The bold black numbers shifted slowly, rhythmically, ever upwards.
I watched the numbers metamorphosis, mesmerized by their clock-like precision.
Sighing, I glanced to my left at the large, modern clock, then back at the caller ID screen, which still displayed the numerical proof of my torture.
I shifted the phone to my other shoulder, wearily rolled my aching neck, and continued my vigil.
The angry voice on the other end had been at it for 6 min, 42 seconds, and counting. My participation in the monologue had consisted solely of sympathetic “mhms,” and empathetic “I understand you’re frustrated’s”.
The voice had responded with bitter accusations, vague threats, and fervent asides to Jesus, whom she begged to give her strength.
Finally, when both I and the voice were beyond frustrated, I said through gritted teeth, “Ma’am, we’re doing our best. Your check will be here soon, but until then, please know that we’re doing everything we can to make sure you get paid in a timely fashion.”
The voice exploded.
“OH, REALLY? THEN HOW COME I AIN’T PAID YET?”
I pondered the question. It seemed rhetorical, so I stayed silent.
This was a mistake.
“OH, SO NOW YOU QUIET! HOW COME EVERY TIME I TALK ABOUT MY CHECK, YOU GO ALL QUIET ON ME?”
Again, I pondered the question, which didn’t seem have a obvious answer.
“IF THIS WAS YOUR CHECK, YOU WOULD ALREADY HAVE IT NOW, WOULDN’T YOU?”
The questions seemed to have take a philosophical turn. Heaving a sigh, I gazed at the ceiling for inspiration.
“I’M GOING TO KEEP CALLING UNTIL I HAVE A CHECK IN MY HAND.”
This being the fourth irate call, I knew this was not an empty threat.
“Ma’am, I will personally call you when your check gets here.”
The voice halted, and an awkward silence reigned.
“YOU KNOW WHAT…”
Before I could ask what, an angry buzz assaulted my eardrums.
The voice had hung up. Hard.
Twenty minutes later, the checks came. They looked innocent enough, lying on my desk, white and pristine, naive of the anguish they’d inadvertently caused.
Biting my lip, I scanned the caller ID for the now ominously familiar number.
The phone rang, once, twice, thrice.
I breathed a sigh of relief and waited for the beep.
Then the voice answered, “Finally.”
My breath whooshed out. “Ma’am, I am truly sorry..”
The voice persisted.
Eyebrows arched, I bit my lip.
“Whatsoever things are honest…”
I bit my lip harder.
“Whatsoever things are just…”
My lip protested fervently.
“Whatsoever things are pure…”
Desperately, I switched to biting the inside of my cheeks.
“Whatsoever things are lovely…”
Eyes watering, I held my breath.
“Whatsoever things are of good report…”
I pinched myself. Hard.
“If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think, I said think, upon these things.” The voice trailed off into a reverent silence.
Mouth forming a disbelieving O, I waited for the clincher.
The voice did not disappoint.
“Have a blessed day.”
I couldn’t help it. I snorted. Loudly.
Then, I thought about it. This woman was understandably frustrated. The situation was, frankly, highly avoidable. We should have had her check ready. My company was liable, irresponsible, and guilty.
She was a hypocrite.
Her voice was talkin’ the talk (thank you, Jesus), but forget walkin’ the walk. The vitriolic tirade and the sanctimonious voice message warred for credibility.
Guess which one won in my mind?
Sadly, I had to question: how many times have I done the exact same thing? Looked good in church, yet harbored bitterness towards another? Quoted scripture, but completely ignored the implications? Done something correct for entirely incorrect reasons?
More times than I care to count.
As a result, I looked up the definition of a hypocrite. Wanna hear it?
1. A person who pretends to be what he is not.
What a dead-on description of Christians. We aim to be Christ-like.
We are not.
We aim to be holy.
We fall short.
We strive to be honest, and just, and pure, and lovely, but underneath all of our clean exteriors, every Christian knows the truth: we are hypocrites.
I am a hypocrite.
But, “Jesus, give me strength,” I will be a genuine hypocrite.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”