I’ve long since come to terms with the unarguable reality that my job often brings me to the doorstep of deep pain . . .
. . . and to the edges of a precipice overlooking some of the most wonder-filled human experiences . . .
. . . and then drags me (often kicking and screaming) up and down the rocky path spanning the distance between the two.
It’s one of the reasons I like my job, I think . . . the unpredictability of it all, and most especially that Forest Gump feeling of ridiculously unbelievable awe that I’d ever find myself in whatever situation in which I find myself.
I love all that.
And some days I hate it.
The days on which I hate it are usually the days I forget, even briefly, that working with human beings can be unpredictable, that, no matter how jaded I feel, I should never, ever think for one minute that I’ve seen it all.
I confess I sometimes fall into the trap of not expecting a shock, just because, frankly, not much can make me bat an eye anymore, and that includes such experiences as: questions about when my baby is due (not pregnant, but thanks for asking!); visitors in worship walking out once they realize I am the pastor and not, in fact, a really friendly greeter in a long black dress; a gift offered at the door: a bag full of discarded ties “that your husband might be able to use” . . . .
Yes, all these, along with the time bombs people drop at the least opportune times. “You say you’ve been arrested? Did you think that it might be good to wait until after communion to share that information?”
So, let’s just say I think it takes a lot—quite a bit—to shock this preacher.
Heart attack during Sunday School? Check. Long discussions of whether or not we should take individuals off the church rolls—even though they’ve died? Yup. Hot dog bun under the communion napkin? Body of Christ, anyone? (Last minute bread emergency, or so they tell me.)
Nope, not a lot can shock me.
But it happened yesterday. I was greeting people at the door after, what I felt, was an, if not inspiring, at least mildly entertaining sermon about the Good Samaritan. An individual came up to shake my hand, as many do after worship. He then asked if I had a minute to answer a question about the sermon. Scanning the crowd, I said, sure, quickly, and then he asked his question.
And when he did . . . I almost fell over. Really. But then, I caught myself . . . in just enough time to stop these words from tumbling out of my mouth: “Are you aware of the fact that you just said that OUT LOUD??!?!”
Ever since that moment . . . for the rest of the afternoon, really . . . I thought about his question: What was he thinking? What should have been my pastoral response? How did my gaping mouth, look of incredulity and pale countenance affect him?
Some people, I think, feel that the preacher is an easy repository for whatever idle questions or profound wonderings happen to cross their minds.
But we’re not.
Well, maybe some are, but I’m definitely not.
I must ask: is a little common sense, maybe with a pinch of decorum thrown in, too much to ask?
Even with this turn of events I still maintain: it takes a lot to shock this preacher. But, (and may I never forget): some folks are definitely up to the challenge.