Like most people, I like to be liked. I would rather be in the company of people who like me than people who do not. I wish it were possible to make everybody like me and for me to like everybody. Alas, it is not.
Some people dislike me from the moment they meet me. When I asked a friend why this was so, he replied, “It saves them time.”
The older I get, the more comfortable I become with who I am, and the less I am bothered by the fact that some people have never liked me and probably never will. (I can’t be responsible for their poor judgment.)
I am, however, still troubled when people who initially like me later conclude that something I have said or done requires them to change their opinion of me. In an attempt to forestall that change of heart in as many of you, my readers, as possible, I am making this preemptive declaration:
Sooner or later, I will annoy you. (You may want to add or substitute the verbs disappoint, irritate, anger, frustrate, infuriate, exasperate, aggravate, upset, rile, and p___ off.)
Some have suggested this is my spiritual gift. Somebody once asked me if I have ulcers. When I said no, a friend who had heard the exchange, said to the inquirer, “It’s true he doesn’t have ulcers, but he is a carrier.”
When that moment comes, and it inevitably will, when I get under your skin and say or write something with which you disagree—something that seems to you incomprehensible, infuriating, or just plain dumb—please give me the benefit of the doubt. Hang in there with me, and don’t immediately assume that you previously misjudged me or that I had been hiding my true colors. In the end, we may need to agree to disagree, but I hope we can still be friends.
I have lived more than sixty years. In that time, I have learned a lot and have changed my mind about a lot of things. People who knew me early in my ministry career are often surprised, even startled, by the changes they see in me now—politically, ideologically, and theologically. Truth be told, I am more centered, more thoughtful, more level-headed, open-minded, and focused than I have ever been. For sixty years I have been winnowing grain; most of the chaff has blown away, and what remains is wholesome seed. I have been panning for gold; most of the sand has washed away, and what remains is precious nuggets. Through it all, and in it all, I am guided by one abiding principle which I can summarize by quoting the motto of Wheaton (IL) College: “For Christ and His Kingdom.”
Having devoted the first few weeks of this blog to sharing some of my pilgrimage and the vision for ministry to which God has called me, I am now ready to address some of the themes and issues which the summary of my pilgrimage and my vision for ministry have stirred up. I am, after all, in a relentless pursuit of authentic faith, and I am eager to share with you some of the wholesome seed and precious nuggets which I have uncovered along the way. In the process, and you can take this to the bank, I will annoy you.
The other day I was talking with my four year-old grandson, Parker, trying to explain to him the nuances in the meanings of two words which are usually thought of as synonyms. I wasn’t doing a very good job, apparently, and his frustration knew no bounds. At last he turned away, shaking his head in exasperation, and said to his grandmother, “Poppy is annoying.”
He was right, of course, but he still likes me.