Friday, April 9, 2010

Is there a pastor here I could talk to?

When I hear these words from outside my office door, I put down my sermon or book and turn to see The Stranger.

The cynic in me prepares for an embellished story about a relative's funeral in South Dakota and how they need gas money to get there and how they've tried all the social services in town and no one can help. (Some even add a frosted layer on top of their story like, "The other pastor has helped me when I've come here before" or, "I just thought the church would be the place to turn since you guys are in the business of helping widows and orphans".)

Today, it was a big, bleary-eyed fella who had hard work spelled into his hands and face. He wanted to see a pastor because he is piecing is life back together after a break up and a few weeks of sobriety. He doesn't believe in much of anything and couldn't quite explain why he'd dared to come inside this limestone fortress.

He wasn't after the tangibles: a bus ticket or gas card or diapers.
He was in search of the big answers: faith and hope and love.

These are the people who sit down in my office and ask if they can close the door a crack. Then they unload their sins, waiting for me to look appalled or to tell them that grace does not apply in these circumstances. They name their shame and loneliness. They speak of lost dreams and the way each day teeters between sobriety and letting it all go to hell.

His phone rang twice and then he had to go back to work. His lunch break was over. I invited him back next week and before he left, I gave him God's promise:
There is nothing you could walk in here and tell me that would make God write you off. Every time you've run to a dark place, God has both already been there and followed you - ever present and waiting for you to come home. You mentioned several times that you have given up on God, but if you can remember one thing about today, remember that I looked you in the eye and told you this: God has never and will never give up on you. You don't have to believe it yet, but you do have to look at me while I say it, okay?
If he comes back next week, I'll tell him again. And if he comes back four months from now deeper in darkness and further off his hopeful path than today, I'll tell him then, too. All I can do is keep my promise to pray for him until he comes back.

Gracious God, may the people who dwell most deeply in the law know witnesses of gospel. Make these voices prominent in the face of sin and things that separate them from feeling worthy of your love. Amen.

4 comments:

Pastor Scott said...

Well done, good and faithful servant. I hope he comes back.

Becca Groves said...

You are such a eloquent writer...making God's grace sound just as good as it really is. Thanks Meta.

Meta said...

He came back. Then I gave him homework and he came back again. :)

bob said...

WELL DONE/WE SAID WHEN YOU LEFT SIERRA VISTA, YOU WOULD DO WELL WERE EVER YOU WENT/YOU KEEP WRITING, WE WILL KEEP READING/LOVE FROM AZ.