Sometimes my least favorite part of the City Pres service each week is what I (sarcastically and selfishly) like to think of as the “Let’s all be an extrovert for the next three minutes while we shake, shake a hand and pretend we care,” time.
Okay, I don’t really always think of it that way. But I do sometimes. Here’s a sample of how this tends to look from my perspective:
“Hey, how’s it going? … I’m George…you? Good. Good … Yeah, all four of ’em … No, not that one – he belongs to the Spears family. They sit over there … Well, it was nice meeting you … the music’s playing again … better get back …”
And all the while this pseudo-conversation is taking place I’m trying to pretend that at least one of the following scenarios didn’t just happen in my family before we arrived:
- Someone waited until we got in the car before they remembered they wanted to take a note pad to church.
- Someone wrestled with someone else getting into their seats, making someone else cry.
- I spent the entire 30 minute drive to church punishing my family for the fact that we’re running late in spite of the fact that I didn’t bother to help get the kids ready.
Well, after all, Doug and Bobby do say we’re welcome at City Pres whether we really want to be there or not, right?
So it’s not coming from them. The pressure to put my happy face on in church long enough to play it cool and make it back as quickly as possible to the pew by the really big pole is coming straight from me.
But then there are times I’ll step into the scary a bit and take a chance and say something real. Something like, “Yeah, I’m sorry – my mind just isn’t really here yet,” or, “You know, today was a huge struggle. Christie and I just weren’t on the same page today and we’re lucky to even be here at all,” or (perhaps to someone new I’m trying to not scare away), “I’m really glad you’re here. First time? The worship music tonight is exactly what I needed.”
As I’ve developed a little more in community with other men at City Pres, I’ve done a little bit less of the first scenario and a little bit more of the second. And I’ve even recently had a few folks reach out to me during the week to ask how my family is doing or what’s going on with my day. I’ve gotten texts from someone saying he knows I’m swamped at work, but how am I holding up?
These men who are reaching out to me are ones I know just enough that I really don’t think they are courtesy calls. I think they are sincerely asking and want an honest answer, partly because they care and want to know, but also because they realize that we’re all walking in this thing together as folks in need of a savior.
So when they ask, the needs-to-stay-safe part of me goes away for a little while and I free up a little inside long enough to return the questions. Because I also want to walk with them as folks in need of a savior.
There have been other posts on this very blog about the power of shared poverty and I’ve been thinking a lot about that as well. Lately, it has taken the form of a long discussion by a fire on a cold night – you know, those kinds of conversations where you end up talking about all those dark things and deep problems we all seem to struggle with.
And sometimes it takes the form of a surprise phone call on a Wednesday night because someone really wants a drink even though they know they probably shouldn’t.
But sometimes it simply takes the form of a 30-second conversation in the midst of a chaotic 3-minute stretch in the middle of a church service.
Heck, sometimes it just means saying something true even when it isn’t remotely profound.
And many times it isn’t even me doing the talking. Often, I’m just listening. Listening to someone else, walking the same road, with similar struggles.
Because I don’t usually really have anything particularly clever or helpful to say. Often, all I have is an honest, “Yeah. I know…me too.”
To me, this conversation is the one that preaches the gospel. Without even being aware of it, we’re saying to one another, “We need a savior so badly that I can’t even get my family in the car without one.”
And then I go back to my safe seat by the pole and sing about that savior. The one that redeems dads as they drive their families to church. The one I need.
So when you see me next Sunday, come on by and say hello. I’ll tell you my name and we’ll see where it goes.