I’ve neglected to post here for a while. Life got away from me. I suspect that sometimes there is so much that I want to say that I don’t know where to begin so I turn inward and say nothing. Just sit back and observe.
I have written a lot on my other blog during my time away here, and I wonder if it’s because my ‘voice’ there feels different to me. It’s easier for me to open up sometimes in the space I’ve created over there. Sometimes I feel stifled, even censored, in this space. Isn’t that funny? One thing I never discuss on my other blog is my relationship with God–my faith. It’s a foundational part of my identity, but I don’t discuss it. It informs every part of who I am, however, so I really can’t leave it out even if my words don’t include Him. The book of Esther in the Old Testament never once mentions God, but it’s impossible not to see God’s presence in the circumstances. That’s something I think about…often.
I recently incorporated, and I have two business partners. One of my business partners I see almost daily. She describes herself as a “recovering Catholic” and agnostic. We do most of our work in her home, but on weekends we work in a certain café. Cafés are interesting venues because people will often linger for hours chatting, discussing, and hanging out forgetting that all the other patrons can hear their every word. We’ve heard some very interesting and colorful discussions.
One Sunday afternoon not so long ago, I went to the counter to order a coffee. I noticed a young man attempting to stand in line in front of me, but he seemed to have a problem forming a proper queue. He was quite fidgety and acted very aware of himself, running his fingers through his shaggy, blond hair. I thought he might be self-conscious or anxious. He was dressed like all the twenty-something hipsters–skinny jeans, canvas loafers, plaid shirt and jacket. He hadn’t shaved that morning. I guess he was good-looking, but I’m well beyond finding college-aged dudes attractive. He looked over his shoulder at me and sized me up. “Real nice,” I thought. Finally, he approached the counter to order, and he was rude. He proceeded to engage in odd stretching like behavior, extending his leg to stretch his calf, leaning on the counter, tossing his shaggy hair, then stretching upward and to the side. I sighed and rolled my eyes. (Inner monologue: “Right. Yoga class is next door, my friend. Just order your coffee from the poor barista!” ) He finally finished showing off and didn’t even say ‘thank you’ to the girl behind the counter. He tossed me another smug look as he swaggered to his club chair where it looked like a friend was waiting for him. When it was finally my turn to order, the poor girl behind the counter gave me a relieved smile.
As I went back to my table to work with my co-writer, I had to pass Mr. I-Don’t-Know-How-To-Behave-In-Public, and he smirked at me and gave me the “once over”. You know, looked me over from head to toe in a very lascivious way. Every woman knows it when she sees it, and you know how it feels. You feel objectified and gross. Like you want to boil yourself in oil. It isn’t flirtatious or desired. No one wants to be leered at while they’re trying to do their work, and he leered. Repeatedly.
Recall what I said about conversations in cafés? You can hear them. In the middle of this guy leering at me he was having a discussion with his buddy. What was he discussing? His graduation from seminary. His life as a new pastor. The new church he was planting. The small groups he was leading. How he was really enjoying being mentored by an older pastor. His male friend would interrupt with some real conversation about his life. He had some authentic desire for God, but this young pastor always had a ready answer. Some pithy comeback that was supposed to make it all better. Essentially, his platitude was: “Try harder” and because he had the seminary degree his friend believed him. Did his friend notice that every time I got up to get a napkin or a cup of water all conversation would stop because this pastor was undressing me with his eyes? I don’t know.
The moment that this young pastor stopped the conversation to pray for his friend in the middle of a busy café was the moment that my agnostic business partner was ready to throw something. Why? She had heard every word that dude said, and she was a witness to all his behavior. The headline in her brain would read something like this:
Lusty Young Pastor Pushes Own Agenda on Needy Friend at Local Café
Here was a young man trying to get seed money for a church plant from a friend on a Sunday afternoon, and his friend opened up to him about legitimate needs in his life. What does this young pastor do? He told him that “everyone has issues.” He went on to say that he was in a small group wherein there was a woman with so many problems that he thought she was actually crazy. He used those words–“crazy”. His solution? To just pray for his friend in the café. Loudly. He drew so much attention to the two of them that the atmosphere in the café became charged with discomfort and nervousness.
It all ended with another leer…at me.
My friend witnessed this. All of this. She looked at me incredulously. What was I going to say? To the rest of the patrons in the café, that’s supposed to be Christianity in action, and there was absolutely nothing Christlike about that interaction. That was pure ego on display. Nothing else. His loud, Christianese-filled prayer? All about him. Meant to make others think how “godly” he must be.
I could pick apart every nuance of what I observed and tell you why Jesus wasn’t a part of it, but what would be the point? In the end, I should not have to explain to a friend why an encounter with an openly “Christian” Christian is the epitome of UN-Christian behavior. Sadly, I find myself needing to do this more and more lately.
Like yesterday…three women were sitting next to us at that same café gossiping about all the women that attend their church: “Did you SEE what she was wearing? She must be going through something because her hair doesn’t look good lately. I hate to be the one to say it, but I think I’m going to be the one who needs to say it…I hate getting prayer requests from those people…Oh, Lord bless them, but…”
For two hours. Two hours. And one of them actually said: “Don’t you hate being associated with people who make the church look bad?”