Almost 20 years ago, I was invited over to Bill’s house for dinner because his older sister Judy was in town. I was invited because I knew Judy pretty well, we’d been together on several special occasions and I liked her a lot. When Judy visited, it was always an occasion because she was bigger than life—funny, talkative and thoughtful. And, Judy was a Christian. You knew that about her immediately because she “talked” faith a lot, often referring to God’s plans, abundant blessings, answered prayers, things like that. We came from different branches of the Christian tree, we thought about, talked about and lived out our faith differently, but that was never an issue for us. We liked each other’s company.
On this particular night, Judy, Bill and I were sitting in the living room chatting before dinner. She looked over at me and said, “Donna, tell me about your views on homosexuality.” I immediately panicked and Bill got up and left the room. I panicked because I thought we had an unspoken rule that we weren’t going to talk about anything that we might disagree on. I thought that what made our relationship work was that we kept it light, talking only about safe subjects like our kids, about funny things her brother Bill did when he was young, about the weather! I was taken aback by her question, thinking to myself, “Why, right before dinner, would you want to open up this can of worms?” I assumed we disagreed on the “subject” and, at all costs, wanted to avoid a debate, an argument—a scene.
I took my time responding to Judy’s question and then braced myself for her rebuttal that I knew was coming. But, she surprised me by asking another question. So, I responded in a calm voice and started sweating. My mind was racing. “Here it comes,” I thought, “She’s putting together her case. She’s going come back at me with scripture and SHE KNOWS HER BIBLE! Where’s MY BIBLE when I need it? She’s good—she should have been an attorney!!”
I answered her question again and, once again, Judy asked another question—and then another question. Slowly, I realized that the debate, the argument was not happening. It finally dawned on me that Judy just wanted to know my views on homosexuality. Period. After almost 45 minutes of her questions and my answers, we were called to the kitchen for dinner. Judy looked at me and said, “Thank you. I’m wrestling with this and really wanted to hear what you have to say.”
In the last 20 years, I have thought many times about that conversation that was really more like an interview. During that 45 minutes, Judy gave me a gift. She modeled for me “holy curiosity,” a term I came upon the other day in my reading. She gave me the wide-open space to share my thoughts, feelings and stories and made me feel heard and respected. Her holy curiosity, her active listening and attentiveness said that she valued our relationship more than anything else.
It occurs to me that “holy curiosity” is not an easy spiritual practice for me—and I have come to see that that’s exactly what it is. It means sacrificing myself for another—setting aside my desire to hear myself talk, my desire to be right and my desire to impress. It’s a spiritual practice and, boy, do I need practice! I hope that someday I can return the gift to Judy.