It was one of those days you dream about if you live in Arkansas. Our summers are so hot and muggy that, when the weather finally changes, a fall day feels like heaven. On this particular Saturday, the morning was crisp and cool, and by the time I reached the football stadium the temperature was moving into the low 60s.
As I settled into my end zone seat to watch the Arkansas Razorbacks play Mississippi State, I thought there was no place I’d rather be that day.
And then, five minutes before the game began, everything changed.
I discovered that I was sitting directly in front of Super Lungs.
I’ll give the guy a little credit: He didn’t curse, did not appear to be intoxicated, and seemed like a nice guy. But his idea of having fun at a football game consisted of standing and yelling—non-stop, as loud as he could.
He yelled at the coaches. He yelled at the players. He yelled at the officials. He yelled at the Mississippi State fans in the next section. Always at the top of his lungs.
I don’t know whether all those people on the field heard him, but I sure did. My ears were two feet from his mouth.
It was an astonishing performance. Super Lungs kept it up for the entire game and never showed any sign of fatigue. His voice never grew hoarse. I got the feeling that years of training had given him superhuman powers. I’ve attended athletic events most of my life and I’ve seen a lot of loud and insufferable fans, but this guy made them all look like amateurs.
While my ear drums throbbed, I discovered that I had gained the power of reading minds. People all around me were turning to look at Super Lungs, and I could hear their thoughts: “Is he for real?” … “Is he never going to stop?” … “At least I’m not that poor soul sitting right in front of him.”
A few sympathetic souls caught my eye, and I could hear them thinking, “We feel for you, buddy!”
At halftime I escaped by walking for a few minutes outside the stadium. I could hear birds chirping in the trees and was thankful that my ears did not seem too damaged. I was thinking seriously of claiming one of the empty seats in the student section across the stadium when the thought occurred to me: I could write a Marriage Memo about this!
Words of wisdom from Proverbs came to mind. I thought of verses like Proverbs 12:18: “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Or Proverbs 10:19: “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”
The thing that struck me about Super Lungs was that he seemed clueless about the way his behavior was affecting those who were seated near him. Did he observe the looks of weariness and dismay, the whispered conversations? Was he so caught up in his world that he failed to notice he was ruining the experience for hundreds of others?
And yet wasn’t his behavior just an extreme example of what we all do on a daily basis—fail to consider how our behavior is affecting those around us? How often do I say things without thinking of how my words wound my wife or my children? How often am I so caught up in my little world that I fail to notice those around me?
I thought of Matthew 22:36-40, where Jesus was asked “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied:
"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."
The more I think about these two commandments—to love God with all your heart, and to love your neighbor as yourself—the more I realize that they provide a powerful summary of what much of the Bible is about. This is what God is calling us to do, and of course our inability to do it is why He sent Jesus Christ to live among us and to pay the penalty for our sin.
I suppose there is nothing more difficult than to pull out of my little world and to think of my wife, Merry, before myself—to consider her needs as more important than my own (Philippians 2:1-4). Super Lungs was a good reminder to me of the battle I face every day.
And so I returned to my seat, and endured another 90 minutes of non-stop shouting. Somehow it seemed easier to bear, knowing that I could write about it.
I guess you can learn from anything.
This column is dedicated to the stranger seated next to me—a fellow sufferer who helped me find some humor in the experience. I hope you followed my instructions and found this column, and I hope my words made you smile.
This article originally appeared in Marriage Memo, a weekly e-newsletter.