(This story is true, though I have changed the names.)
Brian is a young bachelor, 36 years old. Having never been married he is ill-acquainted with some of the more subtle domestic niceties. Often he reeks of body odor though it seldom seems to bother him, so it is easily overlooked. Dandruff is a constant companion, flakes residing both on the tufts of his frequently tousled hair as well as on his shoulders. Shaving must be a daily struggle because I have regularly seen circular Band-Aids affixed to his neck, even in the evening, having forgotten he put it there at 7:00 a.m. He shops at Goodwill. Working at the local library does not seem to afford him some of the luxuries you and I enjoy. Quite often his clothes do not fit.
I have known Brian for several years now and I have seen him in some messy garb. He once wore a cream-colored Oxford, the top button buttoned yet no tie, without an undershirt so his chest hair was plainly visible; no, not acquainted with some aesthetic subtleties. Brian is not a member of the church I serve (though I wish he was). He is a member of another church yet close enough that he is not precluded from attending worship at our church on occasion and he often attends choir practice just for the sake of singing with God's people.
Brian has a gift; an extraordinary gift for music. He is the type of musician that makes one ashamed of knowing less about the field. Were Brian to have been blessed with greater than adequate resources, there is no telling where his talent might have taken him. However, he is content to use his talent serving God's people. He is frequently invited to direct cantatas and dramatic presentations at area churches. Once while directing an anthem at a church I had the blessing of preaching revival services, the sleeves of his blazer (twenty years out of style) extended beyond his wrists, so his directions were hard to follow.
When Brian sings, a hush falls over the assembly as if all at once they know they are about to be ushered into the presence of God. Some people however fail to realize this characteristic about some of God's people. Brian had attended choir practice at our church and had hung around for an unusually long time at the conclusion. I realized he was waiting to talk with me, so I hurried up conversing with other saints and pressed to make time for Brian.
"Tony, this should not bother me and I feel childish for allowing it to."
"What's wrong?" I responded.
"Well, Pastor Don has been preaching messages about Christians' looking after themselves. He has talked about smoking, drinking, and the like, and one Sunday he talked about the way a Christian ought to dress."
"Hmm. It sounds as if something might have gotten close to you. Did something happen?"
"Well. This is childish, but...(sigh) as he was greeting people after the service and I walked by, he caught me by the arm and said, 'Next time you come to church, make sure you iron your pants.'"
At this moment my mouth dropped open, the utter horror and disbelief plain as the noonday sun on my face. I know Brian's sensitivity and I have made numerous allowances in consideration of his appearance, being mindful of his great heart.
Brian was nearly to tears. "Tony, I don't know how to iron. I have tried. And Pastor Don even had the gall to chase me down in the parking lot and tell me if I needed her to, his wife would be glad to iron my pants before church next Sunday."
Needless to say, Brian was crushed, what little self-esteem he possessed having been annihilated by an over-zealous, nit-picky, uncomfortable do-gooder of a pastor.
There are a thousand different ways this could have been dealt with. If, and this is a mighty big if, the condition of Brian's britches was such an issue, why did the pastor find it necessary to single Brian out? Perhaps he thought he could get away with it, knowing Brian's oversensitive heart that he would suffer no repercussions. Brian would never retaliate. He doesn't have a vengeful bone in his body.
Nevertheless, an easier way to help Brian improve his appearance, if that is even necessary, is enlist a grandmother in the congregation to come alongside of him to flatter him, invite him over for supper, ask him to do some chores around her house, and then casually mention that she would love to iron his clothes for him.
"Honey, you are so sweet to do these things for me and I so enjoy your company. You know, you always look so nice on Sundays, but it ain't nothing a little ironing couldn't help out just a smidge. Would you let me iron a few of your shirts and pants for you? I'll make you look extra-special-nice come Sunday."
The Body would have been strengthened, Brian would not have been shattered, and he would have gotten fresh, crisp, starched, pants, ready for Sunday morning.
Discomfort with social graces motivates much nastiness among the Body. It motivates nastiness among a lot of people regardless of spiritual standing. Each one of us has overlooked a need, discounted a potential friendship, and missed a blessing because we were uncomfortable with someone's appearance. We all have a Brian somewhere in our lives, begging to be noticed, begging for friends, begging for recognition, begging to bless and be blessed, begging to be loved. It doesn't take much to bless someone like Brian.
Someone like Brian strives to be a blessing to others, but rarely is the blessing ever returned because "that boy just ain't quite right." If right by mental or emotional standards is what you are after, the wrongness of your thoughts and intents betray the thoughts and intents of your heart. If you mean not quite right by what we consider normative, then you may be correct.
The Brians remain fighting a needless uphill battle in the Body--until someone like you or like me chooses to overlook what distances them from "us." Do you know a Brian? Of course you do.