Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Problem with Shelly

How much grace is just enough?

Shelly met a woman on the bus, and though their differences were obvious they spent a few minutes in conversation. Pat wore dark slacks and a white button-up shirt. And a tie. Her closely cropped brown hair and lack of jewelry and make-up said something about the kind of person she was. But Shelly prided herself on being open-minded. After all, if Jesus talked to sinners, shouldn’t Christians do the same?

       Pat had a job interview downtown. “Do I look all right?” she asked. “I heard there’s no discrimination with this company, but maybe I should’ve worn something a little less…me.”
       “Oh, you look fine, I’m sure.” Just yesterday Shelly had straightened her husband’s tie, and here this woman was wearing one exactly like it. But to each his…um…her own. “Besides, if you’re qualified for the job, I guess it shouldn’t matter.”
       “That’s what I’m hoping. So, what do you do?”
       “Me? I’m a mom. A wife. And I stay busy with church activities. I’m on my way to my prayer group right now.” Shelly eyed the woman for a reaction.
       "I used to go to church.”
       Shelly tilted her head. “Aww. They weren’t too friendly?”
       Pat shrugged. “Maybe I was the one who wasn’t too friendly. I don’t know.”
       “Well, God loves you.” Shelly grinned as the bus slowed. “This is my stop. Good luck with the job. I’ll say a prayer for you.”
       “Uh, okay. Thanks.”
Pat shifted her eyes to the window, and Shelly hurried for the exit. The ladies in her prayer group would be impressed. She’d stepped out of her comfort zone and reached out to the lost. Now she had something to share besides the cookies she’d squeezed into her satchel.
She prepared every word for her report about the bus ride with… What was her name? But right away, even before prayer time started, another lady stole the group’s attention. Lisa’s husband was leaving her. She wasn’t forthcoming about the reasons, but claimed her husband was sorry for…whatever it was he’d done. He wasn’t coming back to church, but he wanted Lisa and the kids to keep going.

Shelly wasn’t surprised. She’d heard stories about Lisa’s husband. Good riddance. In fact, Lisa ought to move on too and find another church. A lonely broken-hearted woman could cause more trouble than she was worth.

What a letdown. Shelly didn’t even bother telling the group about her new friend who might come to church on Sunday. She’d probably repent, thanks to Shelly. Not that anybody cared. The group’s leader began the prayer time—which was all about Lisa— asking God for comfort. For forgiveness. For reconciliation. But Shelly didn’t pray. It’d be a waste of time.

This little story is only fiction, though I’ve witnessed the horrible reality of Christian marriages falling apart. Nothing is sadder. But it’s not about that. And it’s not about believers offering kind and scripture-led friendship to those living an alternative lifestyle. Dealing with either of these sensitive topics would take more space than I’ve got here.
This story is about Shelly. How does she see herself? As representative of grace? If so, is it easier for her to show grace to a stranger than to a fellow believer? Is she prideful? Self-centered? Does she suffer from delusions of grandeur? Is she for real?

Do I know her?

Being that I travel in Christian circles, I admit I don’t know too many gay people. But I don’t find conversation with gays any more difficult than I do with the rest of the human race. (Yes, I’d rather write than talk.) As I indicated, I do know a few divorced Christians. (Well, more than a few.) In either of these situations, I only want to show grace. To offer grace. Sometimes it isn’t easy. But as God gives me grace, I pass it on.

Then someone like Shelly crosses my path and I want to…I fix her.

But I’ve got my own hang-ups. My own prideful moments in the Christian Hall of Fame. My own hidden secrets in the Sinners Hall of Shame. Who am I to come down on Shelly? She just doesn’t get it. And maybe I just need to be a friend. Have a conversation with her. Say a prayer with her. I might teach her a thing or two.

Could it be God has something to teach me through Shelly? Am I willing to accept it? It won’t be easy. But as God gives me grace…


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