Tim and I attend different churches nowadays. I wish that I could sit beside my husband in the pew, but I can't. My thinking doesn't fit his church, and he has never been able to stay awake through a sermon in my church, something that we discovered years ago when trying to decide on which church to attend.
My church begins earlier, and is just a few blocks away, so I'm out the door before he is, and because we linger in the mornings, I tend to cut it very close, timewise, because the church is so very close, distancewise.
Today, I was quite sorry about that because as I rushed to the Easter service, I saw a man, carefully raking a town park.
I've seen him before, and he is always alone. He is always carrying garden tools. His head is always down, as if he is carefully picking his path through our world. I've watched him for years, actually, and he has always been alone, although I did discover that he is an artist. I watched him nursing his hot coffee in a coffee house, drawing a picture. I wanted to talk to him then, but I did not want to intrude on his solitude.
When I saw him today, he was working carefully, sweeping, raking. I was in a rush to get into the church, and so I said a quick prayer as I rushed up the stairs to church, "Please God, let him be here when church is over."
Much to my delight, he was still there, sitting on a bench smoking a cigar, surveying the world through satisfied eyes. He studied me warily as I swept across the park straight for him.
I said, "I prayed that you'd still be here," and he responded comfortably, "Well, your prayers have been answered."
So we talked for 20 minutes, like old friends. He does what he does for the peace that he finds in doing it, he tells me. He tells me his views on God, and I am a bit surprised to find that our views are remarkably similar. He does not go to church, he says, because he finds that the people there judge him, and he believes that people should spend more time judging themselves. I was left without words there, because this is at the heart of my own belief system.
He does not want to be written about in the paper, because he likes his solitude. He is uncomfortable with recognition. He is a happy man, he tells me, most of the time, although when he spends too much time with people, he finds himself questioning himself.
As I listened to him talk, I said, "Gees. You remind me of John the Baptist. You are so full of Godly wisdom, but you walk a lonely path." He smiled. He reads the Bible every day, and he told me a story from the Bible, about Jesus being judged by the Sanhedrin. They asked Him if he was ordained by God, or by man. He responded, asking them whether they thought John the Baptist was ordained by God, or by man. They responded saying they did not know. Jesus did not answer their question.
I said, "Well, I'd guess the only reason they were asking him is because they wanted to judge his answer," to which my friend responded, "You are correct." We talked about leaps of faith, about saying, "Okay, God, I am trusting you," and then wandering off the beaten path.
Both of us have done that in a way. In a way, this man and I are kindred spirits. We sat in a park amidst the neat piles of debris he'd carefully swept into piles, and we talked about God.
I hated to go, but I gave him a hug, and I said, "I'll be looking for you. If you don't mind, I'd like to visit with you again.
He smiled gently, and he said, "I'd like that."