By Shirley Baskett

Parents and family members can feel helpless when someone they love is gay. For most there is the initial shock and then often a grief process. It is the anticipation of the loss of dreams and the loss of a hoped for future that included daughter-in-laws, grandchildren. It is the shock that life cannot be it has always been, gathering at Christmas, celebrating an aged aunt's birthday or attending a family wedding. Because these things didn't include sticky situations like what happens when the gay or lesbian partner arrives for the celebration at granddad's 70th, held in the church lounge, or a baby is born through IVF.

Christian families struggle to understand how this could have happened when this child was taught the Bible and faithfully attended Sunday school and youth group? At first, there is the demand of God, "You are all powerful! Just fix my child!" There is a desire to just 'get this show back on the right road - and now!' Sadly, this is often followed by anger as neither God or the family member appears to be moved.

Today, there is pressure on families to move on. Simply accept this child as they are and the focus is on making the gay person or the lesbian feel as comfortable as possible. By the time the homosexual person has made their orientation open to family, they have already been through the pain and torment of coming to an acceptance of what has been often years of questioning both themselves and God. Finally being honest with family can be the start of a sense of relief even if the family reacts badly. At least there is no longer an internal war of secrecy and frustrated efforts to 'straighten out'.

For the family, when there is disclosure, even if there may have been suspicion, it is just the start of confusion and now there are a number of people affected by homosexual orientation. Parents and family have a right to process their pain just as their homosexual family member does. The one thing that no one has the right to, is to control or coerce someone.

Family who have had to work through the many theological and emotional questions that turn their lives upside down, later look back and see that God had a way of taking any life circumstance and bringing new grace and new views of the goodness of God, despite what others may do. He uses these close family relationships to teach us to love unconditionally, to learn that we cannot control or change anyone other than ourselves. It is rare the person of faith who does not gain from this unwanted life change. Most say that the situation presses them far closer into their relationship with God and their walk with Jesus than if they had never had this turn in their lives. So helplessness is a new experience for many who have had everything together. It is a wonderful gift from God to learn deep lessons about submission and new levels of trust.

For any parent or family or friend worrying about a loved one who is homosexual, it is important to find others who can journey with you, who understand. Support groups for parents help people to talk and pray when the seismograph hits emotional peaks. There is nothing better than someone who has been on the same journey to help give words in season and God grown wisdom when needed.

How long does it take for God to reach your family member? Only he knows. But he has promised that he answers prayer and he loves your child more than you could ever imagine. He will never override a person's will, but he is calling to them in a hundred ways all through their lives. We never know what other people are alongside our family members. God will have his servants in their work places, as neighbours and you may never know what is happening. In the meantime, the greatest prayer is, 'Lord, change me'.

If you would like to find a support group where you are, or if you would like to start one or receive training in running a support group, please contact us.