The sun is hot which only exasperates things. I just finished whipping through the afternoon playing basketball in the pool and I’m resting with family friends. It’s spring break and, for whatever reason, this small oasis has drawn much of our Minnesota network to this teeny corner of Orlando. For the most part, it’s great. After coming here for so many years it is starting to feel like a vacation home, a luxury I know, but at least its familiar and we’re all comfortable and I should, but I don’t, feel like apologizing for that.
Most of my parents’ friends know all about me except for a few and its not that we haven’t told them because of who they are or what they necessarily believe, the timing just hasn’t been right. In any case, I am sitting by the pool talking to my Mom’s friend, my former tutor, about the new Pope. She goes on about how much she likes him and I agree with her, and she goes further about her concern for the environment and global warming and I agree with her even more. And there’s this common ground that is felt whenever like-minded people meet.
“But ya know. If he goes too far… Like. If he says its okay to get abortions or if he says okay to be lesbian or gay. I’m done.”
I’m unsure as to whether she was done with Christianity altogether, because she’s definitely not Catholic, or if this was her way of saying she was done liking Pope Francis. In any case, her words didn’t wound, they sneered. And I felt my eyes narrow and I began to clear my throat and throw on my pre-emptive strike smile, because yes, I was Pissed Off.
I don’t wish to be anyone’s deal breaker, for anything. Especially for Christ. Especially because of who I am.
Sometimes, I wish all conservative Christians would have one gay kid in the family. I think we’d all understand and love each other better.
Before my claws protract and tongue puts a point on, another of my mom’s dear friends, a participant in the conversation, fully informed about my secret, interrupted and did exactly what, in my cool headed state, I would ask her to do.
“So, like, what does it mean to be a Jesuit Priest? I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of that before. It sounds interesting!”
Her question disarmed me and the conversation led to some lovely dialogue about oaths of poverty, even if I did grit my teeth for minutes after.
What I needed in that moment was an unbelievable amount of grace. Unbelievable amount. I understand the argument, “well what if she was talking about black folks or Jews?” but I have to reckon with the world I find myself in and I’ve made it a commitment to not shut any one out. My former tutor, had she known about me, would probably rethink things a bit and would definitely not come out the gate with that confession.
More importantly, I think as sexual minorities, we get justifiably defensive at thoughtless words tossed to and fro in the day to day convos. We get hit and we wince and all we want is war. We get frustrated at the folks with families and standing who have no idea how much they take their acceptance for granted. And when they talk down about people like you, yes, it feels like getting stung by so many bees.
But in those moments, we need people to distract us! The best thing our friends can do in conversations like these is provide a diversion before we say something we truly regret. For example, I let it slip that I can’t call myself an evangelical because, “they are so hard hearted.” I can’t tell how much offense she took to this, but in any case, I said it.
And, of course, we need advocates out there fighting for us on the daily. But we also need advocates that will hold us back from a fight when we need to. We need friends to look us in the eyes and ask if this is the hill we are willing to die on.
Because, normally, I will leave the conversation after its run its course, and I’ll remember that my tutor is a lover of Jesus and the planet and the poor. I’ll remember that she likely knows no gay people. I will remember that she is my sister in Christ. I will remember that she has no idea that I am gay. I will remember that the memory of her words, once she finds out about me, and perhaps, in twenty years when she changes her views, will be enough of a punishment for her.
And she’ll need me to forgive her. Which I’m ready to do now. Which would be harder to do if I fought and pushed her away.
Sometimes, biting your tongue is the best way to do grace.
Sometimes, its best, for friends to hold us back from ourselves.