Okay, so today after contemporary worship band practice I was approached by a congregation member named "Peter" (notice the neat quotation marks. That means it's not his real name. I'm clever). He said that he had something that I could possibly help him with. It seems, he said, that his daughter's boyfriend has gotten kicked out of his house. This is where I tensed up. I knew what was coming next. This kid has been staying at Peter's house, but they've decided that that just won't work out (He DOES have five kids, and it sounds like they're not the wealthiest people in the world). He was thinking that perhaps his daughter's boyfriend could come stay at my house until the end of the month. He said he's a good kid, he's just got messed up parents. Here, as in many television shows and movies, is where we will have a flashback scene:
It's the year 2001. I am a youth director at a neighborhood church in the town of Lincoln, Nebraska. I am still fairly new to the city, I do not have a lot of friends in the area, and I am seriously missing the dorm life of college. Living in an apartment by myself has been fun, but I keep thinking another person in the place might not be that bad. I finish up a Bible Study at church when I am approached by a young man, in his first year of college, and he has something he needs to talk to me about. He doesn't want to live with his family anymore. He wants some of that independence that comes with college, but his college doesn't have on campus housing. He's kind of a shy and introverted guy, and so finding a roommate would be hard and he doesn't want to shell out the money for a single apartment. He has met me through some events at church and feels comfortable with me, so he approaches me and asks if I would be interested in getting an apartment together. I guess he had also heard me say that having a roommate would be cool. So I answer off the top of my head (never a good idea for me) that it would probably be okay. But here is why I should have said no: he's dating the pastors' daughter. So I begin to think that someone that has such a direct connection to one of my youth (she was a high school senior at the time) would not be the best roommate. I think I should find a way to gracefully back out of this agreement. I talk to one of my pastors (they were married co-pastors). She encourages me to room with him, stating that her daughter won't be a high schooler much longer, and he needs a place to live. I agree. We get an apartment together. His girlfriend constantly comes over. He becomes a funnel of information about my private life to my pastors. This hinders my already dysfunctional relationship with my pastors. I get upset that things that happen at work get brought up at home and things that happen at home get brought up at work. I begin to feel like I don't have much of a private life, and also that I am not always welcome in my own home. Things get really awkward when I decide I can no longer work with aforementioned pastors and quit my job. Things get better when I decide to go to seminary and move out.
So all of this flashes through my brain when this man approaches me about this. I suddenly think that the same thing is going to happen, and that it is too close to the beginning of my internship to have something like this happen to cause it to go sour. I tell him I will talk to my pastor about it and then we'll see. So after everyone leaves the church and it is just the pastor and I cleaning up, I tell him what has occured and that my initial reaction is no. Pastor says that he doesn't see why it couldn't happen, but it really depends on my comfort level. I can always use the fact that I have barely enough furniture for myself, and that the kid wouldn't have a bed or anything if he moved in. Kind of a flimsy excuse... I have couches and such, but I could always say that I am allowed to stay at the house because it is the church's parsonage and it is a part of my payment. So, really, it's against church regulations or whatnot to have someone living in it free of charge. So if this were my only dilemma, then it would not be much of a problem. But if you know me, then you know my dilemma doesn't stop there.
I have a bleeding heart. Here is a high school aged kid, with a messed up home life, who is currently living with his girlfriend's parents, and this isn't working out. He's basically a good kid with nowhere to go... Or so Peter says. I have plenty of room in my house. It's a three bedroom house. I only take up one bedroom. I have three couches, he could take his pick for a place to sleep. And it's only until the end of the month (why? I don't know. I didn't ask.) This is not a repeat of my previous experience for a number of reasons: He's a high schooler in dire straits, not a anti-social whiny little college kid who's too much of a nerd to find his own place to live (can you tell how I feel about my previous roommate now?). He's not dating my pastors' daughter, and I do not have a dysfunctional relationship with this pastor. I wouldn't need to worry about private information getting back to church or vice versa. Word might get to Peter's family, but I think they would be grateful that I'm doing this favor for them, plus I really don't have anything that I need to hide (unless you count the person locked in my basement... but I think they would help me keep the secret). It has been almost four years since that experience, I have matured (I'd like to think), and it would not be the same situation. My heart goes out to this poor kid, and I don't even know him. So I've decided not to decide anything tonight. I'm going to sleep on it, go to pastor's text study tomorrow and study the text for this week, and then talk to my pastor about it, tell him where I'm coming from, what my previous experience was and what is going through my head. Let him help me consider my options and then make the best and most faithful choice that I can. What is it that Christ said in the Bible, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in... 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:35&40)... Yeah... so, what's an intern pastor to do? I'll get back to you on that...