This excerpt is taken from a conversation between two men, one who is mentoring another along the spiritual path toward acceptance in Jesus. We are joining this dialogue when the two, who have already met several times, are meeting at a restaurant to have a challenging conversation. For the full interaction, and many others, read Talking about God: Honest Conversations About Spirituality by Steve & Cheri Saccone.
As I pull into the parking lot, I’m wondering where the discussion will lead us this time. Eric seems close to committing to Jesus. At least it seems that way to me. When he mentions God, there’s hope in his eyes. That acceptance has come through his experiences in our church, the community, and the talks we’ve had.
He’s one step outside the Kingdom.
But that last step seems long in coming. Something is holding him back. Maybe that has something to do with why he initiated getting together today. I pause for a moment and picture something in my mind’s eye. I imagine him standing right at the door, ready to walk through, but hesitating and looking back to me. I offer one final prayer before our time together, a prayer that today Eric will arrive at his yes moment. I want Eric to be my brother in Christ.
Whatever is at the real center of Eric’s worry, the issue of first importance is that he feels safe.
“Eric, I know what it’s like to hold on to a secret. To want to share it and to deeply fear sharing it all at the same time. All I can promise is that whatever you want to tell me, I’ll walk with you through it as a friend. I’m going to be on your side. Unless there’s a fire in the kitchen, I’m not leaving this table. One thing I can assure you of is that the relief you’ll feel from opening up is worth the difficulty of doing so. And I’ll also say again: It’s up to you what to say, if anything. While I won’t walk away, it’s always your freedom to do that. That’s the deal when it comes to me being your friend.”
When he takes a breath and begins to speak, I know I’m hearing from the most elusive, most complex character in his acting portfolio—the true Eric. “Well, first, I haven’t done anything wrong. So it’s not like I should have any real worries here. It’s just that there are things you don’t know about me. What you see and what God sees are two different things. And that seems important to me if you’re going to counsel me as a friend.”
“Without knowing what that thing is that’s holding you back, Eric, I do know this: Nothing is larger than the love of God. Nothing at all.
There’s not a thing in the world that precludes the possibility of giving your life to Jesus. It’s so clear all throughout the Scriptures.”
“I want to believe that—I really do. Will you still say that when I tell you . . . when I tell you I’m bisexual? That’s it right there, Steve. I’m bisexual, and I don’t see how I’m going to change.”
Admittedly, I’m surprised. Eric has a girlfriend, so this wasn’t one of the scenarios I was anticipating. Not that I haven’t had other friends who are gay or bisexual. I’ve been close friends with many people from every part of the spectrum—from openly gay to those who feel same-sex attraction but who have chosen to abstain from same-sex relationships because of their beliefs. One thing I know for sure: Jesus will be anyone’s friend, so I try to be the same way. In fact, Jesus went out of His way many times to be friends with people who the religious folks thought He should avoid altogether.
The issue isn’t what I think about it; it’s clearly what Eric thinks about it, and by extension, what that means for his faith. On the one hand, Eric is saying he is bisexual as if it’s an absolute declaration. But on the other hand, his body language is telling a different story. He looks tense and conflicted. His expression is not one of resolution. Rather, it is one of torment.
My initial response is fairly automatic: “Eric, first, thank you for your transparency. It’s courageous on your part, and I’m honored that you can trust me with something that makes you feel so vulnerable. As you can guess, it changes nothing. You’re one of the best guys I know. Period. Our friendship is one that I cherish, and something like this has no effect on it.”
He nods appreciatively but doesn’t seem relieved. “Thanks. I suspected as much. I knew you well enough to know you’re not fake and that you’d accept me as I am. I wasn’t worried about telling you this; I’m more worried about what it says about me accepting Jesus. Unless I’m missing something, you can’t be a bisexual Christian. I don’t look around the church and see that kind of profile. So that’s where I am. I see Jesus and want to go to Him. I’m bisexual and can’t walk away from that, which means I’m stuck. I believe, but I have to believe on my own. I can’t stand living a lie, so I felt you should know the truth.”
He’s stuck. And I’m stuck. That’s the truth.
Of course I want to say, “Hey, it doesn’t matter! All that matters is that you love God!” But that would be kicking the can down the road on the problem he has acknowledged. There are issues here that need to be talked through. This is one of the most heartrending and explosive issues of our time. The truth as related in Scripture is permanent, immutable. It can’t be molded and shaped for convenience. Yet people are what they are.
Again, I’m praying silently. And fervently! Help me, Lord! What am I supposed to say here? My compassion drives me to airbrush away the problems here. Help me be true to You and still loving and caring. Help me walk into this with the right dose of grace and of truth. Most of all help me show that Your love is perfect.
There aren’t any easy solutions, and I’m not about to pretend there are.
We sit quietly, both of us thinking. After a moment, I say, “It’s tough. We both know that. I can’t say I know what it’s like to be in your shoes, but I see that you’re in deep pain, and I’m so sorry.”
It would be easy to tell God, “I’m going to leave this one to You. It’s way past my pay grade.” Then I would smile at my friend, give a pat answer, promise to pray for him, and maybe suggest he google a support group. In other words, be a coward.
Truly caring about Eric as I do, that would never be an option. He is hurting, and he’s looking for answers. If I don’t have them, it’s up to me to go with him to try to find them.
Finally I say, “Eric, I’ve probably never heard your dilemma described in such an agonizingly clear way. You’re very genuine and very much in touch with the crisis you find yourself in. If you were at peace or even just believed you were at peace, I would back off right here. I know what my own redemption looks and feels like, but I can’t make decisions for you.
I can’t violate your free will.
“So help me clarify something at this point. Are you looking for my take and maybe my guidance, or are you, as a friend, really letting me know about the decision you’ve come to and wanting to leave it at that? For me to figure out where to go from here, I need to know where you stand. I want to honor your feelings and your beliefs. So tell me, where do you see things going?”
I take a sip of water and brace myself as we turn the page and go even deeper together. Eric has shared his journey with such transparency. It’s time to mirror that same realness as I share a bit of my own thorny road toward redemption.
Read more in Talking about God: Honest Conversations About Spirituality, by Steve & Cheri Saccone.