I was having a rather splendid moment this afternoon at work. My friend Jess and her daughter Johnni came to visit me, and we were laughing and talking about our days. It was a slow period and there were no customers, so we had some time to ourselves. Then the phone rang, and my sister Molly (who works there with me) answered it. With an unexplained look of intense curiosity, she handed me the phone whispering, “I think it’s JT*.” *Not his real name.
I was a bit taken aback; JT is an old friend from childhood. We’d been very close for years, and then I’d thrown him under the bus in high school to protect what little popularity I had, as well as to distance myself and protect my dreadful secret: I might – just might – be gay.
Wasn’t sure, mind you, but there was reason to doubt my heterosexuality, and JT could have been the, ah, star witness at that trial. You see, JT was the literal boy-next-door, and our teenage years and shared lives led to a bit of experimentation. Enough to say that my parents found out, forbade me any further contact with JT, and led me in a prayer casting out the demon of homosexuality.
Which was oh-so-effective, obviously.
Anyway, that’s all water under the bridge. My parents did the best they knew how to do at the time with the best of intentions, and thankfully we’re way past that now.
I hesitated for a second, and then spoke into the phone. We had a pleasant and short conversation, in which he asked if I ever had any free time. I told him I had Mondays and Tuesdays off, Jess loudly corrected that I did indeed have Tuesdays off, but I belonged to the Andrews family on those nights from now on. I laughed and told JT that any Monday I would potentially be free. He asked me if I’d like to go out and grab some coffee or something, and I said I would love to. I hung up and was surprised to see both Jess and Molly staring at me, wide-eyed.
“Was that… JT?” Molly asked, just to clarify.
“Yeah. He wanted to go out for coffee.”
Molly and Jess exchanged girl glances far beyond my ability to read, and then they launched into a rapid-fire explanation of what had actually just happened, but I had been too dense to comprehend.
“Did you know that he broke up with his boyfriend! That means…”
“…and yeah, they’re broken up, so he was probably…”
“You just got asked out…”
“And didn’t even know it!”
I blinked a few times, and then everything rushed into place as my eyes widened with the all-too-probable truth. To fully grasp the concept, I’ll have to fill you in on a few little things. You see, JT is the son of my bosses. Yep. So I’d been running into him off and on for the last several months, and we’d slowly walked our way out of that awkward I-was-totally-an-ass-to-you-in-high-school phase and into a more civil tone in which we could both chit-chat for a few minutes before going on our way. Since I work with his parents every day, I figured I would have heard about JT’s breakup. I didn’t. Apparently, Molly did. Somehow Jess did too. But that little piece of information his parents chose to keep from me.
And then, this phone call, and a request to meet for coffee. The ladies and I reasoned that if he was simply looking to re-build an old friendship then he could have started doing so months ago. It was much more probable, they were sure, that he was looking for a casual date. Just a quick coffee thing, to test the waters – on multiple levels. For him, it’d probably be an easing of the way back into the dating pool. For us, it’d be a chance to see just where we were and where we might be. Nothing too serious, just a casual date.
I scrunched up my eyebrows in confusion and slowly let the logic work its way through before conceding that such a turn of events could be one of many possible reasons for the phone call I’d just experienced. I shrugged, Jess had a quick laugh at my cluelessness, and we moved on.
But as the day continued, and my sister and I talked more about it, I began to think more seriously about things. Sure, it’s entirely possible that we’re reading way too much into things, and it’s really only coffee with an old friend. But even if that’s what it is, the situation still brought to my mind a question that now burned in my conscious thoughts: What do I do about dating?
It’s a thought I’ve had before, for sure, but I always put it off, reasoning that it was a scenario so far into the future that I figured I’d just cross that bridge when I came to it. But now, it’s possible that “it’ may be here far before I’m ready, and I don’t know what to do.
On the one level, I know that I’m looking for a partner. I really am. I’m a hopeless romantic, I’m fairly lonely, and I’m a sucker for a cute guy with a lopsided grin. I’m looking – albeit in the future in my mind – for a guy that really loves the Holy One and loves others well. Not someone perfect, but someone gloriously human that embraces the Father and his Kingdom. Someone with whom I can build a future together as agents of that Kingdom. Someone with whom I can share a life as equals, loving each other (yep, I’m gonna go there!) as Christ loves the Church.
I want that. I pray for that guy, and for that day when I meet him. I often despair of that day ever coming to pass because, well, I live in a tiny town far away from any major population centers. The Christian community up here is fairly conservative, and so the pool of gay Christian guys (who are okay with it) is really, really small. Meaning, so far I’m the only one I know of within a 200 mile radius.
Yeah. I get lonely a lot.
Anyway. Then there are days that I’m thankful I’m located here, and I think that maybe I’m in this time and place for a reason. Perhaps I’ve got some growning to do, and perhaps so do my family and friends. Maybe we’re not ready, as a Christian community, for Ethan to have a boyfriend. Maybe God’s got me here because he doesn’t want me to have a boyfriend just now. You see how the thought process goes here? Yeah.
All of those thoughts and the inner dialogues they sparked all came rushing into my mind this afternoon, and I thought… Oh boy. So… what do I do if a guy asks me out to coffee?
Truth is, I don’t know. I don’t have a clue. So here’s what I plan to do:
I plan to go. I mean, what if it’s just me reading into things? So I’m gonna go. Coffee could just be coffee. But during that coffee time, I’ll try and discern what’s happening. Is it a date? Is it a casual testing-of-the-waters-to-see-if-there-could-be-a-date date? When I get the feel of what’s going on, I’ll be a bit better prepared, and can go from there.
So my answer to can this gay Christian boy date casually?
Sure, if what that means is going out to coffee to spend some time getting to know each other better and determine just who we each are and what we each think is happening. But continuing down a path that I don’t see any real future with? No, no I can’t do that. It wouldn’t be fair to him. It wouldn’t be fair to me.
So if a guy calls me and asks me out to coffee, I’ll go, I’ll smile and be myself, I’ll pay for my own coffee, and I’ll chat with him. I’ll go out to coffee a thousand times with a thousand guys, if asked, but if you’re looking for coffee to turn into something else, well, that’s a whole different arena.
Cause you see…
I’m not really interested in casual dating. The amount of turmoil it would bring to friends and family would just not be worth it. Casual dating would be, I think, causing brothers and sisters to stumble. My community and their beliefs? Yeah, it’d be unnecessarily stirring up a whole lotta trouble. It’d be forcing my sexuality upon them, in a way, and I firmly believe that love doesn’t force. Love asks, and is gentle.
I am interested in getting to know someone and advancing into dating if it’s clear that the foundation of the potential relationship is the Father and his Kingdom. I don’t mean that to sound elitist or arrogant, but quite honestly: I am not my own. Now here’s a kicker for the Christian community: I’m not averse to his relationship with the Father looking or sounding different than I may be used to. It may take me by surprise, and then again it may not. Who knows? But I do know that the Kingdom looks an awful lot like chains of injustice being loosened, poverty being defeated, and the forgotten and voiceless being raised up. It looks like humanity being valued, like time and materials being poured out like a drink offering. It looks like love, patience, peace, joy, kindness, gentleness, patience, goodness and self-control. So if I’m seeing that in a guy, I don’t care by what name he’s calling Papa. I’d be open to getting to know him better to see what could be, or what could not be.
I know that when (if?) I find a guy like that, and we start to realize, “Hey… you know what this looks like? This looks like we’re, you know. a couple.” Well then, I believe that dating him – publicly and proudly – isn’t really causing brothers and sisters to stumble, but instead asking them to grow. I get that some of them may not be able to, and I won’t try to force it. I’ll leave it in the hands of the God who is big enough to handle all things, and look forward to a reconciliation some day. I’ll strive to love and live well, and to show the Church the fruits of a gospel-powered gay romance, and how it’s no different (really) than the gospel-powered romances they experience. I’ll kindly ask for the grace needed when I fail to do that, too.
And hopefully one day, that gospel-powered gay romance will burst forth into a covenant of marriage.
Oh, I really hope that. I really do.