I had a delightful conversation with an old friend of mine the other day. He’s visiting from Alaska. I knew him several years ago before I came out, and it was refreshing that he was already familiar with my work in the community.
We sat in a local deli (which has a fabulous spinach pizza) as we caught up on old times. Years ago, we became friends while we hung out at a local Christian coffee shop and mulled our future as Christians. After a while, we talked about our deepest and most intimate struggles.
It was a rare chance to be transparent with another Christian. We talked about our fears, concerns, what bothered us, and what held us back from taking that next step. I’ve long held the belief that the highest form of Christianity is relationship, both with God and people. At the time, my deepest struggle was the fact that I was gay and didn’t want to be.
I lived a very conservative and fundamentalist faith which constricted my sexuality to the point that I felt like I had to deny any and every possible expression of it. No boyfriends. No dates. And absolutely no sex. Sex was the ultimate sin in my pantheon of understanding.
Thank God I’m over that!
One thing I did believe that I’ve held on to is my sense of purpose. I knew then that God has me here for a reason… only I didn’t know what it was. I knew ministry would be a part of it. But there was something more, much more.
In the several years since Kevin and I last talked, I have found that purpose. I know with every fiber of my being that my place on this earth is to put a face on a gay man that’s different from the one that so many preachers want to show. I am here to work to promote understanding, tolerance, and yes, even acceptance for those in the GLBT community.
Kevin, who has poorly developed arms and legs, has also found his purpose… to help bring unity in the disabled community. His hope is to provide a voice for his community and to bring people together. I saw something in his eyes this week that went beyond activism. He’s always wanted to be active in the community. But this was different. This was passion.
He had that same fire in his eyes that I see in my own reflection. And of course, like all of us who want to save the world, wants to do it tomorrow. I offered some unsolicited advice: Do the small thing well, and the big thing will come. Win the race, and people will notice. But it all takes time.
This week has been a bit of a struggle, really. The church has seen some of its lowest attendance in the last month since the previous pastor left. We had to cancel the Valentine’s dance because only one ticket was sold. I started to second-guess. Yes, I’m insecure when it comes to my work.
But I’ve found that there are always divine appointments. Somehow, I know that God has everything well under control (as I’m prone to forget). It was through that conversation with Kevin that I realized how much we’ve been able to accomplish. It dawned on me that this is a season of change. There are steps backward and forward.
I was able to tell Kevin what would happen based on something that I suddenly knew I had: experience. My God. I’m an activist. My actions have brought change. Yes, the ideas I present are controversial, but it’s working. It’s a slow start.
Yes, I’m still skipping to the tune of a piccolo in an entirely different band, as my parents so fondly (and all too often) say. But every once in a while, I’ll look behind me. The thing that scares me is that there are people skipping with me.
Geez. I hope I don’t trip.
David W. Shelton