Sometimes, what we’re talking about isn’t what we’re really talking about.
A high school graduate called to ask if he could meet with me. Just to talk. So we met. And we talked. About his family. About his decision to take a year off from school. About his job. About the work of discerning – during that year – what he might study when he went back to school. After our talk, the student gave me a letter.
In that letter, he wrote of his feelings for a friend, a friend of the same gender.
Sometimes, what we want to talk about isn’t what we get to talk about.
That student and I talked again. For years, we talked. At church. At coffee shops. In my home. In his. I told him to trust his family. I told him to stay as connected as he could to his church. He told me he was convinced that acting on his feelings would harm his friendship and go against scripture. He told me about temptation and the boundaries he’d set in order to avoid it.
I had to reconcile my image of a God who is Love with the reality of a God who doesn’t always play fair. I couldn’t do it. We didn’t talk about that.
It’s been nearly seven years now since the student and I started talking. Celibate all those years, that student has remained active in our denomination. That student is respected. But I wonder what would happen if that student shared his story with his home church. Or with mine.
If he stood on a Sunday morning and shared a story of sexual purity, a story of victory in Jesus, a story of perseverance and of sacrifice, a compelling story – how might the telling of that story affect his future among us?
Would he be allowed to volunteer in the church nursery?
Would he be asked to lead a small group for young men?
Would he be nominated to serve as an elder?
Would we send him to our annual conference as a representative of the local church?
I’d like to think the answer to at least one of those questions might be yes. But I’m not so sure.
I’ve heard the talk.
I wonder what would happen if that student shared his story with his home church. Or with mine.