Sunday, November 22, 2009
What a Visitor at Church Gave to Me
Today, we had a visitor at church.
In and of itself, having a visitor isn't an unusual thing - we have visitors on many Sundays. The congregation tries to greet as many of them as they can, chats with them during the exchanging of the peace, and makes sure that they are included at the altar when it comes time to share in communion. What was unusual today, however, was what I got from this visitor.
It was obvious that he came from a difficult background, and after talking to him for a few minutes and learning a bit about him I couldn't help but think that much of what he owned was in the backpack that he brought in to church with him. He told me about having lived with someone who had more mental problems than he does, how it got to the point where he couldn't deal with it and had to leave, and how he often felt like he had gotten separated enough from church that he just couldn't go on. He didn't say where he was living or how he was getting by - although the answers to both of those questions seemed obvious just below the surface in what he wasn't saying - but he did tell me that he was hoping he would get something out of the service today. I responded by telling him that ours was a great church and that we were very glad to have him there with us.
Then there was a long pause, after which he looked at me and asked, "What do you find the hardest thing about being a Christian?"
I was floored. Here was a question that came from beyond left field, and it hit me such that I didn't have an immediate answer. Had it been anyone else, I might have tried to laugh it off or give a humorous answer just to get through the moment. But I could tell in looking at him that he wanted - he needed - an answer fror me. So I gave him the best one I could.
"The hardest thing for me in being a Christian is that I keep forgetting I don't have to do it all myself. I'm a diagnosed depressive, and it was hard for me to even get help for that because I'm 'the fixer': I'm the one who always tries to fix the problems my kids are having, or my wife is having, or my friends are having. I just can't seem to fix what's happening to me. Being in this church, though, I'm constantly reminded that I don't have to do it all myself, that there are others around to help. Most of all, being with these people is a reminder that that God is there to do things for us when we can't do them for ourselves, and puts others in our lives to help us. Even with that reminder, though, remembering that is the hardest thing for me."
I don't know whether that is what he expected to hear, wanted to hear, or needed to hear, but it was the answer I felt I should give him. Aside from greeting him again during the exchanging of the peace I didn't have a chance to speak to him - and I don't know whether he found what he was looking for when he visited us today. But regardless of what he may have gotten, he certainly gave quite a bit.