In the past few years, so-called “helmet cams” have given us unique perspectives from the viewpoint of race-car drivers, football players and skydivers.
Today, I’d like to suggest a camera from the chaplain’s point of view — ChapCam (patent pending).
From a pinhole camera placed behind my ID, you’ll watch people change their demeanor as they encounter a member of the clergy. Like a speeder who comes upon a police cruiser on the roadside, you’ll see people do moral gymnastics and gyrations inspired by my presence.
With ChapCam, you’ll observe people engaged in everyday conversation or frivolity making midsentence changes in their vocabulary. Or perhaps from your ChapCam view, you’ll see someone sustain a paper cut as they expel a benign, “Dang, that hurt!” Or you’ll observe them as they reminisce about tax day, “Gosh darn, I had to pay a lot of taxes this year!”
And so it goes; all day long you’ll see people making these whiplash changes all on the pretense they are worried about offending my decency. Yet, the crazy thing is, these are the same people who will come to my office later confessing some Jerry Springer-like confession such as sleeping with a half-brother.
Yet as I reflect on the reason for these moral maneuvers, I wonder if the changes are more about a contrived image of who God is demanding they become. Perhaps they see God like an National Rifle Association president holding the Ten Commandments in one hand and a rifle in the other saying, “If you don’t do right, I’ll blow a hole clean through ya.”
I want to ask these people, who they you want to be. Does it matter I discover you aren’t the person you’d like to be? Or perhaps, more to the point, what would you risk to become the person you’re projecting on my behalf?
Truth be known, if you turned the ChapCam back on me, you’d see I, too, can make some quick reversals. In the hospital lunchroom, I’ve sometimes passed up the french fry bin when I’m aware the dietitian is standing behind me. I’ve adjusted my posture as I spoke with the physical therapist and I’ve found myself doing more repetitions in the gym as the trainer stands nearby.
These shallow changes are often about what these people represent than they are about the changes we really want to make. The problem with making these changes in the presence of these various influences is that you become stretched and disfigured into something that doesn’t remotely resemble who God has made you to be.
Seems to me the only thing that matters at the end of the day is that you are representing your God-given image — not the flattering image you imagine others want you to be.
Bottom line is you have to make changes for yourself, not for others. If your sudden conversion experience is all about changing for others, the changes only last as long as the presence of the influential person.
And changes that are not made for ourselves cause us to become like the drunk who stumbled from the saloon into the presence of his passing pastor and deacon.
Observed the deacon to the pastor, “Isn’t this man one of your converts?”
“You’re right, he must be one of mine,” replied the pastor, “because he sure doesn’t appear to be one of God’s converts.”