Saw my friend Ron’s face yesterday.
I was in the midst of processing two shipments – books and t-shirts, mostly. I had told Ron to please come by when he’s in the area, that I’ve been having some serious Ron withdrawals. And so he did.
I must be honest here.
When I first saw someone out of the corner of my eye rounding the corner into the bookstore, I was not thrilled. There was an inner groan – someone needing, wanting, asking for something. My plan for the morning had been to process those two orders and quickly do anything else needed out in the store, and then get back to more writing for even just a few moments. But then I saw it was Ron. The flash of consternation quickly faded, replaced by authentic joy at seeing a friend who had been on my heart.
Ron apologized several times for taking me away from my work. Made me feel like a dog for that initial inner groan that someone was interrupting my agenda. And rightfully so.
One of my favorite (and personally most convicting) lines from the Message Bible is its rendering of Psalm 13.4:
Don’t they know anything
all these imposters?
Don’t they know
they can’t get away with this –
Treating people like a fast food meal
over which they are too busy to pray?
Groaning at people when I should be groaning at tasks.
So I repented of the groan, however brief it may have been. I asked Ron if he had time to sit down there in the nook of the bookstore (those two comfy blue chairs). Ron seemed surprised – and delighted. Internally I was still kicking myself.
I think I need a sign in that bookstore, more as a reminder for me than for anyone else: Work is what you do when there’s no one wanting to talk.
Wouldn’t be a bad idea to have that over the door in my office on the other side as well.
Listening – really seeing people – is at the heart of all true pastoring. Check that. It’s at the heart of being a decent, fully alive human being. Not a bad definition, actually, for that rather intimidating word that heads up each of Paul’s qualification lists for the elder/episcopos: blameless. It’s so much more that just being clean of sustainable check marks against you in areas we decide are critical (typically, sex…and then there’s sex…and did I mention, sex?). That definition may be intimidating to a politician, but the more comprehensive definition of a human being fully alive and present, as opposed to being fractured and numbed by personal or public agendas – that’s the truly tall order that only God’s grace can initiate and sustain in us. Always more a pathway and process than secure possession.
I still stumble towards it.