I had breakfast with Kean today which was a treat.
He was a well established drug dealer in Hawaii when the King made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. I met him when he was pastoring.
I spent a busy week at his church. In addition to preaching and sundry peripheral events, I sat across from at least half the people in his congregation, one at a time, listening to their story and seeking to speak some wisdom into their lives.
Meet, scope out and equip in 90 minutes. NEXT!
At the end of the week, we sat down for my exit interview and he said, “My worst nightmare would be to become just like you.”
I knew it was not meant as harshly as it sounded, and I had known all week I was robustly violating the core social contract of the church. You see, Kean is a Mercy, and he absolutely, positively, from the core of his being believed that his love would heal the woundedness of the people in his church.
And if, per chance, the wounds were too deep for his love, surely the love of the body as a whole would heal them.
Frankly, I disagreed. I thought some personal responsibility along the way would help them along. So each of his people who were on a difficult journey already would bring their pain to our meeting and would leave with a clear, unambiguous to do list complements of this crusty old Prophet.
Kean was not happy watching his people walk out the door carrying a bigger load than they came in with. Didn’t bother me too much. I knew it was productive pain, after all, and would help them part ways with their unproductive pain — eventually.
We kept in touch and years later met up at a coffee shop in Whittier and laughed about the incident.
He had long since left the ministry and agreed with me that love alone did not always fix people, and there was possibly room for some imposed responsibility now and then although he still felt I was pretty heavy handed.
Kean’s original comment still stands out as one of the high points of my itinerant ministry. It is so rare and so refreshing to find authenticity in communication with spiritual leaders.
Kean and I are still miles apart in ideology, even though he now lives in my backyard — and we still like each other. After breakfast today he pushed back, very overtly, on an area where he thought I was out of line and was hurting someone who was hurting.
But we still enjoy each other, because we are authentic with each other.
This is probably one of my biggest struggles with the religious scene at large. What do you do with the obvious junk? The norm is to shake hands, lie robustly and walk away leaving things untouched.
“Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed the time here in your church. God is obviously on the verge of doing something big here.”
There just isn’t much room for authenticity. Envision any one of these conversations over lunch, after church.
“Hey Pastor, why is your head intercessor doing all that witchcraft prayer? I didn’t appreciate it one bit.”
“Pastor, I have been listening to the people in your congregation talk the last couple of days, and it sure looks like you have a pretty strong bias against women. Is this an unresolved wound in your life we need to explore?”
“Pastor, if I ever come back, please tell the leader of your ministry team he is not to lay hands on me under any circumstances. I don’t appreciate his Jezebel spirit one bit.”
“Well, Sally, I hear you when you say that God told you to run your deliverance ministry this way, but can you face the fact that what you are doing is not working and people’s lives are not being changed by what you say God told you to do? Do we have a problem here?”
“Yes, Fred, the bed in the guest bedroom is very comfortable in the natural, but how did you end up with such a spirit of lust in that room? Could it have anything to do with the two hundred R rated DVDs on the shelf below the big screen, that someone has obviously been watching?”
“Yes, Mrs. Murgatroyd, I can see that you put a huge amount of effort into fixing this killer breakfast. And a killer it is. I imagine if I ate one of everything, it would probably only take a year and a half off my life expectancy.”
You know, we just don’t have those conversations. The social contract is that if I am invited to speak on your turf, I am supposed to ignore all the junk in the house of the Lord and the pastor’s house and simply celebrate the good.
Authenticity is not in much demand in religious circles today.
I guess that is why I was most willing to have breakfast with Kean. An authentic Mercy who likes me, doesn’t approve of me, and is able to walk with me is special.
Doesn’t get much better than that.
Copyright March 31, 2012 by Arthur Burk
From the Quarterdeck, in Anaheim