A reflection on my inability to help.

I’ll try to help just about anyone. Sometimes to my own detriment. I’m not bragging here; my motivation may be a desire to please God (sometimes based on residual ideas that unless I do good God won’t love me) or it may be to get noticed.

Can I confess here that sometimes when I bend down to pick up some litter, I imagine someone noticing me and running to me to reward me with a secret prize of thousands of dollars?

I’m a peacemaker, so I want everyone to be happy. Some say this is by virtue of being a middle child. I don’t know. But I do know this is part of who I am.

So, this week, when we got a call at the church from someone “just needing to talk to a pastor,” I was happy to take the call.

(When this kind of thing happens, I have on occasion, imagined myself putting on a cape, ready to fly into service.)

We spoke briefly on the phone, and then we scheduled a time in the afternoon when they would come by and talk. “I just need someone to talk to. I don’t want any money,” they insisted.

As they arrived about 30 minutes after the time we had set, I started the conversation a bit on the frustrated side. That faded quickly as I listened to their story.

They were angry with God. “Ok, I offered: it’s ok to be angry with God. God can handle that,” I said, with my best reassuring tone.

As the conversation continued I found myself asking for clarification more and more. Finally, it came down to me saying this:

You have insisted several times that you do not want money. But what I’m hearing is the one thing you really want is for me to go over to the hotel and pay for a couple of nights for you.

No, they insisted, they don’t ask for help. What’s more, I was reminded (the person had said this several times before), they are a straight talker and can’t stand when people talk around what they want.

We had reached an impasse.

This person was telling me, rather clearly, what they wanted. They were, at the same time, both refusing that they were telling me, and that these things were what they wanted.

I offered them free pickings from our food pantry, and they left shortly thereafter. I felt we had both missed an opportunity.

Sometimes I have convinced myself that I have given God, or friends, or loved ones, the skinny on exactly what I want or need. The look I get in return, though, tells me otherwise.

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