I Think I’ve Been Had

I think I’ve been had.

Everyday I have people sit in front of me and tell me far lass then the truth. It is one of the few carryovers of the pastorate into the world in which I work. Another carry over is talking with people in vulnerable situations needing a kind smile and listening ears and eyes.

Let’s call her “Cheryl.” I believed every word. And prayed for her. I even gave some advice on how to find some help, which she thanked me for. She repeatedly put her face in her young hands and said “oh God” over and over and over. She even told me God was the only reason she was surviving.

Now it is possible most of the story she told me is true…how she had been mistreated by a soon-to-be-ex-husband. It’s possible. But I still think I’ve been had. It could be she sat down at my desk and did not tell me the whole truth out of desperation. That’s certainly possible.

My first reaction? I don’t like being taken advantage of.

But then I thought for a few more moments. Why?

The one part of my job that I love is the opportunity to be kind when people least expect it. To go the extra mile to make sure people know that I am not there to take of advantage of them. Put them at ease. I’m pretty good at it.

I’ve been reading through Eugene Peterson’s memoir again. And last night I read his words on how people are not a problem to be solved but a story to be entered into. It’s good advice even when you aren’t a pastor.

So would I rather be taken advantage of when trying to help someone…or be so hard-hearted and cynical that kindness is the exception and not the rule?

While I understand the need to be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves, I also would prefer to be kind and deceived than cynical and defensive. I’ve had enough of that over the past couple of years.

I’m no hero here. I have to really fight anger and keep my natural inclinations at bay. The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

Look, this is probably old hat to most people. But we’ve been a little guarded over the past couple of years. Being tender-hearted has not been easy when you feel you’ve been taken advantage of and been the recipient of unkindness, you tend to want to dish that out.

So no heroes here. Just some realization.

A Moment With Knox, Age 7

Last night I had one of those parental moments I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Not so much for what it taught my son, Knox, but for what it taught me. Reminded me of.

I turned out the lights and prayed with Knox and Dylan. Then as I went to kiss Knox good night, I realized he was upset.

“But I don’t want Easter to be over.”

He does this for every holiday and birthday. Some is exhaustion. Some is real disappointment that the long-awaited event is coming to a close. It was too brief.

So I asked him what it was he loved and would miss. And we ran through the list.

Hiding and looking for eggs? We can do that tomorrow when I get home from work!

The candy? We can eat some after dinner tomorrow night!

The prizes y’all got? We will put the net on the basketball goal and shoot baskets with the new ball until the $6 ball bursts!

And what about celebrating Jesus rising from the dead? Knox, that’s a everyday event. We don’t have to fear death and we have forever with the King of the Universe to look forward to.

Both of us had teary smiles. I kissed him again and quietly thanked God for the reminder. And for a church where I know the importance of the resurrection is not limited to an annual event. And I immediately looked forward to celebrating communion next Sunday.

The Way We Talk About Evangelism

I need to start this post with the usual qualification…

I think evangelism and missions are good and necessary parts of the Christian life. And this post is a not criticism of those things in and of themselves. So please do respond as if I have attacked them.

But I do still wonder why we talk about evangelism and missions the way we do.

Maybe it’s the pastoral heart that still beats beneath. But I worry about how we talk when we talk about them. The language we use. The tone. The commands.

The guilt.

There is no instance in the New Testament of reprimand for not being involved in evangelism. There is no shaming people for not going on the mission field.  Or considering it. Not from Jesus. Not from Paul. Nor from any of the other Apostles and writers in the New Testament.

Am I saying this should free us from the desire to see others enter the Kingdom? Of course not. And should we tell others of the glories of our King? Of course.

But it has to be significant that while we find it very easy and natural to talk about everyone’s responsibility to evangelize and to shame those who do not, nothing similar ever happens in holy writ.

Usually it is those with the gift of evangelism who are the most eager to evangelize and then they see those who do not have the same passion for it, in a negative light. So you would expect Paul, the great evangelist…a blood-earnest evangelist to shame someone or point out the guilt of those who have not been evangelizing.

Unless you think everyone he talked with was already doing evangelism as they ought to and there was no need for a reprimand or command or hint of guilt.

Again a pastoral heart beats. Many people are used to hearing the guilt-inducing lecture of the need for more evangelism, they just assume they are guilty and then wallow away in it. And it’s a guilt that goes much further than the Scriptures.

The Scriptures give us a lot to feel guilty about. I cannot see that this is one of them. If I can be proved wrong, I’m willing to listen. Regardless, we in modern-day evangelicalism make people feel guilty more than the NT does.

And though I am not a pastor anymore, my pastoral heart beats with a fear of men and women laboring under a yoke that is not easy and burden far too heavy.