An Extra Seat At The Table (Memoir Excerpt)

(Excerpted From Chapter 3, Memoir)

At one time in my young adult party years, I was renting a couch (not a room, or apartment, a literal couch) for $40 a week. That’s when an unusual situation arose.

“Randy, you GO to that bible study!” was the somewhat loud and earnest voice coming from the phone. It was my Mom. She had called to see if Bruce had called me yet. Bruce was a guy I used to work with at the grocery store when I was sixteen. He is a stoic kind of quiet guy. He was built like a tank, awesome laugh, and would do just about anything to help anyone out. I had a crush on him for a while when we worked together. The reason my Mom was calling is that he looked her up in the phone book and called her asking about me. Apparently, he had prayed, and I was “on his heart.”

Bruce is SO Christian; so very Baptist-y Christian… bless his big ‘ol handsome heart!

So as my Mom was exhorting me to go to the Bible study, I told her, “sure, I’ll go.” She thought that was a good thing. I was thinking of Bruce’s good looks and only wanted to go so I could hit on him.

It’s true. I was only willing to go because of Bruce’s blue eyes, dimples, and straight up lust.

Bruce did call. I can even remember his voice all these years later. He did invite me to a Bible Study/potluck dinner he was having and offered to pick me up since I didn’t have a car.  The first few times we arranged for me to attend, I stood him up. Either I was still passed out from the night before or higher than a kite and couldn’t manage myself much less a conversation. He never got impatient, and I did eventually go to a couple of his group gatherings.

Nothing I did would sway him from his peaceful demeanor or get him to notice my flirtations. Oh and I tried! He would just laugh or joke around. When I went to the first dinner, I drug along one of my nonbinary gender friends. He was quite nervous, at first, about the whole thing. I told him, “NO wear your makeup. Let’s freak them out and laugh about it later.” He was game, so we went.

Don’t forget, this was the ’80’s.

After pulling up to the house, Bruce went ahead while we walked slower to the door. I extra Duran Duran’ed my hair. Got a larger hoop earring with a cross on it and while I didn’t prance or skip … I was as stereotypically gay as I could get on purpose. I hated Christians at the time, I wanted to shock them, and was only there to hit on Bruce.

I opened the screen door; the main door was already open. There were clanking dishes and about 15 to 20 adults and kids around. I was kind of hoping the women would shriek and run to gather their children in horror as the men formed a protective barrier between their tribe and us.

I was SO full of stereotypical expectations.

What happened was … nothing. My friend put his purse and coat down with the others at the front door. I decided to keep my jean jacket on. The kids went screaming by, and there was the sound of laughter as they tackled one of them, more dishes clanking, and soda pop being opened.

Then the lady of the house came up to us and said, “WELCOME! So glad you could make it. Randy! Right?!  It is nice to meet you finally. Bruce told me you both worked together at one time. Come on in and blah blah blah; We are going to pray for the meal and blah blah blah.”

As I sat there eating my not that bad spaghetti and garlic bread, I watched my gender fluid friend, the only black person in the house and the only male wearing bright blue eyeshadow and lip gloss. He was having a great time talking to everyone. I began to think that maybe I had misjudged these Christians.

Later, we circled up in the living room where the Bible Study began. They started reading a chapter from the bible. They passed the bible around from one person to the next. We were to read 1 to 3 verses. I thought for sure they would skip us. I am not sure why I thought this, but when the teen girl next to me handed me the bible, I was a bit shocked. I have no idea what I read, but I do know I read three verses … with extra enunciated eloquence of course. I then passed the bible to the friend who came with me, and again, he looked like he was thoroughly enjoying the whole thing.

After the reading and the teaching we prayed. Well, they prayed, and I watched them through my squinted eyelids.  During one prayer, one of the women referred to God as “Abba.” Not being raised in the church (except for 6 months of trauma with Brother Paul), I went up to her later and said, “Why did you call God ‘Abba’? The only Abba I know is the 70’s disco group…You know, ‘Dancing Queen?’” And she just laughed. Thank God she was honest and comfortable enough to laugh. With sweet eyes full of merriment she said to me “I call God, our Father, Abba because it’s a term of endearment. Abba is like saying, daddy. God loves us like a daddy.”

Right then her eyes turned from merriment to genuine compassion, and my heart was pierced through with that concept. I had never had a “Daddy” or at least one I would be “endeared” to. I credit this event, Mella’s compassion, and the Christians in Daytona as being the tipping points for my coming to Christ a few years later. I didn’t come to know Jesus that night, but I did come to know a different side of His people than I had ever thought was possible.

They were life-giving people, not shaming or ashamed of my “lifestyle” people.

Imagine a three-story high heart made of moss-covered stone and 100 feet in diameter. This stone heart battered by howling winds and driving rain. Many earthquakes have threatened to shatter this invincible hard heart, and yet it always remained, unmoved. Now imagine lightning hitting that hard heart as the teen girl next to me passed the bible; a tiny crack runs down the middle and burns away the moss. Then, at eye level to the ground, a chunk falls away. If you were to walk up and look into the now visible hole and squint, you would see in the distance a small light carrying the promise of the new creation I would become. … and the echo of a soul crying.

That night freaked me out. I now see it as a positive but back then I didn’t know what to think about it except I did pray my first honest prayer afterward. It consisted of one short little sentence to God, “Help me, please.” My friend who went with me, of course, thought it was great, that they were friendly people with good food.

Most importantly, this group of Christians allowed God to love them so they could love my friend and me without any strings, and without any pressure. I somehow knew then that they trusted and loved God, that they cared for strangers. They were hospitable, open, and funny. I was safe to receive their fellowship without fear or hostility. It made a big difference and opened my heart to consider the issue of Christianity differently.

Regardless of where you are on the spectrum of belief concerning God’s LGBTQ+ children, do you have an extra seat at your table?

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