Friday, February 18, 2005

The Clue by Four

A friend of mind used to keep a "Clue by Four" in his office. That's a board which could be used (figuratively speaking) on people when they just didn't seem to get the gist of a conversation or an issue. We have joked over the years about the folks we would like to use the Clue by Four on (including ourselves!).

Well, yesterday, God smacked me up side of the head with a Clue by Four.

It had been a long week of dealing with bureaucrats and forms for getting Teddy into the developmental center, in addition to all the "normal" stuff related to ministry. I had given a Lenten talk at a local retirement center at lunchtime, and when I got back, I shut myself in my office to try to catch up on all those things that refuse to be caught.

Then came the knock on the door.

I opened it, rather abruptly, and a young couple was standing outside my office. Usual story: we need to talk with you, do you have a few minutes, the usual handful of what looked like a collection of papers from bill collectors. I started to brush them off with the usual spiel of "we don't keep any cash here at the church, I can refer you to a group that can help you, yada, yada, yada."

That's when God caught me up side of the head.

"Look, said the man with pain in his voice, "we were hoping to find someone who would just take a few minutes to listen."

I talk a lot about hospitality, about practicing it as a spiritual discipline, about welcoming God and others and creation into our lives, about living out Benedict's dictum to welcome all people as if they are Christ . . . and given the chance yesterday, I put on my most inhospitable face.

So, I rubbed my face, and listened, and learned.

They, too, had been fighting bureaucrats all week; they, too, were worried about their kids; they, too, were exhausted from work. They were a brother and sister of mine, and for a brief moment, I didn't recognize them for who they were. But they had seen me for who I was tempted to become, and reached out to pull that mask off and welcome me as if I were Christ.

Yesterday, God smacked me up side of the head with a Clue by Four. And, as the line goes, I said, "Thanks. I needed that."

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

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