Friday, April 01, 2016

Gender Dysphoria - Eleanor Shepherd

                Three years ago when I agreed to come out of early retirement to serve as a pastor, I had no idea the challenges I was going to face as I accompanied parishioners on their spiritual journeys. One that has really created a great deal of soul searching for me has been the accompaniment of parents whose young adult child has been suffering from gender dysphoria and is in the process of undergoing therapy that will result in a change in their gender identification.
               The parents came to faith in Christ several years ago as a result of their involvement in an Alpha Course.  They continue to grow in their faith and have been faithful in teaching their children and encouraging them to commit their lives to Christ.  When they realized the agony and hopelessness their child was experiencing because of the gender dysphoria, they chose to love and accept that child and do whatever they could to help that child deal with their identity and hold on to life. 

                  I meet with the parents on a regular basis and often our lengthy conversation begins by my simply asking how things are going.  They have been upfront with me from the beginning about their own feelings about the situation and about their need to love their child whatever the consequences.  As I have watched the pain these parents feel about the choices their child feels obligated to make, I have often been deeply moved by their love and their constant choosing to practice the way of love. 

                  Above everything else, these parents desire their child to be in a relationship with God. They know that as Christians, if they prove unable to show love to their child at a time when this person they love so much, desperately needs to be supported by their love, they give the false message that the love God gives them is not strong enough to endure this kind of trial. They are learning to open themselves to receive from the Lord the love they need to share with their suffering child.

                  In the midst of this dark and difficult time, the parents are discovering the faithfulness of God in a new way. One day, as the mother and I talked about how difficult it is for them to accept who their child is becoming. I shared a thought.

                  Jesus says in the Bible, that in Heaven, we will be like the angels.  We will no longer marry.  Our sex will not be a significant factor.  Somehow it was freeing for her to realize that what matters to God is not whether her child is a boy or a girl, but rather what the orientation of the heart of that child is.  What matters is if that child is open to the Spirit of God or not.  God loves the child, whether they are male or female.  To Him it does not really matter. 

                  The next day, the mother was talking with her husband about their child as they were trying to encourage one another. In the course of the conversation, the father said, ‘‘I have made a great discovery!’’

                  ‘‘What is that?’’ asked the wife. 

                  ‘‘It does not matter whether our child is a boy or a girl. The Bible says that when we get to Heaven our sex will not be important. God loves our child, whether they are male or female and the change will make no difference to His love for them.’’ 

                  ‘‘I can’t believe it,’’ replied the wife.  That is exactly what our pastor said to me yesterday. 

                  This affirmation reminded them that God was involved in this journey and strengthened their hope. 
Word Guild Award

Word Guild Award


Peter Black said...

Thank you, Eleanor, for sensitively sharing your journey with this journeying family. We may well have our opinions about matters such as they are now facing, but it's when such a matter comes close to home that our opinions matter very little. Maintaining a loving commitment and seeking to find God's way, step by step as this family is doing with your help, is truly heartwarming. May our Heavenly Father's love and grace prevail and prove sufficient, in every dimension of this situation. ~~+~~

Bill said...

While we may not fully agree with the choices our children make, we MUST continue to love them as we are loved! Thanks for sharing this walk!

Glynis said...

Such are the challenges we face in this world. I am sure your words and then the affirmation her husband brought a changed attitude and a certain degree of comfort to this mom. And yes, love prevails, no matter what.
Nicely said and shared, Eleanor.

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