Friday, February 08, 2008
His name was George. He never missed a church committee meeting, or a potluck dinner, his weekly Sunday school class, or anything at church, for that matter. Nothing. He was there for everything. Part of the landscape. A fixture. It had been that way for years.
But to me, George was much more than just a fixture. He was a pain in my rear end.
You see, by fate, or Divine Providence, George and I seemed to end up involved in the same activities at church all the time. Constantly. I could not avoid him. Have you ever met someone who has an opinion about everything, whether you want to hear it or not? Someone who seems to act as if they might be the only person alive? A man who is easily hurt, constantly annoyed, and permanently angry. Joyless. Ever met someone like that?
I've heard others say he sould be medicated. Immature and annoying some might say. Unbalanced, say others. Completely annoying, many say. George would easily tell you about all the faults, shortcomings, and inabilities of others; but never imagine that he might have some faults of his own. His picture should have been next to "tedious" in the dictionary.
But a man like George does not merely evolve out of nothing. There was something distinctive about George. It was his past. His life had been one of nearly constant struggle and enough emotional pain for several people. Broken marriages, disconnected family. When you took a bit of time to hear his story, if only in outline form, all the crankiness, all the negativity, all the medling behavior makes much more sense. It was as if the sum total of all the pain, loss, and long suffering in his life had etched itself upon George's soul, and was constantly clawing to get out. Pain always there, without hope for removal, save for Heaven.
Given his past, it was a wonder that George even showed up, at of all places, our church. And yet, there he was every week, in the same pew, holding fast to a faith in Jesus that was muted through a cranky and painful exterior. Figuring out his Belief, right there next to the rest of us. Together.
A while back, I was placed on a committee with George for a very long time. We met often enough that George worked his way into my skin. His neediness, his complaining, his sour outlook on life wore me nearly completely down. There were nights when I would get in my car after our meetings and wonder what in the world I was doing on this stupid committee. I could have been home, for heaven's sake! Some nights, I would get to my car, hit the freeway ramp home, and scream as loud as I could, just to release the energy of frustration I was feeling from having to deal with ...... George.
And then, one particularly late committee meeting night, as I drove home feeling frustrated yet again, I was struck by something. Call it a thought from God, maybe. I'm still not sure.
I thought to myself of exactly where both George and I would be heading home to that night; and the contrast of the two. I was heading home to a house with two lovely little daughters, a wonderful wife, a chocolate labrador, and a cat. All sleeping when I came in the door, close to midnight. A home. Full of people and love and blessing, laughter and life; but quiet now, in the dark. The happy ending of the movie.
George, on the other hand, would pack himself up in his ancient import car, and ride home to a small apartment in a not-so-great part of town where he lived, alone. With his thoughts, his loneliness, and a 15 year old color TV. Not much else. Alone.
And then, as I sped down the freeway, another thought occurred to me. I remember somewhere in the Bible it said something about "bearing others burdens". Becoming Christ for others.
What might that look like, if I did that? If I became more familiar with the life of another that did not look like or turn out like mine has, at least so far? Spending time with a person who would be last on my list of people to hang with. What if I gave of myself, rather than enjoying my warm and comfy place of annoyance at the behavior of others? What might it be like if I became more like Jesus? For George.
George grew ill, and stopped coming to church. I never got to find out about my questions of getting to know George better.
I still feel the shame.
Posted by Steve at 5:15 PM