When a brief overheard comment twists your stomach in knots, know there’s something there to pay attention to.
Last week Tony Kriz did a reading for his new book, Aloof: Figuring out life with a God who hides. I’ve been getting to know Tony lately through a project we’re both involved with, and I wanted to support his book launch.
During the signing, woven into the banter, I overheard the troubling words. The comment? Tony’s been getting a lot of “hate mail” about this book, emails from Christians who find Tony’s premise threatening, or unorthodox, or even heretical.
It was a sentence or two at most, but I could feel the fear in my gut and down the back of my neck. My mind swirled. I’ve had hate mail too. One particular experience washed back into my conciousness.
Years ago I was unknowingly the star of a “hate video.” Someone anonymously filmed me speaking and leading worship at a youth event. My face, my worship, my spoken words became the backdrop for an angry screed on everything wrong with the church. The makers of this video didn’t just disagree with my words and strategies. No, they knew my heart, knew my mind, knew my intentions. They condemned me as an agent of Satan, at best helplessly deluded, but more likely a knowing accomplice in a grand plan to infiltrate and tear down God’s true church.
It was crushing. I’m a pastor’s kid who grew up in the church. Unlike many, I grew up loving it. I’ve only ever wanted to be a part of the church, and to use my gifts to help the church grow and be more effective. I really believe that Jesus is what everyone needs most. To be condemned, not just disagreed with, but comdemned as a heretic? It hurt so badly.
When I overheard Tony’s comment, this old experience came pouring back into my mind. I became profoundly present to an obstacle that was taking up an enormous amount of space in my mind and heart.