Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Im Just A Restaurant Prophet With My Hands In My Pockets

Now, Jesus knew well from experience that a prophet is not respected in the place where he grew up. So when he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, but only because they were impressed with what he had done in Jerusalem during the Passover Feast, not that they really had a clue about who he was or what he was up to. John 4:35-45 from The Message.

Yesterday I was reading this passage in John and as I meditated on it I was brought back to the memory of when I was working on my undergrad degree in the thriving metropolis of Kosciusko, MS (the birth place of Oprah Winfrey) and was preaching at small church in Laurel, MS every week (twice on Sundays). When I was in Laurel and increasingly as I traveled across the state representing the college, my reputation began to build and I was becoming a respected up and coming Bible teacher / preacher. But, when I went home to Mobile, AL, to the church I grew up in, I was just a college kid home for the weekend. This verse brought comfort to me because I loved the fact that I was experiencing something Jesus experienced.

The thing is, I wonder why it was that I was just a college kid home for the weekend in one city and in the next state over I was having more speaking requests than I could fill (now this isn't bragging because I average about five speaking requests a year now and that is normally when someone is really desperate). Was it because they knew me better in Mobile? Was it that they know all of the silly things I have done, so it is hard for them to respect me? Maybe. I feel like the less somebody knows me, the more I keep the relationship a relationship of preacher and congregant, preacher and student, or whatever you want to call it, the more the person respects me and comes to me for advice. Maybe that is true and maybe it isn't. I know that there are kids from the various Birmingham ministries I have been a part of that still come to me and respect me even though they have certainly seen some of my ridiculousness. Whatever the case is, I need to know that people are watching me and I need to do my best to glorify Christ and lift him up. If I do that and people don’t respect me, then so be it. But, if I do not do that, then I have no right to complain when people don’t respect me. This has a lot to do with my situation at work.

I tell you what, working in the restaurant industry is a strain on my Christian witness. It is a place where I experience rejection coming from all angles and have plenty of down time to gossip and complain about people. You think gossip happens at an old lady’s bridge game? I have heard, and yes, been a part of, more gossip around the soda machine at a restaurant than I could have ever imagined. It is a culture at the restaurant and it is so hard not to get sucked up into it. It is just one of the examples of how stuff can hit you from out of nowhere and one (insert me here) can go from a reputation of being “oh that preacher who just started working here we better stop cussing around” to “just another guy that gossips and I couldn’t even tell he was an different from us.” I think the person I want to be known for, the type of “prophet’s respect” I am looking for, is somewhere in between those two things. I mean, if people just respect me when they really have no clue who I am or what I'm up to, that is really no respect at all is it? Where is the reality in that? There is no reality. I want something that is REAL.

God help us as we navigate those waters, trying to stay in the fairway between the roughs. What I need to remember is that when I get in the rough water of my mistakes, sins, addictions, obsessions, etc..., I have an awesome opportunity to lift Jesus high! Living in the fairway all of the time, something I'm never going to do since it is impossible, normally just leads to SELF glorification. So, while I pray that God will keep me in the fairway by his grace, when I wander off course, I pray that God will show me how when I am weak he is strong and how he can be glorified in the midst of my mistakes. I also know that because of the sanctification work going on in my life I can be brought back to the smooth waters of the fairway…until I drift off again

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