Have you ever watched a problem unfold from the outside? When I met Stephen and Paul, they were incoming freshman, and the best of friends. I worked as the Dean of Students at a small Bible college that was unknown to those who lived next door to it, and I found my job to be much more of an experience than I expected. I had worked there, oh…8 years, I guess. I felt like I had seen everything. When you have problem students, they show up in my office; when you have a disagreement between roommates, they end up in my office; when someone gets caught drinking on campus, they get sent to my office; and when I inevitably get a complaint about the strict standards that our School holds to, I have to support and enforce them. I could do without the latter part though. I never much had an interest on being someone’s lackey, and certainly not the law. With as much grace as was shown me, you would think I would be allowed to pardon a few things, but I suppose something soulless, such as a School itself, had never been shown grace, so why would it want anything but the enforcement of its soulless standards?
If they just all came right out and admitted what their problems were, my job would be to sit and pass judgment on each one of them. You’re not good enough, and you’re not good enough, and you’re not good enough: Come to find out at the end of it all, our campus would empty if that were the case. As long as they don’t admit it, I could never really render a damning verdict.
It took him a week. For roommates, this would seem strange, but between different class schedules, and Paul’s extra-curricular activities, there just never seemed to be any time for them to talk. Stephen realized he could have asked Mary to leave them in private for a couple of moments, but something about the whole situation just didn’t feel right. Eventually, Stephen found Paul walking back to their dorm, after staying out with Mary. He took a deep breath and dove right in.
“Paul, there’s something we need to talk about.”
Paul looked up from his phone as he walked. “Hey! What’s up?”
“Can we walk?”
“I don’t know, can we?” Paul was still joking around, but Stephen was not in the mood; not now.
Together they walked down the road to the parking lot. It was late, and a weekend, so no one would interrupt their conversation.
Paul was curious at this point. “What is it, man?”
Stephen locked eyes with him. “Are we friends?”
“Yeah. What, did you kill someone?”
“Not only are we friends, right, we are brothers in Christ?”
“Yes.” Paul was getting impatient. “What is this about?”
“I hope this doesn’t sound weird…er, than it already is going to be.”
“Spit it out already!”
The crickets were deafening. No other sound could be heard. Not the sound of a word, nor heart, after what was said. All of heaven and earth stood still and waited for the next few moments.
A goofy smile broke across Paul’s face. “You’re funny.”
“I’m being serious.”
“But you need to learn when to quit.” He was still smiling, but there was a flare in the nostrils, and Paul’s upper lip curled in just the slightest manner. Something in his tone changed. He turned and began to walk away.
“Paul! Listen for a second!”
“I’m going back to bed.”
“Because!” His voice began to rise, “-That’s what you do when you want to forget about a bad dream.”
Stephen didn’t let him go. “Stay here and deal with this Paul!”
That got his attention, and Paul spun on his heels to come marching back at Stephen.
“Deal with it? Deal with it?! How am I supposed to deal with…” He gestured at Stephen, “-This?!”
Stephen knew this might happen, so he had steeled himself for the moment, playing out how Paul would do exactly this. It hurt much more this time though.
Paul continued, “Why would you even say that?”
“Because it’s true; we’re friends, and you deserve to know.”
“You didn’t have to tell me?! Have you been…” He couldn’t even spit out the words. “-the whole time?! The whole time we were friends?!”
“It doesn’t exactly work like that, I don’t think, so how should I know?”
“Well, I sure as hell don’t know!” Paul began stamping around until he calmed down. “Here’s what we do: first, we don’t tell anyone. No one needs to know.”
“I already told Maggie.”
“Then- gah!- Mary probably already found out!”
“Maggie wouldn’t tell, she’s not like that.”
“But she still knows!”
“What, are you afraid she’ll tell God?”
Stephen could feel his face begin to get warm.
Paul: “Second: you need to find someplace to stay.”
“Why can’t I stay in my room?”
“Because, in a guys dorm there will be to much temptation for you, with all of us walking around undressed and everything.”
Stephen’s blood began to boil. “Don’t you mean that you just feel uncomfortable about it?”
“Of course I do! Why shouldn’t I?”
“Because we grew up together? Because we’re friends? Roommates? Nothing has actually changed.”
“Why did you do this?” Paul asked. He breathing became irregular and rapid.
“Why? It’s not a choice!”
“Yes it is and you chose to live in it!”
“It’s not like I act on it!”
“But it’s still there, and its still a temptation!”
Steam shot from Stephen’s lungs. “Don’t hold this on me like you’ve never been tempted by anything, or Anyone! If you weren’t so caught up in trying to be perfect, you’d see that you’re the same as me.”
Paul wasn’t listening. “You’ll have to leave the school.”
“Because when they find out that you aren’t a Christian-“
“Whoa! Whoa! When did I ever say that I wasn’t a Christian?”
Paul:”Well you said, you were..you know…”
Stephen: “Just because I’m attracted to guys doesn’t make me any less of a Christian!”
“The Bible clearly teaches against it!”
Stephen breathed flames. “It also teaches against masturbation, but that didn’t stop you from jerkin’ it in the 8th grade when you were attracted to girls; and lying, which is what you keep doing every time you sing those worship lyrics you never really mean!”
“The school might not kick you out for not believing in the Bible, but I know they don’t allow homosexuality.”
Stephen: “Then I’ll leave. And you can stay here with the rest of the Pharisees.”
Paul was too tired now to deal with what was left of Stephen; the ashes. He turned around and stormed off back to the dorm.
“Have fun crucifying Christ!” Shouted Stephen. “Or maybe I should take him with me, and then you could spend the rest of your life never getting to know the both of us!”