Despite a rough start to our Sunday we make record time getting to church. After kissing our kids goodbye at Children’s Worship, we pad softly to the back of the chapel. It’s packed more than usual so we have to find two seats on the far right of the hall.
My eye lands on Evangelist Pete, a name I’ve assigned to a large jug-headed man who insists on loudly affirming our pastor’s message each week through shouts and cheers. “Yeessss! Praise Jaaaaysus!!!!!!” he’ll bellow, waving hairy arms high over his head with the enthusiasm of a middle-aged aerobics instructor.
Pete is uninhibited and animated. He’s exuberant and joyful. He’s passionate and euphoric.
“He’s annoying,” I think to myself, cursing my fate as I shuffle into his row. A rhinestone-studded cross dangles from his left ear. A rock-inspired t-shirt, two sizes too small, clings to his belly. The graphic on his chest looks like a metal band logo. It reads “Jesus: Highway to Heaven.” In place of the “S” is a Harry Potter-looking lightning bolt. I try to stifle thoughts of heavenly electric shock stunning Pete into silence.
No such luck. As Pastor Mike keeps talking, Evangelist Pete keeps squawking.
“If you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and soul,” Pastor Mike quotes from the Bible.
“I found Him! He’s my Savior! I LOVE HIM!!!!!” Pete roars.
I consider putting in some rubber ear plugs I keep in my wallet – a technique I occasionally use to void out the white noise of kids, door slams, television and doorbells. Instead, I will myself to concentrate on Pastor Mike’s message.
Citing from Mark 10:46-52, Mike unveils the story of Bartimaeus, a blind man who desperately wants Jesus to restore his site. Despite a crowd of people telling this undesirable bum to be quiet, Bartimaeus presses forward.
“Jesus, heal me!” Bartimeaus cries. Over and over, this man in rags – this poor, dirty vagabond – pushes through throngs of naysayers to find his Savior. Jesus does not let him down. “‘Go,’ says Jesus, ‘Your faith has healed you.’”
“There’s a few reasons Mark included this example,” Pastor Mike continues, “One is to show yet another of Jesus’ miracles. The second is that this is a radical example of what it takes to follow Jesus. You can’t just follow the crowd. Like Bartimeaus, you have to be counter-cultural. You have to be willing to face opposition and call out Christ’s name when the world just wants you to BE QUIET.”
I look at Evangelist Pete, waving his hands in validation – so on fire for his faith despite what the crowd thinks, and a wave of shame engulfs me. I think about my own character defects – and there are many: Running late, overscheduling, and yelling at my family for not inventing a time machine? Check, check and CHECK. I’m far from perfect.
“We think we know so much,” Pastor Mike continues, “but as this story shows us, it’s the blind that are often the first to see who Jesus really is.”
For a moment, my own eyes are blinded as they well up with tears. I’m still annoyed at the disruptive man in front of me. I’m far from accepting the fact that I will never get everything accomplished in one day. If we’re supposed to search our hearts at church and know ourselves, then I know this: I have a long way to go in this refinement process we call life. But, as good teaching always does, I’m convicted in Truth… God’s Truth.
And yet, I also am confident that God responds to those who seek Him. I might not seek Him like Evangelist Pete. I might not seek Him with the childlike belief of my children who are only too happy to forgive their frantic mama on a daily basis, but I must be sure to seek Him. In doing so, I am certain I will be blessed.
It’s time for Communion. As I eyeball Evangelist Pete, instead of avoiding him in line, I make a point to get right behind him. I am going to practice love and acceptance this very minute. I am going to be less blind. Like Bartimaus, I am going to open my eyes to see Jesus – and now’s my chance!
Evangelist Pete is turning around! I am going to smile my biggest welcoming, toothy, God-inspired grin he’s ever seen!
“You’re zipper is down,” he nods somberly to me before heading over to the communion table.
That sort of truth is not exactly the blessing I was expecting from God, but it saved me from further public humiliation. I’ll take it.
Are there any Evangelistic Petes in your Sunday crowd? Any embarrassing situations? I want to know! Most importantly, how does viewing your life through God’s lens – not your own – change your vision of your life?
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Picture of my son, Stink. His zipper wasn’t down, but he was up to no good FOR SURE.