Throwback -Circa 2001!
I just spent three hours sitting in an old house turned coffee shop listening to men and women old and young pour out there hearts before a room of people, some strangers, others friends, but people nonetheless. The talent ranged from very little to enormous proportions, but the authenticity of that room could not be measured.
I watched as a man taunting seventy years of age strummed awkwardly on his miniature guitar that he kept in the cardboard box that it come in. His fingers never formed any type of chord on the fret board, but he strummed on as if he were singing for an entire theater. As he plucked away aimlessly he sang of a better time, a better place. He told of loved ones who had passed on and of memories quickly fading. And through his unrefined voice I heard a man desperately crying out for significance, for purpose. I saw the eyes of a war-torn soldier and the arms of a well embracing father. But who was this man now? This elder with an old American flag cap who sang of social injustice become the object of snickering among those who found his demeanor and performance humorous. This combatant for meaningful existence nearing the last pulls of his life was reduced to a senseless bum in the minds of many surrounding him.
How does that happen? How can we be so quick to pass judgment and even worse, categorization on someone while having such little understanding of a person? Granted some are harder to understand or even figure out than others, but shouldn’t that effort, at the very least, be shown before consideration of coming to an opinion is even entertained?
That evening I saw as people read for the first time, their very deep and dark thoughts, some selfish, some selfless, and asked that room not to judge. I listened as both left and right extremists carried on about this and that of political nature. I saw the eyes of girlfriend’s light up to a moderate shine at the sight of their companion up front on that stool as they sang away, regardless of the skill level that was displayed. I saw years of devotion, as well as very first steps. But most evidently, I saw pain.
It is an interesting event to be allowed so invitingly into the minds and hearts of someone, especially a group of someones I had never met before. I think I became aware again that night of why I so long to do ministry. Pain isn’t a disease that merely needs some cure; it’s an inevitability, and a way of life for many who long for something to hold onto. Who long for meaning, and spend sleepless nights scribbling in their notebook in hopes of finding that meaning through their words, wishing that someone would love them without abandon. Isn’t that what ministry is? I hope and pray that our ministers and pastors, and Christians, and people in general for that matter, are not merely looking in the face of hurt and instinctively formulating a prescription for results. Shame on myself for ever considering that a possible course of action.
I learned a lot from seeing what I saw that night. It’s instilled a new but familiar passion in me for authenticity in all that I do. I would elaborate, but I’m not sure I know how.
I suppose I’ll just rest in that.