Sunday, July 11, 2010

"Pardon me, but you're in my seat."

There are many species in the animal kingdom that are territorial but none more so than the regular church-going Christian Homo sapien.  (For you biologically-challenged readers, a Homo sapien is a human, and has nothing to do with said human's sexual orientation.)  Oh sure, mess with a male crocodile's territory and you're likely to run up against some trouble.  Muscle your way into a spider monkey's space and you'll wish you hadn't.  As one who majored in zoology in college, I know this well.  But you ain't seen nothing until you've plopped your little fanny into someone else's seat on Sunday morning at church.   This happened to my wife and me today when visiting a church right here in our hometown.  

It's 10:30 AM right on the dot when we enter the building of a local church to attend the contemporary worship service.  The band is playing the opening song as we ease up a side aisle and spot an empty row of five chairs.  Just as we enter the row from the left, a woman enters from the right.  We stop, note that she's alone and take a seat in the outside two chairs leaving two "safety chairs" open between us.  Safe enough, right?  Nobody's invading anybody's territory and even if this is "her row", the "safety chair" buffer should make this OK.  As we begin singing the next song, a young boy about four years old, presumably her grandson, slips in beside her.  There goes one the "safety chairs" but I think we're still safe  . . . we still have an acceptable buffer.  That's when the trouble begins.

Now the boy's father slips into the row and takes the seat right next to my wife.  We're OK with this since we're visitors and not the Alpha animals on the row but apparently the man next to my wife is not comfortable with this arrangement.  He quietly slips out of the row and exits to the rear.  There is peace in the jungle, once again.  He's gone for a few minutes and returns with his wife this time.  I quickly do the math.  There are two of us and now there are four of them but only five chairs.  The man smiles politely at my wife and points over to my left.  Two more chairs have mysteriously appeared at the end of our row.  Two chairs awkwardly placed out in the side aisle  . . . all alone.  Perhaps fifteen rows of chairs and this one row now has two extra chairs awkwardly situated out in "No Man's Land."  He smiles and motions for us to move down so that the rest of his tribe can now be seated in their chairs, the chairs that we had occupied.

It could have been worse.  He could have screeched loudly at us like a spider monkey does when another invades his territory.  He could have lunged at us baring his teeth like a crocodile might have in the same circumstance.  Instead, he politely excused himself, stealthily came up from the rear and placed two chairs at the end of our row without making a sound, returned to the back of the room and entered the row from the other side.  No screeching, no bared teeth, just a polite smile and a motion to move into the chairs in "No Man's Land."  It could not have been more awkward if all of the lights in the room had been dimmed and a singular spotlight was focused on just the two of us. 

God is good and his timing is perfect.  Just then we had reached a point in the service where the worship leader had begun to pray.  Understanding and obeying the rules of the jungle, we quietly slipped out of our new seats in "No Man's Land" and retreated to the back of the room and into chairs placed against the back wall about twenty feet to rear of the last row.  The jungle can be a cruel place and only the strong survive.