We were at Chick-fil-A a couple of weeks ago for Cow Appreciation day when we ran into some friends we hadn’t seen in a while. Well, friends might be a little strong – is there a term for people who you know you’d love if you only had the time to get to know them better?
We met Aaron and Beth at least a decade ago through a mutual friend. He is a pastor, she the stay-at-home mom caring for five (now soon to be six!) kids. We enjoyed our visits – usually at the home of that mutual friend – and would run into each other at the occasional church softball game or local concert.
Each time we’d run in to them and visit for a few minutes, I was impressed with how quickly the conversation gained substance. Beth and my wife could be talking for no more than 3 minutes and be deep into something about parenting or homeschooling or marriage, always in the vein of “how’s it going?” and “what are you learning?”.
Four years ago I hit a crisis point in my church/ministry life and desperately needed some outside guidance. I had no idea who to talk to, since all of my contacts were at my church, and far too close to the situation I was dealing with. So my wife suggested I talk to Aaron.
The man had no responsibility to me – I didn’t attend his church, didn’t even know him that well – and yet he made time to sit down for lunch with me, listened to my story for 45 minutes, and offered some very wise counsel. After we left that church, we visited Aaron’s church a few times, but ended up landing somewhere else. I still feel like I’ve never thanked him properly for that bit of free-agent pastoral care that I so desperately needed.
When we met at Chick-Fil-A the other night the conversation was a little bit awkward. I had kids to keep track of, he was ready to get in line to order before the line got too long, so we tripped over the standard “how’s things?”, “Busy, but good”, and “wow, the kids are getting big”. I don’t think either of our hearts were in it, but the long time between visits and the short time available to talk kept us from breaking the boundary into truly meaningful conversation.
You hear people talk from time to time about who they want to talk to when they get to heaven. The musicians talk about getting to know King David. The rhetoriticians want to talk to the Apostle Paul. Kids want to talk to Noah to find out what it was like on the ark with all of those smelly animals. But I’ve never really had anybody on that list. Fact is, I don’t ask lots of questions – I tend to just observe and absorb when I’m around people. I’d get tongue-tied if I had to sit at Timothy’s feet and ask what it was like to lead the early church. Even in the imaginative sense it seems like it’d be really uncomfortable.
Now, I’m not entirely sure that the life eternal will consist of us sitting around and getting to know our heroes – though I wouldn’t be surprised if we had that opportunity – but if it does, it’ll take this musician a while to warm up to the idea of getting to know J. S. Bach or G. F. Handel or even my recent hero Richard Wayne Mullins. But hey, it’s eternity, right? They can wait.
Sometime earlier in there, though, I’d like to take a decade or two really getting to know Aaron and Beth.