I used to be a little sharper than I am now – less trusting, more guarded, not as likely to have the wool pulled over my eyes. In the city, our doorbell rang daily. Fingers belonging to any number of salesman, proselytizers, or budding politicians pressed against it hoping that, as the lady of the house, I’d be open, sympathetic, lulled in to the pitch they had spit polished until it shone, until it glistened like a sucker, slick and sweet. But a blank face dropped the bomb before my lips could speak a word. Oh, please, I had heard it all before.
“I already have a Church, thank you."
" I’d rather not put that sign in our yard."
"I don’t need the queen size sheets or tube socks you are selling from out of that shopping cart."
My credit card number? Signature? Date of birth? I don’t think so. I’m sorry but it’s way too risky nowadays. The rules have been broken, lies were told and I’m not interested in being taken for a fool by you or anyone.”
I have softened here, where eye contact is expected, along with a wave, as you pass a fellow driver, bike rider, or pedestrian. I assume the best because I want it to be true – that there are places immune to deception where the citizens are kind and honest, where when a doorbell rings I can answer it with a smile. Which is exactly what I did for the good ole’ boy from Nappanee, wearing a huge toothy grin and carrying a clipboard. “Hello, mam, my name is Brent how are you doing this afternoon?” And then I swear he tipped his hat like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, all wonderful, courteous and charming. "He had a badge and everything,” I would later tell my husband, unamused by this latest lapse in judgment. All Brent had needed was to do a real quick check of our last gas bill to make sure it included the clause about keeping our prices fixed throughout the winter. He would have hated for my family to have fallen victim to skyrocketing payments that would inevitably be required when the weather turned cold. So I signed, verified, made chit chat with my new best buddy who, wouldn’t you know it, just adored kids because he was the youngest of eleven. What a sweetheart, what an angel, what a super polite young man - that twenty-something, golden haired sneakster!
“Look at this,” Troy said, pointing to the website listing U.S. Energy Savings Corp. as a scam. “E tu, Brute!” I silently accused them. Even here I must be prudent and alert? Must I filter what flows through me from even sources so (seemingly) benign as the small talk with a utilities (ahem) provider, the catalogues in my mailbox, or the voyeuristic updates on lives led less than prayerfully being plastered on the computer screen in my own cozy office, where children are playing, laundry is folded, and tempers are soothed in the rocking chair. I don’t mean to complain, but all that vigilance can become awfully draining. I mean, shoot, it’s tiring to always have to ask myself if that decision will improve our financial situation or ultimately worsen it, if assuaging my curiosity will edify my spirit or degrade it, if that purchase will bring me satisfaction or an insatiable desire for more stuff. Sometimes, the invitation to surrender from those for whom this earthly existence is the end all be all can be very tempting. Sometimes I don’t want to think it through. Do I have to be spiritually “on” all the time?
My priest is some sort of mind reader. I know this because every homily he delivers is aimed straight for the hidden recesses of my brain, where I ponder on, justify, and dilute the negativity of, my actions. So when he hit me with, “At every moment you are either building up God’s Kingdom or actively obstructing it, there is no sitting on the sidelines,” I nearly gasped with embarrassment. Was the admission, “Presently pursuing an alternative to the narrow path,” written on my forehead? Or is it God, Himself, concerned about my salvation, who offers life saving reminders capable of raising my soul above the scams, the disappointment, the empty guarantees littered generously along the wide and easy? Could that subsequent regret from having wasted time, wasted money, be a Christ sent tap on the shoulder, a post it note saying “oil lamp refill,” a subtle aide-memoire urging that I wait, wait, wait for my Bridegroom.
So Troy beat the system by canceling, by doing the research and pulling us out of the program before the time limit to do so expired - I’m back to asking questions and looking skeptical. It’s a shame but its reality; blinded eyes will not alter the fact that all that glitters isn’t gold or, in this case, all that feels warm isn’t low cost petroleum. "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves,” said Jesus to His disciples in Matthew chapter 10. I guess some things never change; it seems the wolves continue breeding, providing each new generation with opportunities for being swindled, for seeking wisdom, for choosing a course and sticking with it come what may.
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