I grew up in Seattle. My family moved to Utah when I was 17 years old. I frequently get to make trips back to Seattle and I get to see my friends there. On my last trip in May of this year I showed up to my old Ward and I was amazed to discover my closest friend from High School sitting on the stand in the Bishops seat. My friend Joel was 6 months older then me. He was only 22 for 3 days when he received the call to be Bishop. I thought this was insane, I definitely have no aspirations to be in Joel's position at any age, let alone so young... However, I sat there and realized if it were to ever happen to any person it would be my friend Joel.
Joel was an outstanding individual. He was righteous to be sure. I had never heard him swear or say a rude or demeaning thing about another person. Growing up he was a leader, not just in our little Ward, but in our school and our community.
We grew up in what most would consider a pretty bad part of town. When I tell people from the Seattle area where I went to High School those from Seattle's suburbs always refer to it as the "Black High School." Though I had never heard it called that until I moved away I could see why people made the reference. In my high school if you were white you were either Mormon or a recent immigrant from Boznia or Russia. The African American population was huge, there were also a large number of Chinese students. (this will explain my jungle & yellow fever, which will undoubtable become more aparent as this blog continues) There were even more hispanic kids in my High School than white ones which in Seattle is a stretch. There were a lot of low income families where we lived and crime and poor morals were the norm while I was growing up. You can imagine my culture shock arriving in Utah and attending Brighton High School in Sandy.
Anyway, back to my friend Joel. Joel was our High School's student body president. Everybody loved him. Everybody. If I could figure out one word to describe him it would be "Christlike." One time in High School Joel and I were walking from gym class and Shawn Murray, the biggest gang member in our school was walking by. Shawn was a year older then us and a known drug dealer. His best friend had recently died of a cocaine overdose and his older brother was in prison for stabbing someone at a birthday party 2 years ago. I had seen him on more than one occasion with a gun. He was the guy nobody messed with.
Shawn looked right at us and said, "Jesus is a #@$%ing lie. If he was around today he'd be tokin and shootin up jus like eve-one else. #@$% Jesus." I was 16, I was a little offended but Shawn was at least a foot taller than me, and at least 100 lbs heavier than me, and getting beat up wasn't the worst thing that could happen. I remember looking at Joel and the look on his face was one of extreme pain. He was seriously offended. Joel started walking towards Shawn. Three steps behind I followed him. Joel said, "Shawn..." Shawn cut him off, "#$@% your Prophet too, guaruntee he kicking back beers, an' out the window of his limo flipping the bird at the world laughing with #@$%ing Jesus." I had no idea what that was all about, but figured it must have been some part of a previous conversation that they had.
Shawn turned to face Joel man he was a big guy. Joel was athletic, he was the captain of the Basketball team, but he wasn't taller then me. In any kind of physical altercation Shawn would have twisted his head right off. I looked at Shawn in his black beanie and huge white T-shirt. I imagined a gun tucked into his belt even though we had metal detectors. They didn't really work, all the students knew their way around those. I looked around to see to plan an escape route in case this got ugly.
Joel said again, "Shawn, you are talking about the most important person in my life." Shawn grinned kind of out of the side of his mouth. Joel continued, "Have some respect man. Jesus Christ was a real person he died for me and he died for you. Please don't disrespect the man. I'm begging you, it hurts me to hear you say those things. Make fun of me behind my back, but know that if you say stuff like that to my face I am going to have to stand up for him and for my Prophet and for my beliefs." Joel was starting to tear up. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I thought, is he really that offended? Is he really taking his life into his hands to defend what some ignorant gang banger said in anger?
Shawn's grin had disappeared. I watched as Joels glossy eyes bounced back and forth between Shawn's and how Shawn just stared at him, like a statue. After a few seconds, Joel said, "I know you're a christian, brother. Jesus Christ has faith in you, whether or not you have any faith at all. I know he loves you Shawn. (I thought - where did Joel think he was Sunday School) I know that he has a plan, it's hard for us to understand, I know. Just don't take it out on the guy who loves you more than anything." Shawn looked at me for a second (a second longer then I was comfortable with) then looked at his two friends. Then he said, "Yeah, aight. We's aright. Sorry J." He reached his hand out and they did a handshake I was never cool enough to be able to do with anyone. How could Joel be so cool, so freaking cool, and still be 100% Mormon.
Shawn and Joel were the best of friends after that. Joel even got Shawn and his family to meet with the missionaries for a while, nothing ever came of it, but I was always amazed. Joel is the kind of guy I've always felt "the latchets of whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose." Joel, was unapologetic in his observance of his beliefs. He was never a drag to be around though. He was always fun, everybody's favorite guy. He has a way of making you feel like you are the most important person in the world. I never thought Joel was being self-righteous, condescending, or that he ever thought he was better than anyone else. People respected him, and wanted to be around him.
Here's the point. Joel is the kind of guy that Andrea deserves. Not a coward like me. Andrea is just like Joel. Andrea, is fun to be around whether you are Mormon or not. Everybody likes her. She is christlike. She doesn't have a judgmental bone in her body. She is understanding and compassionate, but never a drag. From some of the comments about her it is clear that I haven't adequately described her in this blog and this stems from my shortcomings as a writer and has nothing to do with her. If you knew her and me you would know that I am way out of my league here.
I know what the readers of this blog think about this decision. Perhaps I will, as you all say, regret it. I am seriously feeling like it is more noble of me to end this relationship though. I was talking to my older sister about it and she played me a song called "You're a God" (it's really kind of a terrible song) The lyrics hit home though. "You're a God and I am not and I just thought I'd let you go." No, she's not a "God"... but you get the point. When we were sitting watching Conference this weekend those awful lyrics went through my head over and over, as she excitedly hung on every prophetic word and I struggled to stay awake.
I am going to end our relationship today or tomorrow. Someone famous said once, if you love someone let them go..... I'm hoping there is some truth to that.