For some reason I was recalling one of the embarrassing moments of my ministry. We had just moved to Wemindji on the east coast of James Bay. I decided for some strange reason to go for an early morning jog (a mistake I have rarely repeated since). It was a beautiful morning with just a hint of crispness in the air and I was getting into my stride when a dog began to follow me. I was not terribly concerned but then there were two … then three then a pack. Now dogs in this kind of community, while loved by their owners are not house pets and I began to feel their hungry gaze fixed on my churning hamstrings. I picked up the pace but soon realized that I was not going to out run or out distance this pack who were by then howling snarling mob. I looked around for help or a place of safety and none seemed available. What was I to do? Recognizing the futility of running I screeched to halt, spun around to face my canine infested future. As loud as I could I snarled and barked at the dogs in the lead. Puzzled they stopped and stared for a while, they see to shrug and one by one drifted off. Relieved I looked around to see if anyone saw me when I noticed a curtain move in a picture window which overlooked the scene. This was not going to be ‘my little secret’. Chagrinned I walked slowly home.
Over our stay in the community I noticed that when I entered a public setting folks would mumble something behind their hands and share a chuckle with their neighbour. Just before we were to fly out I pressured someone to let me in on the joke everyone enjoyed at my expense. It turned out that I had earned a nickname in Cree which translates “man who chases dogs”. It had become a term of real affection.
What I had wished was my own private shame became a public nickname which had opened up all sorts of opportunity to share in people’s lives. Privacy is like that! In private we can harbour all sorts of things to our own harm but in community our foibles create a companionship along the journey. Folks are much more likely to befriend “man who chases dog” than they are “big prayer boss”.
I find this is true with my friends. I sometimes lose my temper at inanimate objects. I had found one propane lamp particularly frustrating and decided this would be the last time it would get the best of me. I spun around with it like a hammer thrower and flung it across the field. I looked up to see my friend Donnie watching me. He decided from that moment that he wanted to ‘hang around’ with me and learn more about following Jesus.
I am not advocating losing your temper but I am advocating being real. As we share in community we will have some fine moments which are very real and we will have some moments which cause us to repent. It is this real life that Jesus invites us to live, not privately but out loud, in community.