Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Moment Of Ick.

I was never a fan of watching sitcoms growing up, and a big reason was the Moment Of Ick that would invariably occur in the last five minutes, where the father/mother would sit the troublemaker kid down and patiently explain The Big Lesson That Needed To Be Learned Through The Wacky Misadventures Of The Past Half Hour. I dislike the Moment Of Ick very much. It’s just patently unreal, no parent is ever that patient, that kind, that accompanied by cloying synthesizer strings when explaining what the troublemaker kid did wrong. It makes my skin crawl.

And while we’re on THAT topic, something else I very much dislike is people crying in front of me. Ooooooh, gross. I think it has something to do with the fact that I hate naked displays of emotion. I hate open vulnerability. Yes, I know that’s a part of being human, and yes, it probably says a lot about me that I hate it, but boo on you, I hate it anyways. I’ve been known to cry in church on more than one occasion, and it’s usually me sobbing at what seems like the vast gulf between me and God, and I hate myself for doing it, so I’m an equal opportunity Open Vulnerability Hater. Boo on you. Boo on me. Boo hoo boo hoo, boo hoo. Ooooooh, gross.

Today in 11:00 church, I’m sitting in the back, like I usually do, and this woman comes in somewhere in the middle of the sermon and takes the empty seat next to me. I think the people who show up late for church are kinda whacked. I mean, you wouldn’t show up in a movie when it’s half over, so why would you do it in church? How are you gonna know what’s been covered? How are you gonna pick it up? What’s the point? 11:00 church is an offshoot from a Presbyterian church, and Presbyterians are known for being on the laid back side when it comes to being on time, but it’s still a little silly, I think.

So the sermon winds up, and we go into singing more songs, and I’m sitting there, deliberately not looking at the people who’re doing Hands To Heaven, just closing my eyes, and trying to focus on connecting to God, and then I hear it.


Not I’ve Got A Cold Sniffles. Not I’ve Got A Sinus Infection That I Thought Was The Flu Sniffles. Open Vulnerability Sniffles. Naked Displays Of Emotion Sniffles. Uh oh.

I open my eyes, and sneak a glance. Yep, the woman sitting beside me is clutching a crumpled tissue, and those are definitely tears under her eyes. Aw, man. What am I supposed to do. Oh blegh. I know EXACTLY what I’m supposed to do. I am, in fact, supposed to embody a Moment Of Ick. GROSS! I DON’T WANNA!

Take it away, interior monologue! You know exactly what you’re supposed to do. Your life is always made up of moments where what you don’t wanna do is exactly what you’re supposed to do in order to learn something, or to grow as a person. I don’t wanna. You’re in a CHURCH, for God’s sake! Demonstrate the love of Christ, you little shit! I don’t wanna, and I don’t think she wants me to.

Look at all the times I’ve cried in church. The last thing I would’ve wanted is for someone to come up and console me. The last thing I would’ve wanted is for someone to have hugged me. That would’ve made me feel ten thousand times worse, because not only does it mean I’m embodying a Naked Display Of Emotion, I’m embodying a Naked Display Of Emotion And Somebody Saw It. Naked Displays Of Emotion are supposed to be a private thing that occasionally happens in public, and you’re supposed to go on about your day and let that person get their emotional crap together without an audience. I don’t want this woman to feel worse simply because I’m acknowledging that I know she’s hurting. Just because that’s what you think doesn’t mean that’s what she thinks. You’re a certifiable Crankypants. She probably isn’t. Do something!

To stifle the debate, I reach out and put my arms around her. Oh gross. Oh ick. Oh ick ick icky poo. What if she really didn’t want that? What if now you’re making it worse because she really IS like you, and now she’s gotta deal with a Hugger in the midst of her Naked Display Of Emotion. What if now instead of crying, she’s frantically trying to come up with a way to gently escape your grasp? AHHHHHHHHH! SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!

Actually, what she does is grab my arm, and we hang like that for the rest of the song. There’s the occasional thought of How much longer do I have to do this, and I hope she doesn’t ask me to pray with her. But the end of the song seems like a good break, and so I do one of those air kisses above her forehead and let go. She smiles at me and the band launches into the next song and NOW the slide comes up on the screen that “There are people in the back that can pray with you if you need prayer.” Ha! They don’t mean me, lady! She doesn’t move. She doesn’t go in the back, she doesn’t ask for prayer. She also doesn’t cry anymore. I may have embarrassed the tears right out of her.

After we’re dismissed from the service, she looks at me and says “Thank you.” Ask her what’s wrong. Ask her if everything’s okay. Ask her if she needs prayer. “No problem.” I say back. And zoom, she’s out like a shot. She moves for the door even faster than I have when I’m trying to escape Pastoral Twit’s service.

So there. I was a Moment Of Ick. I do not feel better about myself, because I don’t think I was experiencing the love of Christ. I may have been demonstrating it, but if I’m not experiencing it, does that mean it somehow doesn’t count? She didn’t know the difference, she probably thought I was an evangelical Looney Tune that wanted her phone number so I could call her every day and read devotionals to her. But I know the difference.

If I wait until I experience the love of Christ in order to demonstrate it, I may never demonstrate it, because I will continually try to quantify it No, that’s not it. No, that’s not it. But if I demonstrate it without feeling it, I feel like a fraud. There should be a happy medium in there somewhere.

Maybe a one arm hug next time.


Yummyteece said...

THAT was a random act of kindness, the likes of which we discussed Saturday night.

you told someone "it's ok". There's nothing wrong with that. You dont' have to read her daily devotionals, or even the follow the story any further. In the moment, you offered comfort. And that was enough.

Richard T said...

Ah, WASPS. ;)

Richard T said...

Ah, WASPS. ;)

Midlife Virgin said...

A small gesture like that is an act of God, whether you think it is or not. It may not have been life-changing to you, but for her, you gave her a gift. Just take that.