Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sorry, I meant to post this earlier...

Mark 1:40-45


It was Tuesday morning, and it was much like all the other Tuesday mornings throughout the year. Chad had woken up at 6:30 am so he could walk the few blocks to the elementary school so he could catch the bus ride to middle school. Chad lived in a small town where the county’s schools had consolidated, so middle school for him meant an eight mile bus ride to a town just northwest of the town he lived in. There wasn’t much about the way that this school day started that foreshadowed the coming event that was about to happen three hours from now. The school day started off normally enough – home room to listen to announcements, and then English class – but it was that switch from English to Algebra that started the ball rolling down the hill picking up speed before it crashed into the wall.

The switch meant that Chad had to stop by his locker and pick up his Algebra book. That seems innocuous enough, but his locker just happened to be set right next to Andy. You see, Andy was a kid that looked for ways to get under people’s skin. He searched for the buttons to press, and this morning he found exactly the right one for Chad. As Chad was getting his Algebra book, Andy started pushing Chad’s locker shut laughing because he knew it was going to rile Chad. It worked, more than Andy could have ever have imagined. As Andy slapped Chad’s door shut just one more time, Chad broke into something that was not quite rage – more like a calm cool resolve to finally put a stop to the incessant annoyance. Chad balled his hand into a tight fist, swinging and connecting with the side of Andy’s face with a satisfying thud.

Chad took no pleasure in how well he connected, although he did say later that was surprised that the single punch opened up a cut on Andy’s lip and brow. No, he simply knew that the job had been done and there was nothing else to say or do to anybody. Chad grabbed his book walked to his algebra class. Of course, there would be repercussions, as Chad was told not much later that he had been summoned to the principle’s office. Chad left that day with two days of in-school suspension. A day for each punch he threw.

Chad had never been well liked. He moved into the area when he was in first grade, but no matter how much he tried, the people in his class would inevitably cast him as the person they could pick, the person they could gang up on to make themselves feel better. The thing that Chad could never understand, though, was how they could be such nice people individually in one on one situations, yet when ganged up together, they could hurl the nastiest insults and dispersions upon, seemingly for only a few laughs. Chad didn’t know why, even after six years of living, working, playing and even praying with these kids, how he could still be such an outsider amongst everyone else.

The next day started off somewhat similar to the one before it. He walked to the same elementary school and boarded the same school bus, but when he got to the middle school, he was immediately ushered off down the hallway to the janitor’s workshop where there was a single desk and a single chair. In a lot of ways, Chad found the absolute depths of boredom. Though homework assignments were definitely given to him, there was no one else in there to talk to or to listen to. He was all alone. In fact, Chad got so bored that he stared at the clock on the wall watching hour hand make its trek from one number to the next. The next day wasn’t much better as the motivation to do or feel much of anything got sapped from him in his time of isolation.

Utter isolation might have been a better term for what he was put through during those two days. The only contact that Chad had throughout the day was the principle, teacher, or janitor popping in from time to time to check in on him. During these two days, Chad was even subjected to having to eat his lunch in that same room by himself apart from anyone else, apart from the normal life and community that he had been a part of. There’s something about being forced to eat alone – not choosing to eat alone – that to Chad felt like the biggest sign of separation and exclusion. At home, he ate almost every evening meal with his family. At school, he ate with his classmates. At church, he ate with everyone else who filled the basement fellowship hall for one of the various pot lucks that came around throughout the year. Now, here he was, forced to eat alone, separated from everyone else in his life, and he began to cry.

None of this was fair. None of this seemed like the correct punishment his standing up to a kid who was constantly pestering him. He was all alone, and in the loneliness and silence, he began to pray through his tears. He began to pray to God, “Take me out of this! I just want to get away from here. I don’t want to be in a place where I’m constantly reminded of how lonely I am. I don’t want to be left on the outside anymore. God, if you are listening, release me from this place, and release me from the constant reminder that I’m not one of ‘them.’”

The minutes passed by, and the tears eventually dried up as silence was the only response he heard. It was a deafening silence, as he could almost hear the air pressure pushing in on his ear drums. He didn’t even notice that the janitor, Bernie, had come to take his lunch tray away from him. Chad couldn’t remember what exactly he said, but looked into Bernie’s eyes and saw in them something saying, “I’m sorry you’re going through this. I’m sorry that you feel all alone.” And he laid a napkin with two chocolate chip cookies in it on Chad’s desk and spoke, “I thought you could use a little pick me up, so I grabbed a couple of cookies from the lunch room for you.”

As Chad ate those cookies, he felt a spirit welling inside of him. All of a sudden he wasn’t alone. Bernie had come to him, just simply by showing a kind face, speaking a kind word, and giving Chad those cookies, Bernie had brought the community to him. Bernie had told Chad, “You are not alone.” It was then that Chad understood that he had never been alone. It was then that Chad saw that something had been with throughout all this time. Chad had seen that he was not too far away, not too bad, and not too much of an outsider for Christ to be with him in his life. He saw that Jesus had been yearning to come to him in his hour of grief. He saw that Jesus had come to him even though felt so separated from everyone else in his life. Those kind words and that kind action had made him see that there was no place where God couldn’t go. Those kind words and that kind action showed him that Christ could break through any barriers that we try to construct for ourselves. Chad saw that God loved him dearly, and there was nothing that could separate him from that love.

No comments: