Look, I am as compassionate as any member of the Ladies Lutheran League Auxiliaryincluding you, Linda, with your selfless devotion to the weekly church bulletin, and you, Edna Jane, bringing baked goods to the shut-ins. But even I have my limits, and I'm telling you this right now: That's the last heart-to-heart I'm having with Janet.
In all the years I've been a loyal churchgoer here at St. Luke's, I have never, so help me, met a woman who could talk your ear off about human pain and suffering like Janet can. Sure, The Bible teaches us to be merciful, so when Janet came to me the first time with her "nowhere to turn" song and dance, I told her I'd be happy to hear her troubles. That's what fellow Lutherans are for. Well, of course, she immediately let go the waterworks, and then it was the whole shebang with the divorce, the cancer, the house, the bills, the bills, the bills! You know the drill.
That first time, I listened and gave her whatever comfort I could. But now, after the umpteenth time, I'm through with Janet and her constant soul-baring. So, your ex-husband's an alcoholic who still calls to threaten you in the middle of the night? Sooner or later, you've got to stop living in the past. I've heard the "getting chased down with the station wagon" story enough times I can recite it. I got the point, thank you very much. I got it a long time ago.
Yes, the bad husband who drank and gambled emptied out Janet's bank account. And yes, Janet must live in her cancer-stricken Great Aunt Gertrude's basement with no one to help her care for her son, who has brain damage and eats from a bottle. But is it my fault Janet's son got all hopped up on drugs and hit the rear end of a dairy truck at 85 miles per hour? No, it can't be easy having to spoon-feed a 19-year-old while your only source of familial and financial support slowly dies of stomach cancer in the apartment above. But it's no picnic hearing about it every Sunday, either.
Sure, life hasn't exactly dealt Janet the best bridge hand. But Janet, the Lord works in mysterious ways. Everything happens for a reason. And God helps those who help themselves. Sooner or later, you have to look for the positive side of things. Try taking a walk down the sunny side of the street for a change. Nobody wants to hear about how someone stayed up all night holding her great-aunt's vomit pail.
It's always the same old saw: "I can't stand it anymore; I feel like God has abandoned me; I wish I were dead." What is there to say to that? I tell her it'll be okay, and that the Lord will provide. However bad it gets, I say, you'll always have people like me to rely on. But no matter how many times I try to reassure her, she's back again: brain damage, stomach cancer, drunken rage, bills, bills, bills! It's like I'm talking to a wall!
This whole Christian duty of being lovingly openhearted and unconditionally available to someone's desperate emotional vulnerability is really boring. Hello, Janet! It's cancer. People die of it all the time. And so your son's never going to be a rocket scientist. Can't you be happy with who he is? And it's not like yours is the only ex-husband who spends his child-support money on five-day gambling binges at the local casino. The papers are full of them. There's even a name for them: deadbeat dads. My father was one, and you don't hear me talking about it.
The next time Janet has a breakdown and starts sobbing during one of the hymns, I'm not going to be the one to take her hand, lead her to the basement, and make her a cup of tea. I'm sorry, but I'm out of comforting things to say. It's time for some other Christian soldier with the cross of Jesus to go marching onward, because I've friggin' had it. Excuse my language, Betty. I'm serious, ladies: Either one of you picks up the slack here, or she's Jesus' problem from here on in.