there are ways to communicate that are more personal than a letter in the mail, or a text message on your phone. Contact me via my contact page. I would love to chat with you.