In my early twenties, midway through seminary, I spent an hour or afternoon with a woman who was not my wife.
I’ll call her Sophie, not her real name. (However, I do recall her name.)
She too was married.
About life. About studying. About God (hey, it was seminary). About futures. About pasts. About just about anything is what we talked about.
Side by side, Sophie and I sat on the second-floor balcony of the seminary’s student housing. Though we could have been anywhere. My legs dangled over the edge. Minutes seemed like seconds, with an hour passing in a fast-forward sprint. At some point, which may have been before our spontaneous talk ever started, I was attracted to her. And I think she was to me. But that’s a guess. I just knew my excitement. My wondering. My fancy words on the surface may have been discussing a new twist of theology just learned in a seminar, but my interior thoughts were tinged with . . . lust.
I wanted her. Crude, eh?
Did she want me?
And then I recall, though this is hazier, that somewhere between the outward chatter of what some professor had said that we agreed or disagreed with, the hidden longings—at least, my longings—were openly expressed.
There it was. Unbidden.
I like you.
I like you.
Out in the open.
Minutes and hours blurred.
Sophie was happily married. I thought I might be, though I was also (unknowingly then), fewer months than I had fingers and toes from the beginnings of a should-we-divorce conversation with my then wife.
I have made many mistakes in my life. That afternoon was not one of them. In my memory, fractured though it is, there was something revelatory in the honesty that enveloped Sophie and me when we openly talked about an attraction for each other. We remained friends after that day. And after that semester. And after that year. As is likely the case with many graduate school experiences, we soon took different paths, zip codes, and careers. Last I heard, decades ago, Sophie remained happily married to her husband. (Who, by the by, was also my friend.) Our once connected lives became inevitably separate. And, oh yeah, I got that divorce.
End of story?
Even now, I see my legs dangling over the edge. And I hear us talking, with some of that animated, passionate conversation veering into deeply personal feelings. What I remember was truth and trust. With each other. For our other relationships.
And this is where that old story takes me to today.
Last year, in one of these musings on my webpage, I shared thoughts about the #MeToo movement. Last year, that was a white-hot issue. Isn’t it still? And rightly so.
Recently, Joe Biden became the 20th Democrat to declare his candidacy for the 2020 election. Good for him. He was also in the news before that official announcement.
Can you tell me why?
I bet you can.
The former Vice-President’s hands were where they shouldn’t have been in far too many occasions. With far too many women. There are pictures and videos. Lots of once “innocent” glimpses that reveal . . . well, what? Was the long-time politician being inappropriate, crossing boundaries, a male “safely” taking advantage of females? Some women have supported his actions. Some have not. While the online and newspaper headlines debated Biden’s intentions, one of my politically conservative Facebook friends posted a hastily created montage of Biden’s roving hands. This friend, an ardent supporter of our current President, professed disgust for Biden’s actions.
While reading my friend’s reactions, I pondered hypocrisy. Anyone want to see a montage of President Trump’s words and actions?
Aren’t we all hypocrites?
Why not glibly ask, what would Jesus do? But I believe Jesus might remain silent (like he does with other modern hot topics like abortion and gay rights), or he would tell a story that would force me to stare into the mirror of my biases and hubris.
Now, in the era of Trump and of the #MeToo movement, I am hoping there will be real changes.
I weary of a world where men (and too often white men) are in charge.
I weary of a world where women earn less.
I weary of a world where locker room talk and boys-will-be-boys remain handy excuses.
I weary of a world where too many comfortably and quickly declare that since an alleged attack (from sexual harassment to rape) was a he said/she said situation . . . that the accusations should be diminished or dismissed.
I long for real change.
How hard that work is and will be. Yes, mistakes will be made. There will be accusations by one against another that are false for a host of sad or spurious reasons. Some will loudly complain about rushing to judgment. Even worse, far too many women (and men, too) will continue in silence, fearful of repercussions. (After all, in the era of Trump, hitting back or humiliating is the SOP from the highest office in the land.) As the change for real equality continues, even with the mistakes, how I hope we don’t return to the old, awful double standards.
I have failed often in relationships. Being Christ-like is easy when reading the Bible near a pulpit; not so easy in daily life.
And yet I do recall the power of honesty, unplanned and precious, when I spent that faithful hour or afternoon with “Sophie.” It was not a heroic story, a golden-hued memory of me randomly doing the right thing. What I remember more than anything is that two people were open and nonjudgmental with each other’s feelings. Mutually vulnerable words were needed for us to continue to be in a respectful relationship.
It was a past lesson I must learn on every day of my life.