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Saturday, November 2, 2013

What It Meant To Me Today To Be A Christian



A little story about what it meant to me today to be a Christian.

For the most part my dead left ear is not obvious when I move, but when I change direction in a crowded place it becomes obvious. I shake and it's hard for me to keep my balance.

I got on a bus and the bus driver, rather than letting me take my seat before driving off – which most do – I carry a cane, they see that, they allow the time – the bus driver peeled out.

I was left unstable and fighting for balance. I struggled, obviously.

There IS a seat right near the door that is reserved for handicapped patrons. Anyone sitting there is supposed to surrender it if a handicapped person gets on.

An African American girl, about twenty, with elaborate, expensive braided hair, was yakking away on her cell phone. She could have easily surrendered the handicapped seat; there is a sign behind the seat advising passengers to do just that.

The girl could have easily moved. There were plenty of seats.

I stood for a long time, white knuckles gripping the handrail, struggling not to fall. I was trembling. My cane was hanging useless on the moving bus.

Finally the bus stopped for a red light and I was able to move again, to take a seat further back.

Here's the politically incorrect part: my observation is that African Americans and Hispanic Americans, pretty much the sole passengers on Paterson buses, do not regularly surrender their seats to the elderly or handicapped on Paterson buses.

This is in stark contrast to the Poland I lived in in 1988-89, where there was a race as soon as an even borderline older person got on the tram. Young men would pop up to offer the woman or handicapped person their seat. It was a point of honor and pride.

It shocks me. Big, strong guys, muscular, in sports attire, can be in the seats near the door, and a little old black lady, frail as a bird, dangling a cane can get on, and no one moves. They expect her to stand. Often it's me or some other demographically atypical passenger who seats her.

I don't understand this. I don't like it.

Anyway.

I sat behind the girl with the expensive hair and cell phone and stared daggers at the back of her head. I thought obscene words that I will spare you. I really hated her.

I did that for several seconds.

Then I thought, and I thought this, did not feel it, "You are a Christian and this is not allowed to you."

And so I stopped. Immediately.

Stopping didn't feel natural. My hatred, anger, and condemnation felt totally natural. I had a whole bucket-load of obscenities all primed for this girl and ready to roll down the chute.

I stopped.

Okay, what am I supposed to do?

Think of Jesus. On the cross. "Father, forgive them." If he can say that in that circumstance, you can say it in response to this girl's minor offense.

I said it, in my head. I forgive.

That's not enough, the little voice said. And all those verses about praying for your enemy rolled down the chute, instead of the swear words.

Pray for your enemies.

I did. I prayed for her.

I gotta tell ya – NONE of this changed how I felt. I felt condemnation. I was SURE that this girl was cruel and stupid.

And so I had a talk with myself. "You THINK you know what is going on in her head. You are so certain that she spitefully refused to move. You are wrong. You have NO IDEA what is going on in her head. You know nothing of her life. Stop projecting what you think she is into her. Your savior told you not to judge. This is what he meant. You do not know her. Her mind is not your business. Just forgive her, pray for her, and let go your arrogant thoughts of who she is and why she did what she did."

And I did. Because Jesus modeled this.

***

A few weeks back, I was walking across a parking lot. I turned my head, and saw a man and his wife SCREAMING at me with real hatred and condemnation.

"You knew! You knew! You knew I was trying to park here, you idiot! How could you be so stupid! Bitch!"

Huh? I stood, shocked, scared, staring at this screaming man and wife, my mouth agape.

I am deaf on my left side. This guy came up on my left and expected me to jump out of his way. I didn't and he barely missed running me over.

He judged me. He was certain that I am a really terrible person. He was certain that I had heard his car, and just waltzed into "his" space in order to torment him.

Not so. I am deaf, and that was my birthday, which I spent alone, and I was lost in unhappy thoughts.

Given that that man was so wrong in his judgment of me, how could I give in to my temptation to judge this girl?

***

That's it. I did not save the world today. I did not wash any lepers. Nothing in my observable behavior changed. But my inner thoughts changed, exactly because I am a Christian.

Millions, maybe billions, of people are making similar choices every day. Millions of Christians are saying, "Okay, I could kill this person, but I won't, because God doesn't want me to."

And I know other persons of faith, of other belief systems, are making similar choices. I *know* Muslims who make similar choices. Who decide to behave honorable in order to honor their own belief system.
***
I posted this because my Facebook friend Sandy posted anti-Christian material. This happens a lot. Many of my friends post anti-Christian material on Facebook. I just wanted to say, this is what it meant to me today to be a Christian.

2 comments:

  1. But with this blog, I think you did save a little piece of the world. I admire your willingness to be as open as you are, which is not something I often see among those who identify themselves as Christians. It's sad, really. Because I think we need to recognize we're part of the world, not simply apart from it. You've given pause for thought. And consideration of what forgiveness truly means: not indulging behaviors, nor necessarily forgetting them, but letting go of the anger and resentment. You rock.

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    Replies
    1. Jeff that's an incredibly kind thing for you to say. Thank you.

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