As some of you know (via this story), I became a Christian very suddenly, out of nowhere, at the age of thirty-eight. Yay!
I was at that time working in the "Office Services" department of a large law firm. My sole co-worker in that department was a lesbian named Joan Finch.
To a lot of Christians, of course -- just as with a lot of people generally -- someone's being gay or lesbian can register as a Fairly Large Deal. But I had been around gays and lesbians all my life, and had no schema for understanding a person's sexual orientation as having anything whatsoever to do with their moral character, or their status relative to God, or anything like that. Any such concept was just foreign to me. All I knew was that some gays and lesbians were awful people, and some were noble, wise, kind people it was impossible not to love. Same as anyone else. People are people.
I'd had gay friends all of my life. Real friends. Best friends. As obnoxious as it is to stereotype, I think it's safe to say that generally gays and lesbians have suffered for being gay and lesbian: Just about all my gay friends, for instance, have countless stories about as kids getting regularly beaten-up by ... well, by just about everyone around them. Schoolmates. Siblings. Dads. Crosswalk guards. Dog walkers. Whomever.
Growing up gay or lesbian in America is just a tough row to hoe, period. If you think it's not, then ... then you're just not paying attention to life.
And that gays and lesbians have generally suffered in their lives means that they are generally sensitive to the suffering of others. And generally that makes them kind, compassionate, and emotionally insightful. It makes them empathetic. Which is why I have, in general, found gays and lesbians extremely rewarding to hang out with.
And I had most definitely found that to be true of Joan Finch.
Joan Finch rocks like Gibraltar. She is one of the two or three funniest people I've ever known. She's deadly witty. And man, can she do voices. She's an almost startlingly accurate mimic.
Working with Joan Finch was like working in the middle of the funniest TV show you've ever seen.
Plus, that girl works. And because she works as hard as she does, she made me work harder than I'm inclined to. Her abiding sense of excellence and responsibility compelled me to step up my own game. Because of Joan's example, I became a better, more conscientious employee.
I had my Big Fat Christian Conversion Experience at (of all places!) work, on a Friday that Joan had taken off. When she returned to work the following Monday, I waited until our usual morning busyness had ebbed, and then broke the news to her that since she had last seen me, I had become (of all things!) a Christian.
A look of genuine heartbreak and anxiety came across her face.
"Oh, no," she said.
"What is it?" I said. "What's wrong?"
"Now you're going to hate me."
I was dumbfounded. I'd just been filled with the overwhelming love of God. Hating anyone was the absolute last thing I was in any way inclined toward.
"Why?" I said, slightly panicked. "Why would I hate you?"
"Because Christians hate gays and lesbians," she said. "Don't you know that?"
"They do? We do? Why?"
"Because it's in the Bible," she said. (Joan had grown up in the church.) "They have to. It's part of their whole deal."
And then she turned away from me, so that I wouldn't see her fighting back tears.
I had no idea what to say.
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