So I’m sitting in Starbucks right now, as is my routine each week. However, this is one I don’t frequent, but I thought I’d give it a try. This is me stepping out and taking a big risk: trying a new Starbucks. Yeah, I live on the edge.
Right now, there’s a lady sitting a few chairs down from me, talking to a friend. And she’s really irritating me. Sure, I’m a pastor. I’m supposed to love people, and I really do. But she bothers me.
She’s speaking “Christianeze”, which is what I call it when someone constantly throws religious-sounding words in their conversation. “The Lord…” this, and “praise God” that, and the ever-popular, “what a blessing”.
Every problem her friend brings up, she responds with a platitude. You know, an overly-simplistic response, said in a singsongy tone like someone teaching a child in Sunday School. But this isn’t Sunday School, and they’re not talking about simple things.
To be really honest, I’m praying hard that someone isn’t waiting to talk to me here (I meet people often in Starbucks to talk about God). I’m praying they’re not listening to her Christianeze and deciding Jesus may not be their thing after all.
Truthfully, I’m praying she would go away.
I know, I’m a pastor. I do love people. So why does she bother me so? Maybe it’s her syrupy southern accent (I’m from Alabama, so I may have a trace as well). Maybe it’s the big hair (again, guilty). But she seems like she’s only missing some gold-covered chairs or else she’d be a host from the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
And another thing: she’s loud. Really loud.
OK, lady, I’m glad you’re happy – it’s the “joy of the Lord”, you’d probably claim. Yet your laugh is one which seems designed to call attention to itself. Maybe you see it as a testimony to others in the room. Maybe that’s why you’re so loud, because you want people to think you’ve got something they don’t.
I’ll admit, I’m pretty sure she has something I don’t. But I don’t think I want it.
She has something in addition to Jesus, something I remember from churches where speaking “her way” was supposed to be a sign you’re spiritual. It’s what proves you’re a true believer, although it strikes me as anything but authentic.
More than just Jesus, she’s got “churchiness”. Buckets of it, coming out of every pour underneath all that heavy makeup.
Sadly, she’s the poster child of why a lot of people say they don’t like Christians. If you had a problem, she’d be the last person you’d share it with. That’s because churchy people feel they’ve always got to pretend to be happy. They’ve always got a way-too-easy answer for every question. And they respond to the pain of others as if it’s an indictment against God’s goodness…
“Why do you believe in God?” – Well, I just feel Him
“What do you do when you have doubts about Him?” – What doubts? I never doubt God.
“Why did God let me get cancer?” – You just need to have more faith.
“Why is God not answering my prayer?” – You must not be doing it right.
It may not be her fault she’s this way. Some spiritual leader probably made her feel she had to always give an answer, even if it was a trite one that insults the depth of another person’s pain. They told her faith is a bunch of quick, easy answers to the dark, devastating stuff life is often made of.
But real faith is saying, “Yes, I believe God, EVEN THOUGH…
…I don’t understand Him
…I don’t always feel Him
…I’m clueless and devoid of any good answers
…things don’t make any sense
Those are the people I want to talk to. The ones whose struggles are real, dreams are yet unfulfilled, and still they believe. They trust, they wait, they cry, they plead…and then they get up and trust again.
Recently, a friend of mine told me he has trouble calling himself a Christian. At first, I pushed back at him, asking why in the world would he not want the honor of being called by that name.
Now, I think I get it. It’s not Jesus’ name we mind. It’s being lumped in the same category as our churchy friends. Jesus? I’d die for Him. But churchy Christians? I’m dying to get away from them.
Sure, God reminded me that it is my job to love the lady with the big hair and loud mouth. There’s lots of things about me that don’t really scream “authenticity” to a world dying for the real thing. But if you have to advertise your faith that loudly, maybe it’s not that real after all…
…maybe you’re just having to shout loud enough to try and convince yourself…or louder than what your life is already saying to the world.