Editors’ Note: During our honeymoon, we've asked some friends to write guest posts around the topic of faith and sexuality.
Mindy Durias is a heterosexual female, married with five children. She met her husband of almost 20 years when they were students at Multnomah University, a non-denominational Christian university in Portland, Oregon.
By Mindy Durias
For almost a year now, David and Constantino have been a part of our community of faith here in Portland. Words fall short to express how much I’ve come to love and respect them in such a short time. They are my friends, my brothers, and in some ways, I feel like they are my sons—even though I am only a couple years older. But when they asked me to share about my experience in explaining gay couples to our children, my first thought was, "No way! That's a huge topic and I am hardly an expert." As I thought about it more, though, I recognized that they didn’t approach me because I was an expert. I am just experienced.
I’ve been a mother for nearly as many years as I’ve been following Jesus. For most of those years I have been a full-time, stay-at-home mom, and this is the 10th year I’ve been homeschooling. While I am very committed to my role as full-time mom and teacher, it has been rough at times! Every day is like standing in front of a full-length mirror that reflects back my very soul. When little eyes are on me 24/7, there is no hiding or covering flaws. They see it all, and they call it like they see it: “I feel like you don’t like me when you talk like that.” “Mom, that was mean to say.” “I can hear you whispering under your breath.” The worst is when they don’t say anything, their mouths turned down and their sweet eyes filled with tears from my words or actions that have pained their tender hearts. Ugh! How can I cause such hurt to the people I love most in the whole entire world?
But there is one thing that I can say I have done right. I have stood my ground in front of that awful, telling mirror and been honest with myself about the ugly places in my soul that would lash out at my children. And I apologize to them ALL. THE. TIME. These frequent apologies create the thin space where heaven touches earth, and we are able to experience the divine. Tears are dried, hugs are exchanged and hearts are changed. Most of all, mine. It has been in the constant falling on my face and apologizing that my children have taught me. Yes, that’s right. I’m their teacher for reading, writing, and arithmetic. But they are my teachers in every other way in this life. Especially when it comes to understanding the nature and heart of God.
It has been a long process to arrive at where I am today in my convictions on gay Christian marriage. My children have seen up close as I’ve gone from a traditional view to what I guess would be considered a liberal view over the past several years. But I really don’t like either of those labels. I prefer to think of it as having been freed from a small view of God’s unfathomable grace for mankind. In this too, my children have taught me. Small children don’t divide people in their hearts and minds into categories: gay or straight; religious or not; deserving or undeserving; fat or thin; ugly or beautiful. When a child knows they are loved—that they belong to another—they receive and give love away so naturally. They don’t care about labels. In this way, they reflect God. We belong, just as we are. God’s grace abounds to us and we can freely receive it. Then, when we do reciprocate that kind of love, we are living reflections of the image of God within.
So how have we approached the conversations about gay marriage? The truth is that on this, my children have led and I have followed.
With my three teenage millennials, the discussion centers predominantly around equality. In their hearts and minds, any god that wouldn’t love all people equally is ridiculous. Their God is BIG and all-inclusive, loving and embracing all of humanity without favoritism. God’s grace is for all. When I was a teen, the hot topic of debate was about the grounds for divorce and remarriage. There were those who argued the orthodoxy of the biblical perspective and those who focused more on orthopraxy. I remember thinking that those on the side of orthodoxy had replaced God’s grace and love with control. The perspective my older kids represent is reminiscent of those on the side of orthopraxy. They reject any notion of a small, controlling god who labels some "in" and some "out." God is for fidelity—gay or straight.
In time I’ve grown to see God the way my children do, and I continue to be challenged and stretched in my own convictions by their clarity, decisiveness and trust. And if things had been different—if I had not grown in my perspective—I wonder if this would have created a rift between us. Or worse, between them and God. Thankfully, this is not the case and we continue to have meaningful dialogue on this topic and equality in general.
Often, deep conversations take place in the minivan on the way home from church. One such Sunday, we were sharing with each other who we had visited with that morning. I mentioned having talked with a couple from our church and my 10-year-old asked, “Who are they?” One of the older kids, without thinking, said, “They’re the two gay guys.” Joshua paused with a puzzled look on his face and asked, “What is gay?” Now, we hadn’t been sheltering him from this topic of conversation. It just had never come up naturally, and he hadn’t asked—which I have always reasoned means a child isn’t ready yet.
So there we were! Although he didn’t remember names, Joshua knew who these two men were. He enjoyed them. I proceeded to explain in very simple terms that gay is when a man likes a man or a woman likes a woman. He listened, and after a bit said, “That’s weird.” I asked, “What do you mean by weird?” Almost immediately he amended his statement and said, “Well, I guess not weird. Just different.” I validated him. “Yes, it’s different. Different than daddy and me, and many people you may know. But does it make you like them less or think less of them as people?” Without hesitation he said, “No way. We’re friends.” Then we all continued in the conversation talking about how the things that make us different don’t have to make us scared of one another. In fact, our differences make life interesting. How boring would it be if we all were the same? If all of our friends thought and acted exactly like we did? Everyone agreed that would be totally lame. For my 10-year-old, friendship is bigger than any differences between him and other people. I need to remind myself of this often. Especially when those differences hurt me.
The conversation that has stretched me the most happened with my 6-year-old. Her response of love and admiration when confronted with the reality of this topic was so simple and pure. It speaks to me profoundly of the nature of God toward mankind. One afternoon, the mail carrier came delivering an invitation to a wedding. This wouldn’t normally create so much as a ripple in our house, but this was for Dave and Tino’s wedding. My 17-, 14-, 13- and 10-year-olds were ecstatic! Jumping around and nearly fighting over who would see it first, they all wanted a turn holding it and reading it. My 6-year-old entered the kitchen with all the ruckus going on and immediately joined in, although she had no idea what the fuss was about. Until this day, I hadn’t spoken with her directly about gay marriage or what it meant to be a gay person. She had been present when discussions had taken place, but presumably was uninterested or not ready to participate. As is custom, she was last to receive the invitation into her little hands. She looked at it and innocently asked, “What is it, Mom?” “A wedding invitation,” I answered matter-of-factly. Then she slowly opened the card and saw the picture of Dave and Tino. Her face lit up and a broad smile spread across her sweet face. “AH! I love those guys!” she gooshed. “Can I keep it?”