Three Teachers and a Pastor's Wife: My Journey with Understanding Same-Sex Attraction (Part Two)
April 6, 2017 by Sheree Phillips 0 comments
My last post introduced you to two people in my life when it comes to understanding and loving those who experience same-sex attraction (SSA). God used Mom and David to prepare me for things I couldn’t have anticipated experiencing in the years after they became shaping influences in my life.
The day when I saw next to Kirk at the wedding reception I knew what was important. As a pastor’s wife of over 40 years I am aware of stereotypes, and having dealt with them, I want to be careful when I’m interacting with those who have been hurt by stereotypes far more than I. “Pastor’s wife” stereotypes have more to do with how I should act, dress or talk -- and assumptions from Christians who assume I share their beliefs (like that homosexuality is certainly more responsible for the death of Christ than other sins). I admit it, it’s been challenging at times to share with people the differences. But stereotypes about homosexuals run far deeper and more painful than anything I’ve experienced.
I have never been called a hateful name; been shoved or beat up; had my car or home smeared with graffiti; sat alone again and again in a school cafeteria; felt like an unwelcome intruder in a church meeting; or had people keep their kids away from me out of fear I would molest them “just because.”
So I wanted to be open with Kirk from the beginning.
“Kirk, I know you know I’m the pastor’s wife. But I prefer just being Sheree. Are you ok with that?” He smiled. “Sometimes being married to a pastor complicates new interactions with people and I’d be happy if that didn’t happen today.” His second smile was a little broader. Did I see a glimpse of relief in his eyes?
For over two hours Kirk and I talked. We exchanged questions and soon short responses turned into longer ones. I learned about how he and John met 25 years ago and had been together ever since, and he was surprised to hear that Benny’s and my high school romance had actually made it through 40 years of marriage. I heard about their house on the lake, John’s former marriage and his children’s reactions to Dad being with Kirk, and what led to them deciding to have a marriage ceremony after so many years together. He asked about our seven children and laughed at some of my stories about my chaotic and fun life.
“Wow, we’ve both made it a long time with the same partner!” he remarked.
I smiled in agreement but that sentence produced a quick internal reaction that required a brief heart check. Was I offended that he was comparing his long term homosexual relationship with my heterosexual, homeschool mom, pastor’s wife life? If so, why? In that sentence Kirk was making him and me a little more alike than I had considered to that point. My first reaction to that sameness was uncomfortable. I quietly thanked the Lord for the reminder that there was still something in me that wanted to be safely (and widely) different than gays, rather than happy to be reminded of the likeness that builds loving relational bridges.
From there I learned even more about our sameness. We shared many political positions. We both had loved someone for decades. And as the conversation continued, we learned we both had walked through fires and storms and wonderful times to do so. I think it was surprising to both Kirk and me -- a gay guy and the wife of the pastor who performed the mutual friend’s wedding who found us sitting side by side -- to discover that we had far more in common than we could have expected.
We also talked about the church, God and faith. By this time our conversation had blossomed into a place of vulnerability that allowed me to ask how he managed his homosexuality with God’s word, which he said he read regularly. He acknoweldged it’s been hard, but that he had come to grips with differing interpretations of scripture and was at peace. I shared that I had read varying perspectives but that the Bible is clear on sexual sin. Just as God calls lust, greed or rage sin that must be forgiven by Christ’s atoning death, so does sexual sin of every kind, including homosexuality.
At one point I just had to say it: “Kirk, I want to be honest with you. I have never had this kind of open, vulnerable conversation with a homosexual.” “I can promise you I’ve never talked like this with a pastor’s wife!” he chuckled, as he reached over toward my plate to squeeze my hand.
As the reception came to a close I was almost sad. Once again God had used someone to tweak my heart. Understanding homosexuality had come a little closer because in those short hours I had come to enjoy this new friend...and to see just how alike we are.
The next time I saw him was two years later at the funeral of the father of the groom that day. It’s an encounter I won’t quickly forget, followed by heartbreaking news I received last week. More on that in my next post.