1 John 4:7 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.”
So the other day I went to a new salon, and my hairdresser introduced himself as Marlon.
“Hi, I’m John. Nice to meet you.”
Marlon had long curly brown hair, and spoke and dressed in a somewhat effeminate fashion. There’s a lot of that in California, so I didn’t think twice about it. After laying out a roadmap for the haircut, we got to chatting about life, and the conversation turned to my old band, The Ally.
“Where did that name come from?” Marlon asked.
“Well there’s an author named Carlos Castaneda who went to experience drug-induced psychedelic journeys with native Americans in Mexico. One type of spirits he met were called Allies, and they didn’t have a prescriptive way of looking at the world. They didn’t care about morals. Whatever you were trying to do, they would try and help you with that. We wanted our music to help people without judging them, so that’s where the name came from.”
Marlon got really excited by that. He had a masters in spiritual psychology, and had his own fair share of psychedelic experiences that worked into his own music. He shared his dream of incorporating opera into a jazz vocal style and relayed that he was preparing to apply to Juilliard. I know how incredibly difficult it is to get into the program, so despite the background conversations about a more alternative spirituality, I asked Marlon if I could pray for him.
“Oh my yes! I would so love that!!”
Marlon looked up, closed his expectant eyes, and grabbed my shoulders with both his hands. When I pray for strangers, sometimes I’ll lay hands on them, but this was the first time I’ve had one lay hands on me! I prayed protection over his application process and for God’s peace and presence in the midst of it all. As I prayed, I realized that I had been using “he” to describe Marlon in prayer, but it dawned on me that maybe he was transgender. So I started to stumble and pause in my prayer here and there, taking the time to replace male pronouns with Marlon’s name.
“And I thank you for everything you’re doing in his… uh… I mean… in Marlon’s life…”
After I said Amen, I looked up and Marlon was tearing. In a choked up voice he said “I’ve had some terrible, terrible things happen to me in my life. But I believe in God... I do. I believe he’s real. Thank you so much for this.”
He asked me about my spiritual background, and I told Marlon about how I’d also experienced some terrible things in my life. How I’d been bullied, and how it drove me away from church and a relationship with God, but how I’d come back to it all after realizing how much he’s always loved me and pursued me.
“Well I know you’re leaving town, but if you’re ever back I would so love to go to church with you.”
“Oh my goodness I would so love that. Let me get your number!”
So I passed him my phone, and Marlon entered his number and his real name… Marla!
To this day I don’t know if Marla is gay, trans, or just big-boned. But I know that she is beautiful in her own way, and that God loves her very much. I believe in knowing scripture and having a viewpoint on what’s on God’s heart with regards to holiness. But increasingly I’m wondering if loving others manifests more of heaven on earth than debating theology.
Dear Lord, thanks for the opportunity to minister to Marla. These sorts of moments excite me so much. Bless her and show yourself powerfully in her life so she may come to have a deep, intimate relationship with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.