My parents never imagined that I would walk away from the Christian faith. My life seemed to be going in the direction they always prayed it would go. At an early age, I committed my life to Jesus after I learned who He was and what He did for me. My relationship with Him only grew as the years went by. In fact, I felt called into ministry when I was thirteen years old. I went to Bible college, got married to my high school sweetheart, graduated college, and stepped into full time ministry with my husband all by my early twenties. Everything was going according to plan. My parents were proud, my siblings looked up to me, and it seemed as though I was living the dream.
Until one day, they received a call that I was leaving my faith and diving head first into the LGBTQ+ lifestyle. Yes, I was leaving my husband. Yes, I was walking away from the ministry and yes, I was turning my back on God. My father watched as I completely slipped into darkness and began to acknowledge God's Truth as a lie. Although my father was heartbroken, he allowed me to stay in his home after I left my husband. I would go into depth with everything my husband was feeling, but I'm going to let him share that personally in an upcoming post. What I want to share with you is my perspective on everything my father did during that particular season. I want to share how it impacted my life and helped me to see Christ in the midst of it all even when I refused to acknowledge Him.
My father loved me even when my LGBTQ+ lifestyle conflicted with his convictions.
When I say that my father loved me, I truly mean it. My father allowed me to stay in his home and live under his roof even though he was a Senior Pastor of a church where he preached that homosexuality was a sin. If you read the post my father wrote (you can read it here) he mentions how we actually grew closer to one another while I identified as a lesbian because my Father decided to love me through it all. He didn't just read the passages of scripture speaking on homosexuality being a sin, but he clung to the passages that spoke about love. We are called to love those who are broken, hurting, and those we consider our enemies. If Jesus could love and wash the feet of the man who would betray Him, then we can love those who view life differently than we do. We are called to be like Jesus and my father showed me what that looked like. When I knew that my father genuinely loved me despite my lifestyle, it meant everything to me. It made me realize that my father's love wasn't based on conditions, but it was pure. Through that small act, my father showed me how my Holy Father loves me.
"But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." Luke 6:27-28
My father didn't constantly tell me I was wrong and going to hell. The way he lived was all the conviction I needed.
When I watched my father live out his faith, it convicted my heart daily. I would watch this man struggle, but watch as he cried out to God. I saw time and time again where God would come through for my father and my family. There were days when my father was exhausted, but he always made time for the Lord. I couldn't comprehend why he continued to serve the Lord when everything was going wrong. In my mind, God didn't care about anyone or anything, but I saw Him care for my father. I saw my dad go into his prayer time tired and worn down only to leave joyful and rejuvenated. I witnessed my father stressed out of his mind only to spend time with the Lord and witness a supernatural peace wash over him. He didn't know it, but I was watching him like a hawk. I wanted to see him give up, I wanted to see him fail, I wanted to see him grow bitter towards God, but I watched as my father only got stronger in his faith. My father's faith brought a loving conviction into my heart. How could I hate God when He was clearly showing me through my father that He listens, He cares, and that He does answer prayer. God may not answer my prayers the way I believe He should, but He is always on the move and He is always working for my good. Somewhere along the way I had stopped believing that, but my father was awakening that revelation deep within me.
"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7
My father never stopped believing in me and he never gave up on me.
I remember my father calling me into his church office before I moved to New York City to live with the girl I was talking to. With tears in his eyes, he told me that he loved me and that he believed in me. He continued to tell me that he knew God had a plan for my life and that God was going to do an amazing work in me. Regardless of all the things I had said to my father, regardless of how much I denied God, regardless of how angry I was, my dad still believed in me and my calling. I did everything I could to hold back my own tears, but there were no words to describe how much that meant to me. However, it was the next part that took my breath away, "Ciara, I am proud of you. No, I may not agree with your lifestyle, but you do what you believe and no one and nothing can sway you from it. The day you dedicate that mindset to the Lord is the day the enemy will run scared. I'm proud of you." My father was proud of me. How? Why? I should be his biggest disappointment, but he was proud? I couldn't understand it at the time, but looking back I see what God was trying to show me.
"Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." Psalms 139:16
My father never stopped praying for me. He knew prayer was his most powerful weapon.
When talking with those who have a friend or loved one in the homosexuality community, I usually ask if they are praying for that individual. It's amazing the number of times I have been told "not really" or "Yeah I do when I get the chance." Hear me when I say this, PRAYER is your most powerful weapon and patience is your ally. When I first came out to my father with my same sex attraction struggle, he admitted that he didn't take it seriously, thought it was a phase, and didn't put much thought into it. What was the result of that admittance? My dad didn't pray for me and he saw the situation grow worse. No, my obedience wasn't relying upon my father's prayers, but my fathers prayers was keeping him away from the wisdom and understanding on how to navigate the situation! Also, he was robbing himself the oportunity of the Holy Spirit moving through and operating in his prayers! The enemy runs away and flees at the name of Jesus! Strongholds are broken and chains fall to the ground when we pray to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Prayer is what brings change!
When I was sitting in my New York City apartment contemplating taking my life, I felt the prayers of every person who had prayed for me surround me like a warm blanket and it changed my perspective! It encouraged me to walk into the presence of God and ask for His help. It was the prayers of God's people that lead me to repentance. It was the kindness of their actions and positioning their hearts in kindness to pray over me that forever changed my life! Never forget the power of your prayers. Intercede for your loved ones, fast for them, stand in the gap at the altar and cry out to the Lord! He sees and hears every word and the Holy Spirit is responding to your cries!
"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people." Ephesians 6:18
God was using my father to show me His love for me.
My father showed me the unconditional love of my Holy Father. Every time I denied and let my father down, he loved me. Every time I pretended to be sick so I didn't have to go to church, he pursued me. Every time I came home talking on the phone with a girl, he drew close to me and loved me harder. Every time I cried over a girl breaking my heart, he listened to my pain and agony. When I moved away and called him, he answered. When I moved away and needed advice, he gave it. Through the actions of my father, I realized that the Lord was drawing close to me and despite living in sin, He wanted to hear my heart and how I was struggling. God wanted me to talk out my anger, bitterness, and feelings of rejection with Him because through my vulnerability and transparency I was able to receive freedom from my hurt. I have seen parents reject their children when they have come out as being part of the LGBTQ+ community. I have seen parents feel completely justified in those actions, not realizing that they are called to love their son or daughter even more so and to show that love in such a deeper way.
You can look at your son, daughter, or friend coming out as a moment of extreme grief and that's okay. You need to feel those emotions, talk to someone you trust about those emotions, and give it to God so He can walk you through those emotions. However, I encourage you to shift perspective and look at your loved ones admittance as a unique opportunity to show them the love of the Father in a way that they have never previously known. Allow the Holy Spirit to show you how to navigate through the unknown and pour His wisdom into you. Your situation is not above Him. He is capable to lead you through every and any storm, including this one. Take the Lord at His Word and begin to trust His leading in a way you never have. Give up your own control of the situation and allow God to put His Holy lens over your eyes.
I pray peace and love over you and your loved one. Never give up hope! You may feel as though your efforts are in vein and I'm sure my father felt the same towards me, but I can assure you that I felt the Holy conviction every day. I may not have shown it, but I felt it. I knew the Lord was pursuing me because of those who loved, prayed, and pursued me here on earth. So to finish this particular post, I want to say: Thank you dad. Thank you for praying for me, loving me, and pursuing me. Thank you for never giving up on me and for being the true example of a Godly father. I love you.