Friday, April 20, 2012

Don't Go in There

So I followed a Jew to the bathroom. I know, it sounds like a joke but it's not.  I did follow a Jew into the bathroom, but I wasn't following him on purpose, as in some strange stalking sense.  We just happened to be going to the bathroom at the same time and he just happened to be in front of me. Although my soon-to-be-friend was not a Hasidic Jew his traditional attire gave him away as devote and conservative. Before I walked through the restroom threshold I noticed he had left his Torah outside. I instinctively wanted to grab it and return it but then, "Click!"- light bulb. What if he left it outside the bathroom on purpose?

After "taking care of business" and returning back to my gate (Detroit airport) I told Mary Beth about my experience,
"I think he left it outside on purpose."
"Probably because the bathroom is unclean space. I've got to go ask him!"
"He won't care."
"He'll be happy to talk about his faith."
"Okay, do what you want."

So I headed over to my friend. Okay, now maybe it is borderline stalking, and he wasn't my friend yet, but I don't want to keep referring to him as "The Jew."
"Excuse me!"
He looks at me like, "Oh great!"
"I'm a Christian minister and I wanted to ask you something about your faith."
He nodded an "Okay."
"I noticed you left your Torah outside the bathroom..."
"It was a prayer book."
"O-oh! I noticed you left your prayer book outside the bathroom. Did you do that on purpose?"
"Yes. We don't take it into the bathroom."
"Is that because the bathroom is unclean?"
"Thanks for taking the time to answer my question, and I want you to know I respect your reverence for God."
He smiled. (Can I call him my friend now?)

I have spent half of my life studying God but as I walked back to my gate that evening I was reminded that I would never fully understand him.  Even though I'm extraordinarily grateful that in the incarnation God invaded our personal space and with His Spirit set up camp in our internal space, this small experience reminded me that God is still radically other! I appreciate my new friend for reminding me to "fear the Lord." When I revere his holiness...
  • It creates theological humility - that no matter how well thought-out my understanding of God, I could be wrong.
  • It leads me to conversation rather than dogmatism.
  • It makes me a better listener.
  • It reminds me that grace not only covers imperfect actions but also imperfect theology.
  • It encourages me to practice silence and solitude, disciplines where God works on me rather than me dissecting God.
  • It makes me thankful that the Holy God seeks intimacy with me.
But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. (I Sam. 12:24)

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