I met a guy today. I think I gave him a fright as I entered the Vineyard prayer room in the Neelsie. He was huddled in front of the kettle talking loudly to himself. He quickly recovered and offered me something to drink. I went foward to shake his hand and, when I asked him why it was bandaged, he said he had fought with a lion. Jokingly, I asked him who won. Then the games began. For the next five minutes I was taken on a rollercoaster ride of word salads, outrageous statements and apologetic retractions, whispered self-beratement, four different voices, provocation, misplaced words left hanging in the air. Thinking he was messing with my mind, I eventually walked out but he came to ask me back. We tried to start over. His words and thoughts and voices and pacings surrounded me. He apologised for tearing down the posters and scribbling on the walls. I left. I wrote him off.
See, the most profound thing about the second part of that revolutionary command, love your neighbor as yourself – you know, the one that all the law and all the teachings of the prophets hinges on – is that a lot of the time people are incredibly difficult to love. I think Jesus knew this when he said it. I think he knew that our neighbors would dissapoint us, hurt us, confuse us, frustrate us, rip our stuff and leave it a mess, scribble over our religious acts, trample on our hopes and dreams and passions, mess up our hard work, anger us, and fail us. I think he knew they would be difficult to communicate with, be in the same room as, and understand. I think he knew that the loving part would not always come naturally or easily or gracefully.
In fact, I think the love and the life he calls us to is schizophrenic. It is characterized by abnormalities in perception, content of thought, and thought processes. It is counter-cultural, counter-intuitive and contrary to ‘normal’ assumptions and behaviour. It results in, or perhaps emanates from, an ‘abnormal’ perception or expression of reality. It most commonly manifests with significant social dysfunction… It does not make sense. It is not easy to be around. It confounds those around us. Perhaps it even frightens them a bit. It flies in the face of the way things are. It turns common sense and social convention and religious piety and illusions on their heads.
I wish I had gone back and hung around that guy a bit more, instead of hiding out in anger and frustration because he messed my stuff and my head. I wish I had gone back and loved him.
but I thank him. Because, although I wouldn’t recognise his face again, and I had to ask twice for his name, he has challenged me more directly, thrown me into deeper self-examination and more candid awareness, than have some people I have known for years. If I do meet him there again, I’ll take him up on the offer of coffee….