Coming off an amazing (albeit difficult) semester in France, I had a brief week or so home with family before heading off to my summer job at a summer-school, day-camp hybrid in the Midwest.

The day before training, I watched Garden State with a high school friend. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it soon. Without giving any spoilers, I’ll just say a great friendship develops, and Sam says:

“You’re in it right now, aren’t you? My mom always says that when she can see I’m working something out in my head. She’s like, ‘You’re in it right now.’ And I’m looking at you, and you’re telling me this story … you’re definitely in it right now.”

That was the friendship I needed. Somebody who could listen and see me.  Somebody who knew that I was “in it right now.”

During training, I found myself surrounded by tons of other college students wanting to positively impact the lives of kids and the communities where we’d be working. These could be my people, especially after the minimal community I’d felt in France.

I took every opportunity to connect through conversations over meals and between sessions.

One evening after our closing session, I found myself in conversation with Louis. He was easy to talk to and listened as I complained about some of the past semester’s difficulties.

He reminded me that sometimes happiness is only realized after something, not during it.

We shared parts of our faith upbringing and some of the broken parts of our stories. As we talked about friends getting married, Louis encouraged me not to give up on relationships and not to settle for staying single.

Easier said than done, considering my experience in France … and that I wasn’t attracted to girls.

Without realizing how much time had past, we saw that it was now 4am. We looked at each other and decided we might as well stay up and enjoy the sunrise! The conversation had been good, so why not?

Training came to an end, and we went to our sites in different cities.

That summer meant lots of planning for daily lessons and activities and songs. I spent lots of time playing into crazy imaginations, listening as kiddos practiced their reading, and dancing to High School Musical. I joined the tiny church’s choir to get back into music.

Despite fun coworkers and kiddos, I found myself stagnant and confused spiritually. I hoped that this experience wouldn’t be like France — waiting until the end to enjoy it.

I knew I needed to be present — but what was God’s plan for me in Oklahoma? There weren’t as many intentional conversations or times of prayer as I had expected (or needed).

Amidst all of this, I sought quiet moments to try and connect with God, typically taking evening walks. I needed some Jesus-time to prepare me for the fall semester — being back with “my people.” Anxiety crept in as I thought about starting on the campus ministry leadership team.

Partway through the summer, Louis came to visit our city for a weekend because he’d worked the previous summer with two gals in my city. He asked to join me on one of my evening walks. We caught up on the summers, the crazy and cute stories of kids, and eventually stopped at a bench by a pond.

As we looked over the pond … Louis told me he was head-over-heels for me.

WHAT.

Probably noticing my shock, he backpedaled somewhat and said he didn’t want to change our friendship. Knew that I might need time to think about what he’d said. Honestly, I don’t remember my response.

It was probably terrible and something along the lines of, “I don’t know how to respond.”

How was I to respond to my friend’s declaration? After everything that had happened in France, I felt even more confused about relationships and sexuality.

My faith seemed in limbo, without much support from my summer community, so I didn’t know where to put Louis in my life and understanding of faith.

Somehow, we were able to salvage the awkwardness and enjoy the rest of the weekend. I briefly talked to him a few more times that summer. I finished camp — after pool parties and dances and end-of-summer celebrations — and had a few weeks until fall semester.

Was I ready for classes and campus ministry? What would it be like reconnecting with my friends that I hadn’t seen since December? How would I continue to process my faith and sexuality?

Has a friend, unsuspecting or otherwise, ever declared something beyond platonic love for you? How did you react?

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    20 Comments
    • Reply Dan Perron

      8 March 2019, 1:38 pm

      Well Kevin, indeed I have had the same experience and it was told to me in a letter, which I still possess. I have kept letters from of my friends over the years. His revelation was a shock and it made be very uncomfortable because I had not with anything related to my sexuality. We did, however, remain friends and I think he was more aware of my issues than I actually was. In the end, though, he entered a lifestyle and approached life faith from such a different perspective than me that I no longer had much in common with him. We tried to talk over the years because there was a deeper bond there– a bond of friendship. However, if truth be told, I was never attracted to him in any other way than the friendship which had begun in grade school. I had stood by him as he wrestled with the death of his sister and I think that was when he began to have different feelings for me. I could say much more but I will pause here. Peace brother…I enjoy your reflections.
      Dan

      • Reply Kevin Zimmerman

        8 March 2019, 9:20 pm

        Dan – WOW. What a friendship – it does sound like a lot. And it sounds like despite some of the trying moments, that it was/is a beneficial, healthy friendship. Maybe part of a good friendship is some of those difficult times.
        In my case, this was a friendly guy who I met after a lonely semester. It was good to have somebody care about me and my stories. We didn’t talk much after that summer. The more mature me, looking on that summer with hindsight would love to go back and not respond so awkwardly, try and keep a friendship going. But definitely a learning experience for me.

    • Reply Thomas Mark Zuniga

      9 March 2019, 8:45 am

      I’m really enjoying learning these relational aspects of your story, Kevin. Fills in a lot holes as I interact with Present Day Kevin! Thanks again for being bold with your story and adding yours to the mosaic here. So grateful to call you my brother.
      I haven’t had anyone declare his love for me with words, but there was that one time the dude tried to kiss me. Maybe actions speak louder than words in that case?

    • Reply Garrett

      9 March 2019, 10:33 am

      Thank you guys for sharing your stories – I recently starting following you and feel less misunderstood.
      Kevin, I resonate with this story. In college I’d come home after a semester in Costa Rica, but unlike your experience in France, I found Costa Rica to be warm and full of friendship with guys and girls who weren’t afraid to hug me or ask about my life. When I came home to cold America, I encountered some reverse culture shock and loneliness.
      Then through a case of mistaken identity (he sent me a friend request instead of my twin brother who he’d met on a bus) I met a Brazilian student who was witty, spoke Portuguese with me and didn’t hesitate to hug me. We’d stay up every night talking about philosophy and travel and life. After about two months, I was worried something was different. I’d never been really attracted to anyone, but my brain was telling me this wasn’t just feelings of friendship.
      He professed his love for me one day as we soaked up sunshine in a park. I was shocked but also knew I felt the same way. I’d never felt anything like this, and I told him that.
      After a month of trying to balance our feelings for each other with my one-sided intention to keep things platonic, I gave in. I’d been desperate for God to swoop in and rescue me, but I felt like God was silent. And I hadn’t confided this struggle in any of my other friends.
      We had an intimate, romantic relationship for eight months that was unknown to even my closest friends for most of that time. It was amazing and torturous at the same time. As much as I tried to justify it or reconcile it with my faith, I couldn’t. I ended our relationship very painfully and suffered a long time because of it.
      Kevin, you bring up the great question of how does one respond. Are you fully honest? Do you try to maintain a friendship? In my case, I lost an amazing friendship and someone I loved by allowing it to become a romantic relationship. I almost lost my faith in God, too.
      In hindsight I know I shouldn’t have processed this alone, in shame, but sought support. I also learned that to love others as Jesus wants me to, that sometimes means ending things and loving someone from afar.
      Thank you for sharing.

      • Reply kirkdaniel74

        11 March 2019, 10:19 pm

        What a vulnerable story, Garret. Thanks for sharing. And, yes. Your comments about loving from afar are so very true.

      • Reply Kevin Zimmerman

        12 March 2019, 9:01 am

        Wow Garrett, thank you for sharing your story with me/us. Ugh… I can’t imagine what that would be like to have a great friend to fill the void you were feeling. And then to feel the need to hide your friendship-turned-more.
        The duality sucks.
        I wish I had been more mature – socially, spiritually, relationally – and found a way to let him down easily, keep the friendship door open on my side. There are stories to come about times I dealt with feelings… slightly better? I think. But yes, it gets confusing when there are positive and negative aspects of a friendship warring with each other.
        Here’s to finding ways to connect healthily!

    • Reply Dean Samuels

      12 March 2019, 11:17 am

      Oddly enough, a similar situation happened to me… with a woman. I ended up marrying her actually.
      I can understand how that would rock your faith. I know that my faith in my college days was struggling without another guy declaring any feelings for me. I can’t imagine what would have happened otherwise.
      Thank you for sharing your story so vulnerably, brother.

      • Reply Kevin Zimmerman

        18 March 2019, 8:29 am

        Ah, you married people…. so glad to have you here!
        .
        Interestingly enough, I’m not sure what it would have been like if it had been a girl who professed her love. That may have been equally as confusing for me. Especially if I enjoyed her friendship…

    • Reply bluzhawk

      12 March 2019, 3:22 pm

      I’ll bet there was a whole world of things going on in you from Louis saying you might need more time to the brief calls at the end of the summer. Were you flattered or freaked out or sorta both? Or did it just live in the background until it passed?
      Back in college, I was still figuring things out and trying to be straight and probably ended being a jerk

    • Reply bluzhawk

      12 March 2019, 4:03 pm

      I’ll bet there was a whole world of things going on in you from Louis saying you might need more time to the brief calls at the end of the summer. Were you flattered or freaked out or sorta both? Or did it just live in the background until it passed?
      Back in college, I was still figuring everything out and trying to be straight and probably was a jerk to some guys. Looking back, I had a bunch of friends and we did things together physically one-on-one and in groups that today might be considered inappropriate or questionable. On the other side, emotionally, I figured any guy wanting to get close and personal that there was something wrong that he wanted to with me and didn’t go there. It kept me from doing things I would regret now, but I regret that I wasn’t less confused and more brave and honest and open. I had always felt that not having done things that I would regret was the best course, but there’s a whole lot to be said for facing things honestly and with courage being better, and if you screw up, learn and move on.

      • Reply kirkdaniel74

        12 March 2019, 7:10 pm

        I dunno, Bluz. Cannot one face things honestly and with courage and still not do things that they would regret? I think not doing things that one later regrets is ideal. I did so many regrettable things in my B.C. (before Christ) days that I have lived to regret. Even with grace and victory now, and forgiveness, etc. etc., the regrettable things aren’t easily forgotten. They drown a person’s thoughts, inform his temptations, and color his thinking. And the thing is, when I was doing those regrettable things, I thought I WAS being honest to my true feelings. Ugh!

        • Reply bluzhawk

          13 March 2019, 12:02 pm

          I dunno most of the time either kd. I’m guessing we’re in the same book if not on the same page. I didn’t mean we should act from feelings, cause they can be screwed up and wrong, more that as a character issue, it’s better having the courage to be honest and open. And if you make a mistake you deal with it. Living focused on not doing the wrong thing didn’t get me very far. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I didn’t embrace sex with guys. But if I had been brave to talk with friends and been open, I wouldn’t have held onto the lie that not doing things meant I might be straight. That kind of dishonesty eats at your soul in ways that not having done wrong doesn’t compensate for. When it comes down to it, neither one is actually living by faith in Jesus, but God can do more in us when we’re honest about things. I can’t tell you how much I look up to so many guys here who have handled this better than I have.

      • Reply Kevin Zimmerman

        18 March 2019, 8:28 am

        Oh yes… the emotional side of that conversation….. I would say some of both. He was a pretty attractive guy, and I tend to have a low opinion of myself, so there was something great about hearing those words. But the freaked out definitely overpowered in the moment. I think mostly due to my experience in France.
        .
        And I think it’s tough to know how to respond. There are many friendship “boundaries” – physically, emotionally – that differ based on the friends. Some people are totally fine with “bro-cuddles” and others aren’t, but would sit and actively listen and respond to what you’re experiencing. It’s messy at times…but I think good.

        • Reply bluzhawk

          19 March 2019, 1:09 pm

          You’re so right, it’s tough and it’s messy. Looking back at all the ways I got so much so wrong, it’s tempting to wish I could relive things with what I know now. But you can’t, and besides, the tough and messy times are what change us and get us to who we are. That ideal guy who sails thru that I want to have been never was really true.

    • Reply kirkdaniel74

      12 March 2019, 7:10 pm

      Brother, I think your reaction was normal. For one, you had already had a bad experience in France. Two, you were wading through a very confusing time in your life. And three, you weren’t expecting him to say such a thing. Sometimes the wisest course of action is to act upon our shock, and slink the other way. I think God programs this type of reaction into us to protect us from the things that will hurt us in the long run. As painful as this is, I have had to basically end friendships for my own good when I was a teenager. Would I have liked for the outcome to be different? Yes. But mostly, I see the hand of God in my life guiding me to greener (and more stable) pastures…and still waters.

    • Reply WaveDave

      14 March 2019, 8:39 am

      Thanks Kevin for your post. Let me answer your question…
      Yes, to be honest, I have had a number of people in life declare a desire for a relationship…and this has been been very hard for me. I believe that God has called me to be a servant…and as such that means for me personally no “significant other.” If such were to ever happen, it would be a God thing, and nothing I would do in my own striving. Being a servant is on one hand fulfilling, and on the other hand a very lonely walk…fraught with temptations and misunderstandings.
      So, when I say that a number of people have declared a desire for a relationship…I can appreciate it and understand this on one level, but I was never given an opportunity for them to see God’s calling and affirm that…and be content with being a friend. So, when they pushed me on that…I tend to withdraw…not angry at them, but not sure how to respond in a redemptive way either. I was dropped like a hot potato…
      Sadly, well-meaning people have made things worse. I remember representing our Christian Service organization at an Urbana Missions conference…a great experience for sure. I was assigned to a dorm where other staff member were staying, and had a roommate who asked me why I wasn’t married. He basically “called me on the carpet” for being single…I felt like crying…
      Thanks again for all you do here!

      • Reply Kevin Zimmerman

        18 March 2019, 8:36 am

        WaveDave,
        Thanks for sharing! I love the idea of being a servant, or close follower of Jesus as part of the calling to celibacy. The sense of devotion that stirs up. And it’s not an easy calling, or one that many people understand.. especially if they see you as a potential life partner. Maybe we should take those declarations as affirmation of our personalities, the fruit of the spirit being evident in our lives.
        .
        And people need to grow up. Read 1 Corinthians 7 and have some good dialogue with your single friends. Some of us have no desire to get married – and that’s a GOOD thing! Love you brother!

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