Friday, January 25, 2008

Reconciled Friendship

I've always thought it to be God's sick sense of humor to use me as a relational catalyst. It's true that God has often used me as one who connects others together, facilitates introductions, and subtly steps back as others enjoy friendship and fellowship. It's fun being a catalyst because i'm connected in some way to many relationships. In the past couple months, I've recently been revitalized with fresh vision for Catalyst and I'm excited for what God has in store for connecting sub-communities together, pastors and people of faith together, individuals together!

I've often been called a social butterfly but the truth is that I'm very much more comfortable engaging in smaller groups. I refer to God's sense of humor because it seems like He's called one of the most unqualified people in the world to be a "people person".

Me? Are you kidding? Lord, you want me to engage the conversation with others about healthy platonic and romantic relationships in our community? No, seriously?!

God chuckles.

My own relationships are complicated enough. I can't possibly judge someone else's. I can barely navigate my own! I've gone on (few, trust me - few!) dates but i'm not dating someone (though I want to be). I love and appreciate my family but I'm not part of their daily lives and only see them on holidays or during family gatherings. I've got lots of friends but just a few that I'd call for a needed pick up at the airport.

And while I appreciate the people in my life who I interact with on a daily, weekly, monthly, or even occasional basis, there are even fewer in the inner circle that have been both time-tested and fire-tested. A couple months ago, I slammed one of those friends in "Abandoned Friendship" and even made reference to him on YouTube (of all places) in "Side X Culture". If a friendship was ever considered time and fire tested, this is one of them . . . .

Yes, we've been friends for about nine years. Perhaps it was a sucker-punch to make reference to him here. But he knows that this blog has always been a space for me to process my thoughts and feelings - raw. And since you as a reader only get my side of it, I can pretty much have the effect of demonizing him unfairly.


However, I didn't lie or say anything out of malice. I was honest about how I feel and that's significant for my journey out of the closet these past few years. It's not easy reassessing the friendship of someone who's proven himself worthy of the inner circle. The truth is that I actually was feeling hurt, replaced, abandoned for numerous reasons - many of which he's owned up to - but our situation the past several years has been complex. It's not so simple to say that our friendship was conditional. When I came out and voluntarily left the organization that we both started, I felt like I was thrown to the wolves. I had hoped he would have defended me when I was attacked.

While this recent season was challenging for our friendship, I also acknowledge that he's earned his stripes and trust with me in other seasons. He stood behind me during one of the most difficult trials in my life. He was there in 2001. If you've ever read or heard me say that "my character is not defined by the mistakes I've made but rather by the lessons I've learned", it's because he affirmed that in our friendship so that I could own that for my journey.

By the time I wrote "Abandoned Friendship" this past October, I had already emotionally given up. By the time I told my story and it was posted on YouTube at the new year, I had already been referencing him to make the broader point about the Church and gay Christians. He knew about both.

Earlier this week, we met for the first time since I wrote and spoke those things.

Over the course of our conversation, we were able to reconcile. Mostly, I think it was because in planning to meet, we were planning to reconcile. I don't think either of us were approaching the meeting with the intent of picking at wounds. We were able to reconcile because we both value reconciliation. So while I knew that it'd be difficult, I also already knew that we would indeed reconcile.

It was important for us to really hear each other. It was important for us to live out humility. It was important for us to acknowledge the hurt we each had been experiencing and that we each made decisions in reaction to that hurt.

I discovered that I was wrong about his stance. I thought that he was Side B while I was struggling with same sex attractions but that he had reverted back to Side X (yes, i'm aware of the political overtones of phrasing it like that) after I came to a Side A conclusion. My assumption was that he was willing to meet me half way in my "struggle" so that he could escort me back to Side X, but since I went the opposite direction he parted ways with a failed project. That wasn't true. I learned that he had always maintained a Side B view. (Not tracking my references to Sides A/B/X? See here.)

Honestly, this error shaped much of my hurt and how I re-interpreted our past. This doesn't negate the truth that so many of us are indeed hurt by what we perceive as conditional friendships in the Church. The Church still needs to acknowledge that.

But in this particular friendship, I took it very personal when I thought he went from Side B to Side X because to me it communicates inclusion to exclusion - from acknowledging me as a brother in Christ to acknowledging me as a heretic. I thought he had disowned me. That's why it hurt so much.

But he didn't. While theologically we disagree about the acceptability of gay relationships or the burden of celibacy, we both still acknowledge that we are in the same Family of God.

That's huge.

In many ways, God continues to call the two of us to the same vision - even now in separate organizations. He works with the mainline and mainstream churches while I strive to connect with inclusive churches that affirm gay believers like me and we each work to mobilize God's people towards relationship. Maybe God can use the two of us to mend a fractured Church? Or at the very least, fractured relationships. For both of us, it's never been about the organizations we establish or lead but rather it's always been about living out a lifestyle of faith in such a way to call the Church to do the same. The Church will always disagree about things but can we do so without disowning one another?

My friend and I were able to reconcile because we planned on reconciling. Perhaps the Church should take the same approach.


Ross said...

I feel for you (and him). I've had times when I felt abandoned by friends, only to have the relationship continue. It's difficult figuring out how to navigate a relationship when you know that there has been hurt and disappointment.

I'm glad you reconciled (or are reconciling). You sound very intentional about it, which is a great thing. It's probably one of the most difficult things that we are called to do as Christians, but it seems to be the most important.

Mark said...

But you know how much energy and intention that it takes.

Most people can't do it even in their close, personal relationships where significant investments already exist.

It's easier to retreat to sides and pigeon-hole. And people being people, the path of least resistance is often followed.

I rejoice with you both over the reconciliation. Angels celebrate as well.

The Blogger said...

I love what you said at the end about reconciling because you "planned to reconcile".

I think this is biblical and sometimes we forget that Christ was in the reconciliation business.

I'm so excited for what God is doing with each of you in different areas of the church, and as we continue to make headway in this struggle, I know that the two efforts will grow closer together in purpose and effect.

Blessings (ps403)

Steve said...

I'm very glad that you met with your friend and reconciled. I believe that God yet has plans for the two of you to build bridges and community together, that as you each work on your "own" vision within your "own" ministries, there will emerge a bridge. More accurately, a portion of the bigger bridge that God is in the process of building through His people in our generation.