I had written the first draft of the blog entry on paying attention when I began the drive to the church where I sometimes help out with the Sunday worship experiences. Since it's a very long drive of 45 minutes I was using the time to chat with my mom and then my sister. During those conversations I heard the beep of incoming calls, so I tied them up quickly and discovered that two different friends in two different parts of the country were experiencing some new and different life highlights. I took great delight that in the midst of their delight they both wanted to share their joy with me.
When I got to the service, I noted that our small group had been joined by a visitor. Since we meet in a coffeehouse, someone off the street will sometimes sit with us a while and then move on. This guy seemed planted and he was also enjoying the other libation served by the establishment -- a beer.
Now, I don't have a problem with that because we really do want to be a place that is welcoming to all. But I think that was my first "sign." This guy was definitely going to be here a while. Usually, the pastor would have engaged him in a casual conversation prior to starting and then might have even chatted him up during the service. But my pastor wasn't here. And most of our extroverts were missing as well.
So after the music I followed the plan of introducing prayerwalking and sending the folks into the community to pray, and then made my way to the visitor to discover his story and assure him that he wasn't expected to prayerwalk if he didn't want to.
I need not have worried about not being the world's best greeter. (For those who know me, this may be a surprise but I don't do hearty handshakes and small talk with the new guy well. A party with folks I know? No problem. Conversations off the cuff with complete strangers? Not my thing.) This guy wanted to talk. About what? Well, that's the story.
In about 15 minutes we covered: that he might be a man or he might be a ghost, that his family included a saint, that he -- like the saint -- would die at 33 (even though he was obviously already somewhere between 50 and 60), that he was once asked to be a mercenary in Africa but turned it down, that he did serve in a "conflict" but he didn't say the name, that he was divorced and the oldest son bore the brunt of the scars but he didn't want to go into the details of that because that would blow my mind. Or was it the three born again experiences that would blow my mind? Frankly, at some point, I'd started trying to recall what the protocol was for talking with someone who had a fairly weak grip on reality. I decided it was to go with whatever he said as the working reality and ask no questions beyond clarifying the last statement. That kept us fairly busy.
Finally, one of the walkers returned. Finally, I made my way away from the table where we'd spent those few moments. Finally, I began to wonder about my commitment to paying attention.
I must confess that while I really want this place and group of people to live up to the commitment of being a "space for the community and a community that offers space," I cringe at having to be space for folks who are just plain off in space! I like reality. I like conversations based in reality or, if we must go to a "realm," I prefer the spiritual variety. I like getting calls about new jobs and vacations that are so good they have to be shared via the cell phone. I like paying attention to the things I find worthy of attention. OUCH!
This day I saw the test of my commitment. I'm not sure I made a passing grade.