Ex Cathedra

A middle-aged woman with long curly hair gets out of her seat and makes her way to the microphone at the front of the church. It’s an interdenominational open mic prayer service, and my blood is boiling. The man who spoke just before was like a caricature in a Flannery O’Connor novel. Slick and oily, complete with artificial cadence and a three-piece suit; his not-so-subtle attempts at mass manipulation receive obligatory ‘amens.’ Pulling out all the tricks to coerce the audience to his political agenda. I felt like a prisoner held hostage for the 25 long minutes as he did his little song and dance.

“It is a fearful thing to speak on behalf of God,” I mutter under my breath. The whole thing was just so perverse and irreverent. I am reminded of the Ten Commandments as I contemplate what it means to take the Lord’s name in vain. I become convinced that it probably has less to do with cursing, and more to do with telling the lie that God is behind your agenda-when God hasn’t said anything of the sorts. It’s making me think the only way you could take the Lord’s name in vain like this, is if you have no fear of the Lord. I ponder about Popes in the Middle Ages who raped and marauded Europe. How they might be some of the only truly consistent atheists in history. You could never read Jesus‘s words, have any fear of God whatsoever and do what they did.

I’m sitting in my seat amidst the colored lights and emotionally manipulative mood music as this lady gets up to speak. I know I’m not going to go up there to speak. I know everything in the room is designed to get me to, to encourage some sort of “prophetic word.” After hearing this joker do his little song and dance for the last 30 minutes, I tell God that he would have to literally point me out to go up there.

Bored I pull out my phone and look at the meme that my friend John sent me on Instagram. John owns a film production company in Florida and has done commercials for big clients like Disney. The meme is of Einstein wearing a chef’s hat and apron serving up a KFC bucket of fried chicken along with Mountain Dew and some other grotesque-looking food. The caption writes: If Einstein had decided to be a chef. It was a peculiar thing to send me. I half think it was on accident. John and I are not particularly close.

What he didn’t know when he unwittingly sent this was that I had been thinking about my purpose all day long. In fact, it had been all week. Working a dead-end job only because it fit my schedule, so I could see my kids the most amount of time. My priority was to first and foremost be there for them. Thinking about my fulfillment seemed selfish to me at this point. My kids are still very small and had been through so much extreme change with the divorce and all the moving. All in a very short period of time. I knew they needed me right now more than I needed a wonderful career.

But working these dead-end jobs had a hollowing-out effect on my soul. I was becoming nihilistic, wondering what the point of anything was anymore. I found myself voluntarily embracing a monastic lifestyle. Spending long periods alone, usually in the wilderness or some new event where I intentionally didn’t know anyone. This prayer meeting was one such event. I’m thinking it was a waste of time at this juncture, still fuming about how the money changers had hijacked this temple meeting.

The woman with curly hair seems sincere. There is a vulnerability in her eyes, and openness and love that feels genuine. She says that she feels as though the Holy Spirit has a word for someone in the audience. She looks intently, as if she is scanning around to see who it is. She says that God wants to tell this person, who she thinks is a writer, maybe is working a dead-end job, is feeling discouraged, to have faith-that God is going to use them to reach hundreds of thousands if not millions of people through their writing. She stops scanning the room and is now pointing directly at me. “I think it’s you.” She says staring down into my soul. “Yes, it is you.” All eyes are on me as I reluctantly stand up. “Well God, I told you you would have to point me out…”. I begrudgingly make my way up to the front muttering something to God about Him having sense of humor. All eyes on me listening intently to what I am about to say.

I explain how I was sitting there thinking how it is a fearful thing to speak on behalf of God. How you should never presume to do this lightly. How you bring judgment upon yourself if you do. The oily man sitting on the front row squirms in his seat a little. I go on to say how I believe God is telling us how it is good and fine to pray for our political leaders. To pray about laws and political parties. There is nothing wrong with that but that God is mostly concerned about the people He put in our lives.

How that person is Gods agenda and how we need to make amends. That we should think if there is anyone that we are embittered to, how we would give God more glory if we went home tonight and sought that person out. To offer forgiveness and to ask for it. How that would that would be the thing that would change this country for the kingdom of God. That we shouldn’t expect God to listen to us about politics if we unwilling to do what he has already asked us to do with the people that we have been given. How the power to affect our country is right here and now.

Everyone quiet as I sit back down in my seat. You could hear a pin drop as the worship band had stopped playing. The speaker looks very nervous. It dawns on me in this moment that this is a more faithful picture of what reverence looks like. The true face of our American religion come face-to-face with a living God.

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