By Jody England Hansen – Every morning, I picked up my phone and texted a message to them. “I love you.” “Thinking of you. I love you.” “Love you. Always.” It was always a message of love. No conditions or questions. Texting a message every day. Sometimes more than once a day. This went on for years. Often, I did not know where they were. I only knew they had this phone with this number. That was our connection. I knew they were with someone who was dangerous. I couldn’t do anything about that. They were over 18.
We wanted our child to be safe. We wanted our child to be with people who were good to them. We wanted our child to have an amazing life. We wanted all the wonderful things we imagined for their life to happen. Why wasn’t it happening? How could we make that happen? There were few resources that could offer any answer for us.
This was when I became involved with several groups of Mormons who were LGBTQ or friends or family with someone who was. I was invited to join Mama Dragons in their early days, when we were known as mothers of faith who sought to support each other in parenting our LGBTQ kids. We don’t emphasize the faith aspect as much, mostly to be more inclusive of all backgrounds. I have been learning to practice faith in a universal way, trying to remove barriers as I try to make room for love even when there’s no guarantee of how things might work out. I have come to believe this is one of the greatest challenges and opportunities of being a parent.
I was raised in an affirming LDS home. Questioning and seeking were not only encouraged, but expected. The gospel of Christ was what informed how we treated all people, especially those on the margins. Social justice and activism were intertwined with what we practiced in our church community. We would worship and seek to know Christ in the midst of people we may not agree with, who were from different backgrounds, politics, opinions and education. The messiness of trying to learn about God in the midst of a very human, imperfect religious community helped form a practice of seeking and finding God everywhere in a very messy, very human, and imperfect world.
This has been a constant challenge for me. I am someone who loves to find the answer, the right answer, to every question. I am that person who loves to learn and figure things out, and I want to find a solution for everything. It has been a lifelong process to value that seeking while also having faith in things that can’t be known or explained. There is no way for me to explain why there are as many ways to see the world as there are people in it…..just as there are as many ways to seek and experience God as there are people.
There is nothing in any message from my faith tradition that calls to me and inspires me more than the plea to “love one another”. The only way I can live this inspiration to LOVE ALL is to live with faith. If I am to love all as God loves all, even when I’m hurting, angry, or justified, I need to have faith that practicing that kind of love, in the face of pain, anger and justification, will somehow change my heart, and other hearts, and overcome all.
As a mother, I thought I could do so much to learn and use my training to teach my children and prepare them to be amazing and creative and strong in the face of this messy world. They would be ready to express their unique selves no matter what their interest or profession. Since I had grown up so affirming and aware, I would know how to be sensitive to them, and they would know they could turn to me with questions, or for any kind of support.
I started realizing how clueless I was before my kids were teenagers. Now that they are all adults, I really think that there are few things that require more faith than being a parent. What I have learned is that the most difficult, yet most important thing for me to let go of, sacrifice and give up – is my idea of how things are supposed to be. It is only then that I can experience heart changing, life-saving love. That is how I am learning faith.
When I let go of the kind of people I thought they would be with, socialize with, and fall in love with, I have faith that they will learn to recognize those who inspire, strengthen and affirm them, and those who might not. I have faith they will learn from relationships that are harmful (as I had to myself), and turn to resources to help them move on. I have faith they will know that I am here and I love them, no matter what. I have faith they will meet good people and build relationships that inspire them.
When I let go of how I thought my children were supposed to look, dress, and express their gender, then I have faith and more room in my heart to see them as they are now. I get to see what unique, amazing people my children are. They are more varied in possibility than anything I could have imagined before.
When I let go of what I thought my family was supposed to look like, I have room for all of what it is, now. My family does not look like anything I planned. They are fascinating and interesting. They inspire me to deeper love, and greater life.
What happens when I have this faith, this room for what is, rather than what I expected? That is when my children feel they have room to breathe. They had withdrawn from me when they were afraid I wouldn’t have room for them being different than what I expected. It took years of texting every day, just saying and BEING love, with no conditions, before they had faith that I could really be just that. When they felt they had room to breathe as themselves around me, they came back into my life.
Yes, it is hard to let go of how I think life “should” be. It is hard to just say “I love you” with no conditions, and be there for whatever shows up. Yet, this is where I have felt God with me, being love in the midst of it all. This is where my children feel my love. I will keep trying to have the faith to let go, and love the miracle that shows up.