Yes, I know that – but I’m tired. I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s step back.
Two weeks ago we were outside for worship. It was hot, but it was also extremely humid so that the basement wasn’t an option. Not more than five minutes before worship began a gentlman came up to me wanting to know, “Why on earth we are outside?” I’ve dealt with this gentleman before, he’s a bit rough around the edges (to say the least) so I just told him, “We’re out here, because this is where we are today.” He got indignant, “Well who makes these decisions? Who thought it would be a good idea to be outside today, it’s hot!” I said, “I do, and this is where we are.” I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Look if you don’t want to be outside, go home and enjoy the air conditioning – you don’t have to be here.” Well, he stayed, and complained to anyone within ear-shot. After the offering, making sure he was over-heard, he took off. One of the families who has tried to befriend this gentleman over the years (and the last people he complained to), was a wonderful encouragement to me after worship and a following picnic, “I was good to be out here today.” Sue, I know you probably won’t read this, but may God bless you for your well-timed kind words (which are a habit of yours for just about everyone who crosses your path).
This past Sunday this same gentleman shows up an hour before worship (no Sunday school during the summer). He never shows up early, ever. I wave and say, “Hi” a couple of times. No response. He goes inside, and then comes out. I wave again, nothing. He drops his offering into the offering plate and turns to walk away. I say, “Hi” again, this time into the microphone. No response.
This morning get a call on the answering machine with an irate man with whom I’ve had run-ins before. He claims to be a neighbor, but I’m not sure exactly where he’s supposed to live. He says he saw this man wandering around and I had “no right to treat him that way.” Second he says that I treat old people meanly. Third, he says he doesn’t care for me much personally.
Well, I know he saw nothing because I know all the neighbors who have a visual of our worship area – so I know that his claim to have personally seen something is (in all likelyhood) a lie. Second, I’m so tired of the “treat old people” meanly accusation. I really am. My most favorite human-being on the planet was my “PopPop,” who taught me more about living than anyone on the planet. There are older people people in Central who I will gladly defer to, and have a deep respect for. If anything, I expect more from older people because of my past history with my PopPop and the fact that they’ve been trying to follow Jesus longer. I guess some older folks think this means I don’t like them, because I try to hold them to the ideals they claim to have – rather than give them what they want. But this does not mean, “I don’t like old people.” Frankly, that accusation hurts deeper than anyone could possibly know – attacking the relationship I had with a man I adored. Good grief, after his death I kept PopPop’s picture as my desktop wallpaper for over a year. I needed to see him – when I finally changed wallpapers, it was a difficult moment. Kind of my final good-bye. I think it’s a testimony to my love for him that whenever someone is raised up to strike a deep blow in my heart that’s where they go – but, oh, it hurts. It hurts.
So I shouldn’t have called. You never deal with a proxy – ever. It’s one of the first rules of conflict, and one that never has pretty results when broken. That I called back is a big sign that I’m stretching too thin – I’ve put off my vacation too long and allowing too much to interfere with my self-care because of it. I just couldn’t keep myself from calling, and I should have. The results from the call were predictable:
- I’m not interested in the gentleman who complained, I just want his money.
- “The neighbors and people in the Church say you don’t like old people.”
- You’re not a real man of God, you shouldn’t have a full-time church. You should leave.
I knew this was going to happen even before I called, it’s part of the destructive cycle that I called at all. I encouraged the very cycle I strive to break here. I forgot when when you confront proxies who like to lob grenades they just laugh and detonate a bomb in your face. I screwed up – and now I feel pretty dang worthless. For the last couple of weeks I feel like my life was being sucked out of me, now I’m flapping around like a uninflated balloon.
Sometimes, pastoring sucks. I’ll have to dig out that number and apologize for calling that gentleman at all – and losing my temper. Sigh. Do I really have to wait until Sunday to get away?