Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend from Bible college that I had not seen for over 20 years. I met him and his oldest son Luke at the California Pizza Kitchen in Arcadia. We caught up on our lives, they told me about their impressive trek up Half Dome in Yosemite. I love a view. They showed me the picture of the cables one has to climb to make it up the last 400 feet of the ascent. When I saw the picture of the incline, which looked to me about 80%, I thought, but did not say, “Ohhhh, shit!” Instead, I think I just said, “Wow, that looks scary!”
I’m sure my friend, who is now the president of my Alma Mater, Ozark Christian College, and his son have both heard people use that word. When ranking expletives, I think it’s one of the more innocuous ones, right? Anyway, we had a nice lunch. It had been prompted by an email I wrote a few months ago. I won’t go into that here, but Matt had reached out to me then and a couple weeks ago, he sent me an email asking if I wanted to meet him for lunch since he was coming my way.
Matt and I worked together in recruitment at our college when we were students. It was a great job, mostly we just sat on the phone talking to kids we’d met at summer camps and youth rallies in our time at OCC. While it was a sales job of sorts, I loved it because, more than anything, we were talking to kids a couple of years younger than us, about what they thought God’s plan for their life was.
Yesterday, we reminisced. I asked him about his wife Katie, whom you might know, has had some health challenges in recent years. He asked about my parents. He asked about Eric. We talked about the Joplin tornado of 2011 and the way the community came together in the aftermath. We talked about my blog and my not always successful hope to be a bridge between the gay community and conservative Christian community. We talked about movies.
At the end of the meal, he told me that he would like to pray for me. Then he asked me if there was something specific I would like for him to pray for, he suggested my job hunt and what the future holds for me. I said I would appreciate that. He also asked if there was anything he could pray about for Eric and I immediately thought about Eric’s Dad and how losing him is still, naturally, a source of sadness and weight. So we bowed our heads, and Matt offered our burdens up to the Lord in prayer. We said our goodbyes. They were going to a movie. I had to go to my Italian market before I drove back to LA. Like I said, it was a nice lunch.
Later when I met friends for dinner, I told them about meeting with Matt, my former classmate, now the president of my college. When I told them about him asking what he could pray for, one friend asked if I felt like that was condescending. It had not occurred to me, but I pondered John’s question. Was it condescending? I don’t think so. If you are a Christian or believe in the power of prayer, there is no greater gift, saying, “God, this is someone you love, this is what he’s going through, please give him direction and comfort.” And I must say, it made me feel good that he asked to pray for Eric, too.
Is it possible that in his more private prayers, Matt has prayed for me to turn away from a homosexual lifestyle or return to the conservative Christian fold? Yes, it’s probably likely that that has been his prayer. If his Biblical interpretation is that homosexuality is a sin, his concern for me would mandate for him to pray for me in that way. I am sure he went into this lunch, not with an agenda, but a hope that I would somehow return to the faith of my youth. I had my own hopes going into the lunch as well. I hope that knowing a bit more about my story, he might have more compassion and understanding when he meets other gay people, that he might see the similarities before he sees the differences.
I keep thinking about that climb up Half Dome though. (And those cables!) When he showed me the picture of him and Luke, atop that crest, sky so blue, the surrounding mountains so majestic, I marvelled at the beauty of the planet. It’s hard not to think of a Creator when you see vistas like that. And in his way, Matt, by meeting me for lunch, breaking bread over barbecue pizza and a Thai chicken salad, was saying, I still want you to climb this mountain, I still want you to see this view.
This spirals quickly off topic, but..
My cousin Michael is spearheading a movement your last paragraph reminded me of. My understanding of it boils down to “why congregate in temples and churches to pray when those man-made structures shelter us from God’s creation?”
It doesn’t sound so controversial to our western sensibilities, but I guess the suggestion is tantamount to blasphemy in certain circles.
I dig that.
Hmm, I’ve never heard of such a movement but I think I can understand its appeal and value. I will say that I often think about a church service I attended when I was 12, on the beach on a visit to Hawaii. Even then, it struck me as a better way to spend a Sunday morning than what I was used to.
Let’s be careful judging the motives and hearts of others. It is the very thing we want to and need to avoid. None of us wants our motives judged. And yet it is the very thing we do of others – judge their motives. This judgement has its basis in experience – heart wrenching, gutting, painful experience.
And truthfully does it matter if it was condescending? Matt asked to pray for you. He cares enough about you and who you are to remember you in his prayers. It doesn’t matter Matt’s motives or how he prays for you and Eric. He’s praying for you. He’s remembering you to God.
Pray for him. Pray for his family. Pray for his work at the school. Not with any kind of “change his heart O God” but that “whatever he needs, wisdom, faith and love”. Thank God that he reached out to you extending the hand of friendship and enjoy the moment.
Teri, I do not think I was placing a judgment on his motives for meeting me for lunch. For me this was a unique experience and I wanted to share not only a little of what transpired but also some of my thought process. I tried to emphasize that I saw this as a gracious act on his part, but perhaps I failed.
Wasn’t about you judging it was your friends comments about Matt being condescending by offering to pray for you.
You didn’t fail. I did.
God is good!
I loved this post. I don’t think he was being condescending. He sounds like a caring man of faith. It’s easy to let cynicism taint our view of others’ motives. But it sounds like you -as I do – feel it was a loving gesture. Prayer rocks! xo