Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chapter 42: Nate

Don walked out to the front patio of his store and looked over Fairmont Street. The grass was green and a gentle breeze blew and made Don smiled. Don waved at a jogger going by. He reflected on the insanity of going to City Church the night before and decided to text Nate Graybill. Over the past couple months, Nate had become a good friend and a man who cared enough to visit his shop, invite him to church, and take him to lunch. Nate was insanely obtuse, and Don had let him know it with many a middle finger—but he liked and respected Nate.

Don pulled out his phone and texted Nate. Texting, Don had thought was only for young guys, but Brit had convinced him that he could do it too, and so now every spare moment left him texting instead of emailing. Emailing was so cumbersome—texting was fantastic.

He shot off his text to Nate. “I went to a men’s bible study last night and was verbally attacked by one of the church guys. He screamed and jumped up and down saying my beliefs were invalid because I didn’t at this point believe the entire Bible. He said I was going to Hell. It was crazy. If I told him I was gay he would of had a coronary. Now, obviously I no longer see Christians as a group. He was insane and pissed off at my Harley Davidson T-shirt.  He even took off his shirt and tried to cover me up. I was laughing so hard and no one tried to stop his tirade. I would never let any guest or customer of mine be attacked. I don’t understand. I didn’t need protecting. I could handle him, but how do you handle apathy?”

“Sorry that happened, Don,” Nate texted back. “Remember, there are still many of us out there that are immature in our understanding of ourselves and God. Wasn't at Watermark was it?”

Don sat back on his stool, placed his phone on the counter and texted back. “There was a Watermark guy there, but it was at a place called City Church on Carroll Ave. I think the pastor is Dennis Weir. I no longer lump all Christians into a group. I’m one too. If that had happened at Watermark, you would probably be in a staff meeting right now, hopefully.”

 “There certainly would be some conversations. Unfortunately, it is situations like that that make the press—the public rarely sees the rest of us.” Nate texted back after a two minute delay.

Don smiled in agreement. Christians could be such idiots. He texted Nate, “I understand, that same press sees the drag queens and other oddities. I’ve prayed for that guy and going forward I’m not judging his beliefs, but I’m definitely judging his etiquette.”

“Yes and great to pray for him,” Nate texted. “Should do both if he claims the name of Christ.”

Don stared at his cell phone puzzled. Nate was always cryptic. “I don’t understand,” he texted.

Five minutes passed as Don impatiently stared at his phone and tried to busy himself with miscellaneous shop work. Finally Nate hit him back, “You should judge both for those claiming Christ. Jesus was hardest on hypocrites of the temple. See also Paul/Peter in Galatians, 1 Cor 6, Jude, etc. Off top of head while driving.”

“I’m in no position to judge anyone’s beliefs. What are you doing texting while driving? Some role model you are,” Don texted back.

“Actually as a believer and student of God you are in that position, since you have access to His Word and seek to understand/become Christlike—see Bereans. :)” came the reply.

Don paced. He didn’t know why people like Nate got under his skin. He didn’t know why he liked them so much. He just did. “I’m a pathetic believer. And may I say **** you and shoot you the finger. But I have never been a total disrespectful ass,” Don texted.

“Thanks, I needed that today :) pretty pathetic myself,” Nate texted.

There it was—that humility thing that these Cocky Christians continually pulled off that forced Don to like people like Nate and Chris and everyone else. He knew that God was doing something, but he couldn’t quite make out exactly what. Don wrote Nate back, “You are a miracle. God is using you and me. If that’s not humbling, then we are arrogant asses.”

“Look @ you, preaching to the pastor! Very humbling, because I am an arrogant ass. But like Peter said, "Where else could I go, Lord? You have the words of life!” Nate texted.

“Yep, preaching to a preacher. Well someone has to. It may as well be the guy who’s been cursing you.” Don smiled at his wit.

“Very good MSG coming Sunday-Wagner is off again.” Nate said.

Thank God, Don thought. Todd had a tendency to ramble on for an hour quoting every bible passage he knew, but saying absolutely nothing. Although, Don had nothing against the man, he couldn’t handle an hour of Todd. Nate, however, through the amount of time that he had put into Don had earned the right to have Don make a special trip to hear him speak. “If Mark isn’t preaching at PCPC I will see about it. Are you preaching?” Don texted.

“Gary Haugen with International Justice Mission coming. Great champion of social justice,” came the reply.

“Social justice? At Watermark? Interesting...”

“Thought that would peak interest with you.”

“Well, yes, anything about justice interests me. However I don’t know Todd and where he stands on my equality as equal to him as an American citizen.” Don texted and waited fully engrossed in his texting that he completely ignored several customers who entered and were now perusing his shop.

“I am sure he would sit about where I sit,” Nate replied.

“Above me?” Don asked.

“Ha!” Nate shot back.

A gear switched for Don and he didn’t want to go there as he was enjoying the text match with Nate, but he felt it his duty to remind Nate of civil liberty and its importance. “That’s funny but I have a feeling when it gets down to the voting booth my equality would take a back seat to most of the Christians I’ve met. That makes me very sad,” Don texted.

“I think many would vote for many of the inequalities that you see, but not through the mechanism of marriage,” Nate replied.

Don felt his heart race. His palms got a little sweaty and he could feel his emotions unseating. “It’s marriage that gives most of the rights,” Don texted. “Marriage is considered a stabilizing factor of society. I’m worth something.”

“You are worth the life of our Lord and marriage is the stabilizing factor of society. That is why there is such a biblical precedent and why it is vigorously defended.” Nate texted back. Don stood up and paced. He smiled for a moment at a customer and then walked outside to collect himself.

Don pecked out a message. “Great defend your personal spiritual beliefs over that of civil society and over those of different faiths. I can’t describe the depth of pain you’re giving me. And we have the same God. I would never wish for you anything less than what I have. Unfortunately to you—I am less. I expect more from you, Nate.” Don knew that last bit would cut, but he didn’t care.

“You are not less than—although I know it can feel like I think that. I cannot in good faith support something I believe God does not support as revealed through His word. I would hope you would expect nothing less of me as His servant. If I am wrong about what He says, then I want to be corrected. But I have not yet seen a sound doctrine that scripturally supports gay marriage. You know I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, and must default to it,” Nate texted.

“Didn’t God say, ‘give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s? This is a civil issue—An equality issue that my friends who are my family—which I lost so many to a horrid disease that was condoned by most straight Christians. I believe in family values. I won’t sell out my friends even you,” Don tapped.

“Great pain and loss with you Don and I know Christians have had a significant role in that. In my mind this is a spiritual issue before a civil issue. Christ is not separating civil from spiritual in that passage. He is not willing to be used as a pawn by the Pharisees for their own agenda and also established submission to the governing authorities even when it seems unjust. I will not vote for something that God says is spiritually harmful to people—especially friends like you,” Nate replied. Don read his words and he could feel himself losing it. Thankfully his customers had left, although they purchased nothing. Anger grabbed Don and for a moment he let the tears trickle.

“You do understand you are using a spiritual belief system to justify discrimination against someone you have actually called your brother. The guy who screamed and hollered at me last night was rude. But at least he never claimed to love me as a fellow Christian. I don’t wear all emotions on my sleeve. But I’m sitting out on this patio eating a sandwich on a gorgeous day. Sobbing into this wadded up paper towel. Christian values? I am a ******* Christian, too. And I have feelings and now they are crushed.”
Don hit send and wondered if any of these people that said they loved him would get off their high horse and see him as he was—a person with rights.

Ten minutes later, Nate’s reply came. “I understand that I am called to speak the truth in love to my brother. There are many others that grew up feeling what you feel that ascribe to scripture as I do. You've met some. I wish that you would really sit down and investigate what they are saying. I don't want to crush you, Don. I want God's best for you, just like you do. I just believe that following what He says is the path to life. That is the best way to become Christlike. I am not trying to hurt you, just help. Just like you are helping me be more sensitive (I guess we both need to continue to get better at it).”

Don gripped his cell phone. Twenty years ago he would have thrown it against the wall. But he was beyond that now. He wiped his tears with the already moist paper towel and went back inside. He tapped a message back to Nate, “I have no desire to be straight. Look at straight. What in the world can straight offer? Only pain and rejection. I can’t believe that Christians aren’t standing up for each other. I knew from my past that integrity wasn’t common with Christians but I have expected better from you. Especially you—If this is truly your value system. Then I’m sorry for you and I’m devastated for me.”

“Why are you attacking me for holding to scripture and believing that God's way is best? I am not going to support anything that God says is harmful—especially for those I care about. That is putting their best interests above my own. It would be much easier to for me just to go with the flow and ignore scripture. Need to stop now. I am home with family and it seems we are not making progress. Let's revisit later.” Nate replied.

“You know I’m not attacking you. You know that, but I don’t know that you’re not attacking me in the name of our common God. That seems pathetic. What happened to love one another and building each other up? Is that just for white straight guys? ****! Last night and now this??????” Don put down his cell phone and paced.

“You know I care about you, Don. Look back over the text chain and try to understand what I am saying and give me the benefit of the doubt based upon the amount of time I've spent with you. I want what is best for you—we just disagree as to what that is. I really can't communicate any more on this today. I will try to touch base tomorrow.”

Don knew not to text back. He was emotionally exhausted and had no desire to see or talk to anyone for a while.

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