Today I’m appreciating Marty, a student and client of mine, perhaps because I’m only now digesting an important lesson he taught me.
Marty was born in Wyoming to a conservative Christian household in a virulently Christian community. When he came out gay, his pastor tried to straighten him out with intensive reprogramming. Because Marty was a lawyer and voracious reader, this involved years of in-depth theological study and long, difficult conversations.
Marty was also a raging alcoholic, and one day after coming out of a bar in Atlantic City he was gay-bashed almost to death. I met Marty years later, after he’d sobered up, left his law practice, recovered his faith, and begun a memoir. Being bludgeoned in the head with concrete, he’d realized, was a cakewalk compared with the theological abuse he’d suffered from this pastor and community. He wanted to write the story.
Never have I read a recovery memoir that was so ripping hilarious, emotionally astute, and theologically provocative. Marty was a fantastic writer. He worked on that tome (three volumes long!) for as long as I knew him—over a decade. It was one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever supported.
All that while he continued to be in dialogue with his pastor. Even as Marty came to terms with the hurt inflicted by this man’s beliefs, he recognized genuine concern and love in his effort. Eventually Marty responded in kind, and the mentorship transformed into a friendship albeit with extreme differences of opinion. Partway through our time working together, as his book grew more honest and polished, Marty realized the reality he was portraying would be very painful to his friend. Eventually he decided that their friendship was more valuable to him than publication.
I was disappointed. The world needed this book. I tried to change his mind, to no avail.
Marty kept writing anyway. Then he was diagnosed with brain cancer. We met for coffee after he’d gotten the news that it was terminal. I was awed by his clarity—he loved writing, he loved his project, and he was going to give a final reading. A few months later a bookstore hosted the event; dozens of people crammed between the bookshelves and laughed and cried through Marty’s stories. It was one of the best readings I’ve ever attended.
Marty’s choice to value a living friendship more than seeing his creative endeavor in print humbles me. I don’t think that pastor ever knew Marty’s sacrifice. Today, with hindsight, sacrifice seems like the wrong word. It was a gift, and Marty thrived in the giving. He’d found a broad and embracing love, which is certainly far better than any literary achievement and perhaps what this pastor wanted for him in the first place. I hope the pastor knows that love now too. –Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew
2 thoughts on “Marty’s Gift: Better than Publication”
While I’m not gay, I have had my own disillusionment with popular Christianity. I still love and follow Jesus, but the struggle has really helped me to question what I really believe and how I will really deal with issues. A few years ago, I was asked to pastor a little church in a small IL town. I still struggle with my own disillusionment on one hand, and my need to have my sermon ready for Sunday, but I’ve learned I can’t wait to have others who are really searching come so we can find out together who Jesus is and how he’s really like.
-Thanks for the article!
Thanks, Ryan. I know you’re not alone. The best pastors out there are those questioning, doubting, and probing the borders of faith. Thanks for all you do.