I graduated from seminary in May, 2015, but I still live in town. I keep up with seminary friends who are still in classes, so a group of us get together regularly at a local dive bar for cheap beer and toasted ravioli. (If you’ve not heard of it before, it’s deep fried, breaded ravioli. Marvelous stuff. It’s a St. Louis thing.)
One of my friends told me about a guy who was going to come to the bar to hang out with the group. “He’s in his early 30s, gay, celibate, and a Christian,” said my friend. I have to admit that I thought, “Early 30s and celibate? He’s probably awkward and ugly.”
He was neither. We were at different tables; the place was rather full. But I saw him come in and the folks at my table were aware I was more interested in what was happening at the other table (namely, the arrival of the new guy). Eventually, the crowd thinned and we ended up at a large table where I could be properly introduced. When we talked, we discovered we had a great deal in common–even a favorite children’s TV show that we both watched when we were little.
I found myself wanting to know him and have him as a close friend. My feelings toward him were intense in ways I hadn’t experienced in probably six or seven years. It was almost like being in love…but without the obsession part or the sexual attraction part. (But it had the part that I grin stupidly when his name gets mentioned.) The intensity I felt is usually linked by many to romantic attraction, but it lacked most of the components that are usually necessary to make something romantic.
We’ve become great friends over the last six or seven months. We aren’t alike in our vocations or in personality type, but we enjoy spirited discussion and speaking our minds. We enjoy finding out what the other is thinking and why. And where there is initial disagreement, we enjoy pursuing understanding in the absence of agreement. We eat dinner together, we have drinks, we watch a TV show we both enjoy. We take walks in the park. We listen and talk to each other. And he gives great hugs.
So why tell the world about him when so much could be misread or misconstrued?
I think the primary reason is that there is much about the viability of the celibate life, but not nearly as much which cracks open the door of intimate friendship, allowing the reader to see a bit of what such a friendship is like. I’m not sure I’ve cracked the door open very far here, but perhaps just enough to see that there’s light in the room and that one can actually hear voices on the other side having rational and deep, meaningful conversation
He’s my friend. And I love him very much.