If You Had Been There...
Jesus WeptThe family room of the Infantino home, York, Pennsylvania
"Chris...please. You've got to tell your Mom... please."
"I...just can't... I just....no..." Chris turned away and put his head against the wall, trying hard not to cry. “She won’t understand…no…”
“If you won’t…then I will.” The girl sighed.
“NO! I’ll…I’ll go talk to Pastor Jerry…”
“Promise me…tomorrow?” The girl cried.
“Oh…okay.” Chris nodded. "Okay..."
Martha said, "Master, if you'd been here, my brother wouldn't have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you."_____________
Grace Fellowship, York, Pennsylvania...a few days later...
“Chris Markham, God bless you! How in the world are you today?” Jerry stepped around from his desk and gave the boy a hug.
“I’ve…oh…I just stopped by to…what’s the schedule for the B worship team next month?”
“First and fourth Sunday…here, I printed up a schedule for the next three months,” Jerry said, handing the boy a list from a pile of papers on his desk.
“But that’s not what you’re here for. There’s more to you today than just drums and schedules, am I right?” The man was friendly but insistent.
“No…that’s it…Thanks.” Chris turned to leave and the boy felt a strong hand grip his arm.
“Is it that Thompson girl…” The way he said it made it sound almost dirty.
“Ruth…no…not her.” Chris felt his face grow hot.
“It’s gotta be something Chris. Come on…you can talk to me.”
“Oh….okay.” He had every intention of making something up as he went along; the shame of his… problem…was almost too much to bear, but sharing it would likely make things worse. Jerry’s welcoming smile seemed to disarm his defenses, despite Jerry’s remark.
“What’s going on? You look really upset.” Jerry was using all of the counseling skills he had developed as a youth pastor and as a student of counseling his Bible College; all four years.
“No…nothing, really...school.” He almost said ‘yeah.’
“You can’t fool me, Chris…” Chris wasn’t trying to fool anyone.
“I’m pretty good at guessing.” Jerry smiled, almost in congratulations to himself.
“No…really… it’s school. I’m…I’m having trouble with…buh…” He stammered.
“Bullies?” It certainly wasn’t bubonic plague or buffalos or bunsen burners, but Jerry felt sure he discerned what would have been obvious to everyone.
“Ye…Yes?” Chris shrugged his shoulders, almost as if he were asking Jerry to help him identify what he already knew. He continued,
“There…there are….guys…at school.” There were guys at school who bullied him, but that wasn’t what he wanted to say; what he really didn’t want to say, actually. He shrugged his shoulders again.
“Now…that’s not all, is it, Chris. You wouldn’t lie to me?”
He challenged the boy. The truth about shame and guilt doesn’t come out with accusations or confrontation, but that’s what Jerry was taught, so that’s what Jerry employed.
“Nnn…no.” He put his head down.
“Okay…tell me what’s bothering you!” A command instead of an invitation. Guilt can often get us to reveal instead of conceal; the shame of being a liar outweighed his fear, sadly, and Chris ‘opened up.’
“I’m…I can’t talk to my Mom about this and my Dad would kill me if he knew.” Chris was determined without any success at all to keep from crying.
“Listen, Chris…’A problem shared is a problem halved,’ right?” Jerry quoted an old saw feeling confident that he’d get to the heart of the matter. He ignored the needs of the heart of the boy in front of him, however.
“You’ll feel better if you tell me.” Jerry was confident even as the boy in front of him was doubtful beyond belief, but this was his pastor and he had to tell someone, didn’t he.
“I’m…you know the…the kind of boy….”
“Yes…” Jerry said as if he knew when he hadn’t any clue at all.
“Who…a boy who feels…no…” Chris caught himself. He didn’t just feel, he knew.
“I’m…trans…” The boy hadn’t gotten the first syllable out of his mouth when Jerry’s expression changed.
“Son…you’ve got to repent. Leviticus is plain about men in women’s clothing.” He was abrupt but he tried to make his tone welcoming. The shock of what he thought he heard did nothing to assist his efforts, and he sounded just upset.
“N…no…pastor…no. it’s not that….no.” The boy, on the other hand, had tried to be conciliatory but his efforts failed and he sounded sad instead. His efforts weren’t helped at all as the tears flowed down his face.
“Okay…I’m sorry…stop crying…it’ll be alright…tell me what’s wrong.” He was sorry; it wouldn’t be alright, at least for a while; and nothing was wrong except for his inability to listen.
“I think…” Chris backed off, feeling less confident about knowing himself and allowing the moment to push him further into his shame.
“You think?” It sounded like, “Just what do you mean, you think?”
“I’m a transsexual.” Chris put his head down once again and began to weep. A moment later he felt a strong hand kneading his shoulder as he heard.
“Dear God, please help this boy with this problem. I trust you to heal him of this terrible thing. I know he wants to change, and we give you all the glory for the work you are about to do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
He squeezed Chris’ shoulder once before walking back behind his desk and sitting down. A few moments later the boy raised his head, but only after wiping his face with his sleeve. He choked back a sob.
“Now you know we have a men's breakfast every first Saturday here, don’t you. I haven’t seen you at all since last fall, and I can bet that’s something that needs to happen.” He was summing up Chris’ pain with a recommendation. The boy put his head down once again.
“Now, now…you just listen to me, Chris. We’ll get to the root of this; there are lots of reasons for a man of Christ to be afflicted with such a dreadful problem…single mom…absent dad…you know…but you’re a good boy, and you’re just confused. The men’s accountability group meets on Tuesday evening; I expect opening up to other men in the church will be just the thing to help you. It’s going to be okay.”
There was that word again…’okay.’ It grated on the boy’s soul like a knife scraped across a cement sidewalk. He nodded and rose, nearly losing his balance in the process.
“Call me if you need me, okay?” Jerry smiled his welcoming smile once again as the boy walked slowly out the door.
“You just need to pray more. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Advice!
“I’m sure spending time away from women all the time will be a big help. Too much estrogen in the house.” A joke?
“I felt that way once…” A lament?
“You been online…nothing but trouble on line.” An opinion?”
“It’s a demon…Now a Man of Christ can’t be possessed…just can’t happen…but oppressed… absolutely …you need deliverance, boy!” A sermon?
The boy kept going to the groups; his heart grew brittle and the constant advice, jokes, opinions and sermons shattered it into tiny, nearly irretrievable pieces. The lament never once repeated as the man who wept in sympathy stopped coming. Chris heard that he’d left the church. But Chris kept at it. Slowly, his ‘demons’ departed and his confusion disappeared and his doubts dissipated as he became more like what he was ‘supposed’ to be as a Man of Christ. And the girl inside him died.
Others among them said, "Well, if he loved him so much, why didn't he do something to keep him from dying? After all, he opened the eyes of a blind man."_____________
Living Hope Fellowship, New Salem, Pennsylvania...a few years later...
“We love because he first loved us.” The woman said as she smiled a welcoming smile.
Chris’ wife had seen his despondency; the long arduous struggle with depression had affected his health. She brought him to church with her that Sunday. Something inside him felt odd; a sensation that described later as ‘reassembly.’ Celia looked over at him and saw that he was weeping, even though the pastor had only just begun to speak.
“Honey…what’s wrong?” Not wrong with him, but what was hurting him that was so wrong.
“Nothing…and everything.” He put his head down and began to weep once again. A moment later he felt a hand softly caressing the back of his neck. He looked up to see a woman…the woman who had been preaching just a moment before.
“Folks…this man is hurting; from what we don’t know, but the depth of his pain is piercing the heart of Christ like a sword. Let’s just stop for a while and pray for him. You folks here next to him. Reach out and touch him and let him know he’s loved, okay?” She smiled and knelt down and cupped his chin. Her own tears nearly matched that of him and Celia as she prayed.
“Dear Precious God…I don’t know why this man is hurt, but he is. I know you know and that you care and love him and want to see him whole and filled with your joy and peace. Touch his heart and lift his spirits and that of his dear wife here…your name…his name?”
“Celia…and Chris.” Celia said between sobs. She could see without seeing; true faith that his deliverance had finally come.
“Dear sweet Lord God, please touch Celia and Chris today. Let them know the reality of your love as you work through us. We recall the verse…that powerful and sad verse that tells us all we need to know about you." She touched his face with her hand.
Jesus Wept“Dear ones…weep with this dear couple…we don’t know their hearts other than to know that they are very sad and tired and need refuge.” She leaned closer to Chris and spoke softly in his ear.
“Can you tell me what is hurting you, Chris?” Her voice…opened a door for him.
“I’m …I think…” He spoke haltingly between sobs…
“I’m…” He put his head down and sobbed. Celia leaned closer and caught the pastor’s eye. She turned and Celia mouthed the words,
“He…she’s transsexual…” It wasn’t a confession, so nothing was violated by her speaking on his behalf; for that is what it was…a kind word of information to a caring soul about the one she loved.
The pastor nodded and smiled. She began to pray, and something in Celia’s heart jumped for joy as the woman’s words were loud and clear and loving.
“May this dear soul be free from the expectations and demands of the past, and let this dear one know of your word….’fearfully and wonderfully made…” No more guilt and shame Lord but only joy and peace and forgiveness and comfort and acceptance, dear God. Touch the hearts of these two with your hand.” She looked around and saw that nearly every one of the thirty or so of the congregation was weeping. She smiled once again, lifted her hands in the air and spoke a loud amen.
Celia and Chris held back as the church emptied. He sat, exhausted, while Celia spoke with an elderly couple. Finally, they were the last ones in the church. The pastor didn’t wait for them to come to the door but walked instead to the middle of the sanctuary where Chris and Celia sat.
“Hello…I’m Jennie Davidovich…I’m so glad you came. I hope we didn’t make it too uncomfortable for you, but I felt you needed our help more than the talk I was planning on giving.” She smiled and looked up at the pulpit.
“That’s what’s so neat about God…he usually has plans that can sorta follow, but every once and a while he changes the script, you know? Anyway…again, I wanted to welcome you.” She paused as a man walked up the center aisle and grabbed her hand, kissing her on the cheek.
“Oh…hi, honey. How’d I do?”
“Great as always….Hi…I’m Greg, the pastor’s helpmeet!” He laughed softly and his eyes sparkled.
“We try not to stay stuck on structure; more like a skeleton that He hangs his skin on, you know?” Jennie said. We do have some groups you’re welcome to attend. Our Sunday service is smaller than most; many of our members go to other services closer to home, but we have a very large and growing group of home meetings, and we do have some support groups here at the building.
Celia smiled but Chris put his head down. He didn’t have to feign a headache; the crying was enough to give him near migraine. But he was almost glad for the pain since his lowered face hid the look of disappointment as he anticipated her next words.
“We do have a women’s meeting on Thursday’s but the luncheon isn’t restricted to just women and is open to all every other Saturday morning.” She smiled at Celia, who nodded politely. She welcomed the support but feared just as much as Chris what was going to be ‘offered’ to him.
“And Chris…we have a meeting…” She stopped suddenly as she saw him begin to shake slightly.
“I’m so sorry…this has been such a difficult morning for you. Honey, would you mind praying for Chris?”
“I’d be glad to.” He smiled once again and his eyes began to light up; as if this were the most important thing on earth. Chris sobbed harder, expecting the worst as the guilt and shame still held on like a thief.
“Dear God…you know this precious one’s heart. She had endured shame and scorn and God only knows what else. Her heart hasn’t been broken, but shattered. Take the pieces of her heart...” He paused as if he were searching for the words; waiting for the stage manager to mouth his next line.
Chris looked up, expecting to see Greg praying for Celia, but instead found the man gazing at him instead. The twinkle and light were still there, but were softened by tears that flowed off the man’s chin.
“Let her know you love her just as she is…that there may be some wrong things in her life like we all have, dear God, but that there’s nothing wrong with her. Wipe her tears, Lord. Let her know that you know her pain. Clear away the confusion and doubt and replace it with faith and clarity of mind. Let this precious couple know your love as you bring them closer together. Let …Celia.?” He paused to get her name right. She nodded.
“Let Celia know your peace and joy and have your mind as she supports….” He paused again.
“What was your name again?”
“Chris.” He said it softly, almost in embarrassment and apology. Greg continued his silence after Chris’ answer until he leaned closer.
“Would that be Christine?” The bard once said, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…or something like that. In this case he would be wrong. Names…especially at this moment…names mattered.
“Christina…,” Celia said, her own sobs set aside only for the moment. Greg smiled through his tears and continued.
“Dear God…what a lovely name…after you…” He laughed softly at the irony. Despised and rejected; altogether wonderful and sadly linked in commonality with Christ.
“May Christina’s suffering bring about the woman in Christ you have meant her to be. Let her know exactly what you have in store for her as she continues this journey with Celia. We thank you for these precious ones. In Jesus’ name…Amen.”
Almost like a baptism, Chris died and was buried as the saying goes, and Christina rose out of the waters of love and care and acceptance to the newness of life. Where there were almost entirely tears of sadness and shame, those tears were now mingled with tears of joy; the first time in twenty-seven years. Chris, or rather, Christina would celebrate her forty-third birthday in two weeks. The church would throw a party for her as a nice surprise.
Coincidentally, the couple would celebrate their anniversary; their nineteenth, which the church celebrated as well. Christina Marie and Cecelia Infantino-Markam finally were home.
Based on John 11:1-44, "The Death Of Lazarus, The Message