Jesus and All That

En route to a much anticiated trip to Victoria, BC, I met a man called Mike who was my seatmate on the flight from San Diego to Seattle. He was on his way to Gnome, Alaska. Intrigued by the choice location I asked who or what was in Gnome. He explained that he was heading to Gnome on a job search. I commented on the unusual choice of location. He smiled wryly and shared that he is a PA for a large medical corporation. After 26 years of marriage, his wife left him for another man - someone with lots of money. He said he was looking for a change and thought Gnome might be just what the doctor ordered. In any case, he was going to check it out and the company he was thinking about working for was flying him up in hopes of persuading him that Gnome was all the video said it was and more.

We chatted comfortably while the plane boarded, taxied, and took off. Once in the air, having come to a natural break in the conversation we stopped talking. I took out my i-Pod and he retrieved a book. I noticed the book was opened to a chapter entitled "The Healing Community" and I immediately thought of my recent dinner with Maurice. I wondered what Mike was reading and concluded in my head that as a PA - he must be reading a book relating to medicine. I waited for a few minutes and finally asked, "What book are you reading?" He showed me the cover and I saw the book's author was Larry Crab. The title was "Connecting" - Mike was reading a self-help book by an author whose name I had not seen in a long time. I told Mike I knew who Larry Crab was and that once upon a time, we had shared editors and publishing houses. One thing led to another and Mike and I spent the remainder of the flight talking. Our conversation turned to Christianity as I knew it might. The more I talked with Mike the more I liked him. He struck me as the kind of evangelical I once was - and I told him about my own journey to and from God. He was receptive and understanding. We shared some common thoughts about the short-comings of church as an institution and ministry as a business. At the end of the flight we exchanged phone numbers and agreed to get together.

I think I will follow-up on getting together - in part because I want to know if Mike is actually moving to Gnome. Mike and I are about the same age, he's the father of 3 grown daughters, has been through a life-changing experience, and has taken considerable time to reflect on his life. Instead of judging him as a man escaping from disillusionment, I thought about what I would do if I found myself is similar circumstances. Would I go to Gnome? Would I go back to church? Read Larry Crab or journal about my experiences? I occasionally think about what impact a life-changing event would have on my current direction and path. It's not a question of if I will have such an event but when and what. Afterall, one of the benefits of living into middle age is that life throws curve balls you can occasionally see coming.

Mike talked about Jesus relationally, as I once did - and he is relying on Jesus to get him through his current crisis. Who would I rely on were I to find myself in his shoes? I haven't really had a major crisis or disillusionment since I began the journey from God. I've had a few bumps in the road and have struggled a great deal with anxiety connected to the demands of my occupation but no real collision with reality. The people I love are still alive and well, my wife says she loves me so I don't think she's contemplating divorce, and I have a comfortable, good life. A small part of me thinks I will be tested - like Job. Isn't that the way God operates? He responds to arrivals by handing out new traveling itineraries - never satisfied to leave us alone where we are. A larger part of me is just living - working things out and through as they come, neither inviting calamity or staking a claim on happiness.

It seems that whomever I turn to when the need arises, I will need him/her to be Jesus-like in patience, mercy, and understanding and Mike-like in experience and humility. And that seems to be the long and short of it really - that there is no Jesus without Mike, no Savior without sinner, no healing without ailment, no living without dying. The Jesus I turn to will not be the one in heaven seated at the right hand of God but the human one walking from one experience to the next, struggling to keep his sense of direction while meeting every possible distraction and enticement.

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