Sometimes people send people my way. I am not sure why. I’m not a counselor. I’m not a pastor. I’m not even halfway interesting. I think it’s because I am willing and i am free. You’d be amazed how many people just need someone to sit with them and listen.
I’m sorry, i am going to go off for one sentence…
What the hell is wrong with our world that we need to pay people to listen to us?
Ok, I am back. But really, what is going on that we need to pay people to listen to us? Just sit. still. engaged. making eye contact. with no phone. no agenda. No bias. No judgement. open ears. that’s all. People make up to what $100 dollars an hour to do that? (Counselors are wonderful x amillion. But the huge gaping hole of people needing people to just sit with them and listen isn’t.) This whole I am free thing keeps me pretty busy…
So a friend sent me their friend. My buddy was really worried about his friend and so I got a phone call from this random guy and agreed to meet with him. I had a bit of background on him as I walked into this coffee shop looking for a single guy who’s physical characteristics were never disclosed. There were like 5 guys sitting alone at tables. I thought to myself, “Oh man, don’t be that girl who walks around looking like you are Match.comming it at a coffeeshop.” I agreed with myself and waited for him to come to me.
So I texted him and told him where I was sitting. Sure enough, one of those five guys stood up and walked over to me. Two hours later, I left that coffee shop with a spiritual stomach ache.
I will tell you his story tomorrow….
No, ok I will tell you his story right now. This young man is struggling with his sexuality. In his words, He is a Christian, wants to do right by God but believes being gay is a sin, yet feels a strong sense that he is only attracted to same sex males. He has been fighting his desires for years. This fight has found him looking to hook up with girls hoping they will “heal” him. (This made me sad for any girls whose lives are being used to “heal” people. Who wants to wake up and find out they were being taken like a pill? No less a pill that didn’t work.)
This guy who will remain nameless said that pill wasn’t working. It was a placebo. He started becoming addicted to porn and was really struggling. He opened up to his pastor and friends at his church, that he loves. They, in their effort to help him took away his computer and encouraged him to go to counseling. They surrounded him with an all out effort to hold him accountable. Their efforts pushed him further into the closet, hiding with all sorts of skeletons.
By the time he was sharing an americano with me, he had traveled from girls to boys, to hooking up on any end of the spectrum anywhere he found himself, to a nasty porn addiction with suicide luring him as the ultimate pill. This week he was falling in love with a boy. He said if he told his church he was gay he would be excommunicated.
In an effort to understand, I asked, “So, if you are addicted to porn you can stay in the church, but as soon as you say you are gay, you cannot?” Yes, that is correct. It was his fear of losing his people that led him to live a life of hiding where nobody really knew who he was and what he was doing. These lies and secrets were killing him. But it would also kill him to tell people and have them disown him. He saw his options as one of two. Hide or die.
Did you hear that? Hide or die.
I asked him if those were his only options? He confidently said yes. I said that I wanted to suggest a few other options. And here is why.
Outside of what you believe about sexuality, I believe these two things to be true:
1. Life matters. This man’s very life is in question. He lives every day thinking about killing himself because he sees no other option. God made him. God shaped him in his mother’s womb. God made his sense of humor. God shaped his brain. God knew his strengths and his weaknesses, his quirks and his tendencies. God breathed life into Him and until the day God decides to tenderly move him into the other realm, his life should not be taken by his own hand. He is someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s friend, someone’s coworker. He matters. And when I sit across from someone who is questioning that, I will start there. Always.
2. Be real. Living a life you have to hide is just as much a sin as any other. I always say to my kids, “Live a life you don’t have to hide!” This is one of our family mantras. Fill in the blank with any sin…..Hiding and lying about who you are and what you do is just as bad as __________ (insert any sin you think heinous whether it be not recycling, greed or murder). Yet the system this man is a part of was encouraging this hiding. Living a double life, a life of secrets is just as sinful as another sin you are living out in the open with, isn’t it? Are we encouraging people with our judgements to live secret, lying lives? What choice is this guy left with? He either lies to his community and gets to be apart of the family or he tells them the truth about where he is at and he is on the streets like an orphan with no home.
In that moment, as I prayed, I didn’t feel it was necessary to go into the hot button topic about homesexuality and where he should land on it. What good would that do? This wasn’t his issue. His issue was now choosing to live- choosing different options than to hide or die. He had heard arguments on all sides of the issue for yeeearrrs and interestingly enough, he himself believed for him it was wrong but he also felt like he “couldn’t stop doing the very thing he felt he ought not to do”. This man has tried to stop. He has denied himself. He has gone to “rehab”. He has self loathed. He has prayed a million prayers. Now he lives wrestling, struggling and wanted to give up. So if he thinks not living is now his only escape from the struggle, do you really think I should get into a theological volley with him? It felt like God wanted me to fight for his life and for living it wide open, honest. Wherever he is at, he needs to be able to be real about it.
What is the point of community or of church if we have to hide what is really going on in our hearts, our minds and our lives? We need to be able to journey with people as they are. It is then that we can all invite God to show up as we are and do what only He can do in our lives. How can God show up in our lives in a real way if we are all walking around being fake? How can we get help for our porn addiction or our confusion and our sleeping all over tarnation if we have to hide it? How can we get help for our boxed in judgmental hearts and limited grace meters if they are never tested because everyone is walking round acting perfect in person and screwed up in secret? How can we learn what it looks like to love, really love, if we only worship with people just like us? How can people who want to end their life have the people they need to keep them alive if they can’t be real about what they are pondering?
This is not to say we shouldn’t speak the truth in love. This isn’t to say that we should tell people do whatever the heck they want. That is not what I am saying. (There should be some asterisk here about how this is not a blog on speaking the truth in love and holding people accountable. This is a blog on sitting across from a guy who thinks about ending it all.) So don’t go off on your assumptions and miss out on numbers 1 through 2 and an added 3rd.
1. Life matters. We should be telling people in the church and out this. We should be telling our kids and our parents this. We should be telling this to people who have black skin and those who are albino. We should be telling this to people who are Muslim and people who are Bhuddist. We should be telling this to people no matter what they do with their private parts. The same God, the One God, made all of us and we all matter.
2. Scripture says in Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Not death, nor life, nor life that is crazy, messed up, confusing, different, diverse, weird and destructive, nor angels, nor the President, the Pope or your boss, nor Republicans or Democrats, nor kings or the Queen, nor this very present circumstance you find yourself in that feels like its overcoming you, nor what is about to go down, nor any victory or success or low low valley or deep dark sin, nor a long list of mistakes, nor any other human being and their opinion shall be able to separate you from the love of God which we see in Christ Jesus.
And boy do we see the love of Jesus Christ! His death reminds us that our lives matter. Our lives matter so much so that God was willing to give up His own for ours. He died so that we could live. Next time you are sitting across from someone regardless of what you think or believe about how they should be living, start with their life mattering. Jesus Christ gave up His life so that you would never wonder where you are at with God. Jesus loves you with such an intense sacrificial love that I am going to keep telling you how much you matter. And please keep telling me.
I understand that because our life matters, it matters how we live it. But sometimes we elevate how we live above the life itself. Thats why people keep sending me suicidal people to have coffee with. Free and willing, I sat across from this man and I physically hurt. Remember, I am not a professional. I am not a psychologist.What can i possibly say?
I can say, your life matters. Let’s get you to a place and places where you can start there. That is most important. God would say so with His very life. (In fact, none of the other stuff matters if you are no longer alive.) And we need to be saying this too!
3. Be real. I am not suggesting that the Church shouldn’t be a place that teaches morality, virtue, discipline, and values. But I am going to suggest that we have got to allow people to start where they are. I just cannot get over the fact that a church will kick you out if you are gay but not if you get excited about nasty porn every night. I can go to any church in my town and no one is thinking about kicking me out. Yet they have no idea what I am doing in this head of mine. I could be shooting people with rifles in my imagination. I could have millions of dollars in an account that I don’t share with anyone. I could be sleeping with other men in my head every time I sleep with my husband. And guess what, you would never know.
Whether I am doing all of those things or none of them, how on God’s green earth do I stand a chance of journeying towards God if people are pushing me away from Him? What chance do any of us have if we are keeping what needs God’s face shining on it hidden in a dark closet? We have to be able to be real about what is going on our lives. This actually is the beginning of true healing, true recovery, true freedom and true community. I have always said: If people can’t tell their story in the Church then Church won’t be a part of their story.
I am confident that we as the Church must reread that last sentence and get our staff- our children’s pastors, youth pastors, family pastors, our worship pastors, your elders, our laypeople, we need to get all of them together and we have got to figure out how to build and shape an environment where people can be real about their stories. This then is when God can enter our stories and write into them beauty, hope, life, grace and redemption. If people cannot be real about their story in YOUR Church, YOUR Church won’t be a part of their story.
Or I can keep looking purdy in my church dress and filling a pew and showing up and looking the part to make you happy and trick myself into thinking I have a spiritual community. I can sit right alongside my new friend and we can fake all of this, but where is it getting us? We know God is real, so why aren’t we being real? God is real and He can handle us. He can handle us in all our unglorifying mess. He can. I am sure of it. I will sit next to that man. In fact, I will pick him up and take him to church if I need to, if only to remind us both that life matters.
I will show up and like this guy, and like Paul in the New Testament, I will say “I continue to do the things I ought not to.” In saying that together, we realize our deep need for God in all His stretched out forgiveness that gives and gives and gives. And saying that together with other broken people who echo the struggle, we can hold hands, reminding each other that Jesus says life matters. Grab our hands and come with us if you want. We can walk towards Jesus instead of away from Him. We can tell our stories and beg that God becomes our Author. We can together find ourselves underneath His cross, where the ground is level, everyone matters and His death reminds us just how much. That is the only hope we all have. That His love is greater than our brokenness. And it is the only hope I will give my life to.
If you don’t like what I have to say, I don’t want to hear about it this time. I am not in the mood to mess around. I just sat across from a guy who wants to end his life. Argue with someone who just sang with the gospel choir.