Var and I had just parked the car in Kirkland and gotten the terriers out for a walk, when a frail old lady approached me and asked:
“Sir, are you a Christian?”Which raised all my defensive shields. What the hell business was it of hers? And besides, I was in no mood to talk about my “faith”, being particularly grumpy today. Sometimes I do get up on the wrong side of the bed. I curtly told her “no, I’m not”.
She gave me the most complicated look I’ve gotten in a long time... her hopeful face crumpled into disappointment, sadness, as if I’d said the wrong thing, and she didn’t say anything more or launch into a sermon, so I gratefully let the dogs pull me away from her and toward the park.
She’s been haunting me all day. I even went back around the block to look for her, but by then she was gone. I suspect that what was really going on was that she needed some kind of assistance and this was her old-fashioned way of getting around to asking for it. Boy, did she ever ask the wrong guy at the wrong time in the wrong way. I should have just asked her back: “Why do you want to know?” But ego-defensive shields rarely ask questions.
However, it IS an excellent question: “Am I a Christian?” Because the proper question back is “What do you mean by ‘Christian’?” And I’d get a different answer every time, and every time someone would be trying to pre-qualify me for some category or another. On certain levels I can say “Yes, I am a Christian”, if we’re talking about the experience of ego-death and Jesus Christ being an avatar of that experience. But that’s not how 99 out of 100 Christians would describe their religion, and I’ve finally decided that I’m not a Christian to them, so to bluntly and correctly answer the question as they mean to ask it, I have begun to say “No, I am not a Christian”.
But my answer didn’t help that little old lady, who maybe needed a ride to get her meds or God knows what, and I’d have gladly given her the ride or whatever, because it’s just the right thing to do to help out little old ladies.
However, it is a good reminder to me about how to ask for help. I’m reminded of the parable of the Good Samaritan, where some Jew is robbed, beaten and left for dead on the side of the road and no one would help him but finally a Samaritan passed by and offered assistance. If that old lady had been the Jew in the ditch requiring assistance, she would have first asked the passerby if he was a Jew, and then after pre-qualifying his proper sense of Jewish guilt, would then ask for aid. The Samaritan would have been automatically disqualified.
I could have been that old lady’s ‘Good Samaritan’, but apparently she thought that only a Christian would do. And in the case of myself, a reminder that aid comes from unexpected and perhaps unwelcome quarters.
NOTES: I was wearing a black mock turtleneck today, and I wonder if she perhaps unconsciously connected the outfit to priests or ministers? Or else she mistook me for Steve Jobs.