This story is being shared in honour of Pride Month and also in honour of Father’s Day, it is shared with permission.
He was one of 14 youth who had gathered that morning. All were struggling with life in one way or another, and I had been asked to come and speak about spirituality.
We moved the chairs into the middle of the room, with the sectional couch making up the lion’s share of our attempted circle. Some lounged on the sectional, while others sat rigid on the chairs, and two nervously paced the room.
For the ice breaker, I had prepared a game of “Would You Rather?” Asking questions such as “Would you rather be able to fly or be invisible?” and everyone would share their answers. As we moved along in the game, I deliberately made the questions more thought provoking; “Would you rather go without your cell phone or laptop?”, “Would you rather meet God alone in an elevator or in a crowd on the street?”
This last question brought much discussion and several of those lounging sat up. One of those sitting on a chair jumped to his feet and boisterously answered, “Oh I would want God alone, he has a lot to answer for!” Many echoed similar sentiments.
I ventured to say, “You can have God alone, any time you want. Does anyone know what I am talking about?” They blankly looked back at me. “I am talking about prayer.”
After all the laughter and joking ended, I said “I am serious. How many of you have ever uttered a prayer to God?”
“I have told God to F-Off lots of time!” One youth offered, others either laughing or nodding in agreement.
After much discussion, I offered to end our time in a collective prayer with everyone helping. I started,
“Dear Creator, we know you are here with us but sometimes you seem so silent, so absent that it is hard for us to believe you even exist. Today we come to you in prayer, each of us bringing our own stuff. Please listen now as we share our stuff with you….”.
I then tossed a tennis ball to the youth beside me. After she added a short line she then passed the ball along; this happened until all who wanted to add to our prayer had done so.
I ended the prayer saying, “Thank-you God, Father and Mother of us all. May we feel your peaceful and loving arms around us as we go from here today. Amen.”
They silently got up and left the room, except one youth who had curled up in the corner of the sectional. He sobbed so loudly it seemed to embarrass him. He tried to stifle his anguish.
I moved my chair a bit closer and quietly asked “Do you want to talk?”
“I have never prayed before and it hit me in my gut. It hit me hard.” He sniffed then added “You called God my Father, but I hate my Father. He beat me every chance he got. He said he was beating “the gay” out of me. But he never did succeed; I’m still gay.”
My heart hit my throat and I almost teared up.
He continued, “If God is like my dad then I want nothing to do with him.”
I nodded, what he said made sense. Who wants an abusive and cruel God?
Quietly I said, “You are wonderfully made by a great God. You are one of God’s masterpieces and God loves you.”
He froze at the thought, trying to absorb the meaning of my words.
Continuing I suggested, “Perhaps God could be your new Father. The one who loves you deeply, never leaves you and is always listening.”
“Yeah, maybe.” He said
Then after a silent pause he added, “I like that idea. God as my Father, that does help me feel better.”
He asked for a Bible, so I gave him one marking the sections he should read first, and before we parted, we again shared in a prayer.
A couple of months later I bumped into him. He looked entirely different! His big smile told me he was well. He informed me he had his own apartment, was going to the local college and had a part time job.
“My new Father and I talk daily, I have been reading his books and you have no idea how much of a difference it has made.”
Actually, just by looking at him, I had a pretty good idea what a difference it was making.
Every year, when Father’s Day rolls around, I think of this young man and say a prayer in his honour, hoping him and his new Father are still in daily conversation!
Rev. Heather McCarrel