I like to think I’m a kind person, that deep down I have some degree of compassion bubbling in my heart like a holiday themed flavor of coffee. Perhaps a butternut toffee or peppermint stick swirl. But then something major happens and my true colors come out just like Cyndi Lauper promised they would. An economic downturn? A job loss or relationship crumbling? Nope, I’m talking about a major event, like someone asking to borrow my pen.
Last Monday I started a three day training event at work. Right before the class started, a guy at my table said, “Oh no, I forgot a pen.” I responded, “You’re definitely going to need one today.” Then I looked down at the three pens that were sitting in front of me and thought, “Did he see those already? I hope not. Is it too late to slide them back into my pocket so he doesn’t ask for one? Plus, he’s drinking a hot tea and has tissues. This guy has a cold and no pen. He’s about to ask me if he can germ up one of my pens all day.”
I ended up giving him one and after the class he immediately gave it back to me but I thought about the whereabouts and safety of that pen most of day. There was a free cheap one included in our training binder and I kept watching his face to see if he would notice it and say, “Oh, here’s a pen right here! Let me give this one back to you kind sir.” As silly and as superficial as that sounds, this is the same thing I do in church.
If we ever sit next to each other during service, and you ask me to borrow one of my pens, please know that I will be going through these five stages:
“That did not just happen. I brought a red pen for important notes, a black pen for regular notes and a few back ups in case they go dry during the middle of the sermon but I kept them hidden in my pocket. How did they even know to ask me for one? That did not just happen.”
“They should have brought their own pen. What am I Office Depot over here? I’m just supposed to bring pens and paper and other office supplies to church for you? And if I said no when you asked if I had a pen you could borrow, then I’m lying in church. So my two options are inappropriate anger and lying. Oh, and look at you, skating around the bulletin doodling. That’s what you needed my pen for today? To fill in the O’s and put a mustache on the picture of the steeple? That doesn’t even make sense, why would a church steeple have a handlebar mustache? You should be ashamed of yourself.”
”Maybe if I find them a different pen they’ll give me mine back. I mean I know it’s a Uniball Micro Vision which is the best type of pen there is, but maybe I could give them the cheapo pen my wife writes her checks with. Oh no, she didn’t bring in her purse and my church has refused to stock those little golf pencils in the back of their seats. Would it be so wrong for me to ask someone on the left side of me for a pen and then give their pen to the person on the right side of me? Is that neurotic or a stroke of a pen diplomacy genius?”
“I know what’s going to happen. God’s going to do something wonderful in this sermon that I’m going to need to write down and I won’t be able to. The pastor is going to say, ‘I’m only going to say this once, but here’s the secret to a super awesome life…’ and then my backup pens are going to fail me and I’ll be forced to try to scratch my sermon notes into the paper with my finger nail. I’ll try to remember it, I will, but by the time I hit the parking lot and start getting mad at the traffic team I will have forgotten what the pastor said. All hope is lost.”
“The pen is gone. Was it every really mine in the first place? You can’t ask someone for a pen back after church. You look so petty and unaffected by the sermon. The pen is gone. God gives and takes away. He really does.”
That’s horrible, right? I’m ridiculous, right? It’s just a pen, a stupid pen, but that’s not far from what I am thinking some Sunday mornings.
Am I the only one that has this kind of inner dialogue going on during church?
p.s. Atlanta readers, a friend at CBS46 mentioned they are doing a piece of God and miracles tonight at 11. She also said she would do a piece on Stuff Christians Like. OK, she didn’t that last part, but I’m pretty sure God wanted her to. Pretty sure indeed.