I recently returned to a $90 parking ticket on my windshield after attempting to sell clothes to a consignment store.
I’d never had a parking ticket. Given my frugal, generally law-abiding nature, I don’t take chances on questionable parking.
I’d made sure to park in a spot marked by a P with a green circle around it – a sure “go for it” sign. I had to ask the parking officer, still perched in his golf-cart vehicle, to understand what I’d done wrong. To my dismay, he pointed out a truck loading sign I’d mistaken for clarification of the no-parking zone in front of my car.
I chastised myself for the error despite its honest nature. I’d be paying $90 for a bag of clothes I hadn’t been able to make a dime on.
Our budget hasn’t left us much room for error over the past few years, so I expect myself and my husband to be super human. Not that my expectations would change much if we had more income.
But as I sat in the car that day with the bright yellow parking ticket envelope in hand, I had compassion on us.
I wondered what it would look like to ease up on our expectations of one another and ourselves. The closest I came to a solution was building a line into our budget for being human.
Later in the week, we went to a church some friends attend. Church is not historically a place that helps moderate my expectations, though I attend regularly.
Since a young age, I’ve tended to pile on more burdens by being involved at church. Performance-based Christianity burned me out as a teenager and contributed to a long season of depression.
To this day, I’m sensitive to expectations within the church to behave a certain way, to serve wherever needed, and to daily check off the tasks of being a follower of Christ. I eschew such demands even as I struggle to live into and believe the truth of the Bible.
So it was unexpected when the burden lifted at church that Sunday, if only for an afternoon.
The sense of relief began with the truth clearly spoken by church leaders. They explained why we participated in each form of worship before we entered into it; they led us into the Lord’s presence one prayer at a time; and the pastor adhered closely to Scripture, not spinning his own interpretation but clearly explicating the Word.
I felt as though blinders fell from my eyes – blinders that had been placed with loving concern to keep my eyes on the church, but that had inadvertently kept me from seeing the Truth all along.
Relief and joy washed over me with the realization that what I continually struggle to believe really is true. Even if every other pastor I’ve heard has failed to effectively convey the truth, it is still so unbelievably true. I once was blind, but now I could see!
Then the apex of humanity came crashing in.
The lead guitarist fumbled, playing an entirely different tune than that to which the words on the screen were set. The rest of the musicians eyed him, trying to figure out how to respond while the congregation strained to carry the tune. After a couple lines, the guitarist exclaimed “Whoops!” and started over.
The second attempt wasn’t any more successful. Eventually the congregation’s efforts to guide the melody helped the wires in the guitarist’s brain uncross. As the pieces fell into tune, the pastor started clapping and laughing aloud. He seemed to rejoice in all of us being so hilariously human and dependent on God.
Shortly after the service, while talking with someone in the congregation, the pastor made one of the exaggerated gesticulations for which he’s known. His erratic movement sent a cello crashing to the ground, splitting it in two.
Shock slowly registered on the faces of those around him as he looked up wide-eyed, mouth hanging open. People stared at the instrument, not daring to touch it, as though it was the body of a man who may have broken his spine upon falling.
A few minutes later, the cellist – informed of what had happened – returned to the sanctuary laughing. It’s possible his laughter was a way of defusing the situation, but based on what I’ve heard about and experienced at this church, I imagine his thoughts were more along the lines of: “There goes pastor, being human again,” accompanied by a sense of peace that everything would be taken care of in good time.
Whether or not those were his thoughts, that’s the impression I left with that Sunday afternoon. I laughed most of the way home as I reflected on the morning and the freeing truth Christ proclaimed two thousand years ago: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”1
Most of the burdens I carry are not from God. He knows I’m human and He doesn’t ask me to disprove the nature with which He created me. He does ask me to follow Him. And somehow taking up my cross to follow Him isn’t supposed to conflict with His burden that’s easy and light.
Though the paradox is difficult to understand, though I misconstrue His heart toward me and the Word quickly gets bogged down with human words and thoughts, Christ’s truth remains.
I am human. He is God.
1. Matthew 11:30.