“I’ve got something for you!” you say, with all the giddy certainty of an As-Seen-On-TV salesman. “GOD has given me a picture of you, and I see… I see…” – pause for dramatic effect – “…YOU standing in a high place. You’re… looking out… over the world, or maybe your own life. This is important. This is a message. What does it mean to you?”
“Um…” Wrinkling her brow. Shifting from one foot to another. The smile firmly fixed in place now.
“Maybe you need to change your viewpoint, so you can see more clearly.” All eyes are on her now, searching, intense, as if, by simply looking, you might unmask her very soul.
“O…Kay…” She’s freaking out now, but far too polite, too Canadian to break. “Refill?”
You sat in the booth behind us at White Spot. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but at least two of you have loud preachy voices and I heard some familiar churchy buzz words sprinkled liberally throughout the discussion. I cringed a little at the tone of your conversation, but I understood…
I came from that world. Although many of my beliefs have evolved, I still visit from time to time. I used to work for one of the most aggressive evangelical organizations in the world. Once upon a time, I was you.
When the pretty server came to your table, you took her hostage. Not with guns or threats, but with words. Loud, preachy, bizarre words. Especially coming from such a large group of young people. You “prophesied” over her. You “spoke God’s encouragement into her life” while she tried to politely back away. You asked intrusive personal questions. You tag-teamed her. It went on and on.
It wasn’t pleasant, seeing it from the outside. I searched my memory for hints that I had ever acted like this. Thankfully, what I came up with wasn’t nearly so obnoxious or odd. But still… embarrassing.
Didn’t you see? The tense smiles, the nervous laughter, the stiff body language… not just hers, but everyone around you. Didn’t you notice? That you were preventing her from doing her job. That there were tables of people waiting impatiently for her attention. That her manager was shooting angry looks her way. Didn’t you care? That she was incredibly uncomfortable. That everyone nearby was also. That the family behind you was falling apart, both littles crying as we waited an extra 20 minutes for both the bill and the ice cream they were promised.
Granted, my personal irritation plays a big part here. With our nice family outing descending into chaos, as Dad hauls one out to the van and I encourage the other to stop crying and hold it, just a few more minutes, until I can pay (she didn’t by the way, but I can’t blame her for this potty training fail). I’d take it on the chin if I knew you’d actually done some good in the world. But all you did was offend and alienate a stranger, and cause a crowd of people to shake their heads and turn up their noses in disgust at “those ridiculous Christians.” You made us all look bad.
The uncharitable part of me assumes that you’re enamoured with the sound of your own voice; that you’re showing off, intentionally or unconsciously. If I give you the benefit of the doubt, then you really did want to encourage her. I remember my own burning desire to truly please God and help others, channelled into the same pushy ethos; strong enough, even, to override polite Canadian reserve.
Whether it was pseudo-spiritual posturing or legitimate reaching out, you didn’t love your neighbour well. As you walked out the restaurant with us, I saw you congratulate each other, certain that you had forced some sort of revelation on that poor girl. I could have shaken you, every one of you.
That’s not what it’s about. You need to REPRESENT. Not just me, though I follow the same God in my own way. Not just your particular brand of Jesus. But the Man himself. The man who said the highest commandment, next to loving God, was to love others.
Love. No agenda. No disrespect. No selfishness.
I hope, at least, that you left a hell of a tip.
So here’s me, a recovering evangelical. I’m sorry for all the ways we make people uncomfortable. I’m sorry if I’ve ever done that to you. We mean well, we really do. Please forgive us.
This is my contribution to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Dialogue