At my college, the end of the winter semester was in about mid-April, so if Easter was late (as it was that year), it came pretty close to the end-of-term deadlines and papers and such. Also, I was going abroad that May to England, so all of the getting-prepared-to-travel-for-a-month things were added to my usual scholastic freak-0ut. I was a mess, and as Lent wound toward Easter and school, travel, and faith worries collided with ever-increasing regularity, my friends decided there needed to be a bit of an intervention.
Two of them checked that I didn’t have anywhere I absolutely needed to be one evening and showed up in my room saying they were kidnapping me. And they did, sort of; they blindfolded me and guided me to a car, turning up music so I couldn’t hear anything we were passing. I was super disoriented and, as a control freak, more than a little nervous, but they were insistent that I just let them handle things. After about 15 minutes of driving around to disorient me further, the car stopped and they helped me climb ungracefully out. We had come to a wonderful Chinese restaurant in the town next to our college; they bought me dinner and refused to talk about anything related to school or God. Later we went for milkshakes and did the Electric Slide in the parking lot and walked along the river, and then we each went back to our rooms and our lives and our deadlines.
That is what love looks like—well, at least one of its faces. Those two had their own deadlines and worries and stresses; one was a theatre gal and was just finishing a show, the other was fighting her own battles with whether or not she wanted to take her theology major toward ordination some day. But they understood that I could not handle the patterns I was creating for myself and stepped in to say, “Let me pull you out that you might better see what you can and can’t do.”
Another example: about a week and a half before Easter, I went to see a show on campus called Fish Eyes by a comedy duo called Ted and Lee. In every way this was a direct violation of my Lenten promise; it was a Christian show about Jesus and the disciples, which was about as about-God as I could have wanted. But by that time, I was beginning to figure out my original God-less goal wasn’t quite what I had thought it would be on Ash Wednesday, so what the hell. I went.
And I laughed—loudly, because after 20 or so years in choir I have a diaphragm to make myself heard in Egypt. It’s something I’ve never really been able to tone down—and that can be fine, and Lee even told me after the peformance that the two of them considered loud laughers saints. I totally enjoyed myself because it was a good, funny show, but the main thing that I got out of it was that this Jesus that Ted and Lee were talking about, this Christianity that they were able to laugh at and have fun with; well, that was a different kettle of fish. This Jesus was funny and mystical and, well, human—and God-like at the same time.
I’d come across this idea before, about thinking of Jesus not as the unreachable spiritual king of this huge religion but as a guy who lived and led some people and gave some talks and was pretty genuinely awesome in the original sense of “awe-inspiring” awesome. And I’d thought about the disciples several times before—even talked about it with some of my friends at Bible Tuesday—as just regular guys that were caught up in some pretty irregular and extraordinary events. So here I was sitting in an auditorium as a self-proclaimed agnostic, “hardened” by almost forty days in a God-less world…and I was falling in love with the man that these comedians were talking about.
I don’t mean to say at all that right then I said yes, Lord, come on back in! My pride was still in gear, and I had a week and a half left of Lent. But I do mean to say that this guy, this Jesus? I don’t think He was what I set out to give up. He attracted people like me; sarcastic, cynical, and sharp-witted Peter, doubting Thomas, prideful James and John, Andrew who was always a few mental steps behind…they found something in this guy, this Jesus. He had a “glow”, Ted and Lee (as Andy and Pete) said, a certain “glow” about Him. Maybe He was the One.
Maybe He was, I found myself thinking.
After the performance I walked home with one of my podmates, the one with the theology major. Somehow we got to talking about vocation and she was telling me about how it frustrated her that everyone seemed to think that she was going to be in the ministry. She wasn’t sure she wanted that, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do at all, and she had gotten tired of everyone else knowing for her.
“Is there just something I’m not seeing here?” she asked me.
“No,” I said. “I don’t know that you should be a minister. I mean, I could see you as a minister, but I don’t know that that’s what you have to do.” I told her that maybe people always told her she should be a minister because that’s the side of her that they saw. The side that I saw was the side that wanted people to understand, that delighted in people learning something that she herself was passionate about, that found joy in finding others who loved what she loved; more professor than minister. “It’s all about the people you hang out with and what they see of you,” I told her. “Come hang around us agnostics, we see you differently.” She chuckled and thanked me and as I was heading back to my room, it struck me that really, everything is ministry if you spin it right because it’s about loving the other person, and what I had just done for her was a type of ministry.
I hate when God gets inventive.
To be continued…