I sit in the smallish, red coffee shop and stare at the dead screen of my computer. For the last couple days it’s been doing this; humming along with typical Macintosh efficiency before—*BLINK*-- drawing the shades on my magical cyberworld beyond. Before, it always came back on after a few tense moments. This morning, however, I sit staring into the blackness like a rescuer at a mine collapse, desperate with hope to see even the tiniest little pinpoint of light or life from within. Nothing happens. What a lousy way to start a Friday.
Behind me I hear the raucous laughter of three Red House regulars. They’re middle-aged men, rough and raw and real, and brimming with the kind of humor that strips paint from old walls. I suspect it’s also the kind of humor that’s helped them survive the kinds of lives they’ve lived. Their conversations are full of deep-throated grunts and guffaws and salty quips about prisons stints, political idiocy, Harleys they’ve owned and x-wives they’ve long left behind. Despite myself I smile at their mirth. I instantly like these guys.
My grin fades as I slouch back into the aging IKEA chair and force my eyes up to the ceiling; I’m tired of staring into blackness. I know what this means— it means an hour-long drive “to town.” Because that’s where the technology wizards live— in town. I let out a heavy sigh and begin packing my things. So that’s it then; my noble quest for the day. Sorry, ‘to do’ lists that have been pre-planned and on the agenda for two weeks straight—a new priority has arisen, a closer fire is burning, another arch-nemesis of efficiency has raised its ugly head and is shaking its clenched fist in my general direction. Onward.
The feeling of lousiness percolates inwards as I drive down the mountain. The darkness of the computer screen, like a late spring storm front, threatens to define not just my mood, but my entire day. The trip is uneventful—until I pass some friends on the side of the road with their hood up. ‘What’s the matter?’ I say as I jump out of my truck. ‘Overheated,’ they say. We shoot the breeze for a few minutes while things cool down enough to add water. That’s when they tell me they’re pregnant. Smiles break out at the broke down car and we all share a bear hug. Then, Corolla and quest back in gear, we caravan the rest of the way into town. Sometime later I remember I probably should have congratulated them.
I finally make it to the wizard’s lair. To be fair, only one of them actually looks like a wizard with his white hair and beard. He squints at me over the top of his steel rimmed glasses as he straightens up from the cart of starchy treats a local baker has wheeled by to peddle at this magical Macintosh hot spot. I struggle for a moment to purge the image of the Keebler Elf from my mind.
“Hmm” the Wizard says, and “Okaaay,” inspecting my laptop carefully with an accompaniment of disapproving sidelong glances as I relate my problem. This must be what confession feels like. When I finish he says, without any obvious connection to what I’ve just explained—“You know, you really shouldn’t put sticky notes all over your laptop. I mean, what are you thinking--?” Coming here always feels like going to the dentist. I sigh and can’t help but think it must be what coming to church feels like for a lot of people too.
The real fun starts when the Keeb—er, wizard, runs a simple diagnostic test on my computer but suddenly thinks the motherboard is dying. In this dark moment of doom, does he comfort me? Does he offer me assurances of his knowledge and expertise? Does he at least look at me calmly and offer a kind lie? No. “Everyone, come here quick!” he shouts excitedly at the rest of his ill-tempered, over pastried minions— “His motherboard’s frying…you’ve got to come see this!” So here I stand, a lone and frightened hobbit, rooted in horror outside a gaggle of wizards, huddled together in an impromptu ceremony of religious awe to watch my computer die. They dissipate like flustered vultures only after one of them realizes they’ve mistaken the normal effects of the diagnostic test for what they hoped was a rare occurrence of SCDS (Sudden Computer Death Syndrome). Their disappointment is almost palpable. “We’ll order the part and fix it in a day,” the lead wizard mutters darkly. I sigh with relief and head for the nearest coffee shop. I need a drink. I also find myself wishing the mirthy biker men were around to tell me a salty joke.
I find a seat at a small round table. They’re better for quick getaways because they have no sharp corners to catch you in the gut when you go to run. Don’t ask. The air smells like caffeine and I’m watching people now in an attempt to decompress. A couple sits down a few tables away with some contractors, looking at blueprints of what appears to be a house. They seem happy, expectant. An elderly man comes in with a young teenage boy and they sit down to play a game of chess together. ‘It must be his grandfather,’ I think. The young man’s cell phone rings at least three times while I watch them play. Without flinching even once, he pretends not to hear it. ‘What a good kid,’ I think.
Eventually I leave the overpriced coffee shop and begin the twisty drive home. I’ve felt a bit like Don Quixote over the past six hours; like the whole ordeal was a wasted day on a quest to nowhere. ‘So much for productivity’ I think. ‘Which is overrated’ I remind myself. But still… it’s hard not to link self-worth with accomplishments. It’s hard not to review a day filled with scuttled plans and dripping irritation, long waits and unchecked to-do lists, simmering impatience and wasted solitude and still feel… godly. Holy. Worthy. Spiritual. It’s so easy to get sucked out to sea by a legalistic undertow and fed into the cycling, crushing waves of self-pity that whimper, “I’m sorry I didn’t do anything spiritual for you today God… I’ll do better, or more, or nobler things tomorrow so you’ll be happy, happier, or happiest with me.” The coffee isn’t working so I turn on the radio after slapping myself a couple times and hear a worship song that reminds me God loves me as much today as He ever has or will—because of how holy JESUS is. Because of what JESUS did. It’s funny, I think to myself as I lift my frustrated voice and sing along—I’ve done nothing for God today but… He still loves me on my lousy Friday, just the same as Sunday.