“How about tomorrow at 11:30?”
Tomorrow came. As I pulled into an empty parking spot, Silver (my husband) was unlike himself. “You okay? You seem really nervous,” I asked.
“Yeah, I just.. this is a big deal, you know? I’ve been the poster child for the success of our church, so this will be devastating to Jon [our pastor],” Silver’s voice was unstable. But he was right. Silver’s transformation validated and legitimized the ministry of our darling Christian church. His story out of darkness, into light, and then into ministry as a missionary was one that many within our congregation shared with others to help generate momentum. Totally with his permission, our church and individuals’ ministries within it capitalized on Silver’s story as a means to help raise finances. “What will my unbelief say about them, now?”
We ordered food, had some small talk, and then our pastor segued. “So, have you talked to your parents lately about not going back to the mission field?” He asked me.
Silver responded, “Actually, we wanted to talk to you about that. Teal’s parents weren’t just upset about that, but about something much bigger and deeper.” I watched my husband as he spoke, breaking the news to the man he feared hurting the most. I’ve only ever seen him nervous three times in our life. The first time was when he took me to dinner when we were just friends to ask me if I was a lesbian (another story). The second was moments before and during his proposal to me on the bridge under the moonlight. And this time — telling our pastor, our dear friend, that he was an atheist. Silver fumbled with his beard, stumbled over his words, took his ring off, put it back on, took it off, turned it around in his fingers, over and over again. I was mesmerized by his fidgeting and darting eyes. His hands shook as if the nerves within it were laughing at him. I saw fear dancing all over him, but his determination to face it was incredibly attractive. I touched his thigh to assure him he wasn’t alone. And I glanced at Jon from time to time to see if I could discern his certain disappointment, but I didn’t see any. His poker face revealed only intent listening.
After a great while, Jon turned to me and asked me if I felt the same way. I said yes, though we came to that conclusion that God doesn’t exist in different ways. Then the following words emerged from his lips like like bleach on stained clothing: “Well, guys, I want you to know that this doesn’t change anything.” That was the first time I saw Silver breathe in over an hour.
He didn’t mean that we would still remain as staff members, but that his love, appreciation, and respect for us remained. And not just that, but that we were still worth something, infinitely something, to him. What a beautiful portrayal of the gospel if I’ve ever seen one.