A few months ago a new friend came into my life. I continue to be pleasantly surprised by this person, and this post, is a part of our story.
A friend of a friend from a community that sweetie and I belong to emailed me one day. She asked if I would sit and meet her friend—for the sake of this story I will call her Sam—because she was a young not-quite-out lesbian, with little or no support network. She needed a friend, someone she could be “out” to and with, someone who she could ask questions of. Of course I said yes. Both sweetie and I remember who those people were for us when we were young, and now we had the opportunity to sort of “pay it forward.”
Sam is a young college student enrolled at North Central Bible College University—the alma matter of Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye I am told (by their son, Jay). It is an AG school, and my friend comes from an AG background. Her father is a pastor at a large AG congregation. Look at some of their position papers, or their website and you’ll get the idea as to why I mention it and why its a big deal. Being queer = not an option. Sam is in the closet in many areas in her life—namely family and school—but not for long. She will graduate in a mere 20 some days. And after that, she is planning her outting. I am helping with those plans.
So a while back Sam asked if I would drive her to a church service that her dad would be preaching at about 2 hours away. Well, there is almost nothing I won’t do for her, so of course I said yes and put the date on the calendar. That date was this past Sunday.
We got in the car, stopped for crappy gas station “cappucinos” and were on our way. “So what exactly is off limits as far as topics go with your dad Sam?” I would ask. “Well, sweetie is your ‘roommate’ and not, well, your sweetie. And you know, the whole thing about being gay—that is sort of off limits. But the rest is good. I know, that’s pretty much the whole thing, huh?” Yes Sam, it sure is. A little further down the road I asked her to try and really remember this moment in time, “because in a few years” I told her “you will look back on asking me to go back into the closet, and shudder in horror that you could ever ask your friend to do this for you.”
“I already do” she said. I totally believe her. Being in the closet for her is truly a matter of life—as she knows it now—or death, being sent away to exodus ministry or some other ex-gay ministry and/or being expelled from school just 20 some days before graduation. The stakes are high for my young friend. And I would happily go back into that closet to make sure she was going to be safe and ok.
We pulled into the strip mall movie theater turned worship center parking lot, did one last ‘ok, do I look straight enough’ check and marched into church. Dad was in the front row, the first praise song was already in full arm swing, and we joined dad up in the second row. Songs belting, arms praising, I was back in time about 10 years. The songs were different—but not really.
Without any sarcasm I say clearly, what a blessing it was to be back in that place—to see how far G-d has brought me along. For starters, the G-d I know is not a he (or she for that matter). Also, that night we prayed for everyone ‘gathered in this place’ but not for one single person outside of those walls. We listened to shocking horrors of the world, and were asked to take comfort that WE are saved—though we were awful and wretched beings. We needed to repent of our sins, though our sins were not actually about the neglect of those outside of this place. It was a step back in time in my faith journey. It became a solid 2 hours of me truly praising G-d for what G-d has done in my life. The praise really was in fact, praise—and my hands were honestly lifted just a bit not to fit in, but to give thanks.
After worship we spent some QT with dad. We got a tour of the church, his wife—Sam’s mom—decorated and designed the place. As we toured the church, we talked about the blessing that Sam is in my life, how Sweetie (called by her real name obviously) and I were thrilled to be “good Christian mentors” in a very special and important time in Sam’s life. We talked about how G-d has a funny sense of humor and how G-d works. And friends, my evanglical language set—its like riding a bike really. Blessings, praise Jesus, awesome, brokenness, gift, we just thank you blah blah blah—it all came whooshing back to me.
I got a text yesterday from my friend. She said when I asked how her lunch the next day with her dad went she wrote “He likes you and says he can tell you’re a ‘great woman of God, who follows Him no matter what.”
I pray that he is right. While I have no intention of every hiding who I am, this closet experience, was not too bad.
So friends tell me, if someone asked you to go back into the closet (about any issue)—would you? Have you? Do tell.
(In other news, as you may already know, Jennifer Knapp came out as a lesbian. The article in the Christianity Today is maddening in the way they pose the questions to her. But, beautiful and faithful as she is and always has been, she answered gracefully. My favorite quote from the article is:
The struggle I’ve had has been with the church, acknowledging me as a human being, trying to live the spiritual life that I’ve been called to, in whatever ramshackled, broken, frustrated way that I’ve always approached my faith. I still consider my hope to be a whole human being, to be a person of love and grace. So it’s difficult for me to say that I’ve struggled within myself, because I haven’t. I’ve struggled with other people.
Right on Jennifer. My deepest admirations and prayers are with you in this journey.)