The Lunch That Changed Everything
Several weeks pass. Each week I sit with Steve and Laura up front at church and we worship together (usually in the second or third row) and on occasion, we’d go to lunch together after church and have a nice talk about their family, or if it went there—politics. Now I’m just as conservative as they are, so it never was a problem, and one thing for sure you can always bet Steve has something to say on any political topic—not because he likes to talk a lot, but because he is well informed.
Finally, I’m at a point where it doesn’t make sense to keep my history a secret from them. The depth of our friendship was becoming a little one-sided. I was learning things about their family, their lives, where and how they grew up, school, etc., and for me, it was pretty much left to talking about my work, because I couldn’t tell them about all the other GREAT stuff that was going on. Finally, I had had enough. Either this was going to work, or it wasn’t. Either we were good friends, or we weren’t. This was going to create a problem at church and with Pastor, or it wasn’t.
So, I sent an email, an email to my pastor.
I let him know that after thinking about and praying about it, that I was going to tell Laura. I was SURE she was going to be okay, though it may rock her world for a moment while the dust settled in her mind. I was sure our friendship was beyond whatever issue she might have with my being transgender. I was
less sure about Steve, but if I felt Laura was 80 percent or more to the good, then I put Steve at maybe a little better than 50 percent.
I told Pastor that if things went south and it created a stir within the church, I would leave. If I was wrong about my friends, if my judgment was so off that things blew up, then I would walk away and not be a source of disunity at the church. At the same time, I had called Laura and asked if we could meet for lunch. There must have been something in my voice or the way I said it, because she got the idea that this was THE lunch I had referred to a couple of months earlier. We planned to get together on Monday at a Chinese restaurant in a little shopping center near our homes.
The day before our lunch was a different day for me. It was Sunday, but my mind was on Monday. As I pulled into the church parking lot, all I could think about was that after nine months at Austin Transformation Church, this might be the last time I make this drive to church. I tried to be cheery and smile to the greeters as I entered the doors. The lobby was swirling with people leaving the previous service and arriving for the next. People were standing around talking and drinking coffee. Some were laughing. There was a group of three or four off to the side praying for someone. It had a bit of a surreal feel to it. I was taking mental pictures of everything, because I wanted to remember it.
I arrived before Steve and Laura, and I didn’t want to run into anyone else who I knew, because I was worried my “life is good” facade might be too easy to see through. I went into the sanctuary and got us seats up front in our usual area.
Just as the music was starting, Steve and Laura arrived. Laura gave me a hug, and I leaned over and gave Steve a hug. Worship was a bit of a struggle for me this morning, because all I could think about is that this could be my last week. The last time to enjoy this awesome worship. I looked around the building and up into the rafters. I tried to take it all in, the sound, the people, the surrounding, the spirit. If this was to be my last week, then I wanted to absorb and remember as much as possible about it.
I could tell my eyes were starting to water up. It would have been so easy to start crying, but I then didn’t want to have to explain WHY I was crying. No matter where I looked or who I saw, the theme that kept running through my mind was “this might be it.” I don’t think I even heard the pastor’s message that morning. Oh, the sound waves left the speakers and reached my ears, but getting processed by my brain as words to be pondered? Nope, he might as well have been speaking in Japanese and teaching how to make origami animals. When church was over, I said goodbye to Steve, “See you tomorrow” to Laura, and headed for my car not knowing if I would ever come back. I didn’t feel like hanging around and talking to anyone. Tomorrow would come, and I’d then find out what my future looked like, with Laura and Steve and my church in my life—or not.
And indeed, tomorrow did come. I made sure I didn’t schedule any clients for the day. I didn’t know if I would be feeling happy, concerned, shocked, depressed, or what! No clue, and if I was going to be a depressed basket case, I didn’t want to have to call clients to reschedule.
Our lunch was at noon, and it sure made for a long morning waiting for time to leave, to get in my car and make that long five-minute trip to the restaurant. In hindsight, I probably should have scheduled a client so I’d have something to take my mind off the upcoming lunch. I had given a lot of thought about how I was going to tell her. It’s not like this was the first time I’d done it, but this time was different. I wasn’t just risking a dear friendship, I was risking any relationship I had with anyone from my church. If there was a way I could tell her and help her try to understand, then I had to give it my VERY best attempt.
As I drove toward the restaurant from home, my thoughts were “how will Laura react?” It was almost like watching a movie in my head—I’d play out the scene where I tell her and then would come her reaction. I’d play the scene in my head again, and it would be a different reaction. As I was driving up the small street close to the little strip center where the restaurant was located, the last scene that played in my head, is that when I told her I was transgender, her reply was, “I thought so.” Did she already know?
Was I all worked up, including worrying about my church and my pastor for nothing?
We both pulled up to the restaurant about the same time. Was I nervous? Oh, you bet. I met her outside the restaurant with a smile and hug as she did me. It was a cute little restaurant. Though it was only a few minutes away from my home, I had never been there. It’s one of those places that you go, “Oh, I had no idea there was a restaurant there!”
We walked in, and it wasn’t very busy. Normally that would raise a red flag with me. If a restaurant isn’t busy at noon and dinner, I wonder why—but I had checked it out online and it had great reviews, so I didn’t let it bother me. But of course, where did we get seated? Right there at a table in the middle of the room! If you’re going to open your soul up to someone who may in the next moment reject you and try to cast you out of her life as if you were Satan himself, don’t you think you’d want a table a bit
more private? I was so consumed with telling Laura that I didn’t even have the wherewithal to ask for a different table.
The hostess seated us and handed us our menus, and I plastered together the most pleasant “thank you” smile on my face as I could. Laura knew that THIS was the lunch, and I KNEW that she knew—so I said, “Let’s figure out what to order.” I didn’t want to get into some heavy conversation only to have a server walk up and say (do you know what you want to order?) So we both politely ignored each other and threw in a little small talk as we figured out what we wanted to order. I DO love Chinese food, so something spicy was what I was looking for. Eventually, we both figured out what we wanted, the server came over, took our order and left. So there we were—just the two us with our iced teas and this huge secret that we both knew I was about to reveal.
There were a few seconds of silence, then Laura looked at me and said, “Are you going to tell me what you’ve been holding back?” knowing that the answer was yes. She wasn’t demanding; she was breaking the ice because someone had to do it.
I muttered out a soft “yes” as my eyes watered up. I was so scared. I didn’t want to lose my friend Laura, but this was a bridge I had to cross—I’d either make it to the other side or it would blow up and take me with it midway, and I had no way of knowing which way it would go.
I started with this… “Remember when I picked you up for the glamping event and you told me something private in the car?”
She said, “Yes, of course.”
I said, “And then you spent the next 20 minutes until we finally got into the parking space before you could finally tell me what it was you wanted to actually tell me?”
She chuckled and said, “Yes, I do.”
That’s when I said, “Well, this is probably going to be a lot like that 20-minute preamble you gave me before getting to the punch line, but bear with me and we’ll get there.” She nodded yes, and so I started to tell her my story.
But before starting my story, I told her I thought our conversation could go with her having one of four different reactions… I told her this could go as I see it four different ways… one being “no big problem—I get it, and we’re okay.” In which case, I pick up the check.
The second being, “Oh, okay I need to think about this and can we talk about it later?” Laura gets up, and I pick up the check.
The third possible response being, “I have a big problem with this, I’m going to need some time, but I’ll contact you when we should talk,” she gets up, leaves the table, and I pick up the check.
And the final option is, “Get thee behind me Satan, never contact me again and never let me see your face in my presence for the duration of my life!” And yes, she gets up, and yes, I pick up the check. Those were pretty much the four options the way I saw it.
By this time I’m pretty sure Laura must have thought I was some kind of ax murderer.
I talked about how growing up, I knew there were certain expectations, expectations that people take for granted. I told her about how I tried everything, including getting married to have a “normal” life. I spend the next 15 minutes telling her all the marginal stuff, but I didn’t get down to the punchline. Just before that, we were served our egg drop soup. So it was time. Tell her now or wimp out and pray Jesus returns in the next day or two.
As much as I believe in prayer, I didn’t think I was going to pray my way into the second coming happening within 48 hours, so I decided to tell her. I told her that back in April I heard God’s voice. That it wasn’t like, “God when I open my Bible show me what you want me to see,” kind of voice—this was HIS voice. I told her about how I had felt a calling—and on that particular evening it was laying heavy on me, and I asked the Lord in tears if there wasn’t someone else who could do the job—and the Lord said “No, but you’ll do.” How from that I began what could only be called a ministry.
What I said to Laura in a slow and deliberate manner was, “I’ve been called to minister to Christians who are evangelical and conservative… people like me.” She nodded her head acknowledging that knowing me as she did, I was a conservative Christian, and this was not a newsflash. She probably thought
that something really noble in a conservative Christian way was about to follow.
I then continued, saying, “And also to minister to Christians who are transgender…”
And as I paused there was a glimmer in her eye, as if she was thinking what an amazing thing this must be as a ministry.
But then I continued with the punchline as she raised a spoonful of egg drop soup toward her lips… “People like me.”
And it was at THAT very second her spoon stopped moving as if frozen in time three inches from her lips. If this were a movie, you couldn’t have scripted her response better. A Christian? A conservative? AND transgender? I could almost hear all the gears grinding around in her head as she tried to reconcile what she knew about me as a person and as her friend with what I had just told her.
It took maybe five or ten seconds in real life, but at the time it felt like an eternity. She put the spoon, still full of her egg drop soup back into the bowl, and the first word out of her mouth was…
[sorry, you’ll have to get the book October 9th to find out]