Saturday, December 23, 2017

You lost me

I was in the middle of responding to a co-worker's question about my personal life. It had been a while since we talked and she was eager to hear about how things were going, particularly for my brother. 

I was telling her how well he was doing compared to the first of the year, when he was going under the knife to remove a section of bowel due to colon cancer. I have talked about the phenomenon of miracle after miracle that has happened before in this blog, so I won't repeat it all here. But the most recent miracle bears repeating - after his heart attack on October 25 and the stent operation he had (while conscious) on October 30, not only has his energy and endurance increased, but his kidney function has improved. 

Creatinine is one of the body's waste products that the kidneys are supposed to process, and a normal count in the bloodstream is a maximum of 113 μmol per liter (a μmol is a weight measure that is 1/1000 the size of that molecule, thank you Doctor Google... haha). The higher the number is, the less able the kidneys are to do their job. Earlier this year, my brother's numbers were close to 600 of these per liter (showing his kidneys were functioning at about 15% of normal). Now, they are at 225, or functioning at around 50%. 

His surgeon can't explain it. 

Of course believers know immediately what happened: God did it.

But as I was telling this lady about the numbers and saying that we knew what happened but the doctors wouldn't believe it - she was so interested and engaged and wanted to know what it was. So I told her it was "somebody bigger than you or I" - referring to God - and that's when I got "the look."

Her smile disappeared. Her eyes glazed over and she rolled them a bit (even though she tried not to.) Her whole attitude changed from interested and engaged to merely polite. She moved her body a bit farther from me.

In that moment, I knew that I'd lost her: I'd lost her interest and I'd lost her respect. I was "one of THOSE." Every negative experience she'd ever had with super-zealot church people - and I am willing to bet there was a lifetime of them - was behind that look. I've seen it before, and quite frankly, I've felt as she did before. It's not a good feeling to feel on either side of the fence.

Now, I get that some people are going to react that way. I get that. Some might argue that it was just "persecution" - but I beg to differ because persecution is what believers are experiencing overseas in anti-christian regimes - people literally losing their heads over it. But this lady's reaction - that almost gut-sick response - got me to thinking about the years of hurt (likely from judgment, shame and guilt coming from so-called Christians) that went into how she lost interest so quickly, and that makes me so very angry. Jesus' message is about love and acceptance, forgiveness and hope - and the people who had interacted with her had most likely given her nothing but the opposite. That kind of bigotry, all done in the name of God, really scorches my tail-feathers.

Photo, "Little Boy Covering His Face"
courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at
I've often thought about how the way believers talk actually excludes and shuns people who might otherwise flock to us. All those hallelujahs and amens ... the little turns of phrase we learn in the organized church ... they all seem to be part of the secret-handshake kind of we're-in-you're-out mentality. And the judgment!!  One wonderful man told me his story of how, as a child, a church leader asked him how he was. He replied, "Good." The man immediately said, "Oh no you're not. 'There is none good, no not one.' " And he quoted the Scripture reference to back it up. I know that that verse is in the Bible, but how he used it was as a weapon, not anything else. In that moment, because of his judgment and condemnation, he lost that little boy for the gospel. It took that child years to recover from that kind of rejection, which he consistently got from everybody in the church (how sad!!), and it took him several decades to be able to start to accept God's love for him - and that was only because God Himself took the initiative. And that is only one person. How many thousands are like him? How many struggle with rejection every day of their lives because they've been hurt by someone who claimed to represent God?

How many people - when we stand before the Almighty One - will say to us, "You lost me"? How many could we have shown love to, but we were too high and mighty to stop our holiness marches long enough to care for them? How many times were we too busy proving we were right, and jumping on every single cuss word or behavior we didn't agree with? Is that really necessary? (God's a big boy, He doesn't need our protection, and I am pretty sure His Spirit does a far better job than we can of convincing people that He's real...) 

I'm talking to me, too - I've done it! Intending to show we are different, to stand out in the crowd, we end up doing nothing but pushing people away by telling them what they SHOULD be doing, and condemning them for NOT doing it. Wow... How tragic is that!

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