I picked up the water pitcher and began refilling glasses in our candlelit dining room. Our guests were laughing and enjoying each other’s company as they sipped coffee and savored the last bites of dessert. As I rounded the table, the conversation shifted toward spiritual things, and we chatted about changes in the local church.
“Well, one thing I CAN’T understand,” said Grant (not his real name). “There’s that one church on the west side of town. They’re just welcoming gay people to come on in and sit with them in the pews! Why would a church welcome THEM?”
I froze. My husband’s dark eyes met mine, wordlessly providing reassurance and understanding. As I slowly reached for Grant’s water glass, Tom gently, deftly turned the conversation toward a broader discussion.
After our guests departed, Tom and I cleared the remains of the meal and began washing dishes. He put his tray down and wrapped his arms around me. “Thanks for a great dinner party,” he began. “I’m just so proud of you…I thought you were going to pour that whole pitcher of water right on Grant’s lap…”
I’m not proud of it, but the thought HAD crossed my mind.
The issue that Grant raised is, for me, an issue with a face. A dear friend had written to me not long before that dinner party to tell me that he is gay. What was once fodder for a dinner party debate had turned the corner into something personal and urgent.
In my friend’s letter, he stated that he would understand if I never wanted to speak to him again. This statement crushed me. In our ensuing phone conversation, he said that the reason for this was to protect himself: “Once you tell this kind of news,” he said, “you have to prepare yourself to lose a lot of friends.” I couldn’t imagine the fear or heartache he felt, and I reassured him that has been, and always will be, a best friend.
And he is. This is the guy who stuck up for me when high school boyfriends turned out to be jerks. He was the one who reassured me that life would go on when I didn’t get a part in the musical. We went on college visits, endured AP exams, prayed together and laughed ourselves silly. He celebrated with us when Tom and I got married, and drove seven long hours to be with us at the hospital when our daughter almost died.
My friend’s revelation forced me to examine my own attitudes and language. As I read articles and listened to the rhetoric on Christian radio, it didn’t take long for me to realize that we, as the Church, have made some mistakes in handling this issue. And believe me…in my journey to figure it out, my words have been, at times, tacky and very hurtful as well. I need only to look in the mirror to confirm that Christians need to do better when it comes to welcoming non-traditional families. My friend’s concern about losing relationships after coming out is a very real fear; it breaks my heart to know that this fear and hurt is also experienced when dealing with the Church…it seems that for too many people, “coming out” means they can’t come in with “the rest of us.”
I’m one of the “rest of us:” those of us who are broken and hurting and imperfect and stumbling in darkness…and desperately in need of the Light. The truth is, when it comes to the Church, there’s no “us” and “them…”
There’s Jesus, and there’s the rest of us.
This Sunday, it’s our family’s turn to be greeters. We’ll stand at the front door of the church and open the doors for members and visitors. It’s not in our job description to choose for whom we’ll open the doors. We’ll open them to everyone…not just families with two parents, or to people who have never been divorced. Not just physically fit people or those who have never gossiped or lied. And not just people who are straight.
And we’ll say “Welcome…we’re glad you’re here….
Photo credits: discountcollegethings.com