Monday, May 13, 2013

The Closet

I was awoken in the middle of the night by a knocking at the closet door.

"Annie! Did you hear that?" I whispered to my wife. Annie's soft breathing rose up from the pillow beside me.  I glanced at the clock. E-gads! Who could it be at this time of night?

I stumbled out of bed and opened the closet door. A paunchy middle-aged man stood inside. Three-day stubble, slightly balding and wearing an unwashed Styxx T-shirt and jeans.  A toothpick was protruding from the left side of his mouth.

"Look," I said, "This isn't Bloom County and my name isn't 'Binkley'. Go away."

"You cut me off." He said in a low, gravelly voice.

"No I didn't, you degraded, smelly loon! I was turning left and the light was yellow as your teeth!  You started turning right as I was coming around. Didn't even look before you started moving."

Barney (all of my antagonists are named Barney) took his stubby finger and began poking me in the chest. "Look, you raving, Evil Knievel! You shot out of your turn lane too fast and dangerous for the drivers around you.  Get it into your head that you need to look at what's happening around you before stepping on the gas."

I didn't like his finger, and I certainly didn't like the greasy smell emanating from his body.  I glanced over my shoulder to see if the knuckle-head had woken up Annie.  "Get back to traffic school, you prehistoric monkey-brain! I had the right-a-way. You need to wait for the other drivers to finish their turn before you turn on a red light!"

"The only 'monkey brain' in here is you! I got your plate number and you need a few weeks in traffic school."

I wouldn't take any more.  "Have at it then!" I yelled and leaped at him. We fell to the floor and started throwing punches. I had been wanting to hit him for some time. We scrambled for a number of minutes before I heard a voice say, "Husband, what are you doing over there?"

A light suddenly appeared overhead. I looked to my left. Annie stood by the door with her finger on the light switch. She tilted her head to the side and tiredly asked, "Who's in the closet, now?"

I felt my face get red.  I was standing in my Green Lantern boxers and white T-shirt in front of the clothes.  I looked at the once-ironed shirts hanging from the rack, and the sweaters stacked on the shelf above.  "Um...Barney."

"Who's 'Barney'?" she asked calmly.

"He's the guy who cut me off down by the Target store."

"You mean...two months ago???"

I nodded.  It seemed a little sooner, but I had been wrestling with him for a while.  Annie signed, then walked over to me, took my hand, and sat me down at the edge of the bed.

"Who else is in there?" she asked.

I took a deep breath.  "Ummm...a bully from my Freshman year in high school, the guy who short-changed me at that gas station in Concord, and my sixth-grade teacher."

"Your sixth-grade teacher?"

"Yeah, she and I never got along very well.  I think she's still out to get me."

What was her name?"

"Mrs. Barney."

"They're all called Barney, aren't they?"

"That's right."

"Are Jeeves and Wooster still hanging around?"

"No.  They were with me for just one night."  I paused, and then said, "You know, that just didn't come out right."

"That's a pretty full closet.  I'm surprised that you actually fit some slacks in there."

I sat still, feeling stupid.

"You know what the bible says?" she continued.

"Yes," I replied.  "The ground opened and ate up 250 people."

"Besides that.  Do not go to bed angry.  Work it out before you go to sleep.  'But know that the LORD has set apart for Himself him who is godly.  The LORD will hear when I call to Him.  Be angry and do not sin.  Meditate with your heart on your bed, and be still.'  I think this is why you're angry a lot.  You carry your past hurts and offenses with you.  God wants you to confess when you mess up, and forgive when others offend you.  That means putting it behind you and not holding grudges.  It's about moving ahead to receive the joy God has for you."

We sat there in silence for a minute or two.  She still held my hand and let it sink in for a while.  "Yeah," I said, "I guess I still hold onto stuff."

"Why is that, do you think?"

I let out another breath.  "I guess it's because I enjoy holding things against people.  I actually like getting angry at others.  It feels good."  I looked over at Annie.  She had a patient look in her eyes.  No judgement. No anger.  That's one of the many reasons I loved her.  She saw what kind of man I was and still was committed to encouraging me, lifting me up, and holding me through those difficult periods.  Like now.

"God's grace is so great.  Do you remember what Ephesians 5 says in the bible?"

"' Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children, and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God'.  God wants me to forgive others just as He forgave me."

"Yes," Annie continued, "and He wants you to forgive yourself when you mess up, too.  He wants you to walk in His grace and live a life of love.  That's following in Jesus' footsteps.  And when we're weak, just as you are right now, God wants you to call out to Him and ask for the strength to forgive and move forward.  I want you to be filled with joy, not anger.  You put on quite a different face for people to see; they can't see the anger inside of you.  But God wants to set you free from that anger so that you can do the work He's called you to."

We sat in silence for a moment more, and then prayed.  I asked God to help me in my weakness, and asked for forgiveness in not forgiving others.  I asked for eyes that would help me to see others as He saw them...with eyes of love.  When I finished, Annie prayed over me.  She then looked into my eyes and smiled and I saw God's love in her.

She stood up and led me over to the closet and opened the door.  "Okay.  Time to get them out."  I then addressed each Barney by name and forgave the person when necessary and forgave myself when needed.  I made a commitment to approach a member of the church the following Sunday to seek some kind of reconciliation.  Finally, I stepped back.

"I think I'm ready to move on." I said.

Annie looked at me with a furrowed brow.  "You're sixth-grade teacher isn't called 'Mrs. Barney', is she?"

"No, and neither is the pastor."  I looked at the clock.  It was nearly dawn.  "Wow.  Amazing how much time that took.  Better get the coffee on."  I looked at Annie, and gave her a peck on the cheek.  "Thank you.  Again."

I thought back on that verse, "It is for freedom that Christ has set you free."  Freedom from anger, freedom from lust, freedom from greed, freedom from pride.  Jesus came to set the captives free, which is all of us.  And I experience that again and again through Him.

It was a good start to a new day.

1 comment:

  1. You are so funny! Thanks for this wonderful story. It is one of my favorite blogs of the week.