The church I take the boys to Sunday School is not my favorite place of worship. In fact, sometimes, I feel as if I’m missing out sometimes… there are a couple of other places with awesome choirs, fabulous speakers that leave a mark so deeply that they leave you pondering all week long, and maybe, with a new vision that could change your life… forever. I love the pomp and circumstance of church. I always have.
But I don’t go to those churches, because I take the boys where their friends go. I’ve taken them to those other fabulous churches with the high cathedral ceilings. Yet, they insist on being with their friends. Giving them a good experience at church is more important to me right now. So, I have given up my favorite churches.
I sit in a second rate Sunday school class on a folded metal chair, while the boys are in their Sunday school classes. Sunday school is offered “boutique” style there… you pick and choose from a wide variety of topics. I picked the most general class… “Your Abundant Life.” Based upon the verse in John 10:10 “I came to give you life and that you might have it more abundantly.”
Each week, I am shocked that this ordinary man is able to pour so much into a Sunday school class… time flies by, and I leave, actually believing that maybe I did sit in a fabulous sanctuary to listen to a great orator. Funny how God always meets you where you are with a blessing, without even asking for one.
When the teacher is absent, he sends in reinforcements. These are men that come from another church, that no one in the class, except for the teacher, actually really knows. The men tell us they have been “working with our teacher on the lessons all year.” Hmmmmm… so he has a team of researchers working behind the scenes.” What a production this class is. And there are fewer of us sitting there that we can count on two hands.
Once, a man walked in, our substitute teacher. He too had been working with our regular teacher on the lesson plans. This man was very tall, impeccably groomed, and his clothes were almost “perfect.” He shoes were polished, even though he was casually dressed in blue jeans.
He opened his Bible… it was one of those big ones, with a zipper. He needed that zipper… because inside of that zipper, the pages were literally falling out of his Bible. One page, in particular, had a well-worn hole in the center — a small one –but a worn hole, like you would find on the bottom of your sock. Other pages did not have one single straight edge left on any of the three edges.
I couldn’t take my eyes of that Bible. From that point on, everything that came out of his mouth was filtered through the lens of his Bible. He could have had a new Bible by now.
This Bible did not match his shoes.
“What scripture was on that page that was so worn,” I wondered? Was it a Psalm? Was it a promise in Isaiah?” I couldn’t imagine. I wanted to pick that Bible up, and peruse it as if it were an archaeological find of how one can live one’s life. What passages were so important that they deserved red markers? I finally stopped staring at his Bible, and looked up at him as he began to talk… slowly and quite measured. This was something, I believe, he worked at. He talked about “taking every thought captive.” And this, I believed, he had to will himself to do, with every word. To say he was kind was an under-statement. He was “other wordly” kind.
At that point, I could have been in a Cathedral, as I listened to the man speak. Who cares about metal folding chairs.
This was a man that gripped the pages of his Bible as if it were a life preserver. Something, life, probably, threw him in the gutter, and I couldn’t stop myself from imaging all the other things he could have gripped. A person. Alcohol. The promise of the roll of the dice. A career. An education. But this man grabbed a Bible — maybe after all of those other things finally gave way — or maybe it was the first thing he grabbed when the storm tossed him.
But I know he’s not letting go. He doesn’t have a new Bible, so he can remember what life was like before.
Kirsetin asked me to jump in on a discussion on this quote: “You can either practice being right or practice being kind.” – Anne Lamott.
It is kind of me to take the kids to the church they like. Did I suffer? Have I suffered? No. I got the greater blessing — one that would have never discovered on my own.
Practice being kind.