This story of an Evangelical Christian mom and her gay son is heart-breaking for all the reasons all the other far too many similar stories are heart-breaking.
What I find most poignant in this story, however, is the tragedy wrought by other people refusing to accept this young man's own testimony of his identity.
"I am gay... I know I am... It's just the way I am and it's something I know," he wrote his devout Christian mom in a series of text messages.
His mother remonstrated, "We love you. We are so glad you are our son. But you are young, and your sexual orientation is still developing. The feelings you’ve had for other guys don’t make you gay. So please don’t tell anyone that you ARE gay. You don’t know who you are yet. Your identity is not that you are gay – it is that you are a child of God."
She and other family and friends and church youth leaders chose to disregard what he knew about himself, instead imposing on him identities and meanings that made them comfortable. They were pleased when he acquiesced in their interpretation of what he was feeling. They learned only too late how disastrous it was for him.
The most poignant (heartbreaking!) part of her testimony was her admission that "we did not even give Ryan a chance to wrestle with God, to figure out what HE believed God was telling him through scripture about his sexuality. We had believed firmly in giving each of our four children the space to question Christianity, to decide for themselves if they wanted to follow Jesus, to truly OWN their own faith. But we were too afraid to give Ryan that room when it came to his sexuality, for fear that he’d make the wrong choice."
It takes courage to stand on what we know of ourselves, especially when those we most love, trust and admire (and who we know love us) don't understand.
Only God knows us better than we know ourselves. Nobody else knows. And we have a right to stand on what we know, and what God teaches us of ourselves -- even when it makes others uncomfortable.
Our lives and our eternal souls depend on our ability to find that courage.