People can change. I just returned from a gathering of preacher types at my seminary, Phillips Theological, which is now in Tulsa. I have been going to something called Phillips in Oklahoma since 1967, that would be 50 years, YIKES!!! Every year in January they host something called “Remind and Renew”, which is both a reunion and an opportunity to engage in powerful theological, cultural conversations. There are a handful of folks there who started school with me in both undergraduate and graduate school. There were a couple of the awkward moments where you think you recognize the face and then give thanks for name tags. It is a time to mark not just the physical keeping of time, but also my intellectual/spiritual journey. I can honestly say I am a better person than I was 50 years ago.
Now, as to how that transformation intersects with my Lyft driving. It was the night of November 8th. I had really not made plans but I thought it would be fun to drive people around as the election returns came in. This being Denver, I began to notice a trend as I listened to MSNBC on the radio. I was picking up groups of mostly women who were leaving election watch parties in tears, often intensified by a few glasses of wine. Shock, anger, and gallows humor filled my car. I probably gave 15 rides, all of which generally fit that category. About midnight I picked up two women at a bar downtown and took them on a ride home for about 10 minutes. “I am scared, I can’t believe this is happening. I feel like everything we have worked for and gained will be stripped away.” They were crying and just holding each other. “Will they make our marriage invalid?” “What do you think Lyft driver Mark?”
This is a summation of how I answered. “I want you to know my own story. I spent 40 years in Christian ministry. There was a time that I believed things about gay folk that I am now embarrassed to admit. It was the loving kindness of people like yourselves that showed me I was wrong. Who am I to say who somebody loves is wrong? That is between you and God. In my last year before I retired I did my first same-sex wedding. I was blessed. I want you to know that I made a decision tonight. I will put everything I have on the line to protect you.”
Alice then began to tell me of being raised in a fundamentalist Christian home. The gist of this is that when she began to understand who she was created to be it put her in conflict with their version of Christianity. She was told that there was something defective about her, and they treated her as if they had done something wrong. I said “You are a delightfully beautiful person who is just living out who she was created to be”. I parked the car in front of their home and turned off my Lyft app. We talked for maybe 10 minutes. As they were leaving Rose leaned over from the back seat and threw her arms around my head and hugged me. She said, “I can’t tell you what this has meant to me.” I said, “I am just glad God does not give up.”
Alice said, “Amen” and they walked arm and arm into their home.
Step Seven of Alcoholics Anonymous reads: “Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings”. People can change.
Onward and Upward,
3 thoughts on “Rose and Alice”
You’re a good man, Mark Pumphrey. Still ministering where God leads you. God is so great.
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I’m so happy your goodness is spilling out into the streets of our city and into the hearts of its people. I, among many, can testify to the positive impact you’ve made in my life. Yes, people can, and do, change!
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You have given so much back to me. I am enjoying this very much and it seems to be touching a few.