I sat in my chair silently praying that David wouldn’t do what he was about to do. But, I knew there was a pretty good chance he would.
David and I were friends by now and had an unspoken agreement and respect for each other. He wouldn’t ridicule me for my love of Jesus. I wouldn’t preach at him and would take genuine interest in his life and stories. I was fine with this agreement because I don’t like preaching at people anyways and I knew I was called to love him.
I glanced at the time on my phone. 12:09. We’d been on break for forty minutes. Our thirty-minute lunch break would usually stretch on until the plant supervisor was seen walking towards our section of the precast concrete plant. I was ready to get back to work. The sooner we started, the sooner we would be done and the sooner I could go home. My body ached from head to toe. The extended lunch was always a welcome break for my weary legs but wasn’t worth having to stay longer into the evening.
David walked slowly over to me chuckling. I made a quick decision to trust him. As the distance between us shrunk to a few feet he jumped forward and stuck his phone in front of my face. A woman’s pasty white, jiggling thonged-ass shook for a moment in my sight.
As I stood quickly up and David jumped back still clutching his phone and laughing I had a decision to make. How would I respond? I could have punched him (and seriously considered it), but he had been in a fight at work before and he would have been fired on the spot if we scuffled now. He really needed that job. Punching him was off the table. So as he jerked away I grabbed his shoulder and spun him towards me. He braced himself. I looked at him in the eyes and said, “ Please don’t ever do that again”. What a dorky thing to say.
His smile left his face. Shame glossed over his bloodshot green eyes. “Ok”.
The other believers at the plant reacted to the prevailing culture in one of two typical ways. Most tried to operate above and removed from the worldly practices and conversations of their co-workers. A few joined in (unless another believer was present). I’ve tried both approaches throughout my life. The first leaves me friendless, lonely, and self-righteous. The second approach leaves me equally lonely, feeling guilty, and still without true friendship.
Bill has worked at the plant for 30 years. He has twelve children, grew up on a dairy farm, and reads his Bible during each break. Black marker on his hard hat warns each passer to “fear God”. Bill feels so lonely every time I see him. He wears headphones all day, even when nothing loud is happening, to avoid overhearing the endless conversations ranging from sex, to drugs and music, and of course, the continual stream of obscenities.
A few months ago I smashed my finger between a sledgehammer and concrete so bad that I thought I had crushed the bone into dust. David heated up a finishing nail with the torch and burned through the top of my quickly blackening and bloating fingernail to release some pressure. As the nail pushed through my finger he hit a nerve. I groaned, “fuuuuuck” under my breath as he punctured the wound and a tear pushed into my eyes. My supervisor had been in another part of the plant during the incident and when he returned the first thing David reported was, “D. Jay said fuck!”
That isn’t how I want to be known…the guy who does or doesn’t cuss. But I’ve taken pride in falling on either side of this issue at different points in my life, so I had it coming to me.
The first time I went out to the bar after work with guys in my crew we patronized the Hide Away. We were seated, greeted, and waited on by a busty young woman. A smirk stretched shamelessly on each mouth, a twinkle of lust flashed in each eye. They knew that I didn’t (they didn’t believe me then) look at porn and that I tried to be “perfect” and “holy” (their words – I never placed either of these descriptions on myself) for God and my wife. As soon as our orders were taken and we were left to ourselves one of the guys hit me on the shoulder (again smirking and winking) and said, “I saw you check her boobs out. It’s cool, man, she’s freakin hot”.
I hadn’t checked her out. I had looked and seen her. I saw her as a person, a woman. I had done well in that moment.
In the past I would have argued. The injustice of the accusation would have been too much to handle and I would have declared my innocence adamantly. But I know now that God is judging me. He weighs me and burns me like gold in the fire to refine me. He doesn’t care what they say or think, whether or not they are right or wrong.
So I just smiled and tried to see them. I tried to look at them, to see men. I did well again in that moment. And they still think I checked her out. And that’s fine.
Most of the time loving Jesus means being socially uncomfortable. I think that those of us who love God are called to some of the most uncomfortable, awkward, and embarrassing situations imaginable. We aren’t supposed to run from the world. Only by drinking the sweet grace of Jesus and intentional listening to the continual whispers of the Holy Spirit can we be incarnational in the situations that the Father creates for us.
God wanted me to be present at the plant. To sit and be present with Jesus while the guys were asking me if I’ve ever “done a girl in the ass” is a difficult and uncomfortable thing. That’s literally what happened every day and sitting there in the midst of that conversation is where God wanted me to be.
Often I wanted to wear a pair of headphones and tune out the conversations; sometimes I wanted to join in. I wasn’t called to do either.
I was called to simultaneously be present with them and God.
I care deeply about what people think of me. I always have. But, I found that as I embraced my socially awkward love for God and chose to be present in very hard situations I became one of the most respected men on the floor. I say that with pride, because that is the power of Christ. He is wonderful and beautiful and I love to look like Him.