just under the surfaceThe church parking lot is a nightmare. With all the new construction and remodeling currently underway, a big section of the parking lot is fenced off and the main driveway detoured through the thin auxiliary lanes that look like they were designed for Pruis’ and Mini Coopers.

We were running uncharacteristically late for church and our usual lane and spaces facing north, for my quick getaway afterward, were already taken. I paused at the end of the row closest to the entry doors of the church before heading out to the north forty, “Go ahead and get out here, I’m gonna have to park a ways away,” I offered to my wife who had just had minor surgery on her leg about a week before. “Just sit as close to our usual spot as you can,” I advised.

I let her cross in front before I turned and headed out to never, never land. I took the second turn in the skinny one way parking lot lane on my way south in search of a precious space. While I tend to speed on freeways, highways, and surface streets, I never speed in parking lots and try to be respectful of pedestrians.

About a quarter of the way between the next two-way major entry and exit lane, a group of tardies were ambling toward the sanctuary. I slowed to almost a crawl as the majority of them moved out of the center of the driving area as I passed. One more late-ster was up ahead and looked to be crossing in front of me as I slowed again.

The early thirties looking guy was stout, a tad on the heavy side, board shorts, flip flops, and had the perfectly groomed five o’clock shadow. As I slowed to let him cross, he didn’t. Once he was half across the lane he turned dead center of the lane walking toward me.

I stopped and studied the burly kid trying to figure out in a split second what was happening while he walked toward me. He smiled a wide devious smile and his eyebrows that matched his backward ball cap spread across his forehead with pleasure.

I’m not one who gets easily rattled – mad? Okay, yeah. I looked squarely in the eyes of the man, shook my head with exaggeration and tried to show as much disgust and apathy as my expression could as I moved as far left in the skinny lane as possible, refusing to stop for the punk that revealed the real me hiding just under the surface.

I hate to admit that had he pulled that stunt anywhere other than the church parking lot the least we would have exchanged would have been words… The broken side of me, the “sick” side of me, that Christ said He came for reared its ugly face.

We’ve been sitting in the same area of the church and pews for years. Standing next to my wife, my blood cooling, I subtly searched the sanctuary for the guy who managed to bring out the part of me Christ came for. Where would God sit the man I’d never laid eyes on before that day? Directly across the aisle from me, of course…

The man had taken off his cap and carried it in reverence. I glanced at the failed test across the aisle from me that reminded me of how easily I still fall. When the worship leader prompted us to “greet your neighbor” the man seemed to avoid me.

I tapped him on the shoulder. As he turned I shook his hand and offered to him and to my Father a genuine, “I’m sorry.”

When Christ said He came for the sick, He was speaking of me… How bout’ you?