Other than my parents who were dutiful, good, Christian folk, people didn’t want to spend time with me while I was growing up. I didn’t have many friends, and the people who paid attention to me did it in such a way that it made me wish they had ignored me. They beat me, mocked me, called me painful names, and said things to intentionally hurt me, things that I would rehearse in my mind in the last few minutes before I went to sleep at night or think about when my mind was unoccupied like when I was mowing the lawn or delivering papers. I mowed lawns and deliver papers a lot. My parents wanted me to learn to work hard and earn money, and I didn’t have any friends with whom to fritter away time or loiter.
In the last few years I have been invited to one particular activity fairly regularly. I’ve been invited regularly to play paintball. The dialog usually goes something like this.
“Hey we would love for you to play paintball with us.”
“Oh, thanks for the invitation but I don’t know how to do that.”
“That’s no problem. It’s easy to learn. We’ll be glad to teach you.”
“Thanks, but I don’t own any equipment.”
“That’s OK. We have some old stuff you could use.”
They just seem so eager. Too eager. It makes me a little uncomfortable.
These are people who have invested hundreds of dollars and obscene amounts of time in sophisticated equipment for this sport. I have never done this but I have thought about it a lot. I would really like to believe that the years since my cruel Jr. High experiences have made me a much more likable guy. I’d like to believe people just love spending time with me now. I would like to believe that I have become socially attractive over the passing years, but I don’t think so.
Here is my theory: I am a pastor so people think I am fairly harmless. They know I do not own or know how to operate paintball equipment. I am well into middle-age now and I’m not as quick on my feet as I used to be. I have a wider-than-average body. I never have nor will I ever own any camouflage clothing. These factors make me a very attractive paintball date. On top of this I have an above-average ability to irritate people, thus the regular invitations to play paintball with people who are only casual acquaintances.
I just don’t see why anyone would think I would enjoy being a human target for their sadistic pleasure. It’s not just a little frightening to know that there are lots of people like this out there on the loose. “Hey, it’s my birthday. Why don’t you bring your in-experienced, old, irritating, slow-moving, wide-as-a-barn carcass over for the afternoon so me and my homicidal friends can chase you around the backyard and shoot you repeatedly? It only leaves a small welt that will go away within two or three days. I have a feeling the fun would be a little one-sided. I have a nagging suspicion that their wide smiles are masking a complex and disturbing cocktail of psychological disorders.
Maybe I’m just a little paranoid but don’t bother to invite me to play paintball with you and your friends. It just doesn’t sound like it would be much fun – for me. It is at times like this that I take comfort in the knowledge of God’s unconditional love and constant protection for me – even when the enemy wants to use me for target practice.
Northwoods Conference Center
June 24, 2007