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The Valuable Lesson
It was Wednesday morning and Theo had to report for Jury Duty. He didn’t mind having to go; he felt that it was God’s way of putting him in the position of being able to be a good influence on someone else. He arrived at the Jury Room, checked in, got a cup of coffee and a sweet roll and sat down. He cordially bid a good morning to the other jurors as they passed by, while he sat there in anticipation of possibly being instrumental in changing someone’s life this day.
Not long after arriving, a man asked Theo if he could sit at his table. He sat a candy bar and a soda down and introduced himself as being Bill Green. Theo introduced himself and added that it was nice to meet him. As soon as Bill began to talk the foul language poured out of his mouth like water from a faucet. All Theo could hope for at this point was that they would be called to a court soon, but they weren’t, Theo spent the whole day with Bill, right up to their dismissal at 4pm.
Theo went home to the smell of his son’s cheese rigatoni baking in the oven. Theo called out, “Jason, I’m home. Dinner smells great!” Jason came out of the kitchen, greeted his dad and asked how Jury Duty went. Theo told him that he was never called to a court, and that he had spent the whole day with one of the most foul-mouthed people he’d ever met in his life. Jason asked his dad if they could carry their conversation in to the kitchen so that he could finish preparing the rest of dinner. Theo told Jason that he could smell dinner as soon as he walked through the door. Jason told his dad that he was making one of his favorites; cheese rigatoni. Theo said, ‘You take care of me like your mother used to.” Jason replied, “We take care of each other dad, now tell me about your day.”
Theo began to talk about things that had nothing to do with being at Jury Duty, he said, “Jason, I knew at a very early age what I wanted to do with my life, and when your mother was alive she helped me in my calling, and you help me tremendously son! But all I’ve ever done is just barely scrape by. We have to share a car, we don’t go on vacations; I was never able to take you and mom on a nice trip anywhere, we’ve never had the money to do anything. I look at our next door neighbor; he makes good money as a realtor, he comes out in the morning and has to toss a coin to decide which car he wants to drive that day, we watch his house and take care of his animals while he takes his family on lavish vacations, and I have to question why his life is so good, and he can do so much for his family, and then over here on the other side of the fence is us, watching him have the good life while we do nothing but struggle.” Jason interjected, “You have to think about something dad; the grass that’s greener on the other side of the fence, has sometimes had to have a whole lot of horse manure spread on it. Where’s all this coming from dad? I don’t think this is about money, what happened today with this guy?”
Theo recounted his day, he said, “I got up this morning thinking that I was going to change a life at Jury Duty. I arrived there at the jury room with high hopes of making a difference in someone else’s life today, and then Bill Green sat down, this foul-mouthed, middle-aged man, who under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have given five minutes of my time once the cussing started. I find people like him offensive, but today, because I was at Jury Duty, I had no choice, I was stuck in the position of having to spend time with this offensive foul-mouthed man whether I liked it or not.
I have to admit that I’m ashamed of myself, because I did what I always do; I prejudged Bill by the fact that he was cussing, thinking that he didn’t have anything to say that was worth listening to, but once I got passed the language issue, and I started listening to what he was actually saying, it was one of the most thought provoking conversations I’ve ever encountered. I couldn’t believe that someone with such a foul mouth could possess the level of wisdom that this man has. I didn’t want the day to end. When they dismissed us I gave him my business card and asked him if we could go to lunch sometime, that I had enjoyed talking with him and would like very much to see him again.
When I was driving home I couldn’t help but think about all the people over the course of my life that I had refused to have conversation with solely based on the fact that I found their cussing offensive. I’m not saying by any stretch of the imagination that foul language and wisdom go together, but just because someone cusses doesn’t mean they don’t have something to say that’s worth hearing. On the other side of the coin, I think about how many people I’ve spent in conversation with that didn’t speak even a hint of a foul word, but they had nothing to say, their conversation was merely idle chatter.
I look at Bill, and ask myself, would I have rather spent my day with this foul-mouthed man, who said some of the most profound words of truth, or spent my day with someone who wouldn’t think of saying a curse word, but there was no substance in what they had to say? The perfect situation would be to spend the day with someone who isn’t foul-mouthed and is interesting to talk to, but even at that, they would have to go a ways to even cast a shadow on the conversation that I had with Bill.
I went to Jury Duty today thinking that I was going to make a difference in someone’s life, but I wasn’t the one who made the difference in Bill’s life, he made a difference in mine, and that’s why I have to question if what I’m doing is really my calling in life. I should have been the one making a difference today, but I wasn’t. If I’m not making a difference in other people’s lives then what am I doing this for?”
Jason replied, “I’m like you dad, I find people offensive who use foul language, I spend as little time as possible in conversation with them. I’ll rethink that one the next time the situation arises though. Dad, you’ve made a difference in a lot of people’s lives. I have absolutely no doubt that you are right where you’re supposed to be. This guy Bill, you don’t know what God is going to do with this situation. You walked away today thinking that you missed your chance to make a difference in his life, but maybe you did and you just don’t know it. Wait and see how God plays this one out.”
Theo and Jason continued the conversation throughout dinner, and then they got ready to go to Wednesday evening service. Theo continued to think about the day he had spent with a seemingly offensive man, who turned out to be someone that Theo learned a valuable lesson from, one that he would never forget.
Jason led worship and praise and then Theo approached the podium to teach the week’s lesson. It has been a series on relationships; husband/wife, parent/child, siblings, friends, and this week it was about strangers, it was going to be about relationships at the workplace, but Theo changed it to being about strangers, for obvious reasons.
Theo began, “I want to welcome everyone to Wednesday evening service. For those of you who are here for the first time, I’m Pastor Theodore Burton, everyone just calls me Theo, and we’re glad that you’re here with us tonight. We have been studying about relationships; by the way, there are sermon notes on the table in the foyer as you leave, for those of you who would like to get caught up. I was going to end the series this week with the topic of relationships at the workplace, but something happened today and I have decided to prolong the series one more week so that I could talk about something that I encountered while at Jury Duty.
I got up this morning thinking that I was going to change a life at Jury Duty…” And Theo continued to share with the congregation everything that he had shared earlier with Jason. You could here a pin drop in the sanctuary. Theo concluded by saying, “The man at Jury Duty today taught me a valuable lesson, one that I will never forget; don’t ever measure the value of what a person has to say by the terms they choose to say something with. That foul-mouthed individual that you’re ready to tune out might have something to say that is well worth listening to. If we become so high and mighty that people who talk offensively are not worth our time, then there’s something wrong with us, not them. My time was well spent today, and I sincerely hope that I can have the kind of influence on someone else that this man had on me today. So let’s strive in our own life to use the words that would be befitting of God, but not be so easily offended by or judgmental of others who don’t, and let the words that we speak be of value, not just idle chatter.
God knocked me off my pedestal today. I thought because I’m a Pastor that I was going to be the one to make a difference, but that wasn’t the case at all. I hope all of you have a good remainder of the week and I look forward to seeing you Friday evening for the Men’s outreach dinner and service.”
At that point Jason was already positioned for closing music and Theo remained on stage and said a heartfelt prayer about looking beyond the surface level of people, and peering deeper in to the person that they really are. It was a gripping service, one that was not preplanned days ahead, but was based on a real life situation. It was one of the best messages that Theo felt he had ever given, because it was about a divine appointment that God knew that Theo was in need of.
Service concluded, and while Theo and Jason were having an after service handshake and hug, one of the ushers came on stage and said that a man sitting in the back row asked her to give his business card to Pastor Theo, that he had forgotten to give it to him earlier today. She handed it to Theo, the name on the card was Bill Green; Manager of Greenwood Farms. Jason was standing there with Theo and could tell that his dad was becoming very emotional at the thought that Bill had come to service. Jason asked to see the card and he turned it over and on the back Bill wrote, “I’d like to take you and your son to lunch. Please call me at your convenience. Bill”
Jason told his dad, “See dad, you did make a difference. Bill came to listen to what you had to say, and after service he gave you his business card so that you could get in touch with him. Today at Jury Duty, it wasn’t about what you were saying to Bill, it was about the fact that you were listening to what Bill was saying to you.”
All in all it was a good day. One that Theo never could have dreamed would ever happen, but it did, and he’s forever changed because of it.
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- The Tea Party Dream
Sometimes God will give you a question so that you will seek an answer.