I study the two photographs in the warm light of an October afternoon. The subject is the same, but they are separated by over twenty years of time.
In the first photograph, a toddler sits atop the shoulders of a young man. His short legs straddle his father's neck, and Daddy holds both the child's hands in his own. The expression on the boy's face is of happy excitement.
The father's head is turned to look back at his son. His clothing and hairstyle reflect the mid 1970s. His expression captivates me even now; the love for the little boy mixed with a sadness hard to define.
I will protect my son from all harm, he once thought. No matter what happens, I will never let him be hurt.
The images and ideas in my mind will remain there forever. He will never know my anguish. No one will ever know.
The boy grew, strong and intelligent. His father tried to be there for him always. Sometimes a physician's schedule interfered, but he would always break away early to be there in the audience for the graduation, or in the stands for the game. He surrounded his son with other children of his peers, and the privileged youth enjoyed as stress-free a childhood as his parents could provide.
The father knew he should teach the child tolerance and acceptance for everyone; but leadership had never been one of the father's strong traits. It was more natural to go along passively with the instruction the child received in school and in church.
Ah yes, church. The church gave such easy answers to the father's earnest questions.
"Just turn it over to the Lord. Confess how you have sinned. He will forgive you and heal you."
Well yes, the father thought. This works. I have trusted Christ with my whole life, and I have asked Him to heal me of my selfishness, my language, my envy. He really does heal.
So why, when I have prayed for years for healing from THIS, does it not happen?
"Your faith is weak. Pray for strength. If you truly believe, you will be delivered from all your burdens."
He really believed he could be healed. He believed it so much that he never shared his burden with his son; not even, for many years, with his wife.
"Healing", as he defined it, as a relief from the terrible inner conflict, never occurred.
The young man went away to college. He was strong and independent. His own faith was firmly grounded in the fundamental principles he had been taught over the years. The inner strife which so plagued his father was incomprehensible to him.
The father had prayed for strength to "be there" for his son. Now the time had come when his son was grown.
The long anticipated, long dreaded talk finally took place. I know you can't really understand, the father said. You need to know how I have prayed over this. God has not answered my prayer as I had requested. He is answering it in a different way. He is allowing me to change my life in drastic ways to relieve this conflict. This is what I must do to find peace.
The son's words were heartbreaking. "You raised me to believe that certain things were right and others were not. How do you expect me to react when you bring me such news?"
That talk occurred over three years ago. I have never seen my son again. My letters go unanswered.
I carried much too heavy a burden on my own shoulders. If only I had known. If only someone had told me what I am telling you:
The burden of being transgendered will never go away. If you hold it inside, it will wear you down. Your best course is to share the burden. Share it with your family. The longer you wait, the less likely they will accept.
Share it with your children while they are young. Teach them that difficult questions do not have easy answers. Sometimes acceptance is necessary when understanding fails. Teach them before they develop the prejudices of the privileged; before they lose the ability to empathize with those whose concerns they do not share.
Above all: share the burden with your Lord. Give it to Him. Do not come to Him with a preconceived idea of what He will do with your burden. It may be that He will take it away. More likely, He will take it up with you and enable you to bear it.
The second photograph shows the young man grown tall and handsome. In his tuxedo he looks quite capable of being the strong husband he became on that day last summer.
Perhaps one day I will see him again. Until then, I have these words for comfort:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.