A Holiday Adventure
Some time ago, while I was on a trip out of town, I met a couple whom I shall call John and Mary. We became quite well acquainted, and we corresponded by e-mail for some time following. Then, one day, I received a letter from a lady whom I shall call "Emily," which read, "Mary tells me that you are looking for a fun-loving companion, and I also happen to be looking for a fun-loving companion. My telephone number is ———."
Though my better judgment told me to disregard this letter completely, my curiosity got the best of me, and I phoned Emily. I asked her how we could be fun loving companions when we lived several hundred miles apart. She answered, "Why don't you come to visit me over the next holiday weekend?"
Ever since Margaret's death, holidays have brought little else than memories of holidays that she and I had spent together. So I welcomed the prospect of a holiday weekend away from home and memories, and I flew to Emily's home town. When I met her face to face, it became obvious to me, as I had expected, that we could never be fun-loving companions, and she apparently felt the same about me.
John and Mary hosted us at a sumptuous holiday dinner, and the next day the visit ended with Emily driving me to the airport. When she put down my suitcase on the curb and turned to get into the car, I tapped her on the shoulder and asked her if she didn't think we should at least shake hands. So, she put out a limp hand, which I shook lamely, and she got into her car and left. My visit had clearly been as disappointing to her as it had been to me.
On my return flight, I happened to be seated next to a congenial business woman. When she discovered that I had flown to this city for a date with a complete stranger, she poked me in the ribs with her elbow, and said,
"How exciting! How did it go?"
I replied, "It was a complete disaster."
She asked, "How old are you?"
I answered, "Ninety."
She replied, "Well, what more would you expect at ninety?"
When she learned that I was a member of the clergy, she said that she had attended a Catholic school but that she was no longer a Catholic, and she added empathetically, "I hate Evangelicals, and I hate Fundamentalists even more."
In the conversation that followed, however, I discovered that there were some things about Jesus that interested her, and we soon became engaged in an intense conversation. When our plane landed in Chicago, she suggested that we continue talking as long as possible. Two high school girls were standing in the aisle by my shoulder while they were waiting in line to deplane, and they were discussing a certain boy. I heard one of them say, "The trouble with him is that he can't keep his hormones under control."
I remarked, "I wonder what that's all about," and the lady replied, "I'm sure that at your age, you know all about that." With that she immediately returned to our conversation about Jesus, and we became so involved in the conversation that a crew member had to remind us to get off so the plane could be readied for the next flight. We parted at the end of the ramp, probably never to meet again.
Once long ago, while I was hiking in the Santa Cruz mountains of California, I came upon a tree that had fallen, and I stepped up and walked on its trunk. After I had taken several steps, I looked back and discovered that my feet had broken the designs of the tender green moss on which I had stepped. The sight of my ugly footsteps struck me so distastefully that I quickly stepped off. I had destroyed one of nature's most delicate wonders!
Now I had brought Jesus into the confusing world where a lady confesses boldly that she is looking for a fun-loving companion who is obviously of the opposite sex, where a member of the clergy flies to a distant city in response to a questionable proposition, where a lady pokes a stranger in the ribs with her elbow, and where there are people who can't keep their hormones under control. Of course Jesus can be found in that world as well as in a sanctuary, but the real issue is how well I represented him. It wasn't enough for me just to have talked about him. The significant issues were whether my footsteps had left any broken designs on the hearts of the people with whom I conversed, whether I inadvertently destroyed any of the Holy Spirit's delicate wonders that were being created in their hearts, and whether I was aware of the grace that was available to heal any of the designs that had already been broken.
[On January 9, 2003, Wesley Nelson died. Pietisten will pay tribute to him and his legacy in the next issue. —Ed.]