I am known as one who does not compromise. I am stubborn and difficult. I have an answer for everything (it seems).
What follows is my resume of shame:
Though these things are from my distant past, I once got arrested for theft. I have been stoned many times (not the same as St. Paul). I have been drunk to the point of throwing up and passing out more times than I can count. I cannot remember all the ugly things I have done.
I “murdered” a woman once.
Well, not the kind of murder they put you in jail for, but one of the worst sins (personal failures) I recall (that makes me wince to think about to this day) is when I tried to impress a couple of my friends as we drove slowly past a woman walking along the road with two or three grocery bags, and I pointed out how fat and ugly she was in my pathetic effort to get a cheap laugh.
Another one that makes me cringe was when I set up a drug deal with a young couple one night in their living room as the father shewed the young children out so we could conduct “grown up business”. By the time he said that, I was ready to die. I felt so horrible about myself after that.
I might not be the chief of all sinners, but I once was fairly competitive for that title.
In more recent years…
Though I was accepted into a top ranked seminary where the instructors published nearly 25% of the books I studied as an undergrad, I could not raise the money to attend. So I began graduate work at a local university, and did good work there at first, but then flunked out when it became apparent that I would not be attending law school – which had been the real dream.
I made the short list for a preaching ministry job in Connecticut that wanted me for my street ministry experience, but they turned me down when the found out my (then) wife announced she was agnostic.
I have been “shipwrecked and left for dead”.
Well, okay, let’s say it was divorce. And I became morbidly depressed for about three years afterward, and made all kinds of mistakes and personal failures.
I applied to join a mission group setting up an “intentional community” house down on 65th Drive, a street legendary for gunfire, murders, prostitution, drug deals, and child abuse in the city of Lubbock – the same street to which I had already spent 3 years taking ministry. But when the pastor at the church heard someone gossip that I don’t hold traditional views about HELL, he suddenly asked all the applicants to supply statements of faith. Mine did not make the cut, and I was sent away unwanted.
Not only that, but I was in the running for a chaplain job at a local feeding ministry that promised to pay next to nothing, and I made it to the third interview, as it seemed the hiring staff was excited by my application until one interviewer asked if I would give money to a beggar. I answered “YES” quoting Jesus in Luke 6:30, when suddenly the interview came to a close. Two days later, I got a call that regretted to inform me that even though there were no other applicants, they wanted to keep searching for someone who was “the right fit”.
I tried to set up an appointment with a shepherd at one of the major churches in town to discuss my concerns about the homeless sleeping around their doors at night, and when I arrived, this pastor let me sit in the lobby with half a dozen secretaries for almost an hour before he finally buzzed the receptionist to tell me that he was too busy to talk to me.
I got openly shunned, though not kicked out, of one church. I got kicked out of another, and the head guy from the board of directors actually got up the Sunday afterward to read a letter to the congregation of mostly homeless people outlining how I am now banned from that facility. They have not repented of that in nearly 5 years, and I am still on the outs.
I have devoted my life to Jesus and to the church. I have risked my life and safety too many times to count in service to this Kingdom Cause. I have spent dozens, if not hundreds, of nights outside in the heat, the cold, the wet and in dangerous parts of town sharing worship with poor and homeless people. I was part of a group that even stopped a murder with a communion service one night which you can find featured in a post on this blog. But I work for the church that does not want me, does not listen to me, and resists me at nearly every turn.
( See the communion vs. murder post here: https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2016/02/20/the-vandelia-i-love-vignette-4/ )
I was not shunned, kicked out, turned down, or sent away for smoking, drinking, cussing, fornicating, looking at porn, or even for greed. I was sent away for sticking up for the poor, for speaking out for the poor, and for insisting they be included in the goodies that church life has to offer. But that was labeled as being “divisive” so that kicking me out would seem legit. And the crazy thing is that even some of the poor folx I advocate for don’t like me!
This is my reputation. This is my real resume.
I will never forget how they gathered us incoming Freshmen Bible students at ACU way back when, and gave a banquet for us. The featured speaker that night was Eddie Sharp, a preacher I never knew before, and really not since either. But I recall how he told us it was his task to talk us out of the decision we had made. He warned us that the job would be thankless, low pay/no pay, hard, and fraught with discouragement. And I have been discouraged. I have been beat down. I have felt the futility of my calling as so very few find my words and work to be worthwhile, helpful, or good.
This is my resume of shame.
I am nobody special. I cannot imagine an interview where this would get me hired.
What will God do with that?
That is the question. But then what does he do with a crucified Jew-boy, a few fishermen, tax collectors, and sinners the world holds beneath its contempt and then with a headhunter harassing them named Saul?
I strongly doubt that pointing out that question will get me hired anywhere, actually, but it is the real question nonetheless.