On Sunday afternoon, the folks of First Baptist and First Presbyterian churches of Griffin, GA gathered at the banks of the Flint River to see five people baptized and welcomed into the family of faith. As we stood by the river, it was easy to be in reverent awe at the beauty . . . even in the summer shower that re-baptized us all and reminded us of the commitments we made to follow Christ. Reverence for other humans, however, isn’t always so easy. I came across this great passage in Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith when preparing Sunday’s sermon. However, it got edited out of the final draft. I offer it here for some added reflection.
“Reverence for creation comes fairly easily for most people. Reverence for other people presents more of a challenge, especially if those people’s lives happen to impinge on your own. I live at the end of a dirt road in the country for a reason. I can see my nearest neighbor’s house in the wintertime when all the trees are bare, but for the rest of the year we go about our business with no visual confirmation of each other’s presence. We like each other very much. We also like our distance from each other. I cannot speak for him, but I know that I have an easier time loving humankind than I do loving particular human beings.
“Particular human beings hug my bumper in rush-hour traffic and shoot birds at me when I tap my brakes. Particular human beings drop my carefully selected portabella mushrooms into the bottom of my grocery bag and toss a can of beans on top of them. They talk on their cell phones while I am trying to have a nice quiet lunch at Blimpie’s; they talk on their cell phones while I am waiting in line to pay for gas; they talk on their cell phones while I am trying to step past them on the sidewalk. Particular human beings rarely do things the way I think they should do them, and when they prevent me from doing what I think I should be doing, then I can run short on reverence for them.
“One remedy for my condition is to pay attention to them when I can, even when they are in my way. Just for a moment, I look for the human being instead of the obstacle. That boy who is crushing my portabellas does not know the first thing about mushrooms. He is, what, sixteen years old? With such a bad case of acne that it has to hurt when he lays his face on the pillow at night. His fingernails are bitten to the quick. He is working so hard to impress the pretty young cashier that it is no wonder he does not see me. But I see him, and just for a moment he is more than the bag boy. He is a kid with his own demons, his own bad skin and budding lusts. I do not want too much information about any of this, but I can at least let him be more than a bit player in my drama. I pay attention to him, and the fist in my chest lets go.”