Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Witnessing Witnessing

After some emails and some writing last night, I went on another long contemplative walk, meandering along a bustling bike path through the beautiful cool of a spring evening.   Dusk settled, slowly, the air full of the riot of springtime.  

As it grew darker, the flow of cyclists and walkers dwindled.  I moved quietly, mindfully silencing my steps, so that my own footfalls would not impede my ability to hear the world.  The whir of bat wings overhead.  The jogger, approaching from behind, whose breathing told me from ten yards that he was a man and tired.  The Tie-Fighter engine howl of bike tires on pavement, dopplering subtly as they passed in the twilight.

I timed my walking so that I would return to where my son would need to be picked up from his drum rehearsal about fifteen minutes before pickup time.

I arrived at the studio and sat, feeling quiet.   Two other souls were in the room, one, the pleasant  young woman who manages the office.   The other, a rangy, long-haired guitar instructor.   They talked, and I sat, noodling at my smartphone but mostly still in a place of listening.

He was deep into a shaggy dog story about some guy who robbed his house and escaped on rollerblades after crashing through a plate glass window.  "I mean, dude.  Seriously!  Rollerblades!  I was like, dude!"  He laughed through his wild tale, as did she. He was clearly happy to be having the conversation.

Then she told a story, one that involved mistaken identity and her boyfriend.  Listening to the spring air filled with text and subtext, I think this may have been how how he heard it:  "Something something something, I have a boyfriend, something something, I have a boyfriend."

And then it changed.  It became a conversation about church, and Jesus, him leading.   Churchy people suck, but Christianity is great.  He got an amen from her on that, and a story about how a small-town Baptist church they'd attended had driven her family out because her mom...taught ballet.

Lord have mercy.

So the conversation went on, as he talked about how much he'd liked a particular church.   He talked about how he couldn't stand judgmental churches, like especially ones that thought sex was bad.  But his church didn't!  "It's an awesome thing, man."   And then talk about how his church did this talking about faith event in a bar, and people had beer, and it was awesome, like totally real, not fake, just like, totally accepting.

You have to accept people, he said, because we're all sinners.   We need to forgive each other.  She agreed.

To illustrate this, he told another story.  This one was about how the single guy who fronted for the praise band at his church had been caught in a homosexual relationship.  "But, like, he repented, so it was, like, cool.  We totally forgave him.  Not like those judgmental Christians.  'Cause, you know, we're all sinners."

And though he kept going with his spiel, all the way through to pitching her the link to a pastor podcast, it felt as if the conversation cooled just a bit.

Funny, how hard it is for us to see our own biases.