He was the Barney Fife of our little hamlet. If, in fact, the fictional character of the beloved television series were to have had children, who in turn had children, this man writing a ticket would have been the fabled offspring.
To be fair, I’m certain that when he wasn’t high strung and looking for an excuse to use his bullet he was probably a nice guy. Probably had a girlfriend named Thelma Lou and might have even sung in his cell phone to lovely Juanita when he and Thelma were on the outs.
It is likely he had a personal life worth passing on to future generations, but for those in my town, this man was simply a laughingstock
He had those veins in his neck that resembled rhubarb when he was highly excitable and I watched as the rhubarb stood sentry over the bobbing Adam’s apple.
It seems I had been traveling in my 1963 Chevy on a road that had been labeled as a School Zone even though there was no school in the area. It seems the city fathers had simply failed to rezone the area once the school opted not to use this road years before.
As my sixteen year-old ears were adjusting to the blistering they received at the hands of the officer I noticed friends driving by waving at me, laughing and even calling out, “Hey, Barney!”
I honestly had no clue that this road was designated as a school zone and that 30 miles per hour was not the designated speed for this area. Barney showed me the sign but it was covered over with tree limbs, neglected by those who knew better.
No, the rhubarb and apple dance, a tongue-lashing, and a ticket pronounced my doom.
For a few days I was the hero of the school. You see, I had faced the fury of Barney and lived to impersonate.
I told my father of the incident before he saw it in the town paper. When he heard it he laughed just as hysterically as my friends had. He too had seen Barney in action and could envision the wiry little fella shaking his ticket book in my face. Besides he no reason to believe Barney was wrong.
We laugh at the ‘Barneys’ of the world. We think they are amusing and worthy of a little humorous attention. I don’t know when Barney left town, but it didn’t seem anyone missed him.
Yet it occurs to me that some mother held Barney once upon a time and held out great hope for her high-strung boy. Some parents attended school events with Barney and dreamed of the best for him. Some grandparents traveled to town to visit with their grandson and they came back for his graduation. Some children laughed at him because he was different.
Laughter followed him into adulthood.
Barney was an easy target – a caricature of high-strung humanity and intent on justice. He just wasn’t – normal.
Or was it just me?
Barney gave me a $42 ticket, but he also gave me an unusual face for my Christian witness.
Maybe we should be high-strung from time to time.
Maybe we should seek justice in the midst of injustice.
Maybe we simply refuse to be laughed at in deference to our inner fervor.
Maybe we don’t stand for truth and we don’t show passion.
Maybe we blend in with everyone else and no one knows to look for the Peculiar People inside each of us.
You see, we have a Father who has been watching us from the day we were born – who wanted the best for us, who watched us graduate and saw those moments when we backed down from truth, when we refused to allow our spiritual rhubarb and Adam’s apple to dance in holy intensity.
Are we willing to accept the ridicule of others for what we believe? Are we willing to appear foolish? Are we willing to stand up for what is right even if it makes no sense to others?
“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:14 – NJKV).
We’ve been asked to follow Jesus and do what He commands us.
Is our ‘yes’ simply lip service?
What will you do when God calls your inner “Barney”?
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