The Scene of the Grime

bedroom-389254_640I live in a home that always looks like it’s  ready for an open house. Everything is in its place, there is no dust anywhere, and you could eat off the floor. It’s like that because my lovely bride, Denise, and I are anal retentive (I wish the psychologists would come up with a nicer name for that). In our worst moments, the place looks like a mess to us, but most anyone else walking in would die for that kind of neatness. We can have it all straightened out in about five minutes.

Of course I’m exaggerating slightly, but only slightly. We can be slobs just like anyone else (well, maybe not ANYONE else)…but close. I guess “messy” is a relative term—relative to the amount of mess we’re willing to put up with. I’m never really embarrassed about being such a neat freak. In fact, sometimes I’m downright proud of it. I’m a Zuchelli after all—my Mom and Dad would be proud.

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But I’m a part of the church. The church is messy in her best moments. In fact, neatness is a sign of a church that’s not doing her job. Think about it. Who do we deal with in ministry? Sinners! Sinners are messy. Dealing with sinners is a messy business. That’s because sin is messy. I suppose that’s why many local fellowships would rather bypass the whole dealing-with-sinners thing. Of course what they’re forgetting is this—they’re sinners too.

I’m not sure why we think we’re squeaky clean. But I AM sure we often do. That’s a really bad position in which to place yourself if you’re a church that wants to make a difference. Who in the world do we think we are? Not sinners, apparently.

The fact is, church, you’re full of sinners. You come from the same place the other sinners came from. Except for Jesus, you’re headed the same place you think they’re headed. What did you do to deserve the right to keep your hands clean? Why do you think you can ignore those who need your presence in their lives. Did you do something special to earn that little dispensation? I think not.

Jesus died for you to be set free. If I read the Bible correctly, you’re not the only one for whom he died. You are now a vehicle for his grace to arrive in the life of someone you might not like—or even detest—another sinner, perhaps. Heaven forbid! Actually, Heaven forbid we deny that little fact.

Time to get with it, church. Don’t you think?

Am I Okay?

OKOKIn my last blog, Are You Okay?, I referenced a little kid who looked like Renee Zellweger’s son in the movie Jerry Maguire. I saw him in the men’s locker room of my local gym. He put me to shame because of his caring attitude. What I didn’t tell you is why he was in the locker room.

After the interlude I had previously described, I continued getting dressed. When I was about ready to head out the door, I noticed he was still there—all by himself. Little kids in the locker room are not unusual sights. A little kid in the locker room all by himself IS. But even though it’s not something I normally see, I didn’t pay attention to the fact it was out of the ordinary. In short, I didn’t really care. He was outgoing enough to let me know the reason.

He asked if I had seen a guy that “looked like a beach boy with blonde hair.” At the time, I found the question a tad amusing, but I assured him I hadn’t. He then asked disgustedly in a loud and rather gruff voice for an eight year old, “Where IS he?” I could only assume at the time he wasn’t asking me since I had no idea who he was talking about. Then he ran out of the locker room shouting someone’s name at the top of his lungs asking where he was.

At that point, I began to care a little. It was only “a little” because I knew there were other adults around who could, and undoubtedly would, help him. After all, it was their job to do so. So I went home.

Yet, the whole thing continued to gnaw away at my psyche. What’s the matter with me? Am I okay? Why don’t I care more? I’m a caring Christian, right? Well, I call myself one. Unfortunately, all too often I don’t care. Actually, to state it correctly, I care, but not enough to do anything. Unless a situation catches me at the right time (what I often call a moment of weakness), I don’t care.

When I think of the moments I don’t really care, I try to assuage my guilt by telling myself about all the times I HAVE “made a difference in someone’s life” by his or her own admission. Then I mentally add a few more instances of my obvious caring by assuming people just never said anything. I haven’t broken my arm by patting myself on the back yet.

There are entire congregations that refer to themselves as “a caring church.” I hope they’re correct in their self-assessment. My hopes may well be unfounded. Too many of us care about ourselves. Some of us care about others within the fellowship of the church. Far too many of us leave our caring at the door on the way out of worship (which makes me wonder sometimes if it’s really worship at all).

Are You Okay?

I realize I don’t look like it, but I go to the gym at least three times a week (and yes, I work out when I’m there—quit laughing!). One day after my workout, steam room and shower, I was getting dressed in the men’s locker room. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a little boy. I didn’t pay any attention to him because there are always little boys around taking swimming lessons, etc. Sometimes they swarm the locker room like a bunch of termites.

So I was minding my own business when the little kid says to me, “Is that smoke?” I’m a little hard of hearing, so I turned to him, looked him straight in the face so I could read his lips, and said, “What did you say?” He repeated, “Is that smoke?”

kid-with-glassesI will always remember this kid because he reminded me of the little boy in the movie, Jerry Maguire. He was probably no more than eight years old. Everything about him emphasized his head. His body type, his haircut, and his big glasses all drew attention to his head, which seemed too large for him. I will also remember him for what happened next.

I finally realized what he was asking about. The steam room was only a few feet away, and one of the custodians was in there with the door open, hosing it down. The steam was barreling out and it, indeed, looked like smoke. I reassured him it was only water mist and steam (hot water) that he saw. I assumed that would allay his fears and went back to what I was doing.

A few seconds later, I heard him say to the custodian, “Are you okay?” He was genuinely concerned that the custodian was in trouble, and I immediately felt embarrassed. It wasn’t that I was uncaring in that situation, because there was nothing to worry about. It was that this little kid, in his innocence, was showing a deep caring about his fellow human being. In that moment I realized that was a side of me that didn’t show up enough—even in situations that demanded real caring.

The other thing that bothered me about all this was what will probably happen to this little kid in the future. We (meaning society) will probably teach him to curb the caring bit. We will squelch his caring with the “reality” that, if you care too much, you will get hurt or taken. We will teach him, at least to a large extent, not to care. We will do it, of course, “for his own protection.” It seems such a shame.

It seems to me that the church has fallen into the same trap. We’ve got too much to protect, so we protect whatever it is we think we have by not caring. I may be overstating that a bit, but probably not too much. Do you agree? Please prove me wrong.