Wednesday, November 08, 2006

To Paint or to Preach by Jim Black

I’m a house painter by trade. I’ve been doing this since I can remember. My Grandpa Black was a union painter south of Buffalo, NY, and my Dad was a high school teacher who ran 15 man paint crews with other teachers every summer. I loved to hang out with them on the job when I was a kid, and they would let me paint trashcans and backs of garages to keep me out of their way. Once I painted a red garage, and got so much paint on me that even my underwear was red. When I got married the photographer took a picture of our hands with our new rings and there is paint all over my fingernails. No, I’m not a metrosexual. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…I’m not only a painter – I’m also a pastor (as well as a musician- talk about 3 jobs with sketchy reputations!).

We’re trying to start a new church – we meet in a school and the group has always been too small to support me full-time, so I paint. A while back I was painting for this rich guy in Boca Raton (translated “mouth of the rat” in Spanish, so I don’t know why all these rich people are so proud to live there!) I was not happy to be painting…I was tired of it and arguing with God about our church not growing and not having enough money and about paint on all of my underwear…He was not listening…I guess he’s heard me complain before.I needed a break, so I went down to the ocean to sit on a bench and clear my head with the salt breeze.

It didn’t help, and my argument with God continued to rage. As I fumed, a homeless man walked up and sat next to me on the bench. Now, I’m a pastor, so I know what I’m supposed to do when this happens…witness. I’m supposed to share my faith and introduce the person to the Lord. I told God that I was too mad to witness today, this guy would have to wait. I decided to ignore the man and say nothing. As I sat with my arms folded defiantly, the homeless man said “hi." I curtly returned the greeting. He said, “Hey, I know a place where we could go and get some lunch…it’s down the street at this church, and it’s free.” I looked down at my dirty, paint covered clothes and realized that this man thought I was homeless too.

My anger began to turn to embarrassment. This man was trying to help me!I said, “Thanks, but I’m not hungry.” He said, “That’s OK, but can I show you something else?” Then he pulled out a little booklet that explained how a person could know God, and he started to read it to me. By now I was so embarrassed and ashamed that I just listened. There was no way I could tell him that I was a pastor, and that I should be helping him.He led me in the sinner’s prayer at the end of the booklet, and I prayed along, then thanked him for sharing his faith with me. He said, “No problem, maybe I’ll see you around. Take care if yourself”Then he stood up and left.

As I sat there, I realized that God had answered my complaints. I wondered for a moment if I had just been in the presence of an angel in disguise, like in the movie "Bruce Almighty." I no longer felt sorry for myself, at least for the rest of that day! I still get tired of painting, but when I start to complain I think about the homeless guy who pointed me to the Bread of Life, and I remember what it is I’m supposed to be doing while I’m here on the earth. (I went home and wrote a song as a kind of penance called ‘til then…you can hear it at )

“Truly I say to you, whatever you do to the least of these who are members in my family, you do it also to me.” – Jesus (Matthew 25:40)
(The picture for this is a random google "homeless photo and not jim black)


Post a Comment

<< Home