A Leap from Certainty to Faith

I grew up in a very certain world. My dad worked in a prominent position at Focus on the Family and my mom was both the homemaker and the primary home-school teacher to my brother and I. My dad was home by 5:15pm every night and my mom always had dinner on the table. My mornings started with family devotions over breakfast at 7am and ended with family dinners that often included Scripture memory. Church was on Sunday mornings and Awana’s on Wednesday night. I had the coveted Christian upbringing and the epitome of a “godly family.” Life was scheduled, predictable, and safe.

But this certainty came with a pricetag. Our list of rules and regulations of how to live and love others caused us to not only exist within a very confined space but it also forced us to wear a façade. The tiniest bit of doubt or unbelief was seen as weakness. Although it wasn’t overtly stated, the underlying belief was that if you had enough faith and trusted God enough, you should have your shit together. But of course, no one really has all their shit together, so instead, we just pretended like we did. We hid the broken pieces of our lives behind a happy smile or a “I’m blessed” response when asked how we were doing. If people didn’t see our mess, then hypothetically, it didn’t exist.

While causing us to hide our true selves, this also caused a level of judgment when it came to our fellow believers. If they were going through a difficult time or experiencing hardship, we first, took pity on them, and second, concluded that it was most likely due to a lack of faith (aka certainty). We then committed to praying for them. So in essence, we had this Christian thing figured out and they were still working on getting it figured out. See where I’m heading?

Everything was black and white, right or wrong, good or bad. We had all the answers. We were certain. It was so easy to judge the lives of others, so easy to point a finger or make an accusation with these “right” and “wrong” tools we possessed.

It was easy, until that person experiencing hardship became you.

Then when something unexpected happens in your life (a diagnosis, the loss of a child, a divorce, or the discovery of an LGBT identity), you suddenly begin to see things very differently.

At first, we often put ourselves under the same scrutiny that we would for others.

What did I do wrong?
Why can’t I fix this?
Maybe I really don’t have enough faith.
I promise I’ll try harder God, if only (fill in the blank).

We beg and we bargain with God to take away the pain so our certain and sure footing can be restored.

But we’ve completely missed the point.

A belief system based on certainty doesn’t really require any faith at all! If we have everything figured out, if we have all the answers, what do we need faith for?

Faith and certainty aren’t intended to mix as we so often do with them in Christian circles. Faith is awe and mystery, questioning and wondering, room to breathe and room for the unknown. Faith is belief in the absence of certainty. That is true faith. That is true dependence on God.

Before I came out as gay, I thought I had most the answers. I’d admit I didn’t know everything, but I was pretty comfortable inside my box and the box I had put God in. Stepping out into my true identity and embracing myself for who God made me to be, now that required faith. I knew coming out could have a price tag. I knew it would be questioned among my family and peers. I knew it could potentially cost me everything. But I wasn’t prepared for the fact that it actually would.

Loosing absolutely everything (my family, my relatives, my friend, my church, my hometown) required faith unlike anything I’d ever known. I was completely and utterly dependant on God to survive, to pull me through, and to provide for me. I had nothing. I lost it all in the face of authenticity. Suddenly, I didn’t have it all as together as I thought.

Not having it all together, not having all the answers, not knowing what the future held, yet taking each step forward as God asked it of me, took more faith than anything I’d ever faced before.

People sometimes ask me, “How do you know with 100% certainty that God approves of you sexuality and marriage to your wife,” and I say, “I don’t. Not anymore than you are 100% certain that God approves of your sexuality (gay or straight) and your marriage to your wife/husband.” I’m relying on faith. True faith that leads me to complete reliance on the fact that God is loving and good, and he doesn’t make mistakes. And faith in the belief that good trees produce good fruits and that is what I am seeing in my life today.

I would never return to the life of certainty I once led, even though it was far more comfortable. Faith may require discomfort and being stretched outside my box, but it has also led me to a much deeper, richer, and more fulfilling life. I am more happy, more free, and more complete now than I’ve ever been because I choose daily to let go of certainty, and walk and live in faith.

Will you join me?

 

Because Love Makes All the Difference,

Amber Cantorna

Refocusing My Family Releases TODAY!!!

Hey Friends!

The day we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived! Refocusing My Family officially releases today and is now available (almost!) everywhere books are sold! You can go into your local bookstore, or place your order on Amazon today.

I’m so excited to finally share my journey with you in the form of this memoir. It’s been a labor of love and I’m so glad that it has finally turned into something tangible you can now hold in your hands and share with your friends.

If you have a moment, there are 4 ways you can help spread the word about Refocusing My Family:

  1. Take a photo of yourself holding the book, or a photo of you and your family (or family of choice) with the book, and post online-tagging me (@AmberNCantorna) and including the hashtags #RefocusingMyFamily and #RMFtour.
  2.  Write and post a review on Amazon (and if you have time, copy and paste it in Barnes and Noble too!) as soon as you finished the book. The review doesn’t have to be long, a couple sentences is just fine!) but it goes a long way in helping the book gain traction.
  3. Share a quote from the book or encouraging shout-out on social media, tagging me (@AmberNCantorna) and including the hashtag #RefocusingMyFamily and #RMFtour.
  4. Encourage your friends to attend one of the 20+ Refocusing My Family events nation-wide coming up! The tour schedule is below and we are continuing to add new dates and locations. Almost all of these events are completely free, so come when you can and encourage your friends to do the same!

Thank you again so much for all your support and encouragement! I read each review, each shout-out on social media, and each note of encouragement I receive and they all mean so much. I can’t wait to see where God is going to take us on this journey. Together we can make our world a more loving and safe place for us all to live.

 

Because Love Makes All the Difference,

Amber Cantorna

 

 

My Evening with the Mama Bears

Inkedflat,1000x1000,075,f.u1_LIThis week, I had the opportunity of being the special guest on Serendipitydoodah’s Facebook LIVE event. Serendipitydoodah is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. With currently over 1,900 members they continue to grow and connect across denominations and struggles as they share one thing in common: their LGBTQ children.

This is my second time speaking to this group and each time it is an honor. With the presence of my own parents absent from my life, I love soaking up all the Mama Bear love and in turn offering some of my own insight and experience.

Prior to my Facebook LIVE event the other night (which feels a lot like talking to yourself in the mirror and hoping someone is listening!) the moms of the group had the chance to submit questions for me to answer during my hour of time with them. I’ve chosen three of them from the list to share with you here this week:

What can we do to help our LGBTQ kids stay connected to their faith?

Love them unconditionally. Kids learn about God from their parents. If you demonstrate an unconditional love for who they are and celebrate their sexuality, then they will have no need or reason to distance themselves from God. Your embrace eliminates the stigma, shame, or belief that who they are is not acceptable before God. If they feel fully loved by you, then they will feel fully loved by God. That is how you keep them connected to their faith.

Do you have advice on how we can be supportive to those in the LGBTQ community who do not have support from their parents/families?

Yes! First of all, love them. You have no idea what level of rejection they’ve faced from their own family, friends, or church. Feeling embraced and loved, especially from a parental figure, goes so far.

Second, be vocal allies for them. Stand up for them in the circles you interact with and include them just as you would anyone else.

Lastly, remember holidays. Even five years later, holidays continue to be hard for me. But it’s not just the big three (Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas); it’s also Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, my Coming Out anniversary, my wedding anniversary, my birthday. I remember the first year after Clara and I got married my adopted Nana called me and wished me a happy anniversary. That meant so much to me that she remembered and cared enough to call. Or the first year after I met Clara’s parents, Clara’s mom called me for my birthday because she knew my own mother wouldn’t. Those moments mean everything to those that have lost family. It’s the little moments, the thoughtfulness, the feeling of being remembered and celebrated the way you should that makes all the difference in the world to those who have lost support and love from their biological families.

What advice do you have for moms who are dealing with close family members and friends who are not affirming and view their child as sinning if they date or marry someone of the same sex?

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Stand by your child. I realize this may cost you some relationships with people you love. Essentially, you are having to come out just like your child is having to come out. It’s different, but you are still experiencing some of the consequences of authentic living. Regardless, I encourage you to be the parent and protect your child. Learn to set healthy boundaries. This is not easy to do with the ones we love. But for your health, safety, and sanity you will need to learn to set them. Think through and know ahead of time what you will and will not tolerate before going into a potentially risky situation with your close family or friends. Your relatives may not understand, but your child will feel safe. And in the end, that is all that matters.

 

Above all, remember….love makes all the difference.

Amber Cantorna

P.S. Tour dates are officially starting to show up on the Events page of my website. Check it out! And shoot me an email if I’m coming to YOUR city…or if I’m not yet, but you’d like to help schedule an event in your area!

Finding Comfort in the Unknown

largeI’m always inspired by how easily wonder and mystery comes for little children. Their eyes get big as they believe in the impossible, or they might gasp in awe at something that to them seems like pure magic. For them, it’s so simple. They’re so full of belief, so curious, and so easily excited by discovering the things that we, as adults, think of as mundane.

Growing up, there was a certain degree of magical wonder in our home. We believed in fantasy characters like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and even the Tooth Fairy for as long as our young minds would hold onto them. I remember one Easter in particular my parents went to special lengths to make the Easter Bunny believable by using powdered sugar to make bunny prints on our carpet leading us through our home to our Easter baskets. For a woman like my mother who was a meticulous housekeeper, that was sacrifice!

As the years passed, the Tooth Fairy faded and belief in the Easter bunny gave way to the simple giving and receiving of Easter baskets. However, at the plea of my inner child, my dad continued to dress up in a red suit and visit us each Christmas Eve until I was well out of college. It was one of my favorite magical Christmas moments every year.

But wonder and mystery were not as acceptable when it came to our faith. Growing up conservative, evangelical Christians, there was not as much wiggle room in regards to exploring the awe of Christ. Rules, expectations, and appearances took precedence over wonder, mystery, and awe. We seemed to find comfort in a God we could place in a box–a God we could understand. Black and white answers and principles that were either clearly right or clearly wrong were foundational to the functionality of our faith. We needed to know. We needed to have it all together. We needed to be right.

This theology of course, was very harmful to me as I got older. Unable to openly question my faith, I was trapped into believing in a very small God. This became especially complicated when I began to question my sexuality. Doubt was seen as a form of weakness and fear was believed to come from not centering yourself in the truth of Christ. Therefore everything was supposed to be “cured” by simply praying harder and believing in God more.

But this theory failed me when I realized I was gay. Being gay did not fit into the black and white theology I was raised on. As a result, I believed that God did not love or accept me because of this fatal flaw.

This version of faith failed me again when I came out to my parents, family, and friends. With very few exceptions, almost all of them followed their allegiance to their need for certainty and belief in what they thought was right, rather than being willing to confront what they did not understand and face their fear of the unknown out of love for me. As a result, I lost everyone I loved the most. What I learned, is that the need for certainty can be deadly. It can kill relationships, it can kill faith, and it can even take lives.

But over time on my journey of refocusing, I rediscovered wonder and awe. It’s not as scary to me now as it once was. Don’t get me wrong, I struggled for a long time to let go of my need for certainty. But what I learned was that certainty didn’t require any actual faith at all.

If you know everything already, what need do you have for God?

As with most people, the older I get, the more I realize how much I don’t know. But rather than allowing that to frighten me, I’ve come to let it inspire me. It pushes me to discover and learn more. And my not knowing (or my questions, or my doubt) drive me to have an even deeper faith. Because believing in God, in the midst of my doubt and questions, is what faith is really all about to begin with.

So I’ve become comfortable with not knowing. I’ve become okay with not having all the answers worked out to all the big theological questions. I’ve learned to accept, and in fact, find comfort, in what I don’t know. It leads me to a greater place of mystery, and wonder, and awe of who God is. And in fact, it leads me to peace, because I’m free from the weight of having to have all the answers.

downloadI don’t know what comes to mind for you when you think of wonder and mystery: perhaps it’s the phenomena of space and the time that you saw the milky way on a dark, starry night; perhaps it’s the recollection of your wedding day or the day you brought a child into the world; perhaps you think of creation, or even evolution.

What you do not know or understand may provoke awe in you, or it may provoke fear. But today I encourage you to work towards a faith that allows space for your questions. Give your heart permission let go of your need for certainty and leave space for the unknown.

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Allow God to expand your understanding of what you don’t understand, and in turn create room for wonder, mystery, reverence, and awe.

Then, let it live inside of you every day.

 

Because Love Makes All the Difference,

Amber Cantorna