I have overheard many interesting conversations within the walls (or patio) of a coffee shop. Saturday was no exception. I had just finished my long (once a week) seven-mile run. I took my coffee outside where the breeze would help evaporate my sweat.
Sitting at the table beside me were two men. One was stocky, with short white hair. The other quite thin and brown hair. Otherwise they looked about the same age, around the mid to upper fifties. I will paraphrase the conversation, as best I can remember. I came in during the middle of a very personal conversation. My intent was not to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t escape it. I will refer to them as “Stocky” and “Thin.”
Stocky: “I don’t know. I mean, we went through two very emotional periods with churches and I guess I burnt out.”
Thin: “So you just left?”
Stocky: “Well, I left that church and did not indicate to the denomination that I wanted another one right now.”
Thin: “So you’re just quitting the ministry?”
Stocky: “I don’t know. It’s too early to tell.”
Thin: “So where are you and Betty going to church?”
Stocky: “Right now we’re not.”
Thin: (with some emotion in his voice) “So you’re not going anywhere?”
Stocky: “Well, not right now. It’s still early. I just need to figure some things out.”
Thin: “I don’t think you figure them out by walking away from God.”
Stocky: “I’m not saying I’m walking away from God. I just need some time. We’re hurting right now.”
Thin: “But the scripture is clear, you should know that, that we must be under the authority of the body of Christ. It sounds like you just want to wing it.”
Stocky: “I’ve been a pastor for over thirty years. I’ve spent my life inside the walls of a church, I just need a break. I need to figure some things outs.”
Thin: “I’ve been a pastor almost that long and I still love my church. I couldn’t imagine walking away from them or the ministry.”
Stocky: “Well that’s good for you.”
Thin: “It should be good for you too.”
About that time I got a call and missed the rest of the conversation. However, I was very tempted to stand up and to scream at Thin, “What the hell is wrong with you? Did you hear the man? He’s hurting. So it is time for you, dear pastor, to shut up and to listen!” How many times when we enter a period of pain, questions or confusion that we are stifled beneath layers of guilt manipulation? How many times are we afraid to talk to anyone, and that fear is based on the reality of rejection?
In my previous blog I often used the allegory of life being like a 100-story building. The foundation of that building is where reality or real-truth exist. But we live on different floors, depending how much we want to live outside of reality. I have found some brands of religion (tv evangelists and that world is my favorite whipping boy) that lives up near the top, far removed from reality. Politics lives high in this tower of facades as well. Maybe that’s why this year there has been a convenient marriage between the tv evangelists-types and the entertainment-political world of the Trumps. Pro wrestling also exists up near the top and it doesn’t surprise me that those same two previously mention groups associate with pro wrestling as well.
As I listened to these two pastors, both, by habit I assume, were living high in the building. Stocky was wanting to descend, down toward reality. He wanted to talk about his pain (so I assume). Yet, Thin loved the fake world up high were appearance was all that mattered. If Thin really loved his colleague, he would keep his damn mouth shout and beg for more . . . more reality, of how the man was hurting. He would have become like Job’s good friends. Those who didn’t accuse, but sat in the dirt with Job, just to be near.
J. Michael Jones