Sunday, December 16, 2007

Set-up and shot down - I blew it

My Way Sunday
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reflections on being a Christian man part 7

Ask anyone who has ever had to 'endure' company meetings out of town. You'll find stories galore about the revelry that carries on into the night after a day of meetings and conferences - even if it is only in the hotel bar / cocktail lounge. What transpires under the influence of alcohol does not make the list of tales carried home. A prevailing company 'look the other way' unwritten policy actually encourages this type of camaraderie in the name of 'team building'.

After I had an almost overpowering experience of God's Holy Spirit, I found those activities to be terribly difficult to enjoy. When the groups headed for the bar, I usually stayed long enough to be cordial, then excused myself and went back to my room. It didn't take long to hear the comments behind my back, which were meant to be insulting but only proved to be affirming to my behavior.

"Where's Jim?" someone would ask. "Oh, he's back in his room reading his bible - he's got religion now you know!" was a typical reply. Spilled blood? No, but certainly a form of suffering visited upon me because of my seeming anti-social behavior.

I survived and grew stronger in my convictions. St. Paul wrote to Timothy in his second letter to him [2Tim 2:3] "Share suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." Soldiers need to be ready to suffer the slings and arrows of the enemy. Good behavior often requires supernatural assistance to maintain. We all want to be liked, to be a part of the group, to be recognized as a team player. I really had to stay 'on top of my game'. My performance had to stay near the top or I risked being judged adversely, not because of valid criticism of my work, but because of my counter-cultural behavior.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews viewed the effort needed and the reward given. In the 10th chapter it is written, starting in vs 32 to the end of the chapter:
32 Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering.
33 At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction; at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated.
34 You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, knowing that you had a better and lasting possession.
35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence; it will have great recompense.
36 You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised.
37 "For, after just a brief moment, he who is to come shall come; he shall not delay.
38 But my just one shall live by faith, and if he draws back I take no pleasure in him."
39 We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and will possess life.
One year I attended a large company Christmas party on the north side of Detroit. Many of the company staff were present. A lot of company clients were also there. Attendance was pretty 'mandatory' for those of us who had normal day-to-day contact with these people. My wife seldom attended these events - she didn't like them, and I didn't like subjecting her to the behavior that usually reared its head after the alcohol had been flowing for awhile.

Most knew that I would be a gracious host to our customers, but not too long after the dinner, I would be leaving for home. One of our senior sales reps came to me and asked a favor. He said that one of the owners' secretary needed a ride home - she didn't want to spend the whole evening at the party, and since I was headed south of Detroit to go home, maybe I could drop her off en route. I graciously accepted.

I saw it as a way to leave earlier than even I thought I would. I knew the woman - a divorced single mother in her early thirties who appeared to have her act together - and besides, she was the personal secretary to one of the owners.

We arrived at her home in a very blue collar neighborhood. While she might have been secretary to one of the owners, she wasn't living high on the hog. She asked me if I would walk her to her door - a reasonable request living in this neighborhood. As she opened the door, she asked me if I wanted to come in. I declined. She got in a kind of a huff and said something like "What's the matter? You afraid someone might find out? I didn't become a 'private' secretary by not being able to keep secrets, you know."

I commented I was sure she was very good at keeping secrets but I needed to go home. She turned, gave me a quick brushing kiss on the cheek and said, "You're sweet...see you in the office tomorrow."

Tomorrow came. I hadn't been in the office long when the senior sales rep who asked the favor came in. He came over to me and started in. "The word's around already ... you blew her off - you absolutely blew it. I worked very hard to set you up and you blew it!"

Well, so much for innocence and naivety - I never suspected I had been 'set-up'. Hit on when I got her home I recognized, but I never suspected a set-up. Just another thing they could talk about around the water cooler that day.

There are lots of ways I can be called on to suffer for Christ. Sometimes it is not easy - but it is so necessary. If I am going to be a true Christian man, I may have to suffer for what is right.
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4 comments:

Melody said...

It's too bad when workplace socializing involves inappropriate situations like the one you described; unfortunately I don't think they are all that rare. Terry Nelson's post on Dec. 14 applying St. John of the Cross' writings to the workplace is very good. You are to be commended for not falling into the trap that was laid for you. I'm sure you'd rather be known as being a bit naive, than to be known as the guy who abandoned his principles the minute he got behind closed doors (and I'm sure that would have gotten around the grapevine!)

uncle jim said...

thanks, melody.
i guess men of principle are an anomaly today - though not entirely. i know a lot of guys who are principled - birds of a feather, maybe. and then, i know a lot of guys who would have taken the bait gladly.
that's kind of why i'm blogging this sunday series right now, to encourage other guys to work at it.

Adoro te Devote said...

Wow. Amazing they'd set you up like that. But I can relate.

Several years ago when I still had a roommate, I think I was 28 or 29 and she was 32. I was on my way back Home and had other interests. While I enjoyed going out and having a few beers with my friends, I was done around 10 or 11 or so, midnight at the latest. Closing the bars was behind me.

Well, that's also when Minnesota allowed alcohol service until 2 am. Then we'd be out until 2 or 3 am, and I was bored to death. I still remember ordering a beer one night, and it tasted like sawdust. But I drank it, with no pleasure whatsoever. And they had a pitcher at the table, and when I was out, they poured me a glass. I sipped and was told I wasn't drinking enough. But I didn't want any more. I wanted to go home and sleep.

The beer was nothing, and I realized I was drinking it only because I was bored. That's not a good reason. What a waste of time and money.

On another occasion, not that long after, we met a couple guys and ended up taking them to their house, they picked up a couple things and came to our house. It was fine. We had some music, we had some movies, and it was a nice evening. One of the guys and I sat on our deck, having a beer. It was fine. In the meantime, my roommate and the guy she picked up went to her room.

I just didn't want to know. And his buddy...well, he was cute but he was younger than me, and I simply had no interest. Again...I was on my way back into the Church. Seriously, it wasn't even a temptation.

I was very irritated with my roommate. These guys were typical guys, and they weren't bad people...I had no problem with them in that regard. But I didn't want them to just hang out at our apartment when I wanted to sleep.

Finally, when my roomate and her new friend didn't emerge from her bedroom, I told the other guy I was going to sleep, no he was not coming with me, and I did what any good hostess would do; I provided him with all the comforts of home...on the couch. He had food, he had water, he had entertainment, and no, I was not part of that.

And he had no real interest in me. His only interst was... * ahem * only by default.

And I heard about it. My roommate later spoke of my actions that night with great derision. And I heard about it. But she'd twisted the details a bit. When I straightened it out, some of our mutual friends were impressed. Others thought I was a loser.

I am no longer in contact with any of those people, which only serves to prove my actions were proper. Thank God.

What kind of world do we live in when it's considered to be improper and social suicide to turn down a demeaning immoral act?

Can we say "Brave New World" anyone?

uncle jim said...

Adoro and Melody -
I never thought of it as Melody casts it in her last line - while it may have been going around the grapevine already, it would have done so regardless of which way I had responded. Thank God I was able to put a positive line of gossip out there.
Adoro - awfully glad you "came Home"