So, with fear and trepidation I took my notes (in 14-point type) for last night's talk. Sure enough, in the front row (right smack in front of the ambo!) was an older gentleman with a furrowed brow, staring up at me. What a distraction! Nobody took me up on my offer to entertain questions when the talk was finished, so I drove home, reflecting on the experience.
In a way, there was a mysterious, twofold, even threefold grace for me.
One was that this tiny stressor was, in its own way, an occasion for me to make reparation for the times I have responded inappropriately or disproportionately to people, taking their remarks or input out of context. How gracious of God to allow me to endure something that I have in my own way inflicted on others!
There was also the beautiful timing. (Not that I received the lengthy critique just hours before giving another talk in the same venue!) I mean that in the same mail delivery, I received a warm, hand-written note (they still do that?) from one of our Pauline brothers, affirming my work (and my talks!). Another sign of graciousness that the blowhard's many pages should be balanced by something so unexpected.
And finally, another Pauline sort of grace: the recognition that in this experience of having my every word parsed by someone who seemed actually eager for me to slip up was something that Jesus himself experienced in his public ministry. I know that in a mystical way all of life's experience can be a participation in the mysteries of Jesus' earthly life, but it's not often that you get such a spot-on match. Again, an amazing grace for me.
On the whole, I am hard put to praise God enough for this!