My people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable;
I will utter hidden things…
Psalms 78:1-2 (NIV)
Jesus is known for his use of parables to bestow lessons, but centuries before his arrival on Earth, Psalms drops us one right in the middle of its narrative. In the 78th chapter, a narrator tells the story of a group of Israelites brought out of Egypt by the use of miracles – pillars of fire, manna raining from the sky, and parted seas – only for them to reject God’s word for their own selfish desires. They put God to the test; they complained; they made idols and worshipped them with full and vengeful hearts. And so, God rejected them.
This sounds familiar…
I always thought parables were made up stories, not true reflections from the past – not by assumption, but rather, by design. It is probably most advantageous for the author to make up a story with all the correct elements in order to hammer home a point. I believe this because life does not usually fall within such parameters of clear right and wrong. True recollection can easily muffle a message, especially such a dramatically stringent one. But nonetheless, the author reminds us of the sin of the Israelites in order to emphasize a base value:
Learn from your mistakes!
This thought kept rolling through my head as I read vast sections of the Old Testaments history. How is it possible that generation after generation of God’s people could keep returning to sin, especially with the stakes so high?
Many wonder that about gay Christians who choose to live “in the lifestyle.” How can they defy God so knowingly?
When I moved to Georgia, I had my own self-parable bouncing between my ears. Once upon a time, a young man had conflicting feelings about his own sexuality. So he made a decision to defy his nature in order to maintain loyalty to God and proceeded to pursue women. But the decision caused anxiety and despair, as he knew that these relationships would not last. Then, once taking the pressure off of himself, he fell for a woman in spite of himself. But he would not make the same mistake twice; he would not lie or misrepresent himself. He had learned from his mistakes.
After joining the cast of The Laramie Project, I learned about a different Ansley, one worthy of a profound friendship. Sure, she was still the girl that scoffed at my sexuality, chastised me for drinking her wine, and then guilted me for not recognizing her. But my initial impressions (or lack of them rather) faded the more I got to know her. She was thoughtful and encouraging throughout the rehearsal process and a faithful sound board for the director. Beyond her professional abilities, she also took a staggering interest in the problems and concerns of others. We hit it off, against all odds. Once the show wrapped, we caught wind of a cast member’s comedy show, and decided to go together to show our support.
We parked the car and wandered the streets of Atlanta with our hands in our pockets. The transition from acquaintance to friend always requires some intentional energy by making the decision that “yes, this will be awkward and a bit contrived at the start, but that will eventually wear off.” The conversation was stiff but loosened. Eventually, we abandoned the comfort of our pockets and let our hands dangle out – a sign of inner comfort.
Once back at the car, with the comedy show passed and the structure for the evening lost, we struggled to make natural conversation. We argued about sexuality – she thought men couldn’t truly be bisexual, that only women could do that. It was an interesting notion. More often than not, men used the term “bisexual” as a transitory term. It felt safer than saying “gay” – less final and damning. I argued against it. We never agreed, but we still laughed.
And then she said she made a confession. She had romantic feelings for me but knew it would never work.
But I looked her in the eye and said, “It could work. I like you too.”
And I smiled, knowing full well the mistake I was making.