I was working with a group of young people at a Safe Schools conference in Boston. They were discussing how to tell their parents they were gay or lesbian. Many of them had suffered harassment, brutality, and ostracism by their peers, and they worried about how to protect their parents from the sadness that often results from learning one's son or daughter is homosexual.
"Tell them you will always love them, even if they reject you," suggested one man.
"Talk to siblings first, ask for their support," advised another.
"It's rough," admitted a young woman, "but you stand to have a closer, more honest relationship with them once they know."
One young man had tears in his eyes. "I'm scared of hurting them," he admitted. "I never wanted to lie to them. My parents are neat people, but I'm afraid they will be so disappointed in me."
Good Friday is coming up. In our tradition, we focus more on the renewal and celebration of life than on the grief of death. Yet we cannot overlook the meaning of Good Friday in our eagerness to get to Easter morning, for death is always part of life, and sorrow is not to be avoided if we are to fully experience joy. The Christian tradition remembers the suffering of Jesus on Good Friday, and one of his concerns as he was crucified was for his mother. I looked at these fine young men and women around the table at the conference and I thought of Jesus saying, "Woman, behold your son," and to the disciple, "Behold your mother."
Like Jesus, these young men and women wanted to protect their parents from sadness and disappointment. In the Bible story, Jesus' mother stayed with him right to the end. When everyone else turned away, his mother was there. I hope this will be true too for the students I met at the conference; I hope their parents will not turn away when they are most needed. If I could speak to each one of their parents, I would say, "Behold your child, and be very proud."