To say I didn’t like church service as a kid would be a drastic understatement, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like the pastor. When the preacher would finally call on a “Brother” followed by his last name to say the last prayer my soul and body would jump for joy on the inside.
It didn’t take long for me to figure out that it wasn’t a miracle how Pastor Young magically appeared at the front door of our little church to shake hands with every person as they made their way out.
Even though it was illegal, not to mention flirting with a trip straight to hell, with all the goodGod-fearing folks praying with their eyes closed, I peeked. Usually, I’d just peek with one eye, that way it seemed like only half a sin I’d have to answer for on judgment day.
While Pastor Young spoke of judgment with authority and the right Biblical perspective, not all the flock took note. Some of them took to judging like a duck does to water.
I watched our beloved preacher stride silently in those long black wing tips with his head bent in reverence. Being a seasoned veteran of church services, and an expert in the sport of church exiting, I always tried to snag a pew closest to the door.
Pastor Young was always there waiting to shake my hand as well as the other boys my age that had the same species of ants in our pants. Our preacher knew all of us regulars by name and knew us well enough to always ask how we were doing with whatever sport or hobby we were into at the time.
Back in the seventies, there was no shortage of people still caught in the sixties with clothes and hairstyles to prove it. It didn’t matter to Tom Young what they looked or smelled like, he’d give each person a hearty handshake and a sincere welcome.
Unfortunately, like our small town church, our mega church today still has some of those folks that believe they have the mind and right to judge another’s heart using their eyes.
“Before you’re seated, please take a minute to greet those standing around you,” the preacher urged. It’s never my favorite part of the service, but I obliged and turned to shake the hands of the folks behind us.
There were two men, probably in their mid to late sixties. I smiled and stretched my open hand toward the man directly behind me. He held his arm at his side and turned his head away. I offered my hand to the man next to him and he accepted looking a bit embarrassed. Then the man who had refused to shake my hand shook everyone else’s.
I’m not exactly sure how or why I offended the man. It could have been a number of things; from my untucked shirt, designer jeans my wife got for me or my shoulder length hair that he couldn’t know used to be half way down my back.
What shocked me the most about the incident was my response. There was a time when I would have misquoted scripture to justify my anger and reprisal… but how can I know the paths that led that man to where he stood behind me?
Maybe that man kept his eyes closed in church during the last prayer… and didn’t have a man like Tom Young to show him the heart of God.