CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter…
PEOPLE WITH PROBLEMS AND PROBLEM PEOPLE [F, 5-10-18]
The telephone rang on Sunday afternoon, as it often does in a parsonage.
“Why did you say in church this morning that we shouldn’t pray for my son-in-law?” the voice demanded.
“Well, Bernice, I just wanted to do something nasty to you and make you mad,” I replied.
There was a long pause. Then she said, “I thought it was something like that.”
I had recognized the voice because I was expecting the call, because Earl had already telephoned. Bernice had called him and wanted to know why I had said that morning during Joys and Concerns in the worship service that we should not pray for her son-in-law.
Bernice didn’t come to worship regularly but she had telephoned me about her son-in-law. He lived in another state and had some relatively minor problem. I assured her we would put him on the prayer list and pray for him in worship, which we had done for three weeks when Bernice finally showed up. When I opened Joys & Concerns that morning, she asked for prayer for him. I noted that he was in the printed list in the bulletin and that we had been praying for him for several weeks and would continue to do so.
Earl said Bernice had already telephoned several others in the congregation, before she called him, all of whom had told her what he told her: “No, he didn’t say we shouldn’t pray for him. He said we had been praying for him and would keep on doing it.” Bernice was not deterred.
I like people with problems, in part because there is no other type of person to like. I have trouble, though, liking problem people, and in every church I pastored, there was a problem person or two… or ten.
People with problems are a possibility. You might actually be of some help to them. Problem people, though, are help-less. They are sure they are already right about everything. To them, it’s always someone else who is the problem. They are those “who have no need of a physician.”
We went on to have a nice conversation, Bernice and I, because her world had been restored to normalcy. She had been proved right. To anyone else, my stated desire to “do something nasty to make her mad” would have created a problem. To Bernice, it had solved a problem. I was back in her good graces. .
I’m not sure I want to recommend this as a general communication method. I doubt that it would have done Barack Obama much good to go on Fox News and say, “Yes, I was born in Kenya and I’m a secret Muslim socialist Nazi communist who hates white people.” Then his detractors would say, “See, he’s a liar, too,” not even noticing the contradiction.
But you can’t help problem people, because they won’t acknowledge that they are the problem. So you might as well have some fun.
1] She even gave me the key to her house again, to be able to get in if something happened to her. She rotated the key among three men in town, according to which one of us she was least mad at for the moment
I used to keep a careful index of topics and stories so that I would not bore readers with repeats. But that became cumbersome, and since this blog is primarily for folks in the winter of their years, I figure they won’t be able to remember if they’ve heard it before, anyway.