I am a minister. My wife is a therapist. Often, this is wonderful. We get to witness people making decisions that radically alter their lives. Drug addicts and alcoholics who celebrate years of sobriety. Husbands and wives who learn to truly communicate and fall back in love with each other. Families reunited. People letting go of their hurts and their pasts. It truly is an honor.
Sometimes it is hard. We are there when loved one’s die and there is no good answer. We watch people really hurt themselves and others. We see the selfishness, addiction, sin and even violence that rips families apart. We are there when people refuse to change. It is truly frustrating.
Of course I prefer the first, but I can handle both. I realize that even the roughest stuff is part of life. It must be dealt with if I am actually going to try to love people. So tell me your best or your worst, I am ready.
But the bizarre and unnecessary I can do without. And for some reason people seek me out to tell me the weirdest stuff. I feel like I must have a sign taped to my back that says “Whatever is the strangest, most awkward, disgusting, crazy thing that has happened to you, immediately tell this man!” And people do.
It’s okay that you missed church. You don’t have to tell me about the disgusting atrocities your cat was committing that kept you home. I trust you. You couldn’t make it to church. I’m good.
I don’t need to hear about your bodily functions. The details of your “procedure.” The state of the smell coming from under your house. Does it change anything to tell me about this stuff? Does it help?
And this doesn’t just come from people who know me. In fact the vast majority of these diatribes come from complete strangers. Just yesterday morning I had this conversation with a woman in the bread aisle at the grocery store:
Strange Woman (by strange I do not mean weird, but someone I don’t know): Do you like to dance?
Me: (very unsure where this is going and why it is directed at me, but okay) Yes.
SW: So does my grandson. He was here with me the other day, music came on, and he started to dance.
Me: (trying to look at tortillas around her cart) Well, good for him, sounds fun.
SW: I told him to stop, he is a childish moron sometimes.
Me: (trying to move in such a way that she can see I have two small children in my cart) Well, sorry he embarrassed you.
SW: He didn’t embarrass me. (what?) I can’t find the tortillas that go with this coupon. Do you know which one?
Me: Not sure.
SW: (under her breath) Well, thanks for nothing. (does she think I work here?)
Me: Well, have a nice day. (begin pushing cart down the aisle)
SW: You too!
Again, why did she pick me? There were several women on the aisle. There was a guy stocking bread on the shelves. Why me?
Here is what I have come to believe. This is some kind of spiritual gift. That’s right. A gift. Craziness is attracted to me! And in the end, this is a good thing.
Continually, God brings people to me who are inappropriate, have no concept of boundaries, and say things that have never before been uttered in the history of the world. And what does God expect me to do?
I think love is the easy and right answer, but it doesn’t quite explain. Tolerating them is nice, but God wants more than that. Somehow, God wants me to communicate. To understand. To kinda get them. I compare it to the interpretation of tongues (go with me here). It is one thing to hear someone speaking in tongues and say, “good for you.” It is quite another to understand their words and make them useful for others.
And that is what I believe God wants. Yes we should love the poor, and help the hurting, and seek justice. But underneath all that I think what God wants is for us to actually connect. To get each other. Even when the getting is extremely difficult. Even when the getting makes no sense!
The other day I listened as a young couple (they had no idea I could hear them) had a long conversation with a man. He is extremely difficult to understand. He says bizarre things. This conversation went on and on. They just kept listening and talking. Listening and talking. Connecting. Getting. Jesusing.