as i determined what words to use
i quickly built up my wall
of preconceived notions
as to who this man was and what he wanted
my neck stiffened and my stomach tightened.
i felt safe…i was just annoyed.
i didn’t want to encounter what
i suspected would be a rant of theological perspectives
designed to put me in my place.
i’ve lived through enough of those in my life.
but none the less i told him i was a minister.
and none the less i told him
what kind of church I serve.
and none the less i shared
with him a bit of my personal story.
and none the less
i finished talking
and waited for his retort
his GOD loves me but put me in my place speech.
but that’s not what he did.
he didn’t do what i expected.
then offered back words
that seemed so very personal in nature
as if he had known me for a very long time
words that sounded a lot like
the ones we speak in the church i serve.
“i believe GOD is love
and that is all there is to it.
i believe GOD loves us inwardly
despite what others see on the outside.”
i told him he could come preach for us.
but he didn’t answer
he just listened some more.
when we arrived at my car in the parking lot
he got up from his seat to help me with my bag
but instead of grabbing my bag
he extended his hand to me
and asked if he could pray with me.
and though i was still very touched
by the words he had already spoken
i still flinched and thought to myself
this is when I’m going to feel the sting of his judgment.
he spoke eloquent,
powerful words of acceptance,
healing and care and hope and peace.
he didn’t rush
he took his time
time enough for me to let down my wall
and hear what
what my guarded heart
would not let me hear minutes earlier.
then the encounter was over and i got in my car
and like the three wise royal ones of the past,
i went home a different way.
oh, i followed the same roads home
but as i drove over the walt whitman bridge
and then up the atlantic city expressway
i felt the difference.
to be continued...