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Sunday, January 18, 2009

More Faithful than a Sunday Morning Prayer Meeting

I pulled onto Colorado Blvd from the freeway, pressing my earpiece closer so I could hear Jeff.
"Where are you?" he asked.
"I just got onto Colorado. I think I'm going into Old Town."
"Oh, you're way faraway!" he said. "You need to turn around."
Noelle cooed and mumbled from the back seat. Adrenaline pumped through my body. I was so close, but I was going to be late.
"I'm sorry I'm late!" I groaned to Jeff.
"I love you darling. If you didn't get lost on your way to lunch with me, you wouldn't be you."

I found Jeff and his boyfriend Sal sitting at a round table, tucked in a sandwhich shop. Jeff half stood and waved from the window when he saw me approaching. I jerked my head up and smiled. Suddenly the stress of getting lost and being late, melted away.
Jeff and I became friends in grad school. We both went to Antioch University of Los Angeles. One afternoon, he approached me in the courtyard of the campus.
"Are you a Christian?" he said, blue eyes clear. We sat together in class after that and have been friends ever since.
Over the four years we've been friends, Jeff has gotten skinnier but he still has that stubbly beard and blue eyes.
"Hello my dear!" he said wrapping me in a hug. "This is Sal, Sal this is Christin."
Sal and I shook hands. Sal was young and Lantino. He had small chiclet teeth, and an easy grin. Noelle immediately began flirting.
We settled in, ordered our food and like two friends who have not talked in a very long time, Jeff and I swam toward one another in a furious current of conversation.
"So tell me how you two met!" I said spooning mashed up baby food into Noelle's pink mouth.
Jeff and Sal grinned at each other. "It's you'r turn," Sal said and dove into his plate of food.
"Well, we met in February. But we didn't get along then," Jeff stopped and then confessed. "I wasn't his type." Quickly with all the main beats, Jeff relayed their story. Finally, after a debacled group date, the two of them ended up alone, had a chance to get to know one another and hit it off. "Technically, we have two anniversaries this year" Jeff went on. "We could celebrate in February or August."
"Let's celebrate both!" Sal offered, shoveling in another bite of food. He and Noelle were the only ones eating.
On the white fleshy part of one forearm, Jeff has a tattoo in Hebrew. The characters string down the skin like a rope in blue ink. On the other forearm, Jeff designed the symbol of a hand which holds in it's palm the sign of all religions.
"Did you go to Agape?" Jeff asked. I nodded. "I love that place!" he said. "What did you think?"
"Oh, I really enjoyed it," I told him honestly. "I see the Rev everywhere now." Just last week, I saw Rev. Micheal Beckwith on Oprah. He's one of her favorite guests.
"He's great, isn't he?"
"Yes, he said some things that really resonated with me."
"Like what."
"Oh, well, half way through the service he stopped for meditation."
"Oh, I love that part," Jeff puntuated. I looked at Sal who was nodding his head.
"He had us breathe and repeat after him. He said, "Say, 'Everything I need has already been provided.' That was really meaningful for me."
"I know! Sal helps me remember that." Jeff said. "Last night Sal and I had an argument and Sal looked over at me and said, 'Just be here now.' I really love that."
He asked me a series of other questions, Did I see the choir? Did I see the paintings of other spiritual leaders all around the room?
"You know what else I really appreciated about that experience?" I told Jeff and Sal. "Well, the Rev told all the new people to stand up and I was thinking, 'Great, here we go!' but then he had everyone raise their hands toward us and say this really lovely greeting: We see you, we know you are made in god's image, we welcome you here."
We traded more stories back and forth. Noelle squirmed happily in her highchair munching on apples and cheese. "I'm going to take Sal there," Jeff concluded and I agreed that he should.
"What are you writing?" Jeff asked, getting down to business. I told him I was writing a memoir in a month.
"I have some questions I want to ask you," I said. Jeff has written screenplays and one novel already. He's working on another. I was so hungry to talk about the writing process.
"I've gote over 40,000 words now but I'm struggling with the larger themes of the book."
"What are they?" Jeff asked.
"Well, my spiritual journey here in LA." I turned to Sal, "Jeff's probably told you that Christianity is my faith-choice." Sal nodded his head, and held up his hands like "no big deal."
"What's the problem?" Jeff pressed.
"I'm just having a hard time figuring out who I'm writing to. I don't want it to be only for Christians, but I'm afraid people who aren't Christians will read what I'm writing and think that I'm just deluding myself."
Both Jeff and Sal erupted.
"Christin, you are writing about a faith that's been demonized, but you're one of the good guys," I flat out blushed. Jeff continued. "People need to know you exist. You're one of those Christians who is so faithful, but who believes her gay friend has a right to get married."
Sal looked at me, "You've got good morals."
I almost laughed outright. My morals are exactly what I've been questioning. Over Christmas we had a small family reunion in Florida. I love my family so much and deeply respect and value what they have to say. But I walked away from Christmas, feeling confused and doubtful.
"Am I missing something that everyone else seems to get?" I asked Dwayne one night, struggling with my heart. I've come home questioning my decisions, and the journey my spiritual life has taken since moving to LA. I'm afraid I've compromised something invaluable.
"Christin," Jeff said, waving his fork in the air. "You're a Christian but you're tolerant." Then he laid the immaculate compliment on me, one that I can not own. "You're actually like Jesus."

This is why I hang out with Jeff. He makes me feel more faithful than a Sunday morning prayer meeting.

2 Comments:

Blogger Dave & Lynnette Mason said...

What an great compliment!! Tin you are amazing!

1:26 PM  
Blogger Dave Ward said...

In tears...beautiful. Just beautiful. If this doesn't make it into the memoir than it is a mistake. Peace.

9:25 AM  

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