While riding a shuttle to our church this past Easter Sunday, my husband and I noticed a young man holding a sign standing where people were entering our church property. Anyone who knows anything about the church world knows that the most attended Sunday is Easter. People may not attend church regularly, but they regularly attend Easter worship. No doubt the man wanted to make a statement.
The young man was holding a piece of white poster board which read, “God loves you even when pastors don’t” (or something to that effect). This man was no fool. He was attempting to disrupt the most highly-attended Sunday of the year based on his mood.
I believe the majority of people drove by attempting to ignore the sign. After all, he must be nuts, right? Some probably drove by the young man and laughed thinking, “Buddy, you are wasting your time. Nobody is listening.” Could be some drove by, read the sign, and became enraged at such nonsense. Our pastors are highly revered so I can almost assure you many drove by, saw the sign, and were offended on behalf of our church staff.
I drove by, saw the young man, read his sign and thought, “Lordy, mercy. I’ve been there.”
I haven’t gone as far as to stand on the side of the road with a large poster board sign in an attempt to get my message across, but I have been just as brazen and annoying in my attempts to heal wounds and be heard. We all know the young man was not handling conflict in a constructive or scriptural manner. However, we must admit: we do not know the pain or the message behind his outcry. We only see what he is doing publicly. We don’t know what has been done to him privately. Do we want to know? Does it matter?
I suspect this young man’s problem goes back long before he attempted to connect with or fit into our church. Obviously, he isn’t happy now. I just happen to know the story and know that our pastors did all they could to help this young man. Baggage from past experiences skewed his present behavior and affected his future in our church. To put it simply, he reduced the safety and security of everyone else. I’m not merely talking about making people uncomfortable. I am talking about putting some at risk.
The walking wounded seems to fade into our everyday lives. We may or may not recognize them. We may or may not know their stories. We may or may not care. I think the truth to this situation was best observed by a woman who attends our Tuesday Bible Study Lunch. As we discussed the young man’s behavior and the meaning behind his sign, one sweet lady undergoing chemo therapy in hopes of beating cancer said, “He thinks he has found his purpose. He believes this is his calling.”
Is it? Is God using him to get our attention? I know for certain our pastors did not simply toss this young man out on the street. Attempts were made to help him find some peace. I suspect the message was not simply intended for our church. I think the message stems from deep wounds from years past.
Hurting people hurt people. Only Christ can heal a wound this deep and this painful. Instead of judging him, I asked God to help me understand him and the millions of others like him. Instead of trying to psychoanalyze him, I prayed for him. I’ve been there. I just haven’t done that.