Here comes the man in black.
This week I wore black to the kingdom hall. I was attempting to make a statement, using a new strategy. Here’s what I shared with three men; I combined the three conversations into a composite one:
JW: Hi, how are you?
Me: I’m somewhat moody today. In fact, I’m grieving. That’s why I’m wearing black.
JW: Grieving about what?
Me: I’m grieving for my JW friends.
JW: Oh, you mean, about all that’s going on, like in Russia and other places?
Me: No, not about that. I’m grieving about other issues, but I’m not allowed to talk about them here. I’ve been in some deep prayer for you. I love you guys! And I’m grieving for you.
JW: Oh, okay. (Avoids eye contact and changes subject.)
Prior to this visit, I have never dressed up for the meetings. I have deliberately dressed casually to communicate (1) that I’m not trying to hide the fact that I’m not a baptized member, and (2) that I am free in Christ to wear what I want to the meetings. I think that most of my JW friends were probably only thinking “It’s about time he dressed up for the meetings.” But they had to notice that I was wearing all black. It stood out in a very monochromatic way.
The first man I shared my spiel with may have been an elder, but I’m not sure. He is at least a respected member in very good standing. When I revealed that I was not allowed to talk about what grieved me, he was visibly uncomfortable as he avoided eye contact and said, “Oh, okay.” Amazingly, though, he saved the conversation with a sudden change of subject, asking me what I did for a living. I went with it, joining him in small talk, keeping the friendship alive.
The other two men seemed less uncomfortable, but still unwilling to pursue the subject any further. I could sense understanding in their eyes, rather than avoidance. Perhaps they genuinely wanted to talk more, but naturally knew that they couldn’t at that time and in that place. One of them even said, “Thank you for honestly telling me how you’re feeling.” I helped both of those men by changing the subject myself. One of them was a dear, sweet older man who chatted with me for a long time about our workplaces and the times we’re living in. We shared quite a few common opinions, but avoided talking about anything very deeply.
I feel like I have gained some insight concerning my current status with the elders. From their body language, expressions, and actions around me during this visit, I’m thinking they consider me as not quite a threat (because I’m behaving well), but rather as a “loose cannon.” I’m not a threat, but I could be a potential threat, and they’re watching to see how it will go with me. Will I eventually conform (hey, he dressed nicely today), or will I give them a reason to escort me into the dreaded back room, or out of the building? I make them nervous, like they’re fearful that I may fire without warning at any moment. Or erupt like a previously dormant, but suddenly active volcano. Or like a bomb they’re trying to disarm.
I have to confess that I find it exciting to be considered a loose cannon. I’ve never been a loose cannon before. I feel powerful and dangerous.
Okay, I need to get off that arrogant horse. I’m not the black knight. I’m just a peasant, among other peasants, trying to show them the well of life that I have found, but they cannot see. I go back to what I said to each of the three men. “I love you guys.” And I mean it. I am grieving for them–it’s not an act. It’s for real.
During the boring talks and the dirge-like singing, I kept catching myself daydreaming. At one point I realized that I needed to do more than that. I began to attempt to pray earnestly for them, that they would be set free from their bondage. My stumbling attempts at prayer were, I know, part of a spiritual battle more vicious than I could sense. But I am sensing it, more and more. I’m grieving and angry and sad for my JW friends. I hope that they can sense that. And more importantly, I hope that they can sense the absence of the Lord’s presence in their meetings, and His presence breaking in, reaching out to them. Here’s one time when I think foul language will be appropriate:
God damn the Watchtower bondage!
Speaking of bondage and freedom, there was one funny side conversation this time with one of the “sisters,” and with an elder listening in. I have been trying to be good, not taking any digs at the Watchtower, but I couldn’t resist one. The sister was holding her nephew, a toddler wearing a shirt with a picture of a bowtie printed on the front (faux formal wear). The sister jokingly asked her nephew, while several of us (including the elder) were listening, “Can we wear a shirt like yours to the kingdom hall?” I replied for the little boy: “Sure, we’re free in Christ to do so.” Awkward silence, until someone abruptly changed the subject. I dared not look in the direction of the elder, but instead played innocent, joining in with the ongoing conversation. I even held the little boy and bounced him for a while! Sometimes I really, really enjoy what I do, even while I’m grieving.