Wednesday, February 1, 2006
During the Winter session 2006 I taught a night class (five nights per week) which ended just before the night-shift janitor entered my office to empty my trash. On several occasions after class I would linger in my office to straighten up my desk and collect my thoughts. Sometimes the janitor would come in and we would exchange hellos and a few pleasantries. I noticed something right away about this janitor. He was very polite, wore a smile, and seemed happy. I noticed some Christian book on his janitorial cart and figured he was religious.
One evening we got to talking. He seemed to move the conversation toward religion and when he sensed that I was not afraid to talk about religion he started telling me more and more and more. He stood in my office in front of the door and I stood facing him and facing the door. He told me that he liked to listen to tapes about religion. He worked all night every night while listening to his religious tapes. During breaks he would read his religious book. I asked him if he belonged to a church and he explained that he doesn’t go to church anymore because he hasn’t learned anything there in a long time and the pastor doesn’t want to implement his ideas. He complained that some people can attend church their whole lives but never be filled with the spirit of God. They confuse attending church with communing with God. He told me that he has a ministry and that he teaches some people about the bible for free. I think he would have liked to add me to his ministry.
As the janitor talked about the Spirit in his life he got just a bit emotional and his lip quivered a little as he spoke. I think his pulse quickened as he started to tell me about all the many wonderful things that the Spirit has done for him in his life. He expressed gratitude. And he began to tell me all the things that he had learned and the controversies that he understands. He told me about the second coming of Jesus Christ, the rapture, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Book of Revelation, the Spirit, the Devil, spiritual powers in high places, and more. He seemed to bounce around from topic to topic and tell me just a sentence or two about each point that he wanted to make. Each point that he made reminded him about another point, etc. He couldn't find the words to express what he wanted to say. His zeal surpassed his rationality.
As I stood there listening, I knew that he was on a roll and that I was not going to be able to get out of my office until he ran out of things to say. So I quit talking and just listened. My mind disengaged a little from the conversation and I started feeling déjà vu. Where had I experienced this before? Who has spoken like this before?
I realized that I had spoken like this before, also my Dad. I have noticed this excited, flitting, enthusiastic speech on internet religious forums, at church, on my mission. This manner of speech is invoked when there is a strong desire to share feelings, help others, persuade others, and teach what one has learned.
As I continued listening to the janitor I saw myself a long time ago. I understood his logic and premises. I recognized where he lacked background. I saw his blind spots. I viewed him in perspective. I comprehended him. I could read everything he said like signs on a map. I knew where he had been and where he is going. I knew because I had already been there.
I’m sure there are people that can read me the same way, but less and less each day.