Wrestling with My Identity
Scared. Afraid. Sad. All feelings I’ve had when I think about my truth. It’s inextricably tied to who I am as a woman, as a mother, as a daughter and wife.
My life has taken some Candyland-worthy twists and turns that left me feeling broken. But over the last couple years, I’ve turned a corner, and I’ve done a lot of digging to determine what I stand for: for clarity, for my truth.
I was a young mother of two boys, married to a man I’d known essentially my entire life. He was in love with me since our late teens—and with no other prospects, and very little forethought, I connected with him and we were married in our early 20s. It wasn’t ideal, more of a friendship than anything. We had our boys early. They were my loves. After ten years, their dad and I divorced, and I was a single mother.
Single moms will know what I mean when I say, “I did my best.” It’s not easy to work full time, care for teenage boys, and do it all well. I’m a pleaser, after all, and one who sees responsibility as her middle name. So, if I was doing nothing else, I was being responsible, and found identity in that.
Mom identity plays out with your kids successfully making it through high school and college, getting married, having kids—making you a grandma and all that comes with it. When my first son came out and told me he was gay at 19, I felt my identity crumbling. Particularly since I’d raised them as Christians. Church every week, youth group…the whole enchilada. I thought that was part of being a good mom. His identity didn’t fit inside my puzzle. Although I’d had friends throughout my life who were gay, I hadn’t had to reconcile my faith with that reality. Now it was staring me in the face.
“The Bible is clear.” That’s what my second husband said. But I wasn’t so sure. It was hard for me to believe that God, who had formed my son in my womb, would think he was a sin. I didn’t…at least, I didn’t think so. I did not show up for my son well. I had a lot of questions. Was he sure? Maybe it was a phase? And I told him not to tell anyone in case “he changed his mind.” Not proud mom moments. I continued to confirm my love for him but was not the support system I wish I’d been, looking back on it.
My second husband and I had struggles of our own and divorced. In a way, I felt a weight lifted because I was free to explore what I believed about my son. My relationship with my son had remained strong, but I’d struggled with his identity. With my husband, I’d felt I needed to “toe the line,” and whether I did or not, I had—at least externally. I’d stayed small to have peace…to please him. And that’s on me, not him. I could now embrace my son and work on sorting through what I believed from a faith perspective on my own, instead of based on what someone else told me.
And then my other son told me he was gay. I cried. Buckets. Not in front of him, but to my friends, whom I asked to help me understand what I was feeling, because I wasn’t sure. Where I landed was that his identity, as well as his brother’s identity, didn’t match how I’d seen life playing out. There’s grief that comes from that. Not because of who they are, but because what I thought my life, their lives, would look like…was different. What about marriage, and babies, and being a grandma?
I sought pastoral counsel to understand the faith aspect. What I learned, what I believe, is that God loves my kids. He created them this way…and they are perfect just as they are. The clarity I found was in knowing that what my heart was telling me was not inconsistent with what I believe God’s truth is. God loves every single one of us.
In all of this, I’ve found the truth in who I am. Someone whose identity has shifted. A woman who can have her own opinion, who doesn’t have to stay small. Whose voice matters. Who loves others because of who they are as a person—not their identity. Who is a fiercely protective mama.
I’ve realized the internal tape in my head that kept me small is one I can stop playing. I can embrace my children for who they are and embrace my faith. In that…I found joy, freedom, and peace, because I am living my truth.