This morning at the gym, I unfortunately overheard the conversation of three older women who were on the machines next to me. It wasn’t really eavesdropping, as they were speaking quite loudly in a public gym. The conversation disturbed me.
The conversation focused on the church all three women attend. They were talking about the pastor and his family. At first, they were simply lobbying their complaints against their pastor. Then, the conversation turned towards his family. One woman said, “I don’t know what the deal is with his wife. It’s like she thinks she’s too good for us.” Another responded, “Oh, and their kids. I’m not convinced that middle one is his. Her skin coloring looks like there’s something mixed in her that isn’t her father.” The third lady said, “I’m not really sure about the oldest daughter. The folks in my Sunday school class are trying to figure out what she is. Gay, bisexual or just weird.”
I found myself in an odd situation. I simply could not believe that I was overhearing this conversation in a public setting. But, I was not part of the conversation. Should I speak up or attempt to ignore these ladies.
When they started “trying to figure out what she is”, I decided that enough is enough. So, I interrupted their conversation. My soapbox speech went something like this:
“Excuse me, but I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation. Can I make a suggestion? Maybe instead of “trying to figure out” what your pastors daughter happens to be, maybe you could simply love her? In fact, instead of openly gossiping and complaining about your pastor and his family, maybe you could just love them. I’ve got to tell you, I’m surprised at how openly and loudly you are having this type of discussion in a public setting. I can’t imagine what you must say about your pastor and his family when you aren’t in public. I’ve got to tell you, it’s a horrible witness. I don’t know your pastor or what church you go to, but I can tell you this…based on what I’ve heard this morning, I would never want to set foot in your church. I’m going to say a prayer for your pastor and his family today because they obviously have a difficult charge.”
As I started to walk away, all three looked embarrassed and one said, “You know, you’re right. I’m sorry.”
To be honest, most days I would probably have just done my best to ignore them and walk away. But, I imagined what it must be like for that young girl to go to a church where folks are “trying to figure out what she is”. I imagined what it must be like for that pastors wife to interact with people who are making harsh, and most likely uninformed, judgments about her. I imagined what it must be like for the pastors child who people are wondering if the pastor is the father. Then, I imagined what it would be like if church folk talked about me and my family this way. And, let’s be honest, I know it happens. I’m not so naive as to believe that I’m so awesome that church folk don’t talk about me or my family in not-so-loving ways.
As I thought about this, I found myself thinking, “Man, I sure hope someone would speak up on my behalf. So, man up and say something.” Sure, I felt like an arrogant, self-righteous jerk.
I’m sure when I walked out of the gym they probably though or said, “What an arrogant asshole! Who in the hell does he think he is?” Of course, these were “good church ladies”. So, they probably dressed their curse words up in Sunday clothes and said, “How rude and disrespectful was that? I tell you, younger generations just have no respect for their elders.” Oh well. I really don’t give a damn what they thought of me.
Maybe you should just try loving them. I have a feeling this is the call for all of us. Those folks we have a tendency to judge…maybe we should just try loving them. Those people who drive us crazy…maybe we should just try loving them. Those people we disagree with…maybe we should just try loving them. Those people who happen to be different…maybe we should just try loving them. Those three older women gossiping and complaining about their pastor…maybe I should just try loving them.
Now, I’m sure it will be a little awkward the next time I run into these women at the gym. I bet they’ll avoid using the machines near me. I