I sat in class and watched the clock tick. The professor spoke and I know that I should have been engaged, but to be honest—I wasn’t. I loved seminary and wished that learning would just happen by downloading something into my brain. I had gotten into the bad habit of checking my email in class and I wondered if that might be hindering my learning. Nah.
I’d just received an email from Don about Steven. It seemed that Don had stepped over the line again in some way. I enjoyed it though. My mind was in pastoral mode and I wanted to walk outside and call Don. Great, here we go again. I tried to imagine how deeply that Don had offended the unstable Steven, and Steven had snapped and was now threatening to hang Don from the top of one of the academic buildings at DTS in protest of the intrusion into his life. Don never was one for the subtle.
The ten-minute break arrived and I walked outside to talk to Don.
“Hey Don, what happened?”
“Well, I may have overstepped a boundary with Steven.”
“I’m shocked,” I said.
“You don’t sound shocked.”
“Welcome to sarcasm. What happened?”
“I finally heard from him, I thought I had yet pissed off another Christian by trying to help, am I too abrasive?Don asked and then said. “I learned it from you.”
“Don, you are failing to see that not everyone is alike. I treat you different from everyone else. Steven is not you. Watch me when I talk to Steven and I want you to see the difference. Please stop reprimanding people.”
“But I’m just doing what you did to me.”
“You are not me, and Steven is not you.”
“But he and his marriage are ******.”
“How can you judge him? You don't understand the hell that he’s been through. If you can, then why do you talk to him like Christians of the past talked to you.”
“I never talked like that to you. I said, ‘I feel sorry for you. This God is like a freight train. Your whole life is going to fall apart. Everything is going to change. You should run away from it, but you can't. You just can't. God is pursuing you. I’m sorry.’”
“True, true, but,”
“Also, I had already hung out with you for four weeks. I had already been praying for you for weeks and had asked God to give me the words to say. You did it once with Joel. You did it twice with Steven.
“Yeah Joel was not a good move. I’m surprised he hasn’t driven his car through the seminary doors.”
“Don, this isn’t your strong suit. Your strong suit is being there so that people don't feel judged. Your strong suit is sharing how Christ dramatically changed your life. You cannot be and should not be the reprimander. You are becoming the very thing that you so desperately abhorred. One of the worst things that Christians do is project their own lives on to others.”
“But you were really direct with me. That is all I know.”
“When you view everyone as a Don, then the Chris solution is the only solution. When you view each person as someone in need of grace, then the Christ solution is the only solution.”
Don was silent. I shifted the phone to the other ear as I walked by the statue of Jesus washing Peter’s feet.
“You’re 100% right, Chris.” Don said. “Thank you for telling me what my strong areas are. I wasn't aware of that. I will back off, in AA I do scream, holler, and hug my sponsorees just to let them know I really care. The soft approach never worked with me, and I guess I’ve been treating people the way that worked for me. With God it's a different application, I’ll take this advice from now on.”
I looked at the phone for a moment to make sure it was still Don talking to me. That was the least ornery that Don had ever been.
“Well good, Don. Hey, I gotta get back to class, but let’s connect later.”