Matthew 7:13-14

Enter in through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who go in through it. Because narrow is the gate and straight is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. ~ Matthew 7:13-14

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Join Us for Dinner

I was in Grants Pass, Oregon recently, in part, because I was invited to do a bible acting presentation of Acts 1 and 2 at a church meeting. This meeting was what is referred to as a “church plant.” In other words, it is a new church.

Typical of a "church plant" is that they use a space to meet at which belongs to someone else. On this summer morning, we were meeting at a middle school with the church renting the space for their Sunday congregation meeting.

I noticed several people gathering chairs and tables. The worship team were bringing in their musical instruments too, and a platform was being put together to form a stage area.

One person in particular caught my eye. Oddly, he did not look at all familiar to me, but what I noticed was that he was older than others and that he had a limp. I was not keeping score as to who the hardest worker was, but if I were, he would be number one.

I said "Hello" and he barely looked up from his labor and said "Hi.” He then quickly put his head down. That's when I noticed he seemed familiar. He looked old and crusty but the limp is what triggered my memory of him. “Did you attend so and so church 25 years ago?" I said to him.

He did not hear me, or he ignored me. I, typical of me, could not remember his name, but wondered if he could be that guy who was on my leadership board - the board that lacked what would cause leadership to happen?

I walked off by myself for a while, or maybe it was a moment or a micro-second. What is important is that my mind went back to very difficult days in my life. Times of sorrow and times of disappointment.

"What’s your name?” I blurted out. The very serious man with a face full of lines but bright eyes said, “Marty.” Marty!  Marty?

I thought, "Oh."  Could this be Marty the school teacher on my leadership board? The one whom we all relied on to articulate the occurrences of our business? The Marty of our board was young and bright. The young Marty, ironically from the old days, was talkative, analytical, wordy, and somewhat confident bordering on arrogant. The new Marty, ironically now the old Marty, was highly introspective, self-effacing, and servant-like.

Then I remembered something that could connect all our years which transcends race and creed. I remembered his wife. Her name I did not remember, only her life and her death. I looked into Marty's eyes, "Do you remember me?" I said. "Dennis Cole - I was pastor of so and so church - you were on the board." Then to my surprise, even as I write this, he said "No. I don't remember you."

I was so surprised that I failed to ask if he remembered attending the church.
You see I remembered him and his wife as so very close with beautiful children, too. Wendy and I were dinner guests. She had gotten breast cancer and confided in us. With tears I might add. By the time Wendy and I resigned the church, I was sure she would survive. In my ignorance or perhaps arrogance, I probably assumed the worst aspect of breast cancer was the loss of a breast, as if that was somehow easy. Later I found out his wife died.

I said to Marty, "I am so sorry your wife died." He smiled gently and for the first time in our meeting he stopped the activity he was doing. "Are your children nearby?" I asked. "Yes," he smiled broadly, “and there are many grandchildren too.”

I then asked what I already knew was the answer, "Did you re-marry?" "No," he simply put it. I already knew that this Marty, the one I had just re-met, a man of few words, did not re-marry.

I asked about his polio (that's how he got his limp) and he reminded me that he got it at a young age but that he could still play basketball. Once I figured out who Marty was I remembered so much - but Marty did not remember me.

That was Marty's biggest statement of how life affected him. I was not primary in Marty’s life, but for him to have no recollection of me when we had so many meetings, encounters, prayers?

I am performing a wedding this coming May, and in a recent meeting with the couple I mentioned how important it is to build good memories to look back upon.  Memories play out now and in the present.

Maybe my meeting Marty is helping him to face the pain of his past. Perhaps our gentle encounter from the past can take a bad memory off the shelf of his pain, and place on another shelf something that happened that does not bring pain anymore. It is doing this for me.

It is said that "Jesus learned obedience from the things He suffered." Wherever you are on the assembly line of difficult memories, you can with other co-sufferers have hope for full healing. The 2nd Marty I met years after the worst of circumstances was a greater man than he was before. What’s more, though he will not marry in heaven, he will spend precious time with the love of his life, his wife, and they will enjoy their family together.

I personally plan for Wendy, Stephanie, and anyone else we have, to have dinner with them once again as God’s family, now and forever. I would love to have each of you join us. Please come and join us for dinner together.

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