Monday, February 14, 2005

Apparently, I'm Jim's Kind of Preacher

Normally, our Saturdays consist of sleeping in a little, having a big breakfast as a family and making assignments for what has come to be known as "chore day." All the things that get piled up get unpiled on Saturday. Laundry gets done. Closets get straightened out. Bathrooms get cleaned. You know the drill.

This Saturday, though, chore day was interrupted before it even began. We were still sitting at the breakfast table -- I hadn't even managed to get my second cup of coffee -- when my next-door-neighbor Jim rang the doorbell. In an incredibly calm and even voice he said, "John, I need you to run me to the hospital. I think I'm having a stroke."

It was like he said, "John, I need you to run me to the store. I think I need some milk."

I threw on a sweatshirt and a pair of jeans and spent the rest of the day in the emergency room. Oddly enough, 45 minutes after we got there he was fine. Something had certainly happened, but he was fine. Still, by then he'd already had blood taken and was hooked up to the machine that goes "Ping!" So, we had to stay for a while. He tried to run me off, but I stubbornly refused. After all, if I went home, I'd have to clean bathrooms.

I stayed, and we talked...about everything. We mostly talked politics and religion -- the two things you're not supposed to talk about in polite company. Jim's incredibly well-read and a deep thinker. He's given up on church and is pretty sure Jesus was not God (thank you to the Episcopalian Priest who told him this -- thanks for telling him that no one in your seminary believed this -- that your professors actually scoffed at the idea -- thank you for telling him the only reason you preach it from the pulpit is because that's what they pay you to say -- big jerk).

Still, Jim is a believer of sorts. He knows there's a God. He believes that God has written something of a moral code on his heart. He actually said, "I've never doubted what the right thing to do is. I just can't seem to do what I know is the right thing." He didn't even know that was in the Bible already (Romans 7 for those of you keeping score at home).

He's really concerned about the eternal destiny of his Muslim friend from work. He's still confused about why the Baptist church he grew up in fired the one pastor who connected with him. He doesn't know why religious people are so afraid of mystery. He's really angry at television preachers who stole money from his aging relatives.

More than anything, he worries that after 66 years of pondering he may not have made any progress at all in understanding this God who he is convinced exists. I suggested that God may, in fact, be infinite. How do you measure progress against infinity? He laughed and said, "You may be my kind of preacher."