I want to be like that.
Recently I was at a birthday party for Sara’s grandmother. She had just turned 90 years old so all of her kids and grandkids were there to celebrate her. One of her daughters travelled down, with her husband Ted, for the event. This is a big deal as Ted has been battling illness for sometime, and the travel was brutal for him. He is an intelligent, soft spoken, grandpa-you-always-wanted, gentleman. He dotes on our daughters and spends intentional time with them whenever he sees them. Sara is so taken by him as well. It is safe to say that she deeply loves him. He speaks so thoughtfully to my wife, encourages her, listens to her, and speaks highly of her. When I hear that uncle Ted is in town, I admit that my introverted nature is over run with a craving to spend time with him. He is that likable. I cherish the debates we have over the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry we have. I love to hear his stories and to share some of my own. He is a great family friend whom we love dearly. At this birthday party, I found Ted sitting alone at a dining room table. I shook his hand, sat next to him, and asked how his visit was going. As per his nature, he quickly turned the conversation to me, my well being, and my ministry. I shared how much I love what I do, the way God is moving through lives around me, and the amazing people that I get to work with. He encouraged me, nodded in agreement, and shared some insight into my work. It was then that I felt a prompting to ask the question I had always wondered about for uncle Ted… “So, what is your view on Jesus, Ted? How do you see the spiritual side of all this stuff I’m talking about?” His response will stay with me for a long time. He answered the question by telling me of how the church wasn’t there when he needed it. It wasn’t there for his impoverished parents, so he committed to make a better life for his family on his own. It wasn’t there through a broken relationship that he experienced…instead it judged him. It wasn’t there for his marriage or on behalf of his children. It hadn’t made a difference for him. It wasn’t there for him, but he made sure to raise his children in it, just in case. He sent them to church, but he didn’t really attend. We spent the next hour talking about the mistakes leaders make on behalf of Jesus and how they effect people. We talked about Jesus in politics, Jesus in world religions, Jesus in War, Jesus and church. Before long it was time to go home. I didn’t pray him through a sinners prayer, and play into the perception he already had about Christians. I shook his hand, told him how much I valued his insight and transparency, and that I would love to come to his home at The Cape to continue our discussion. He shared the same feelings and invited my family to come whenever we wanted.
As we left the party I wondered, what if there was a generation as loving, thoughtful, and transparent as Uncle Ted…..and they followed Jesus with their hearts set on eternity? Before Ted left to return to Cape Cod, Sara took the girls to see him one more time. At the end of their time together he hugged her and said, “Make sure you tell your husband of how much I valued that talk we had, it was really good for me.”
This is the church. To love and be loved. To respect and be respected. To forgive. To learn. To teach. To dialogue. To speak Truth. To be patient. To redeem. To anticipate. Who is sitting at the table with you, longing to be asked, “So what is your view on Jesus?”