Just a quick note before today's post - Billy Coffey posted The Ten Dollar Challenge on his blog yesterday. If you haven't had a chance to, would you hop over there and read it? We're still working out the details, but there will be an opportunity for everyone who would like to participate to link their blogs both here and on What I Learned Today.
(To read Part One, go here: A Trip to Sam's Club).
Have you ever been shopping at a large store and see the same shopper or shoppers numerous times in the course of your trip? I had been in Sam's for maybe 5 minutes when I noticed a good looking young father with 2 young children. I suppose I noticed him because I typically don't see men shopping with their kids and without their wives (with the notable exception of 7:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve). He also caught my attention because he was wearing a graphic t-shirt that said "Redeemed" and was sporting a faux-hawk. Here I am shopping for communion cups and looking forward to church the next day. Did that help form a presumption about this guy? I don't know. But I remember thinking to myself, "I bet he's a youth pastor or a worship leader."
The next time I saw him and his kids, he was patiently telling his cute and talkative 5 year old daughter that she could not get any cookies on this trip. "Yeah, he's definitely in ministry -- he's so sweet to his kids!" I saw them once more before I was ready to check out. I pulled my cart up to one of maybe seven open registers, and guess who pulls up behind me in line? You guessed it -- Mr. Fauxhawk. At this point, I'm feeling some connection with this little family -- what with us all being Christians and whatnot. I attempted to start a conversation with him a couple of times (no doubt impressing him by my keen observational skills in surmising that he was, in fact, a pastor of some sort), but by this time his kids were getting tired and beginning to complain a bit. He wasn't quite as sweet, but his patience was still in check. I decided to leave him alone.
So here's where it gets weird. I'm out in the parking lot loading up my groceries, when directly across the aisle from me I spot the same sweet little threesome getting into their car (with a Christian sticker on the back windshield). "Okay, God", I thought, "am I supposed to go introduce myself to them or what?" I began to approach the car as dad was attempting to buckle his kids up in their car seats. What I heard next literally stopped me in my tracks. Had I been two aisle over instead of just a few feet away, I still would have heard this young father screaming at his son, "Get your G** D*** legs in the car!" I'm guessing that if he had looked up at that moment and seen my jaw hanging open, he might have ended his tirade. Unfortunately for his kids, he did not. After slamming the door on his son's side, he walked over to the daughter's side and could only manage a closed mouth, guttural scream before slamming her door. He got behind the wheel and took off quickly. At this point, I am still standing behind my jeep, jaw open and head spinning. "How could I have been so wrong about this guy? He's obviously not in ministry!"
But maybe he is. Maybe he was just having an extraordinarily bad day. Maybe his wife walked out on him and his kids. Not that there's any excuse for screaming obscenities at you kids. You just don't do that -- ever. Having experienced that little scenario firsthand on numerous occasions, let me just tell you: YOU NEVER WANT TO DO THAT. It terrifies them. It rocks their world. Don't ever do that.
I sat in my car for several minutes, ignoring the melting frozen items in the back and just prayed. I think a more accurate analogy would be that I was pleading with God to protect the children, convict the father and make things right.Maybe this guy was in ministry, maybe not. He certainly looked the part. But he certainly served as a big object lesson for me.
Lesson 1: Since my pastor is also a close friend, I actually thought that I had overcome my tendency to put ministers on a high pedestals. Clearly I have some work to do. Our pastors and teachers ARE held to a higher standard -- that's biblical. But they are human. Even if you attend church every Sunday, chances are that you have no idea what a minister and his staff deal with every other day of the week: infidelity, broken marriages, abuse, neglect, addictions, church politics, illness, death, grief, money issues - the list goes on and on. It's only by the Grace of God and their faith that they don't become completely overwhelmed by it all. Sadly, many do and succumb to the same temptations the rest of us struggle with. Others simply walk away from the ministry.
Lesson 2: If you are a Christian, the world will judge you by what you do more than what you do not do; not by what you say or what you profess. Like Vince Antonucci says, "We've got to be the good news before we share the good news. Otherwise, the message has no integrity." (I'm paraphrasing, forgive me if that's not an exact quote.) You can rattle off Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and tell someone how Jesus saved you from the burning pits of hell, but if you get in your car and then cut them off in traffic, not only are you an a**hole, but you may have just added to the legions of people who turn away from God because of the people who claim to serve Him.