I came to Roswell, America in 1992. It was a good year to come. There was still a bread bakery along Main Street that perfumed the air of this town, and though it has always been a desert island in an ocean of brutal light, it was, that year, a promising place to be. I found a little two bedroom apartment a two blocks from the First Baptist Church, and I moved in my few sticks of furniture and my mismatched washer and dryer. Among the first visitors to that little home was Dr. Bobby Renfro, the best preacher I ever heard. I always called him Brother Bobby because he asked me to do so. Brother Bobby would occasionally discuss his witness to this citizen or that, and he would always respond to their criticism that our church was full of hypocrites that he knew it was. “We always have room for one more.” He was that kind of winking brainiac.
I have studied the Bible since childhood. I’ve worn Bibles out in my life, thumbed them until the covers came off. My beliefs spring from scripture and have grown up (in a weedy way) from my life experiences. Though preferring to keep my spiritual cards close to my chest, lest I become an embarrassment to my family or my faith, I nonetheless confess my faith here. But, it has been shaken.
This morning I accuse myself of being a hypocrite because this morning I spent several hours in the dentist’s chair. He gave me a massive shot of numbing agent that lasted six hours. During the procedure I realized that it had been days since I last prayed in the earnest way I ought. I was tilted back with the lights suspended over my head, a rubber wedge between my teeth, the whine of a drill in my ears, and the smell of cinders in the air when I found myself praying that God send his angels to guide my dentist’s hands. Pretty selfish, right? I could almost hear my guardian angel saying, “Oh, so, you have a few minutes to talk to the Big Guy right now? Not too busy right now? Wouldn’t you rather call Him back when you have less to distract you from contemplating His will?” It made me start to cry…and sweat…and choke. I tried to say, “Okay. Fine. I’ll get to it later.” But, no soap. It was only a few minutes later when I was back with the “Please guide the dentist’s hands. Please let him do his best work. Please allow it to go well.” Hypocrite.
I’m not done. When I got home, my mother was concerned about why it took so long. I was in no condition to explain. She went out to water the garden, and the cat got out. So once again, I’m praying, “Dear Lord, please do not let her wander into the road or another cat. She’s completely inexperienced. Please let her come back.”
Now, these all are earnest prayers, meant honestly, but they are quintessentially selfish, and someone who has studied scripture all her life, should not have to indulge in such prayers. A non-hypocrite would have found a way to say, “Thank you, Lord, for teaching me that I can endure pain, and that I will feel much better when it is over.”
Maybe next week.