Jeff Weddle | @anti_itcher
“Hey, look at the cross-eyed monkey!” yelled the girl in front of me in the lunch line. Everyone turned to look.
Yup. I’m cross eyed. The official word for my eye problem is Juvenile Retinoschisis. I’m legally blind. I can’t drive. I can’t recognize faces well. I am not, however, a monkey.
Kids love to point out faults in others. I had an obvious fault they loved to pick on. I had a few good friends, but my larger experience with people is that they were all creepy jerks.
I tried as often as possible to melt into the background. If I don’t get noticed, I won’t get picked on. I kept my mouth shut. I also observed people so I could find their faults in case I needed to rip on them to defend myself.
By the time I was in junior high, I had sarcasm and ridicule down to a science. They became my most redeeming qualities. Friends would sit next to me just to hear my hilarious diatribes against teachers or other kids. I was a jerk, but a funny one.
I was also very bitter and angry. I hated people. I really did. In high school, when all my friends were getting their driver’s license, I was not. I’d never pass the eye test. I wouldn’t even trust me driving.
When my friends told me about their driving experiences, I just sat there seething inside. This was my low point. Getting a driver’s license is the initiation into manhood. I had to ride a stupid bike. I did not feel like a man.
I had no confidence. I had no joy. I had little idea how to be nice to people. I was programmed to be a sarcastic, bitter, old man by the time I was 16.
I grew up in the church. My dad was a pastor. I didn’t like church because it meant I had to be around people. I had no interest in people. My dad would make me go mow old ladies’ lawns with him. Old ladies were nice in their way, but they were still people. And they always gave me warm Diet Coke. What’s up with that, old ladies?
People would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. My stock answer was, “I don’t know. But I know I don’t want to be a pastor.” I wanted to get paid to go sit in a cave somewhere.
But an odd thing happened in college. One day, I knew I should be a pastor. I did not want to do that. I fought it for a while. But it kept sitting there.
I know things about people. I’m an observer with an annoyingly good memory. I can remember all the rude things kids said to me over the years, and I can also explain to you all their character faults and why they have them.
Instead of using that knowledge to tear people down, why not use it to build them up? I began to see the truths in the Gospel I had heard my whole life: Forgiveness. Grace. Love. I need them, but the test of whether I have them is if I show them to others. Faith and the Gospel finally became real for me.
I became a pastor. Pastoral work forces one to be around people. I began to enjoy it! What? Crazy, I know. People have grown on me.
Yes, there are many jerks out there still, but I’ve also seen how much of a jerk I am. I needed God’s grace. People need grace. I know what it’s like to be the loser, the outsider, the rejected weirdo. It hurts. Maybe I can help others better because I understand that.
I’m in my 40’s now. Medical research says I’ll be closing in on blindness in the next 20 years. Yes, that’s discouraging. I can’t lie, I’m still a little bitter about that. But grace has made a difference in me, and I hope grace becomes more of who I am, so I can show the grace of Christ to others.
I hope the day will come when I can even show grace to people who give me warm Diet Coke.
Jeff Weddle is the husband of one wife and father of three kids. He is pastor of Rhinelander Bible Church in Rhinelander, WI. He enjoys reading, writing, guitaring, and although he does not enjoy running, he tends to do that a lot, too. You can contact him on Twitter at @anti_itcher or at his blog: antiitchmeditation.wordpress.com
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