12:45…(pt I)

We were to meet at 12:30 for lunch and he was running late.  He said he had something to talk about that was very important to him.  Keith was a friend who welcomed this new preacher boy into his heart and family and never bought into the pastoral role I was to play.  Pastors were taught to not allow people inside, not let them get too close, keep a distance in relationships with the congregation so the role played is never compromised.  My friend Keith never bought into this nonsense, he and his wife just flat-out loved me and forced my hand to bust down all barriers to real intimacy.  His friendship kept me afloat in that big church so very far from my former life.

Apologies were extended for being late.  He had a look in his eye that gave pause and let me know this wouldn’t be a light-hearted conversation to follow.  Looking unusually stern and speaking with a clipped manner he said my response to this conversation would greatly affect he and his family.  I put on my mental ministerial hat and prepared to do the job I was called to do with a dear friend.  This was to be no laughing matter.

His brother had just told him he was gay, Keith loved his brother very much and this news struck him hard.  He was confused, he was lost, he was suddenly very sad and his eyes began to dampen.  I was the only one he could trust with this conversation and he said our friendship demanded I walk with him and provide counsel through this challenging journey.

I honestly wasn’t equipped for this conversation.  I had no knowledge of the subject of homosexuality whatsoever.  I’d never known anyone who was gay and only knew of this topic through the media and images provided by hellfire breathing preachers of my younger days.  My association was less than limited and the portrayal I could project was less than flattering.  Who was I to provide insight and comfort to this hurting man?

Finally, he got to the apex of the conversation.  By now he was weeping, a dear friend sat across from me in immense pain bearing his soul, needing a true friend and I had no salve.  “Do you think gay people go to Hell?”  I knew the answer he wanted and if I provided him such he could move forward and be fine with his brother.  This is the answer I so wanted to share, but I just couldn’t.  I marched to the company line and would not break ranks even if it meant destroying a friend.  This is the role I was charged to do, share the truth without regard to others feelings.  The truth will then set them free I was told.

The silence was loud as he stared off into the horizon as a lost man needing any light to see.  He was a broken human.  He came to me as his last refuge of hope and trust and I provided him neither.  The check was soon paid and we quickly went our separate ways, paths that would not intersect again after that fateful lunch.  Over burgers and fries that day I lost a friend and damaged a fragile soul.

That was over twenty years ago and the impact of that moment has never left me.  Keith and his family left our church and I never heard from them again.  Very few events have caused me such regret as did this lunch.

What if I was wrong?  What if the teachers I followed blindly were wrong?

How could I be so ignorant to shout so confidently such a negative thought that I accepted only because some uninformed pastor spoke it as truth?  To swallow an idea as my own belief without true investigation and understanding may be the highest form of idiocy.

Love is a mystery, love is beautiful, everyone deserves to be loved.

I’m sorry Keith, I’ve since learned how very wrong I was.

More to follow…