Sunday, May 20, 2012

On Stage . . . Without a Script: Act I

I've heard it from others . . . and I mean besides Shakespeare . . . that life is like a movie or play (stage) and that we are all actors within.  For  me personally, I feel at times, that I am on a movie set, everyone knows their roles, the personas they play and of course the script, but I'm walking around the stage like a lost boy who has never read his lines and is confused by the story. I get lost in the confluent flow of the world around leaving me only trying to react to it. I've had many reoccurring dreams where I'm on stage of a major production and I haven't a clue what is going on (plus I'm in my underwear).

I've heard others describe this type of alienation as well. I'm not sure what it means. But if I lost you, I wanted to illustrate with a story, a fictional story, but based on many personal experiences. I will see how this works out and if it doesn't go very far I will abort. Remember this is fiction and I'm not talking about any recent event but a collage of prior ones. This will be a series of posts. If it starts to look too much like the one I did about the subtle art of spiritual abuse then I will know I've gotten off target.

In the vestibule on a Sunday morning I approach the pastor, whom I will call "John."

ME: "Hey, I've been thinking about doing a course with the youth about critical thinking and the role that philosophical belief can have in pop culture. Then how to sort out particular philosophical beliefs from basic and essential Christian concepts."

JOHN: Sipping from a Styrofoam cup, "That sounds really interesting.  Why don't we discuss it at the coffee shop this week."

ME: "Sure. When?"

JOHN: "What about next Saturday morning?"

ME: "Great, what time?"

JOHN: "I get up early, what about six thirty AM?"

ME: "That's a bit early for me on a Saturday, what about seven thirty?"

JOHN: "Fine, I'll see you at seven thirty at the coffee shop."  Then he immediately leaves to join another conversation.

Saturday morning comes.  I have my materials in my backpack and take off the the coffee shop. I get there at 7:00 AM, get my coffee and take a seat. I wait . . . and wait . . . and wait.  At 8:30 AM I realize the pastor isn't coming. I tried calling him twice. He doesn't answer. He does have caller ID on his phone as he always answers with my first name such as, "Hello Dan."

I jump in my car and drive up towards the pastor's house. As I approach, I see John out beside his house in his house coat, like he just got up. He was putting water in the humming bird feeder.  It is clear that as soon as he gets a glimpse of my bright yellow (unmistakable) Jeep, he quickly darts into the garage and stands in the dark, just out of sight as I drive by.  I felt really awkward . . . I should have stopped and confronted him, hiding in the garage . . . but at the moment I was so confused I kept driving.

For the remainder of the day I felt confused. What did that mean? Where my eyes tricking me? I don't think they were . . . so why was he avoiding me?

The next day at church, it was just like nothing had happened. The pastor even preached on "Faithfulness in the little things."  I tried to catch him in the vestibule and he was busy . . . always on the other side of the room

I called him and left several messages . . . he never called back.  I would have let it go, but the I had a chance encounter at a football game.  We went up the bleachers and I sat down beside him.

"Hi pastor."

"Good to see you."

I sat in silence, making the moment as awkward as I could.  Finally he spoke, "Uh . . . well, have you had anymore thoughts about helping us with Sunday school?  I think we could use a fill in for the adult group when Ted is away."

I felt very puzzled. "Hmm . . . I never considered the adult class. What were your thoughts about my ideas with the youth?"

JOHN: "Oh, you were talking about trying to teach them philosophy . . . right?"

ME: "No not really, just about discernment and more how to think, how to think as a Christian . . . actually as a person."

JOHN: "I just asked Ralph and Linda yesterday to co teach the youth. (Linda was a 34 year old single mom of a 12 year old and Ralph, a personal friend and father of three teenagers).

I watched the game for a while but I had a million thoughts going through my head. Finally I brought it up again, "Didn't you want me to teach the class?  I mean, you didn't show up for our meeting at the coffee shop. Where you trying to avoid me?"

JOHN: (laughing) "Avoiding you? No of course not. I was waiting to hear back from you. You said you wanted to get together and then you said you would call with the times but you never did."

ME: "John, you set up a specific time, which was 7:30, and then you didn't come. I drove by your house and I saw you hiding in your garage.  I'm just confused."

My wife Cindy is pinching my arm and I look at her and she is frowning at me. John, in the mean time is looking very confused.

JOHN: "I have no clue what you are talking about. I was out of the house before 6 as I was doing chaplain call up at the hospital."

I replay in my mind what I had seen . . . or thought I had seen the previous Saturday. But I was confident about it. I saw him dart into the garage as plain as day.  I didn't bring it up again at the ballgame. On the way home Cindy spoke up, "What's wrong with you?  You heard the pastor, he wasn't even home on Saturday. Why are you accusing him of avoiding you. You know he said he has already assigned the youth Sunday school class to Ralph and Linda. Just fill in for the adults like he offered."

ME: "Cindy, I don't mean to make a big deal about this. Teaching the youth was just an idea. But more than that, I'm confused why the pastor was avoiding me and now is lying about it?"

CINDY: "Avoiding you?  I think you are becoming paranoid. Just drop it!  You made John very uncomfortable tonight.  Why do you always stir up trouble?"

ME: "I don't want to stir up trouble but I just don't understand. I don't know what his behavior means?"

CINDY: "Drop it!  You heard John, he wasn't even home. You were mistaken. Let it go, Dan! Let it go."

1 comment:

Philip said...

I love your use of story to illustrate your points. You do it so well!

If I was that pastor, I'd jump at the chance to have youth taught how to think critically.

I agree with one of your earlier posts, that one of the major reasons young adults are leaving the church is because they've been lied to.

Which touches on a bigger subject for me which you address all the time. Many Christians are afraid of questions because they think doubts demonstrate lack of faith.

I do my best to encourage doubt that will grow faith, whenever I can. If I have to play the devil's advocate, I will. Because Christians have got to start not only thinking, but believing that God is real enough to deal with doubts. It's flat out just about what the entire Bible is about, in my opinion.

And one other thought: I'm finding that the big doubts rarely if ever have simple logical answers, they seem to have highly relational, experiential and logical answers. And my guess is lots of Christians are afraid of wading in to all of that.

Of course it's easy to lob stones at Christians isn't it. But many are doing a good job at addressing doubts head on, and living authentically with questions. I think of Keller as one of these types, and am glad he's gotten so popular.

Thanks Again!