In ministry, one day is always different from the next. Sometimes, there are wonderful and rewarding experiences. Other times, there are difficult experiences.
I’ll never forget the day I was cursed at in church. Samuel L. Jackson style.
I was in my office working on the bulletin for the upcoming Sunday worship service. My office manager was not in so I was alone on the first floor of the church. I heard a commotion outside my office. I heard someone yelling at the top of their lungs. I couldn’t make out what they were saying. I stood up to get a better look through my window to the common area outside of our church offices. There I saw a women who started into a profanity laced speech:
“What the f**k is going on? Who’s in charge here? Someone has to help me with this sh*t”
Ignoring her cursing, I immediately greeted her, told her I was the pastor, and ask how I could be of assistance.
“How you going to f**king going to solve my problem. You don’t f**king understand!” She said. And directed her anger, misplaced as it was, at me. I was floored. I never met this woman and had no clue what was going on to produce such craziness.
For the next 5 minutes she told me about her troubles and challenges. These mostly stemmed from her physical disabilities. She continued to swear up and down. There wasn’t any logic to her hangups. I finally asked her to stop her cursing because the profanities were so loud that I feared the preschoolers downstairs would hear. I explained if she wanted me to help her that she would have to stop cursing. After two tries, she did.
I was about to lose it with her. I was caught off guard by this woman. I had to keep telling myself that since I never met her, her problems were not a result of something I had done. Her anger was starting to transfer to me. I kept telling myself to keep it cool and patience with her. I explained very calmly that she would have to write down a few basic details about herself and this was standard practice for financial assistance.
Then, the cursing started again: “What the f**k!?! I’m not doing this!” She continued to reject and demanded money on the spot. She explained that she needed money now and it had to be cash. Then she went on about how all Christians and churches are all full of awful sh*t heads (If that is true, then why is asking for money from a bunch of sh*t heads?).
At this point I was direct and clear with her: “Ma’am, I’ve told you how I can help. I’ve offered assistance and you are refusing to accept it. I want to help you. Until you fill out this paper, which I am willing to fill out for you, and stop cursing at me, I cannot help you.”
She grabbed the paper and stormed out.
Wow, I thought to myself, what was all that about? The only conclusion I came up with was that this woman had some sort of physiological imbalance. Regardless of her condition, it was a first time I was very cursed at in the church. I realized after that experience there will always be people who bring their baggage, anger, and negative emotions to the church and we have to be ready. There is a difference between reacting and responding. By reacting, I would have matched her anger and emotions. Responding is about listening and acting accordingly.
During this interaction I kept asking myself, “What do I need to do right now to love this person the right way?” I just kept thinking about 1 Corinthians 13: to be patient and kind with her.
We need to keep our cool when dealing with difficult situations. We don’t have to be doormats in the church or in life, but we certainly we can offer ourselves to a point. Jesus once asked for someone to follow him and the man gave an excuse and left. Jesus didn’t come back to him with a lower offer. He let the man go. Jesus laid down a boundary and let it stand.
Sometimes, we have to let go of our feelings and realize that we can’t change people instantly. We can only offer what we have and let the offer stand. And hopefully, you will not be cursed at.