The Church Stranger – A Short “Fiction” Story

THE CHURCH STRANGER
 

As the stranger enters the first and outer door, he wants to be hugged, but he is stand offish. He wants someone to say “Welcome”, but he gives an impression of not being approachable – a body language that says “stay away”. He hungers for love but his body language, his patterns of behavior, drive those away that he so wants to be close to.

Those familiar patterns emerge, again, where the people reject him. This is how he feels anyway and what the whispers in his head keep telling him. Nonetheless, the stranger courageously enters the auditorium through the inner door, thirsty for something that will fill his heart and give him a reason to live, a reason to exist. “Please hug me, please tell me that you love me,” he thinks to himself. Only to turn people away via a look or his downcast eyes. And yet, he continues through the struggle to humble himself, fighting the urge to run away, just so that he can hear a message that might explain his existence. He has heard that this is what this place is for. Right?

Time lapses, the message the stranger hears is on par, it tugs at his heart, pulls him in. “Does the man on the stage know me or something”, he ponders. “How does this guy know my story?”. There is an urge to run to the stage, his heart is pumping new blood, it is life giving, but the fear is overwhelming and he rejects the notion. They don’t want him up there because he is ugly, inside and outside. And then, finally, the man on the stage cries out for someone to come forward, sacrifice the fear and end the suffering. “Come and receive life, we love you, we want you, we need you. Come forward NOW!!” In whose name? Who did he say?

“Is he talking to me?”, he wonders. “Nah, nobody likes me, I wasn’t even acknowledged when I walked in”. “Wait, I feel something pulling me in, what is that?” It is then that he feels the tug of war, the whispers, telling him that this is stupid. They are not talking to you, they are talking to someone else. He feels a force trying to pull him forward, but there is another opposing invisible force pushing him back into his seat. He feels like people are staring at him, like he is an idiot or something.

He starts to cry, it is unbearable, but he fights it and, eventually, it stops. He wants to crawl down to the floor, he cannot bear his own weight sitting in the chair. The man is done talking and he is thanking people for coming. The man on stage dismisses all of the people but the stranger remains in his seat. He is in the back of the auditorium and he watches as the people walk past him. Some are at least acknowledging him with their eyes, a smile here and there. But, for the most part, the people congregate with those they are apparently friends with and the stranger is, once again, back to being a nothing, a nobody. Invisible.

He slowly rises and shuffles to the exit door, passing two groups of friends who are having their own private discussion. The stranger is again hoping that someone will recognize him, acknowledge him, give him a hug and tell them that they love him. His shoulders shrink deep into his chest and he leans his head forward and down to look at the ground. He cannot bear the thought of looking at anyone. They might recognize him as someone that does not belong.

“Well, I tried”, he sobs inwardly. “They don’t want me here, but that is what I expected anyway.” The stranger continues to meander, slowly, to the last door before he is outside.

He wants to say out loud “Please”, but he can only beg inwardly to himself. “Somebody”, pause, “Help me!”, pause, “I need someone, anyone”. Nope, his head whispers, figures.

He perceives, no wait, he senses, that he is being stared at. He is one step from the outer door. “Is someone going to stop me?”, he wonders.

No. He must have been mistaken. He is just a few inches from the outer door when he feels that strong tug on his heart again. Still an unfamiliar sensation, his body starts to shake. He doesn’t understand it, what does it mean. He slowly lifts his head and twists it a little to his left. There he is, an older guy, watching me. His eyes are crystal blue, what is that I see in them? The old man smiles at him, just slightly, and nods his head just a little, enough to tell the stranger that he sees him. The eyes of the old man look like they are saying, I recognize you.

“Weirdo”, he thinks. “Leave me alone”. The stranger turns his head back to the door and walks the final inches to enter the parking lot. He hears that whisper again, see, I told you. Nobody likes you, you are pathetic.

The stranger walks faster once he gets outside. Just shy of a jog, that familiar force that he has felt his entire life is pulling him forward. And, just as the stranger is ready to turn a corner, placing the building behind him for the last time, a slight shimmer stops him cold.

Turn around, he hears. “No”, he says to himself. Turn around, what you need is back where you came. “No, that is not true”, the stranger says to himself once more. I love you. “Yeah right! I am hated, nobody likes me, they don’t care about me. Nobody does.”  The man pushes through the shimmer, with the shadow of a cross from the roof of the building striking his back, pleading for him to come back.

Meanwhile, the old man that the stranger had seen at the outer door, cries out to himself. “You fool, you let him go”. “He needed you, the Spirit told you to grab him and hold him tight”, a slight inward pause, “But the stranger looked dirty, and there was a glint in his eyes that said beware. He was scary.” “Lord, forgive me and please place someone in his life that can get to him, lead him to the joy and freedom that he so desperately needs. In Jesus Name.”

The old man is so consumed with his own personal pride and grief about letting the stranger go that he does not hear that still whisper in his heart that says, “Go get him, chase him. Bring him back”.

The stranger allows the familiar force to continue to pull him away while ignoring that new and strange sensation to turn around. The battle fades as he continues walking to never be seen again.
 
***********
 
There are men, throughout the world, who were rejected as children and continuously rejected throughout their adult life, to a degree that they have a difficult time adjusting from that pattern in their lives. After a while, they start to create the conditions where they actually become a cause for that rejection. In their hearts, “once rejected always rejected”. They believe that they have become incapable of feeling the love that they recognize is so essential and critical to living a fruitful and joyful life. This is tormenting to men like this.
 
Some will make an effort, take that leap, to go to the one place where there is not supposed to be rejection. A place that is understood to be overflowing with love. As they enter the doors to this “building”, they are still carrying that rejection on their shoulders, you can see it in their eyes. But yet, their hearts are beating with anticipation, to finally be somewhere where they can feel like they belong, a reason to exist, a purpose for “all of this”. However, strangers will never recognize that this building is filled with many hurting people. Rejected people are people easily hurt and offended. They, more than ever, need someone in the Church to help lead them to Christ.
 
The Church is not the Pastor nor the building; the Church is about God and His people. His people should show Him through their character and their hearts towards people that they are introduced to and encounter – some seeking a new body and a new beginning. It is the people that love and take care of each other, this might be the first physical expression of love that someone has experienced. A family – even if a dysfunctional one. Sometimes, a stranger appears, who wants to enter the family, to get a piece, even if only a portion, of what a church family has. The successful integration of the stranger depends on the people (who God operates through), not the Pastor by himself, and most definitely not the building. If the people are perceived to not care, then the stranger may conclude that God does not care either. And that my friends, may be the end of the stranger.