“Brown Days” – who needs them?
Clear progress on a project gets fudged by bureaucracy or by politics …
Routines become purposeless ruts …
Good news takes a sour U-turn …
You develop a toothache that you wish was contagious …
This particular brown day had begun just fine; until the phone started running hot.
I normally enjoy conversations, even with total strangers on planes, since they’re only friends I haven’t yet met. It can be harder with commuters though; for despite knowing each other’s faces, schedules, hairstyles, dress sense or choice of newspapers; the 7:21 train is an unlikely launch pad for a happy round of charades.
A lunchtime deadline for my newspaper column was hurtling into view, and I was besieged by offers of free travel, time shares, credit cards, phone rates, power discounts. And I thought telemarketers only worked during evening meal times!
Telemarketers mostly work by commission - living by ‘mouth to hand’ - so I try to be courteous. ”Could you please mail me the details so I can check them and call you back; then we might sign up, okay? Thanks for your call, goodbye.”
An elderly neighbour explained her method: “I’m quite deaf, so I keep saying ‘Hey?’ They usually quit after the fourth or fifth ‘Hey!” An approach I’ve felt unable to use, since it’s hard to rapidly and credibly shift from a cheery greeting to total hearing loss.
But on this brown day one caller’s persistence crashed me through the courtesy barrier …
“Are you at work right now? Yes? Well me too. In fact I’m busy writing a newspaper article and you’ve interrupted me. How about if I finish it; call you at your desk and read it to you; just like you’re reading your sales pitch to me? Would you think I was being rude or pushy? You would? Well, I’m sorry, but that’s how you’re coming across to me. Thank you and goodbye!”
I’d won; but having to resort to rudeness made me feel more than slightly brown.
Then the phone rang - again.
It was our local bank manager: “Hello (insert here anonymous Writing Challenge entrant’s name,) is Judy (anonymous entrant’s wife’s name) still in Europe?”
“No Luke, she got back last month. But thanks for asking. Does this call mean that ‘bank interest’ now applies to our personal movements as well as our personal finances?”
“Not quite; last week’s figures show that your credit card lists a transaction for seventeen hundred euros in Barcelona!”
Surprise and dismay – both shrouded in the darkest brown - replaced any cheerful banter. “So money not only speaks all languages,” I thought, “it also ‘goes without saying!’”
Despite Luke’s news, I met my deadline. And after six brown weeks of investigations, detailed documentation and restricted credit, the bank finally cleared the computer fraud they had first suspected. However it was no fun during that period to have to wear the rap for an unknown computer hacker.
It wasn’t fun; but neither was it fatal. This was a private fraud: between me; the bank; and - with appropriate apologies to any fans of “My Fair Lady” out there - a ‘pain in Spain who didn’t remain to explain!’
But these brown days of private fraud pale into insignificance against the first Easter.
That was an absolutely black day with no privacy at all, when a totally-innocent Jesus was put to death on fraudulent charges: surrounded by the grime and the stench of Jerusalem’s garbage dump; totally exposed to the flies and to a milling crowd’s sneers, cheers, jeers and fears.
No bank could bail him out. His followers had deserted him. Yet while bloodied, naked and nailed to a cross, he still made time to carry the heartache of the thug who was dying beside him.
It’s not fair when innocent people suffer; and it’s natural to resent being exploited by strangers or by so-called friends. But Jesus’ death carries for all time the weight of all the sin that blocks or browns out our grasp of what God has designed and desired us to be
Jesus' death bails us out: taking our blame as well as our shame on himself; dissolving our desire for revenge – however justified - and erasing the ultimate effects of all this wrong. And he invites us to plug into his resurrection power so we may keep growing – forgiven and forgiving.
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