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The Most Sickening Counseling Session I Ever Had

April 28, 2014

Between the time when I left my teaching career in California and when I resumed it back again in the East, I traveled for over two years. My ministry was to reach out to small churches and Christian schools and help wherever I could, mostly by being a speaker and counselor at these mostly rural stops.

I didn’t do this for the money nor the fame.  Believe me, I receive very little of either.  What I did receive was a great dose of humility while on the circuit as I traveled.

Let me share one with you, if I may.

I had been back in South Dakota for a third time, and was overjoyed but also overworked.  God was blessing the ministry in incredible ways, but I must admit, I 1bbbwas quite exhausted.  The wide-swinging circuit had taken me to churches and schools ranging from Nebraska to Arizona in a manic pace.  On this trip back to the Mount Rushmore State a local church realized I needed some rest, so along with a nice quiet home where I could huddle between my meetings, they gave me a pass to go to a health club at the outer edge of town. Boy, did I love that.

I had been speaking and visiting prisons for about five days straight and I had a day’s break. I felt that I may have picked up a bit of a cold while ministering at the jail and I headed to bed a bit weak.  I felt fairly certain that I had shook the flu-like symptoms by the next morning as I got up early, greeted the morning sun through the little trailer’s window, and wolfed down a huge omelet, some toast, bacon, and two cups of coffee while I had my devotions. I was famished, but I was also ready to do some serious exercising.

I pulled on some gym clothes and jumped into the car. Within fifteen minutes I was running a circular track. After a five mile jog, I followed up with lap swimming in the club’s pool.

Spoiler alert: Some of this story might be a bit indelicate so I’m going to apologize ahead of time. If you are of a stiff constitution, you’ll get a good lesson from this anecdote, so please continue on.  If not, better find some more light reading somewhere else.

Okay, I warned you.

It was still early as I wandered back into the locker room. I had finished a half an hour of vigorous swimming.   Oooooh, man.  It hit me, and quick, too. I plopped down and felt a feverish swoon coming over me.  I also belched and realized that I shouldn’t have had such a big breakfast.

A thin-haired middle-aged man wandered in, waved a hand, and opened the door of a locker.

“Morning,” he said.

“Morning…” I answered cheerily as possible while fighting a sour feeling way down in the pit of my stomach. I was wiping my forehead with a towel.  Things tasted funny in the back of my throat.

“Say, I recognize you, ” he said, pointing at me.  “You’re that guy who’s over at Boulder Creek Church speaking this week.  You’re also speaking at some of the Christian school chapels, aren’t you?”

“Yessir,”  I said, stifling a burp and blinking fast. “In fact, I’ll be speaking at a school assembly tonight. I…”

I faded off, weakly.  Man, I really wish I hadn’t eaten that breakfast. I swallowed gingerly.  “I…I’m surprised you would … urp… recognize me.”

“Oh, it’s a small town,” the man chuckled, fumbling with a wire hanger. “My wife went to the church to hear you Tuesday night. I couldn’t make it – overtime hours, you know.” He bent over to untie his shoes. “So you’re a minister? Or a preacher…or a parson, is that right?”

I could feel it coming.

My stomach was in kick-out mode. I darted for the bathroom stall and leaped inside, hovering expectantly over the toilet, my pounding head leaning down and my shaking legs trying to hold me up.

“Well,” I called haltingly over the top of the door, “Some people say a preacher, some say a speaker, or evangelist, but…”

Oooooh, I felt bad.

“… I just like to say that I’m a guy who travels and shares the Bible.”

“Yeah, okay.” I could hear him grunt that he understood. “So, can you tell me about the difference between a Baptist leader and a Catholic one?”

“Oh, ah… well,” I called from inside the stall, steadying my legs and feeling the starchy acidic feeling rising in my throat and into the sides of my cheeks. I gulped but I knew what was coming. “For one thing, Baptist churches have pastors – shepherds of the flock, you might say. Priests are in the Catholic realm. With the Catholic church you have confessionals, and you don’t with the Baptist, or Protestants…”

I was woozy.

“Well, okay, that’s what I had heard,” the man said agreeably. I could hear him unzip the sports bag. “Whatever you call yourself, I’ve had some questions that I’ve always wanted to ask a man of the cloth.”

And that is when I lost it.

I mean, everything came roaring up the tunnel, brother.

The green flag at the Indy 500, so to speak.  Niagara Falls was unleashed. Apollo 13 was launched.

To put it bluntly, I projectile vomited like I never had before. I believe I broke a bone in my ankle, I was shaking so hard.

“I’ve been thinking about dedication to God,” the man continued,  “And what would be a good chapter on talking about real, genuine – you know – Heavenly love?”

I tried to put my words together in time.  It didn’t make it.  “I would say 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen BLEEEEEAAAAAAAGH…”

He grunted again. “Hey, that’s something.  I’ll write it down.  What do you recommend for a good devotional time?”

So here I was, holding myself steady by clinging to both sides of the bathroom stall with legs that were shaking like Jello in an earthquake, vomiting in stupendous fashion while a man sat peacefully on the other side of the stall’s door, happily putting on his flip-flops and asking me for Biblical answers on various questions he had been pondering for many a year. He asked about prayer, Bible reading and the problem of sin.  I kept answering and throwing up.  For reasons beyond me he never picked up on the fact that I was violently ill, nor did he seem to care that I was calling out answers from inside a bathroom stall.

“So, you’re saying that Colossians is a good book to learn about Christian freedom?  Nice, very nice.”  I heard him slam the locker door.  “You’ve been very kind.  Well, time for me to hit the swimming pool.  See you, then.”

He whistled merrily and went out to take a dip.

Now, I really do understand that Paul’s second letter to Timothy contains an exhortation to be ready “in season or out of season” to preach God’s Word and give instruction.  I find that the Greek word for “ready” can be translated as “stand by,” just as a radio announcer would hold his script and look at the director, ready to speak at a moment’s notice.

This “stand by” means that we give Scriptural exhortation in any situation, whether it be at the library, the supermarket, the cubicle or the running track.

Any time, anywhere.  I felt I already knew that.

I just wasn’t aware that it might mean no matter how you felt.

Well, I got my first lesson in that as well.

And also a dose of learning to “be clothed with humility,” as Peter so aptly put it. But I also learned that if the Lord gives the opportunity to share His Word, then I’d like to be able to do what I can, even if I’m hovering over a flush toilet in a locker room in South Dakota. 

And I imagine God had a nice chuckle over that little scenario.

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