The complexity of human relationships only astounds me positively on my good days. Some days, really, I am just tickled by the beauty of flawed humanity. Most days, though, I am very much astounded negatively by the complexity of human relationships, and I find people to be the most terrible thing ever. They are awful. They are just so very bad.
For instance, yesterday I stole some groceries, and the cashier who caught me was very unkind to me, which made me lose all faith in humanity and decide that I could never be a pastor ever because we’re all just heartless machines with faces.
You see, intentional stealing was never my goal. I had, in fact, thought that I had paid, but as it turns out, the debit card transaction had not gone through properly, and I had picked up my bags and departed before the cashier had told me such. The next thing I knew, she was running through the parking lot after me, angrily screaming that I hadn’t paid her. “Oh, what a silly situation,” I thought casually as I toddled back inside, cradling a massive watermelon like an oversized child. She, however, was not at all amused as she glared angrily at me, seizing an opportunity to be the oppressor, rather than being the oppressed Food Lion checker that she always had to be.
And then, in an instant, I knew people no longer to be the intricate creations of the Triune God, but rather to be terrible, soul-crushing, dehumanizers. “Why, under any circumstances, would I want the responsibility of shepherding a flock with the aforementioned characteristics,” I thought bitterly while cutting up the watermelon later at home. “Pastoral care? With the terrible, awful, no good, very bad people of the world? No thank you, God. I’d prefer a cubicle and a handful of sardonic co-workers whose eyes I can carefully avoid on my way in and out of the break room.” No thanks to forced smiles. No thanks to endless obligations. No thanks to ceaseless giving. I think I will instead forego the church and say yes to sincerity and praise and honor and love.
But there are still the good days. The good days when I feel about busting with joy about all of our misfittedness. And our depravity and flaws and ugliness all seem so beautiful and like something I’d like to be a part of and cheer for with a uniform on. I want to stare into angry-Food-Lion-lady’s eyes until we recognize one another’s humanity and begin to grin slowly in the solidarity we’ve found by having noses and freckles and hair. I want to understand that she dehumanizes because that’s mostly all she knows by standing on that other side of the counter and scanning the bologna, mustard, and wine of some person who will not look her in the eye, and who will go home and feast on his bologna and mustard and wine because he has no other joy in his life, because his wife will no longer look him in the eye. It’s a cycle of oppression and in some strange way, it’s beautiful because it gathers us together as sinful humanity. We are sinful humanity, and we writhe and spit and cuss with our eyes, and yet this nastiness is beautiful because even after screaming at one another in the parking lot, God still beholds the whole lot of us and looks us in the eye and loves us. And although it’s abstract, it’s real and it’s beautiful and it’s so good that it cancels out the bad and maybe I can be a pastor. Maybe I could love all of our misfitedness. Maybe our flaws and ugliness hold us all together. Maybe the church is where we probably belong. Maybe someday, all of our good days will converge into a grand good day and sinful humanity will rejoice as redeemed humanity.
Maybe someday. As for now, I’m still perturbed that I forgot to use my MVP card.