Finally the new season of network TV has begun, and we got to watch the first episode of the second season of “Bull” last night, “School for Scandal.” How will Dr. Bull figure out a way to convict a woman who has murdered her husband when everything points to justifiable self-defense? (Spoiler alert if you keep reading.)
One of his staff finds the one detail that changes everything. Throwing the evidence file at him, she asks, “What’s not there?” it turns out there were no fingerprints on the gun she used to shoot her husband because she wore gloves to keep her fingerprints off the knife she stabbed herself with to make it look like he attacked her.
What’s not there? What do you not see? What a great question. Maybe I need to spend more time looking at the world, the people, and the stories around me through that lens.
Sometimes when I look out over the congregation while preaching on a Sunday morning, I don’t see who’s there. I see who’s not there. And I wonder, “Where are they?” Yes, it’s good to be aware of who is not in worship, but not to the distraction of bringing the gospel to those who are present.
Most of the time, I don’t see any cars in our church parking lot. A bad thing? Of course not. The church gathers specifically so it can go. We gather to receive God’s gifts of grace and we go into the world to love others. I don’t want you hanging around the church all the time. I want you to go and freely give what you have freely received.
Sometimes when I see other people, I have to remind myself of what I don’t see. I don’t see what struggles they are dealing with at home. I don’t always see the pain they are feeling, whether physical or emotional. I don’t see their fears, whether real or perceived. I can’t see an empty pantry at home, an empty bank account, an empty place at the table, or an empty heart within. I just see them and how they are doing at the moment. Like the iceberg, I only see what’s on the surface, not everything lurking below. So don’t make any assumptions. Be sure to listen. A lot.
I don’t always see the real someone. A lot of folks are on their best behavior around me, especially when they find out I’m a pastor. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe they think I’ll tattle on them to God. (Reality check: Don’t worry, I don’t do that. The omniscient God doesn’t depend on me for information.) Just be yourself around me. I’ll try to do the same.
In addition to watching, noticing and observing the world and people around me, I’ve decided to pay more attention to what I don’t see, or hear, or taste.