They were a lovely retired couple and seemed like kindly substitute parents to us. From time to time they would invite us downstairs to watch TV or to share a meal.
At one of these meals the Birkenfelds were excited to share one of their favorite dishes with us: chopped beets and pickled herring. As Frau Birkenfeld served and as we took our first bites, they both leaned forward and looked expectantly for our delighted expressions.
My wife Joy and I are Southern. That means that we’re polite and perhaps a bit over accommodating. We would rather stick our tongue in an electric socket than to disappoint such sweet, gracious hosts.
“Mmmm,” I said. “This is wonderful,” as I ate with what I hoped passed for gusto. In all honestly, I was eating quickly to end my misery. My performance won me a heaping second portion before I could decline.
|Zinaida Serebriakova's "Self-Portrait in a White Blouse"|
Sometimes I’m glad that people can’t see what I’m thinking and feeling. Even more frequently I’m grateful that I do not have direct access to the inner life of other people.
Maybe this seems incongruous, even shocking to you. All of us want to be known and accepted for who we are. Right? And clergy—yes, even bishops—are supposed to set an example of Christ’s unceasing, unconditional love for others. So, it may sound as if I don’t want to know, and even refuse to love, people for who they really are.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Then again, maybe you and I diverge on what it means to be your true self.