“O Holy Mike, he’s memorized the Biiiiiiible…”
My friend Katie once sang this to me to the tune of “O Holy Night.” She sang it with a sinister, knowing gleam in her eye because I’ve let her in enough for her to see beyond exterior facades that others are more than happy to stop at.
There’s no doubt a part of me that loves the reputation of “O Holy Mike.” It’s a reputation built from people’s primary perception of me being derived from my ability to pinpoint any Bible reference with close to 99.99% accuracy within moments. And quoting entire books of the Bible from memory up on Sunday’s stage certainly also helps. It’s a Bible verse encrusted wall so effective that the observation has actually been reported back to me that “Pastor Mike doesn’t sin.”
Hearing such feedback with strains of “O Holy Mike” playing in the background of my mind, I could only answer back, “We’ll they’ve never seen (or heard) me prune my fruit trees.”
I hate pruning those trees, and I curse them each time I’ve done it. Multiplied, colorful curses.
Inwardly I think I was hoping each tree would wither like the fig tree that ticked off Jesus. But my cursing only seems to function as manure and make them thrive. How prolifically they grow, and grow.
And the Bible coated wall still stands.
I think the wall is also bolstered by personal suffering. How we idolize those who suffer. We make heroes of them, perhaps because we hope they will suffer instead of us if we honor them enough. Surrogate sufferers. It seems to add an additional aura around my wall. The stones seem to shine like the gemstones John saw adorning heaven’s gates. Behold how he suffers! It almost makes the wall unscalable, unassailable. And few bend close enough with ears on the wall to hear the muffled sounds of swearing in the pain, the isolation of it all.
But perhaps the true foundation stones of my wall were words spoken countless times by my mom. Usually on Sundays when my brother and I were all appropriately churched up in our suits and ties. “What a fine Christian young man you are,” she would say, usually, thankfully, without pinching my cheek. Though I’m sure that happened more than once too.
Don’t ever recall hearing that whenever I screwed up. When I was caught red-handed as an accomplice to shoplifting in the sixth grade. When she heard me curse like I heard her curse. When I was caught in a bald-faced lie. When she was giving me one for with a belt for misbehaving in church. Or when I did the walk of shame down the center aisle of the 1,000 member Presbyterian Church we attended with my fine suit covered in my own vomit that Sunday when I for once really wanted to go even though I could feel my stomach churning. And I vomited. Everywhere. In the third row. Right under the nose of Reverend McGraw as he was giving his homily with his wonderful Scottish brogue.
No, it was how I looked with that suit and tie (minus vomit), with each dark hair on my head slicked back with Vitalis and neatly in place that prompted the praise. And understandably so.
Appearance is everything with walls.
And it’s appearance that people want. Mostly.
And I have no doubt that an awareness of my own wall was why I so loved Pink Floyd’s The Wall when it was released during my early college days – days when my wall building and burnishing was firmly under way. I had no doubts that only fine Christian young men need apply to be fine Christian pastors. Or perhaps it was all subconscious.
The greatest irony is that though I have seen life over this past decade tear down that wall nearly to the foundations from my side, others are happy to rebuild it for me from their side. And who knows? Perhaps I am still subconsciously handing them pieces to plaster back in place. Maybe even consciously.
With your wall in place you don’t even have to try.
Don’t even have to try to be human.