Yesterday, my friend Louie called to tell me that our mutual friend Angela had been messaging him about me. It seems Angela is worried about my recent involvement in church. I pressed Louie for details and then stopped myself. The whole thing kind of irked me and I felt the more I knew the angrier I’d get.
“Are you worried about me?” I asked Louie. Louie said he wasn’t. And then I wondered if Louie was just saying that to placate me. I have an active, bordering on paranoid, imagination and ever since talking to Louie, I’ve had this image of every person I know, by text, email or Facebook messenger, communicating with each other with the subject line: We need to talk about Ray.
Never mind that I’m sure Angela’s intentions are pure, that she just cares about me and wants me to be happy.
When I lived in New York, one of the young men who had been in my youth group when I was a youth minister came to visit me. He was a freshman at an East Coast college. I had worried a bit about our trip. I had come out to myself and most of my NY friends knew I was gay but I had not started the process of telling the folks back home, so to speak.
In our time in New York, we didn’t talk about my sexuality. I didn’t really think he’d figured it out. But a few days after he left, I received a late night call from one of the girls, now in college, who had been in my youth group. “Ray, I’m just going to ask you, are you gay now?” “What?” “Gary just called us and he thinks you’re gay now.” I told her that this wasn’t the way I wanted her to find out, but yes, I was gay.
It was one of the saddest phone conversations I’ve ever had. This girl who called, even though we’re not supposed to have favorites, was one of my favorites. I felt I’d let her down, I felt I’d let the entire youth group down. Also, I was mad at Gary, I questioned his intentions for sharing this piece of information before I felt comfortable with others knowing. And if he’d been so sure, why hadn’t he asked me if I was gay while we were together in New York?
In the months after that phone call, I found that this girl gathered all in the youth group, my youth group, who attended this particular university and they all prayed for me. Presumably, they prayed for me to stop being gay. But also, I think they prayed for me that I would know God’s love, find my way, find peace and joy.
Later, when I found out about that late night prayer session, I was conflicted. One one hand, it was an example of how much they loved me, that this little group dropped everything and came together to beseech God on my behalf. On the other hand, it was also kind of like when Sandy walks into the bedroom after the Pink Ladies have been singing an entire song about her and sadly asks, “Were you talking about me, Riz?”
All day, I thought about Angela. For years, I was the source of concern (or gossip) because of my lack of faith and now I’m the source of concern because of my (perceived) return to it. And the irony is, I still don’t know what I believe. I just missed church and decided I wanted to find a church that affirms me, my people, and I found it. And I really like going.
I do know this, I know what I have to remember. Angela loves me. Louie loves me. Those kids in the youth group loved me and even Gary loved me. They all just want the best for my life. They want me to be happy and joyful and at peace.
I could spend a day or weeksor months or years ruminating about how people are talking, worrying, and texting about me behind my back, or I can just say, “They love me. I know they love me.” And move forward.
Life’s too short and I don’t even know if heaven exists.
Confession. Ab and I had lunch and we talked about you behind your back. I think it went like this… ‘Have you been reading Ray’s blog? Yes. It’s great to read. Yep. We need to get everyone together for lunch or something. Yep”. Well that’s it. I feel better. Confession over.
That said. I do enjoy reading your stuff. Miss seeing you.
Confession: we all do need to get together. Hopefully soon!! Thanks for commenting!
Ray know that we all love you. Your sexual orientation is of no concern of ours. We Are Family of God’s people and regardless of who we are knowing whose we are is all that matters. You are a child of the most high God no one stands between you and your God and yes there is a heaven… it waits for us and all those there who wait for us… love you my cousin..,
Thanks, love you too, Donna!!
I have no idea what Troy is talking about!
Sigma Eta Theta Forever!!
Adore everything I have stumbled across you have posted. Celebrate your eloquence, Ray. It is beautiful.
Thank you, Sarah!! You made my day with your kind words!
Thank you, Sarah! What kind encouragement, I appreciate it.
They want the best for you, and they also think they know what the best for you is. They want you to be nice Ray-in-a-box, whom they understand, who never does anything weird, Angela might be worried you have vestiges of internal homophobia, and so be vulnerable to others’ homophobia. Well, some of us LGBT+ folk are changing the church from the inside.
I agree, I know that Angela’s concern is rooted in a fear that I might have vestiges of internal homophobia. And I probably do, I don’t see how such a strong message, taught from an early age, wouldn’t have enduring effects. And I am vulnerable to others’ homophobia because I am a sensitive person by nature. But like you, I do hope to change the church as a whole, by working from the inside. Christians come in all shapes and sizes and pathologies and I hope that others can see themselves in my journey and recognize that there is a place for them in a church somewhere, if that be their heart’s desire.