Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Public Cell Phone Conversations as Prophetic Utterances
This one is dedicated to my friend Tammy Hott. Tammy, I try to say what I hear God say, I ask the questions that are on my heart. Some times that is encouragement, some times it is a rebuke (mostly aimed at me), some times, it is just a way of reminding the world that I am still here, and sometimes I miss God completely and do the whole clanging gong thing Paul talked about. Anyway, here is what God is talking to me about today, it's a little kinder and gentler.
One of my great pet peaves of the modern world is cell phones. I do not enjoy being interrupted by them, listening to one side of stranger's conversations and getting less than stellar service from workers who cannot be bothered to live their private lives “off the clock”. This is partly because, as my wife said to me the other day, “You were born old, and I will probably never grow up completely.” I admit it, and anyone who's known me for long will agree that I began to show signs of Crotchity behavior in my mid-teens. It is also because this behavior is undeniably rude.
For example, last night we are sitting in Chick Fil-a in Edmond eating our dinner when someone begins a very loud, one-sided conversation in the dining room. I look up to discover that it is, in fact, the manager of same restaurant. He is discussing personnel matters and making snide comments as confidently as if he were ensconced in his own office. “That's disturbing.” I say. “Shut up, he'll hear you.” says she. I do. Not because I care if he hears me, after all, it is his behavior as he tips the phone away from his mouth to ask a customer what soda he is drinking and clumsily takes the cup for a refill, one-handed, that is deplorable, and if he is offended by my opinion of his caddish habits, so be it. But. I like sleeping in the same bed with my wife.
This doesn't trouble me greatly. I simply file it away with all of the other scenes from life that populate my head, and come out as plays and sketches, and finish my dinner and go to bowling, which we do every Monday night. I don't think about it again until this morning. I am sitting in the dentist's office waiting for 5 of my 8 kids to be seen when a scared young mother, seeing how calm I am and how many children I have, strikes up a conversation. She has a two year old with a cavity and is consequently feeling like the worst parent on earth. I reassure her that she is not the first and the fact that she is even aware that this is unusual, let alone is concerned about her role in it, is proof positive that she is not even in the running for Bad Mom of the Year.
The conversation is pleasant enough. We speak of country life, hers not mine (I'm somewhat envious), squirrels and the like. Half an hour later we are joined by a bold, brassy blond with a no nonsense attitude who is griping her apartment super out, on the phone, for a plumbing issue. She looks like she belongs in Jersey, not here. She has two boys with her and when she is done on the phone she joins the conversation. She is interrupted, after a five minute diatribe on the glories of apartment dwelling, during which she apologizes half a dozen times for her language, which she doesn't mean, (I know this because if she meant it she would make some attempt to curb it, we are in a pediatric dentist's waiting room, even the biker chick with at least nine “old school” tatts and leather pants is glaring)anyway, she is interrupted by her phone which has an unbelievably loud ring tone, featuring Pitbull.
This other mother, the one who was seeking reassurance, is a mousy little thing who keeps shooting sideways glances at this intruder. The first mom tries to talk a little more, which is difficult because blondie is loud! She is airing her laundry about her fifteen year old son and how he is going to get kicked out. We find out that he is smoking pot, has had sex with his girl friend on the living room sofa and calls his darling mother a “F'in B” (now she curbs her language) this last is apparently the last straw and he is going to need a place to live or she is going to need: “..a shovel, what do you think for? (pronounced FOAH, like Marissa Tomei in My Cousin Vinney) To bury the body.”
Just as I am about to get up and say something, she wipes a tear from the corner of her eye and God taps me on the shoulder.
Here's the deal. I have been saying for years that the reason that fringe groups get so vocal, and sometimes downright violent, is that we (the church) don't pay attention any other way. They have to carry protest signs and wear giant slogans on T-shirts before we realize that they are hurting and we need to do something. But, it isn't working anymore. We are so busy with “life” that we simply cannot take the time to care. We won't decode their subtle hints and offer a helping hand, so they have started shouting it from the housetops.
Think about it. How many times have you prayed, God I wish you would bring somebody across my path today that I can minister to only to be shoved aside in the grocery store aisle by some woman on a mission, ranting about how her no good boyfriend keeps going back to his wife? I realized that not only are they hurting, but I don't even need a “word of knowledge” to know what the hurt is. They are walking around talking about it. They are shouting about their divorces, their kids, their jobs, their botched plastic surgeries, and all the while I am hoping they will shut the heck up! I have been under the mistaken impression that they were not talking to me, that it was none of my business and I would like to keep it that way.
So, as my last kid comes out and I gather up my laptop, with a sleeping daughter on my arm, the young mother says, “Thank you for the advice, I feel so much better.” I tell her thanks for the conversation, I didn't really want to work anyway. Meanwhile, Blondie is: “Oh, we're going to get married, Tyler is walkin me down the aisle (this, we all know by now is the 15 year old thug) if I let him live that long!”
At the risk of being rude, I tap her foot, which is extended and bouncing, she looks up, “I'll pray for Tyler.” I say. She smiles, whispers thank you and she is back to the phone, “Well, he better like it, I'm marryin' Mark (her Mark not me) with the pastor and everything, we already had our premarriagell counseling.”
“God, please help Tyler not to kill his mother, and help her to find some middle ground with her son before it is too late, but mostly God, please show Mark a way out of that situation, or give him the intestinal fortitude of a marine drill sergeant, because he is going to need it.” (that is a joke and not what I actually prayed for them, just sayin...)