Everyone has a thing, a compulsion, or an irresistible urge. I knew a pastor once who would go out at least once a week and sweep the sidewalk in front of his church. He felt that the outside of the church should look immaculate and he did whatever was necessary to make that happen. My thing is the Sanctuary, and I work hard to make that look good.
I am the pastor of a small church. And I wear many hats in my pastoral role, including sprucing up the sanctuary. I pick up the bulletins left on the seats and stuffed into the hymnals. I also make sure there are visitor cards in the pew racks. I’ve become really sensitive over the years to the strange things that befall my visitor cards. Some are doodled upon, usually by young and aspiring Michelangelo’s. Some are stuffed into the racks so deep that I need to employ a letter opener to pry them out. And some are turned into flying objects that are strewn about the floor. Visitor cards are important and they need to be defended.
The strangest assault on my visitor cards was done by an older couple who sat in the same seats in the back of the church. Every week the cards were drawn upon, torn up, ripped into shreds, and otherwise assailed until there was nothing left for a poor pastor to salvage. And this was done not by ten year olds, but by people on Social Security. Every week I was tempted to get up, hands flailing and shout into the sanctuary; “I know what you are doing! You two, third pew from the back on the right side. Repent ye sinners and stop molesting my visitor cards or fire will pour down from the heavens and consume you.”
I just don’t understand people. Do you want someone to come into your home and throw your visitor cards around? Throw them on the floor, trample them until they are useless, and then act like everything is normal? OK so maybe I’m a little preoccupied with this, but honestly, how would you feel in my position?
I have seen the same odd behavior out in the woods. I hike and backpack quite a bit. I frequently travel on the Appalachian Trail, which is like the NJ Turnpike of hiking trails. This thin ribbon of dirt and rock winding through the woods probably has the highest concentration of environmentalists per square mile on the earth. And these are the kind of environmentalists who would gladly throw themselves in front of a tractor trailer if they thought it would save a single Spotted Owl. And yet, I frequently find trash strewn about the trail. I’m sure Smoky the Bear loves to find empty Aqua Pure water bottles sitting in his backyard. It’s just so maddening.
What is it with people and public places? Things we would never do at home, dropping trash in our garden for example, we casually do along the street. It almost seems as if we pick our moments to break free of the constraints of communal living. At home we get yelled at by our family if we do things that have a negative effect on the others. But when no one is looking, when we think we are released from the never ending responsibilities of being a good citizen, we break out and drop that empty bottle of Snapple’s Ginseng infused Green Tea on our neighbor’s lawn. Oh, the sweet taste of liberty.
Is this the reason for the violation of my visitor cards? Are people secretly yearning to breath free? There they quietly sit in church, no one is looking at them, no one is going to criticize them, no one is going to judge. They sit in church and sing and pray and they rip my visitor cards into tiny pieces and watch them drop onto my formerly clean floor. They do this because, well – because. But beware people; God is a God of justice as well as mercy. There will be a day of divine retribution for visitor card assailants. As the good book says; cast thy visitor cards upon the waters and they shall rise up and sweep you away like dust upon the sidewalk.