Uncomfortable moment of the day: I came to the Christian bookstore to help Vangie get set up for a VBS preview. First, that’s hard enough. I feel bad she has to keep walking into some of these places. It’s been years since I’ve frequented Christian bookstores, so either I’d forgotten how crass they were, or they’ve gotten a lot worse. Every possible effort to cheapen, over-simplify, obscure, nationalize, commercialize, and capitalize on the gospel is made. How many editions of the Bible are necessary (I’m not talking about translations, but editions—the MacArthur Study Bible, the Rainbow Study Bible, the American Patriot Bible, the Quest Bible, the NIV Essentials Study Bible, the Study Bible for Women, the Life Essentials Study Bible, the Apologetics Study Bible—all of these just on the 12’ shelf in front of me)? And, ta-rust me…that’s not the worst of it. I could spend weeks in here pointing out all the really awful stuff. But…I digress.
Anyhow, this guy came in with two kids—still in their jammies. My first thought, “Dude, give your kids some dignity. Jammies are for sleeping in, not going out into the world.” But here they are. Boy is about three, girl is just toddling. And…wow…they are poorly behaved.
Now, I don’t mean to judge. I really don’t want to. I know how hard it is to raise kids and how you can’t always control what they do and that raising well-behaved kids can require the like-minded effort all those involved in their lives (let him who has ears to hear hear) and that there may be a lot of reasons why kids are poorly behaved. I know all that. So, I’m trying to give the guy the benefit of the doubt.
These kids, however, were terrorizing the store. Running around, knocking things off the shelves, shouting, playing hide-and-seek, etc. You couldn’t have a conversation near them. And dad just thought it was adorable. I was working on my sermon on my computer and trying to concentrate—and even trying to give these kids the benefit of the doubt. I even tried to tell myself Jesus’ words, “Let the little children come to me.” I was trying to remind myself that Jesus loves little children.
It wasn’t working.
The moment came, though. The test. At one point the kids are shouting right next to me…jumping around, falling over, and dad has told the three year old to keep an eye on his sister at least six times. That’s when he turned to his boy and said, “You sure are full of energy today, aren’t you?” And the boy said, “Yeah, dad.” Dad said, “I like that.” And the boy said, “Aww…thanks, dad.”
Are you kidding me?
But that wasn’t the moment. It came a few minutes later. I had managed not to roll my eyes. I had managed to mind my own business. I was actually feeling pleased that I had handled that so well and kept my opinion to myself. I have worked really hard about not giving my opinion unless the context implies my opinion is called for. But then, at the crescendo of their behavior, the dad turned to me and said, “They’re not bothering you, are they?”
“Oh my God,” I thought. “What do I say?” PANIC! Do you ever have those moments when it’s not that you don’t have any idea what to say but that you’re so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things to say that your mind sort of freezes? It was like my mind was suddenly trying to process 14 gigabytes of information with a 256k processor. My shocked expression must have been the facial equivalent of the blue-screen of death.
I…just…didn’t…know…what…to…say. I tried to recall the statement from Jesus in Matthew 10: “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” You’d think that with all these Study Bibles around, surely I should have remembered the context of Jesus’ statement—the persecution of his disciples by the enemies of God. But these kids, although certainly behaving like cute little hellions—and, although certainly testing my faith—couldn’t be enemies of God, could they? My only clue was that the Holy Spirit was not giving me “what to say.” This wasn’t the moment Jesus was referring to.
So, I looked at him blankly, looked back at my computer, looked at the chaotic ball of arms, legs, dust, and innocence terrorizing the store, tried not to make eye contact with him and guessed, “Um…I don’t know?”
I thought, “Oh no, I’ve made it obvious! This can’t be good. Surely, he knows that I’ve guessed he’s a horrible father.” I almost immediately apologized. I don’t want to be that kind of guy who makes other people feel bad about the choice to raise their children to be demons. I felt guilty…horrible…as if I’d betrayed everything I was ever taught. The room began to spin. I was ready to throw up. What will he say?
I slowly turned (he was standing behind the chair I was sitting on) and uncomfortably made eye contact with the air above his head…my eyebrows raised in a passive-aggressive expression which said both, “I’m sorry” and “God, help me.” What will he do? Will he storm off in a huff? Will he tell me off? Will he challenge me to a duel?
“Oh…good!” he said. That’s the trouble with passive aggression. It is not passive OR aggressive. I could have handled the situation with grace or just told the truth and ticked the guy off. Either one would have been preferable to this. Now, I’m stuck. I am neither hot nor cold. I could feel myself being spewed from the mouth of the Lord.
Well…apparently it was time to go. So, they left. And the stillness they left in their wake was thought-provoking. The questions abounded. What will come of those children? Where are they going next? Should the authorities be alerted? And most importantly, how will I handle the next time?
I have decided to devote myself to prayer and supplication.