I was rendezvousing with a friend at a riverside park north of Fremont on M-20 in order to carpool to another location so that we could scout out a piece of land. When I arrived, she was already there spending time watching the water go by, and had witnessed a local church having a baptism service for those who were taking their next step in the journey of faith. Several people had made their approach to her as she waited with an invitation to join them, for she too could step into the water.
When I arrived, there was a familiarity to what was happening that my years of formal ministry had acquainted me with. I smiled when I saw a gentleman with his acoustic guitar, and felt a small tugging to grab my Martin from the car to join him in leading some songs. The tugging didn’t last long as my eyes found the one for whom I had come for, and I wondered how she was responding to this peculiar rite of passage that was taking shape to her left.
We greeted each other, and decided to head towards one of our vehicles in order to venture off to the land that awaited our expedition. As our seat belts clicked into their places, I noticed that approaching the vehicle was a young man from the church who had a look in his eyes as if there was something that needed to be shared.
A light tap followed then the sound of the window rolling down.
“Do you mind if I ask you folks a question?”
Familiarity peeked my curiosity again, as I knew knew the script that was to follow. There was no verbal response from us, only kind eyes that sent the message that he had our attention.
“If you were to die tonight, do you know where you would go?”
I smiled and looked over to my friend, who I knew was feeling a bit alien to the conversation that that this young man was beginning. To ensure that the moment did not get any more uncomfortable for her (as this line of questioning is sure to conjure up), I leaned in to meet the dialogue with a bit more friendly of an introduction. I reached out my hand, and told him my name. Asked for his name and where he was from, then affirmed that his question lent itself to a long conversation, and that we were actually on our way out.
His response… another series of questions.
“Well, are you guys Christians? Do you believe in heaven and hell?”
I smiled again, and affirmed that while this is all worth a conversation, we were in motion to head out to our next location, to which we were met with the assurance that it would only take a moment to ‘know’ for sure what it would take to have eternal life. Before I could respond, his follow up came with the most interesting words he had posed to so far.
“You can know what it means to live a fulfilled life.”
I paused here for a moment, looked over at my friend and saw a smile, then turned back to our dashboard evangelist and affirmed him.
“You’re right, I know that everyone should give thought to what it means to live a fulfilled life.” In the back of my mind, I was thinking that it most assuredly wasn’t going to happen in the speedy quick one size fits all conversation that he wanted to blaze through.
Within moments, we were on the road and off to our next adventure.
While this is not a knock on the church, it is an example of how the marginalizing power of the ‘thing/function’ ethos has penetrated the sacred areas of our lives, even when it is dressed up as ‘spiritual’. The young man at the window was no doubt filled with good intentions to see other human beings be able to experience a full life. However, his method was far from relational, and leads me to wonder if the lens by which he viewed life had more to do with getting through a prescribed anecdote that had a predetermined outcome that was measured with statistical applause than actually seeing the person right in front of him discover their nature and purpose.