DISCUSSION THREAD: “I’ll Love You Until…”

A friend of mine recently gave me quite the revelation: he was tired of the ex-gay stuff, and actually had come to the point where he didn’t know whether or not he really believed in God at all.  Questions and doubts that were neglected grew and he needed the space and love and time to figure things out.

Well, the initial news was a punch under the heart, but I knew one thing: he needed time.  He needed someone to listen to him when he spent too much time in his head trying to figure all of this out, and he needed someone to protect that right and not force him into something that he didn’t agree with.  I told my friend that I loved him, that I didn’t believe in shunning, and that I would stand by him, pray for him, and love him no matter what.

No.  Matter.  What.

Now, there are those in other churches, including the one that I just left, that would argue with you strongly that for this reason alone, a man should be shunned and, as a brother in Christ, do not even eat with him.  I don’t currently ascribe to the whole notion of shunning; back in biblical times, if you were shunned from the church, you were shunned from community.  It was a socially devistating thing to be shunned.  These days someone commits a sin for which he receives church discipline and/or explusion from the church, he goes down to the street to the next church and begins attending.  The act of shunning has done nothing to bring that person closer to the love of Jesus.   The consistency of love, as Christ’s love is consistent and never-ending for us, is an important rock for a questioning, searching soul to stand on.

Having said that…

I have another friend whom I have been friends with for nearly 25 years.  The man is a chronic, end-stage alcoholic.  That means that his body works better with alcohol than without it.  For bloody near all of those 25 years, this friend has had a drinking problem that has grown in severity and tragedy.  We would attend church together every Sunday, then he’d mysteriously be absent a week or two every other month, then it would progress to every other week, to months at a time, to the longest time I’ve not heard from him which was three years.  He will show up, full of encouragement and vigor, ready to attack the problem, ready to nail his sobriety.  He’d get housing, a job, and away we go!  As soon as he got a little cash under his belt, and as soon as he got bored, frustrated, or just needing to be medicated, he would withdraw all of his cash, find a seedy cheap hotel, and drink until the money was gone.

It got worse.  A friendship that started off so strong and so enjoyable turned toxic over the years.  Not quickly, because that would have caused an immediate reaction.  But since love was there in that straight relationship, I wanted to help.  I wanted to keep trying.  I wanted to never give up on the man, even if he gave up on himself.  Hundreds…thousands of dollars in clothes, rent, food…there was no investment I would not make, including desperate, tear-laden prayers.

There’s a name for a person in that position.

One night, heart breaking for my friend, crying serious tears, the softest and gentlest of voices landed behind me.  I remember feeling like someone had touched my shoulder, too.  And without the faintest hint of condemnation or scorn for this situation, I heard:

You need to step back and let God be God.

No, I thought.  There has to be a way.

There is a way, said the voice.  Let Him do it.  You have no power over his bondage.

So, terrified I would lose this friend, I let him bounce.  I let him fall on his behind, only this time he could not come back and live with me.  The look on his face when I told him that haunts me to this day.  Since that time, it has been rough for him and continues to be so.  We’re in a no-contact phase right now.  I got an email that was drinking again, heavily, and had been staying with his ex-girlfriend for a while.  But no notice since then.  I have no idea where he is.

Does that mean I’ve failed to stand by my friend?  Does that mean that I’ve shunned him either in a real physical manner, or in my heart?  Of course not.  There’s a vast difference between shouldering a friend’s burden and letting that friend burden you to the point of collapse.  God is strong and faithful; we so rarely are.  There is a point we may reach in our relationships where we have exchanged places with God.  We seek to consulting him first and foremost, and we develop a plan to follow, trying to shoulder the heavy burdens that only God can bear.  It is not surrendering a relationship with a friend; backing away from a relationship and a friend’s life is survival.  It is refusing to be dragged down with someone who is hellbent on self-destruction.

Just some quick thoughts and sketches tonight on boundaries, on relationships and faithfulness.  What are your thoughts on this?  I’m really interested in, as men who deal with relationships with the same sex and boundaries therein, what real friendship looks like, the needs we have for a community of men, and why as men who have this same sex orientation we find it so easy to think about having sex with another men, but become mightily uncomfortable when it comes to working on the relationship skills that form the kind of non-sexual intimacy we desire so strongly?  Do we need a refresher course in healthy friendships, too?

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~ by WriterRand on February 5, 2009.

5 Responses to “DISCUSSION THREAD: “I’ll Love You Until…””

  1. Faithfulness demonstrated again and again is always important to real friendship, especially when that friend is in need, especially when it hurts, especially when you give and get nothing in return.

  2. You sound like a good friend to me. But I understand your frustrations about making friends and keeping right relationships with them. Been there myself. Maybe we do just need a refresher course. Regardless, don’t beat yourself up over your friend. It sounds as though you’ve done your best, and that’s all you can do. Let God take care of him now.

    God bless.

  3. Where is that boundary between faithfulness and giving God the relationship issues because you can’t be in them anymore? Or is this a false dichotomy? Should you be sacrificing that relationship daily, enjoying it for what it is and recognizing that God is in control of it anyway and that you’re just there for the ride?

    MR: You’re the MASTER of this as far as I’m concerned! Are there no times though that make you feel like you should step back and let God take over and do His thing? How do you remain faithful when things are the most convincing to NOT be faithful?

    And to YOU: No, don’t worry, this doesn’t mean YOU. It just means that I wonder where that line is in ALL my relationships. My greatest desire is that they all be subject to Christ, held in His hands and approved by Him. Because I have had so many other relationships that…ahem…clearly weren’t.

  4. Thanks for the compliment…

    You asked, “Are there no times though that make you feel like you should step back and let God take over and do His thing?” Yes, there are times like that. I always try to see where God is at work and then follow Him there. Sometimes that means seeing that God is apparently allowing someone to experience consequences of their own sin that will drive them to turn back to God. That might mean staying in contact, but not giving cash to a heroin addict. I don’t want to enable him to use more heroin, but I want to be there for him when he runs out of money and drugs and then help him through withdrawal.

    “How do you remain faithful when things are the most convincing to NOT be faithful?” I think of the Scripture Hebrews 12:2 (NIV) “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross…” I remember the awesome promise God makes of the eternal joy we will have in His presence. I think of the painful reality of being faithful to a bad friend being like a dark tunnel we go through on the path to that joy. I face it like other kinds of suffering. I see God here with me helping me now in the dark, and God’s glory and the eternal joy in His presence at the end of that tunnel. God is the goal and the ground of our suffering. It is worth it!

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