One of the things about trying to walk the straight and narrow is that I have to be honest with myself and others. And I have to admit that no matter how much better I am than I used to be, I still have a tendency to lapse into my old mentalities.
I don’t just do custodial work at church. It’s more than just cleaning bathrooms. I also take care of the buildings being locked and secure. Anyone who knows me will agree that I tend to be a little anal about things being the way I think that they ought to be. This attitude got me in trouble a few years ago when it was coupled with a self-destructive state of mind and a disregard for reality. I hit bottom back then and finally got into Celebrate Recovery. I’m thankful that Celebrate Recovery has given me the tools to stay clean. I wouldn’t have lasted this long. And I still use them.
At work, I tend to be a stickler for security. I don’t like random people showing up and using the facilities without making a room reservation. I like to say it’s about security. But I think it might be more than that. Before our church’s Halloween Harvest Carnival began, I made it clear that our secondary building that wasn’t being used needed to be locked up for the night. Restrooms would be open in the main building only, and that would be enough.
I told everyone I thought might want to get into the building that they would need to be responsible for letting themselves in. Only people with keys could get in. This was a change from last year when people went in and out of the building to get needed items from the kitchen. Not this year, I thought.
I overheard someone asking if the building could be open that night and another person answered that no, Dave wanted the building to stay locked all night. This overheard exchange delighted me.
That night, only authorized people were able to get into the building. Or so I thought. A couple times I found people hanging out or even (gasp) using the restrooms. I politely told them that the building was closed and made sure they left.
And I was oblivious to how I was being. So then the next night a brass band started practicing on the stage above where our Celebrate Recovery was meeting. I walked up the stairs and told them that we were having a meeting downstairs and they couldn’t practice there. They looked surprised and packed up and practiced in the foyer instead. The next day I looked at the schedule calendar and discovered that they had been given permission to be there. I was stunned. Then I was embarrassed, ashamed and miserable. I remembered the face of one of the musicians when I told them that they couldn’t be there. He looked sad.
I realized what a schmuck I had been, and not only that night to the horn players. Even on Halloween night, I went around indignantly closing the doors if someone left it open. I took it very personally if people didn’t keep with my wishes. When I started thinking about how I was feeling that night, I was pleased when I overheard people saying the building needed to be locked because that’s what Dave said.
The reason I was pleased was because I felt the world bending to my will. I am a control freak.
So I started thinking about a worst-case scenario. People get into the building. They couldn’t really steal anything big and not be noticed. Kids might run around the hallways. So what’s that to me? Someone would have found them and shooed them out. Oh dear, what if people had used the restroom? What if someone took a dump in a urinal? Was that a worst case scenario? Because I could handle that. I’m a custodian. I’ve seen some gnarly stuff.
But no, a worst case scenario was not any of those things. I had to think for awhile on this. I had to relax and be as honest with myself as I could be. That’s not an easy thing to do. But when I did, the answer came to me. The worst thing that could have happened was this: things wouldn’t have gone my way. Things would not have been under my control.
And when I realized that, there was a shock but a little bit of a relief too. Sure I would rather clean up crap from a place where it doesn’t belong. Do you see what I’m saying? I would rather put things the way I think that they should be. A lot of the time on my job I am doing what’s right. I don’t think most people want to see what I’ve seen and I’m doing what’s best for everyone by making things right. But sometimes I judge things without thinking of other people’s needs or feelings and I act out of line.
So I apologized to our music pastor who told the band they could be there. I was dreading the apology but he’s a man full of grace and I felt so much better afterword. I asked him if I could apologize to the band when they got together next. I am dreading this too, but I need to do it and I think I will feel better after. Making amends is like cleaning up stuff that doesn’t belong there. With the right tools, it can be done.