Sometimes I wonder how long the first humans existed before someone said, “This world’s gone crazy.” I am officially 30 and I’ve been hearing it ever since I can remember ever hearing anything. Sometimes I hear it in a line in a movie made decades before I was (made). So that’s something to think about.
I regret that I spent most of my childhood and teenage years feeling like the only sane adult in a world of lunatics. Lately, though, it’s becoming easier for me, for the first time ever, to sift through memories of my past and somehow extract the good memories from all the bad ones. I’m not sure how this could be considered anything other than a blessing. The only negative is, it’s all flooding back to me so quickly, I feel a bit overwhelmed upstairs. Maybe that’s why I’m writing so much more about true, real, personal things than I ever have.
When I was little I had this pastor at church. His last name was Monroe. He was tall and thin, in his 70’s, and for reasons which escape me now, he always reminded me of Ichabod Crane.
Brother Monroe. We didn’t call the pastor Pastor or Reverend. Just Brother and then their last name. Speaking of names, I remember when he first came to our church, I was really small and he was…different from the last pastor (as per usual when your beloved pastor of ages and ages passes away and is replaced). So there were some growing pains. My grandma, for one, didn’t like him. He was too direct, or in her opinion, bossy. She called him, in the privacy of her own car, on the way to the grocery store on Friday morning, a dictator. At my age, I didn’t yet know what a dictator was. As a matter of fact, for quite a while, I thought she was calling him a dick (like short for Richard) tater (like please pass the taters). That’s another story for another day, I’m sure. Eventually, my grandma learned to love Brother Monroe–not just a little but a lot, a whole lot. So did all of us, myself included.
I used to sit on the back bench, alone, back before we had any other children or young people close to my age. Sometimes, we didn’t have more than twenty people in attendance. So I think my point is, I got a lot of face time with the pastor, accidental or on purpose.
I’ve never been overly outspoken. I don’t dance. In public settings, I’m usually pretty quiet, especially with strangers or people I don’t know very well. Even as a kid, I used to just sit in church, follow along with the reading, silently pray when everyone else was praying, and read along with the songs while everyone else was singing.
Brother Monroe wasn’t a quiet man. He was loud–especially when he meant what he was saying or singing. He wasn’t the type to threaten or shake his finger. He was just joyful–happy, passionate. And he wanted to share what he knew. Now and then, when we were praying, I’d look up and catch him looking at me, big, happy smile on his face, tears in his eyes. I’d flinch and look away, probably because I was uncomfortable more than anything. He’d say something like, If you love the Lord, say amen. I just smiled. Most times he’d smile back at me. I’ll never forget one Sunday night service, this happened and he said something that stunned me because maybe it just felt a little too….hmm…real? He said something like, don’t be afraid to speak up. What he really did was scare the living daylights out of me because it was like someone took a pin to my comfort bubble. It’s almost impossible to sit uninvolved, removed from the rest of the humans like wallpaper or furniture if someone looks you directly in the face and speaks to you, isn’t it?!
My mind plays tricks on me sometimes. The years blew past so quickly, I’m not always sure how or where the lanky man with the silver hair and the big intimidating smile left me. I know, I’m not going to say this right, any of it, because I don’t think there’s a ‘right’ way to say what it is that needs to be said. Just…I wish I would have realized back then, what it would have meant to me, in hindsight–being looked in the face by someone so unwilling to (despite what I would have wished) look away (from me). It was huge. It was loving and kind…and a gentle push I didn’t know I dearly needed.
Presently, looking back, I wish I had found a moment back when it was possible, to look him in his face when he took my hand on the way out the door on Sunday mornings to thank me for coming, and thank him for what he did for me…or something.
I think for me, this memory serves as a reminder, stop focusing so much on the hurt and the sadness that you forget to remember that there’s so much more.