I should go ahead an clarify that a lot of this post is satire. I really love and enjoy the many, wonderful conversations I get to have with strangers, my friends, and especially my closest ones. But this was a post worth writing, because I think we can all identify with it in part from time to time. Also, to those I have been in conversation with about spiritual things this past week, this post is not at all about you! I thought about this over Christmas holiday but wanted to give it some time before I posted. Take this with a firm tongue in cheek. I can always tell when it's about to happen. It's a sixth sense I have. I have a friend who can tell when someone's about to vomit. I can tell when someone's about to ask me a theological question. I think she got the better end of the deal.
I've heard that it's a similar problem that my pre-med, nurse, and doctor friends have. They'll be out somewhere, sometimes with people they don't know that well, and someone asks them what they're studying or what they do. The next thing they know, some overweight middle-aged man is lifting up his shirt to show them a suspicious growth on his hairy left pectoral and he wants to know what he should do about it.
For my part, I'll be out getting dinner with a friend I haven't seen for awhile, sitting in Starbucks reading a book, or just passing by in the hall and somehow my trajectory toward being a theologian (whatever that means) comes up. Next thing I know, someone's lifting up their spiritual shirt to ask me about some abnormal growth they're thinking about having lobbed off by the Holy Spirit.
Often this happens right as the conversation is about to end. We've been having a perfectly good chat about the tendency for garden gnomes to come alive in the middle of the night and move around like devious little demons, when suddenly a K.O. Jesus juke bursts in and I'm asked: "What do you think about the role of angels and demons in the world today?"
Contrary to what I have realized is at times a popular belief, my brain does not operate on a purely theological level at all times. Indeed, I have managed--even enjoy!--to sit through mind-numbing movies, read absolute trash, and down espresso with the secular best of them.
In fact, I have found it incredibly necessary. I would go nuts and completely burn out if I was constantly having to think about the spiritual consequence of things. Or, at least think about them in the sense that people normally want me to talk about them in. (This, I'll point out conveniently here, is why I have amazing best friends. Because they get this and let it be true.)
When someone lifts up his spiritual shirt to ask about that growth, I haven't found many of them to be interested in an answer that belongs in their mind more properly in children's church. Though, I have to admit to them from time to time, it's honestly the best I can come up with. Some things learned by puppets and felt boards are a lot truer than we sometimes realize. The world is poetic and children just get that kind of wonder of God so much better.
But my story-of-the-good-Samaritan-cut-outs don't quite cover questions about predestination or Eucharistic theology.
Well, I think they do, but the people who ask me those questions don't usually seem satisfied with that. Instead, I get a look that indicates that I have wasted their time and my advise for them to see a Professional (in prayer, reading the Bible, speaking with their Spiritual Director) has been essentially useless to them. They pull their spiritual shirt back down and we enjoy that awkward moment in which I have seen them half-naked and neither of us know how to look at each other anymore.
Honestly, I'd rather be able to tell when someone was about to vomit.