Friday, June 10, 2011

Conversations With House- Finally Face to Face

I arrived at the Nassau Inn on the campus of Princeton in no shape to spar with Greg House. I was tired and the trip had been more difficult than I desired.

I did feel a resurgence of anticipation when I saw how beautiful Princeton was this time of year. I was especially thankful to finally arrive at this historic hotel.

I guess I'm reeling as well from the initial uneasiness my wife and family had over the news and sudden trip. Does it ever turn out well when you tell people you love that you have been holding a secret?

My wife knows of Dr.  House well enough to be afraid of what shenanigans he may be up to. I have those same fears.

My guess is that a face to face with him means challenges of my personal faith- where will I compromise? Where will I show inconsistency? Will he ask to meet me in a strip club? Will he set up a game of shots? Will he bring me face to face with alternate lifestyles and make me sentence them to an eternity without God?

I'm praying for moment by moment wisdom and I just want to be me.

I laugh at my past failures of trying to play Christian and putting my righteousness on display to impress others.

This goes back almost 30 years when I shared Christ with my first college roommate. He had never been exposed to the good news of Christ and after I explained it to him, he very politely rejected an offer to pray the sinners prayer.

For the next two weeks I tried to live out the faith to impress him- I would shower, make his bed while he showered, pray in front of him, read my Bible to be noticed. I shake my head in remembering the foolishness of it.

All the pretense fell apart one day. I was running late and jumped in the shower. My room mate was running late as well.

"Are you about done?" he frantically asked while I was finishing getting the soap out of my eyes.

I opened my eyes, turned around, and there he was! My 2 week room mate was standing totally naked in the shower with me and I did not handle the shock very well. (I'm sure House will make me clarify at some point my understanding of homosexuality- the charge of homophobia- and how the gospel over time actually improves your empathy of people without condoning sin). But I was a college freshman and not happy about this intrusion.

I still laugh at my reaction, and a little shocked. I DOVE out of the shower, tore the curtain rod down in the process, and turned to him- in full monty anger- and blasted him! "You *&%*#*, what are you doing, *&^%$. I stomped out- fuming- threw on my clothes and went off to class.

I can still feel the guilt 30 years later.

I walked around campus all that day, dreading to see my room mate. WHAT A HYPOCRITE I AM! Not only had I acted stupidly, but I had blown my witness. I had cussed- and I had not used profanity at all since my conversion 3 years earlier. I had worked so hard trying to show my room mate what a godly life looked like..... and now I had blown it.

It was a cold apartment for a few days- I finally broke the ice. "Look, Thom, I'm sorry. I still can't believe I lost my temper with you the other day."

"Aww man- no big deal- sorry I snuck up on you like that." He was smiling- it was more funny to him than tragic to me.

I responded in a true broken hearted moment: "My main embarrassment was that I was hoping to show you that Christ had made a difference in my life- and with that outburst and my profanity laced temper tantrum- I'm just sorry I blew it."

I will NEVER forget his response. "Look Jay, when you told me about Jesus Christ a few weeks ago, I was not and still not ready for that commitment. And as I watched you- I became a less likely candidate because I just did not think I could ever live like that or be that nice. When you blew your stack at me- I saw you as a real person- and the way you apologized makes me think that there is something to this Jesus thing after all."

That day- 30 long years ago- taught me one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned. I will capsulate it by borrowing a quote from a good friend, Pastor David Filson, "Life is too short and the gospel is too good to spend time living as a POSER!" If it was going to have any authenticity to it, I was going to have to live out the gospel with my flaws in view. I was going to have to take ownership of my sin. But I was also going to have to grow in grace and knowledge of truth. This lack of pretense is not a religious ritual to justify poor devotion- it just means that I am who I am- and it takes courage to live that way. And the sad thing is that I still don't live that way as much as I should.

The famous Dr. Greg House limped into the lobby of the Nassau Inn- cane and all- and seemed to recognize me immediately. I stood up and walked to meet him- a much bigger man than I had pictured him. There is something in man that elevates height. I should have known that such a commanding presence was going to be 6'2 minimum. This moment was larger than life!

He stopped, leaned forward on the cane, and looked me over. It was exactly like I imagined it to be. All the mannerisms were more pronounced in real life. He nods as he makes assertions. He looks down a lot and rarely catches your eye- not out of weakness- He is not afraid to look at you- it is more of the alpha male pretending not to notice and demonstrating that you are under him. He pressed me into immediate submission by his height and body language.

"Thank you for having me." I mumbled- we never tried to shake hands.

"Thank you for coming." It was quick- snappy- and totally shocked me.

He leaned away, nodded his head. and motioned- "Let's take a WALK". He said it kind of funny, almost weird, and it hit me right in the heart. Here is a man who lives in pain, it takes great effort to lean on that cane step by step- AND HE CAME TO ME! This was a sacrifice in a number of ways and I was getting more humbled by each hobble.

I was pleasantly relieved when I saw the Segway at the door.

"Sorry that there is only room for one, but I am handicapped you know."

He parked his cane on the handle. Stepped up on the platform, leaned forward and now I was the one who was sacrificing. I was at that awkward pace between a fast walk and slow jog. He knew exactly what he was doing.

"Have you seen the historic Princeton campus? Home of Albert Einstein? Pride of Presbyterian history?" The Segway was quiet and quick.

I was already breaking a sweat.

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