Friday, December 16, 2005

There is something about Adam, and I think it's radioactive

There is a fellow in our church named Adam.

The sad thing about Adam is that he is radioactive. I'm not sure how this happened, but he has some sort of rare condition in which his body radiates a type of Gamma Ray radiation.

You know the kind -- the type of Gamma Rays that turned David Bruce Banner into the raging Hulk.

Adam comes near me and I feel the radiation getting to me.

My blood begins to boil.

My blood pressure increases.

My skin turns green.

My body expands, ripping apart my all of my clothing -- well, not quite. For some strange reason my shirt is ripped, by shoes are ripped, my socks pop off, but my pants stay intact.

OK -- maybe it is not that bad, but there is something about Adam.

He just gets to me.

"Love your neighbor," Jesus said, echoing the teachings that God has given since the dawn of time.

I have no problem with that until I see Adam coming.

Adam. Elder. Member of the Session, which is the governing body of the church.

Adam, who shut down the food pantry in the church, convinced the Session to cut mission budget, led the move to freeze salaries for a year, and drove the last two secretaries I had nuts. Each eventually resigned. I often expect my current secretary to resign.

Adam, who lies to people, manipulates people and has such a sweet smile as he stabs people in the back.

Adam is tough to love.

Adam! I despise him. I detest him. I am alergic to him -- he actually causes my blood pressure to go up (record so far was 205/105 -- calling for me to take a day or two off).

I see him headed down the sidewalk to the office, and I walk out the door and head to the nursing home to visit Miss Beth.

I see him in the sanctuary and I find myself turning to Claire for a chat with her in the far pew.

I'm not the only one. I notice that when David organizes a group trip to the Marlins, there never seems to be a ticket left for Adam. When Evelyn is asking for volunteers for the Easter play, she avoids Adam. Elders don't stand up against him in Session meetings because he is so very toxic -- as I say, he has that Gamma Ray thing.

I decided a long time ago that Christian love is not an emotion. It is not something you possess for someone.

Christian love is a verb -- it is action. It is a way of respecting and treating someone.

I can't feel love for Adam -- I'm trying my best not to feel hate for him.

But I can love Adam in the way I deal with him. I can treat him like a human being and show him respect.

So I look out the window and see him coming, should I stay and chat with him when he arrives in my office?

I see him in the Sanctuary, should I turn to greet him?

Should I make sure he gets a ticket to the game with the rest of the church group? I could make sure he'll get the aisle seat and I'll sit next to him.

No -- no I can't do that. He is a vampire who bits into my soul and sucks the life right out of me. He is toxic -- after all, he has that Gamma Ray thing. Being around him too much is bad for me -- I can't survive.

He is abusive and mean and a trouble making bully.

I think the solution is to turn into the Hulk. I could pick him up and hurl him across the room, then bang a hole in the wall and run away from it all.

What would Jesus do?

Actually, I think he would turn into the Hulk.

Remember the time Jesus walked into the Temple and saw the merchants making a buck on God? Jesus didn't turn green. His muscles didn't grow so his robe was ripped off his body. BUT he did pick up a few tables and turn them over. He made a whip and drove the merchants out. (Matthew 21:12-17)

Dr. Banner would understand.

Some behavior is unacceptable.

Some of it demands that we say "No!"

A friend of mine has a son who was about 10 years old when the family was visiting a church. Strange thing this ministry -- the whole family goes on the job interview. The search committee was showing my friend around the church and the chair of the search committee son, age 5, was picking on the prospective minister's son, age 10. The ten year old took it in stride and with great patience. However, when the 5 year old son of the search committee chair picked up a rock and hit the minister's son in the head, the preacher's kid snapped back, "Would you please stop acting like an ass hole."

My friend didn't get the job, but then the 5 year old did begin to behave.

So I talked to Adam the other day and told him to stop acting like an ass hole.

I did it in a very pastoral way, however, and no reference to body parts was included in the conversation.

It didn't help.

But then, I don't think Jesus was very effective in turning the tables over in the temple. Want evidence? Buy a bobble headed Jesus statue online.

But he still turned over the tables, because it was the right thing to do.

And so I told Adam to treat the staff, especially my secretary, with respect. It seemed to be a good starting point.

It didn't help.

So what now?

Turn green and go on a rampage?

No -- I think I will continue to love Adam and treat him with respect, but avoid him as much as practical. I won't run from him, but since he seems to radiate something toxic -- you know, that Gamma Ray thing -- I will limit my exposure to him.

It seems to be what Jesus would do.

Matthew 10:14 talked about dealing with a difficult person or community -- just dust your feet off and move on to the next person.

I can't change Adam -- but I won't let him change me either.

Green skin and tattered shirts would never look good on me.


Anonymous Lorna said...

This is an absolutely marvellous post! I could identify with ,every, part of it, even with Adam at times if truth be told!

I rejoiced for Miss Beth too, because she got an extra visit from you :)

Setting bounderies with bullies (who do have real power) is very hard to do. I've tried to teach my teenagers how to do it at school. Turning the other cheek is not always the right thing to do, but becoming like them is not the way either.

Jesus violently turned tables. I saw a film once of all the emotion and passion behind that. He was never a emotionless saint, though some would make him out to be so. That's not to say we should make a habit of it, but to set clear boundaries even for those who carry weight in a church, and may ultimiately cause your resignation, is the right thing to do.

I commend you for your action and I pray too that God can show you something really positive about Adam that you can encourage and draw out, so that you'd WANT to sit by him on the bus on the next outing.

God's like that you know :) Adam has spiritual gifts that are not being used for the glory of God yet. But they can be!

This post ,really, made me think.

Blessings to you.

2:58 AM  
Blogger jbb said...

i really enjoyed the post man, and im glad that your back. your like my online pastor and i was missin your post. keep em up for us!


3:47 AM  
Blogger St. Casserole said...

Oh yeah.
Your post reminds me of the preacher joke about wanting to do a "member swap" to send crappy members to another church for awhile to get a break. You'd get another preacher's Adam, they'd get yours.
Can you be ironic with him? Can you laugh when he pulls stuff and say, "Isn't that just like you !?!" to diffuse him and his Gamma Ray?
Can you go talk to him again and listen to his entire story (after you've taken a goodly dose of blood pressure medicine)?
What is his incentive for staying where he can't get a Marlin ticket and the preacher turns green at his approach?
I'm going to add him to my list for prayer.
Geez! These people get on my nerves!

3:57 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

My least favorite people in church are those desgnated, "But he/she means well." You know the type: every prayer request revolves around them, every argument comes back to them. They suck the energy, creativity and hope out of a room. An no one wants to be the person to say, "Ah, geez, XX showed up. Now everything's going to turn into a pity fest and three people are going to leave feeling like crap."
Louise gets told she looks fat, 'But XX means well."
John gets told that the youth are our of control, "But XX means well."
The discussion about setting up a care fund gets turned back into a conversation about XX's arthritis. "But XX means well."
For a moment I thought you were going to the same place in your post: that place where we are all tempted to stop - using, "means well," "turn the other cheek," or "loving" as an excuse to avoid a necessary confrontation.
I applaud your beginning and hope that others will join you. There's nothing about a divisive person that demands we endure him or her, nor any contradiction between discipline/honesty and love.
I will pray for you and the elders and your superpowers.

10:09 AM  
Anonymous Marguerite Jasmin said...

Glad you're back, a very good post, I really enjoyed reading it.

1:19 PM  
Blogger cheesehead said...

I like St Casserole's comment. What *does* kep this guy around?

I'll pray for the both of you, because Ive been there, brother.

Welcome back, btw.

7:18 PM  
Blogger Rodger Sellers said...

Man, I don't know... maybe calling an asshole an asshole sometimes is called for? Doesn't win many "pc" points but sounds to me like this guy needs a dose of "unvarnished" truth.

You don't, ever, diffuse gamma radiation (at least not for what, 10,000 years or so?); you just shield everyone else from it.


9:12 PM  
Blogger The Pastor said...

My suggestion, keep close to him. Be there for him in a time of need. Show him love and care. At some point, if you can't help him be better, you can at least view him differently. I just went through a knee surgery with a lady at church who is disliked by many for her many straight forward opinions and scheming. I now view her differently. I don't get knots in my stomach when i see her coming. i even joke with her now.

12:20 AM  
Blogger revbill said...

What a wonderful post! I can certainly identify with you -- for in my 21 years of ministry I have had lots of "Adams" -- (I currently even have a few "Eves") --and have had to learn how to relate to them as pastorally as possible.
Tanks for the insights!

6:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey welcome back pastor!!
I was beginning to develop withdrawals!

I think you did great in letting Adam know that he was upsetting people with his behavior and words. I guess your support to the staff on his issue would mean a lot to them. At least I would feel a great sense of relief if I were them.
A long time ago I quit working with a Chrisian group mainly because of the chronically corrosive words and actions of one of the leaders. It reached a point where I began questioning my own God given abilities. I wish my immediate boss had been that supportive!

People like Adam can eat into your self esteem. What makes it worse is that this person may have zero insight into the kind of pain that he is causing others. even when you deliberately confront or completely avoid the person there is no guarantee that it will ever stop. But at least the confrontation can bring some kind of closure to you by letting you voice out how you feel about him.

12:14 PM  
Blogger Angelique said...

I wish I has some helpful advice to give you but I have had my share of assholes and I tell you that there is no cure for being a dick. I feel kind of bad for them because you know that they will end up alone. I think that the richest person on the planet is someone who has touched everyone's life in a positive way. Maybe he needs more fiber in his diet or a cream for his rectal itch but I know for a fact that grumpy people hate happy people. It upsets them that they have not sucked the joy out of life from you. So be happy, enjoy life and leave the rest up to God, I've been told that he works in mysterious ways.

1:47 AM  
Blogger HeyJules said...

I suppose the whole "Do unto others as THEY do unto YOU" would be out of line?

Yeah, thought so...

Good post, though. : )

5:48 PM  

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