As I pondered this assignment, I was immediately drawn to the Great Divide that is the cafeteria salad bar. Our school has a long-standing joke that the salad bar divides the campus: Christian, non-athletes on one side; non-Christian, athletes on the other. Of course, there are exceptions, but this is the stereotype.
Sometimes I forget there are non-Christians here, too. But then I walk on the wrong side of the salad bar to get some yogurt. Instantly I feel judged and unwelcome. Like I'm supposed to be perfect because I love Jesus. I'm supposed to always love, always care, and always be willing to help.
"I'm not perfect," I want to shout. Like that's an excuse. An excuse to exhibit un-Christ-like behavior. An excuse to be inconsiderate. An excuse to judge.The night the video played and my northern accent ran through the full auditorium I realized that we divide ourselves even there at worship. I had accidentally chosen a seat behind four boys who... well, aren't from my side of the salad bar.
It's not them, it's me who's doing the judging. I shoot evil glares when I see someone struggling in class. I avoid non-Christians like they have some kind of contagious disease I'm going to catch just from looking them in the eye.
Some of my close family members aren't Christians; they're not poisonous. I hug, love, and serve them. Why can't I do the same for my peers?
They sat an empty seat between each of them so that their legs in athletic shorts or sweatpants could be spread apart. They were so buff they could have swallowed me whole if they had wanted to.
The head of the man right in front of me blocked my view of the speaker. The speaker who looks like the stereotypical Jesus and has my same haircut. Instead of marveling at these things, I was stuck staring at this guy's backwards baseball cap with our mascot on it. Our mascot that looks like he's sharting.
He wasn't the only one. Someone near me, potentially one of the four athletes who could swallow me whole, let one rip. I didn't hear it. I just smelled it. Check your shorts, dude!
My dad's the king of SBDs. I grew up surrounded by rancid rear-end smells. If I have to breathe in through my mouth, it's bad! It was bad!
"Some of my family members are not Christians. I hug, love, and serve them. Why can't I do the same for my peers?"You hypocrite!
For the next hour I watched Mr. Swallow Me Whole. He had his Bible with him. After flipping to the scripture passage for the night, he handed it to his friend two seats over. Then he pulled out his "assorted electronic device" and read along with the Jesus-twin speaker. He removed his hat when we prayed. He pulled the "Statue of Liberty" and sang along. He even gave an "Amen!"
You talk about destroying the salad bar divide and you build a brick wall between you and the seat in front of you! All because you're scared. Scared that such a large man might have a heart for Christ. Scared that your brother might swallow you whole. Scared that God hears both of your prayers. Katie, that's ridiculous.
Mr. Swallow Me Whole, it was a joy to worship behind you last week. Thank you for not biting off my head when I realized I was a hypocrite. Let's do it again sometime. But maybe I'll bring some air freshener.