I watched the sunrise from our office window this morning, fascinated by how fast that thing comes up. For a few minutes, everything is purple and gray, and you can stare right at the sun without your homemade eclipse glasses. Then it’s peeking through, climbing high, changing everything from gray to gold. Suddenly, it’s broad daylight and time for the tanning oil sunscreen. The sunrise and sunset are daily reminders of how quickly time flies (or flys time?).
NOTE: Of course I think of the Robert Frost poem, “Nothing gold can stay,” that everyone who ever read The Outsiders remembers. Thank you to my junior high Reading teacher, Mrs. Priddy, for pointing out the allusion there.
I just finished the Jennie Allen Restless bible study, and the summary is this: we live a life of purpose. If I believe that God is real, today isn’t an accident or coincidence; it was designed by God and given to me to bring glory to him. All of my people, places, gifts, sufferings, and circumstances are planned for his work. I’ve been [trying to] consciously living like this lately and it’s really fascinating to see how people intersect under God’s purpose.
So the other night Laurie and I, on a whim, ended up in Denver at a Needtobreathe concert. (For the record, we did not smoke a joint, nor did we judge those who were smoking while walking down the street in broad daylight. Hashtag coloradobecrazy.) We were VIPs at the concert, which means we paid an extra $40 for box seats, a special entrance, bar, and restroom, and the company of six other hardcore NTB fans from around the country. Here’s the cast of characters:
- Mary and her daughter: uber-Christian pair from South Dakota; when we arrived, Mary was ticked off at Gary and Mike, whom she was sitting next to but hadn’t met, because they were “going on and on about strip clubs and would not shut up and I don’t want to listen to that all night”
- Jan and Darryl: 50-somethings from Denver; Jan (a Christian) recently had a knee replacement, owns a consulting business, has two grown daughters, and her first husband passed away so she married Darryl when the girls were teenagers; Darryl is an “amazing man and Jewish”
- Gary and Mike: Gary, a married loan officer with two tiny daughters at home with his wife; Mike, a Chicago firefighter wearing a tuxedo vest and filming half of the concert on his phone, has been friends with Jan and Darryl since they went on a Rock the Boat cruise with Needtobreathe several years ago
- The waitress: we kept her busy
Laurie and I kicked Gary and Mike out of our seats and sat between the Mary pair and Jan and Darryl. Immediately, Mary says to Laurie, “I just wish Needtobreathe would witness at their concerts more. Since they’re Christian, it’d be nice if they’d share more about that at their shows.” Or something to that effect.
Laurie replied, “I don’t think so at all. I think the fact that they DON’T “witness” makes them more appealing and brings people who aren’t Christian to their shows. They don’t need to be put in the Christian Music box.” Or something to that effect.
Mary decided she didn’t like us too much after that.
Meanwhile, I’m hearing Jan’s life story and she shows me a photo of her daughter because she and I are so much alike. Then I find out Darryl is Jewish, and I just can’t resist.
“Darryl, do you even know about Jesus??? Have you heard what he did?” Darryl says he has, in fact, heard of Jesus.
We discuss that Darryl has until his last breath to accept Christ, and perhaps he will, so that’s good enough for now.
Mike and Gary are dancing around together, taking photos, having a good ole time, but when Needtobreathe takes the stage, we are all in. Their latest album, Rivers in the Wasteland, is what you need to stop and buy right now. I’ll wait. (Note: they are considered southern rock.) It has songs like this on it:
And what I’ve been thinking about since the concert is how different each of us sitting in that box were, how well we got along in light of a common interest and a few drinks, and how none of us should be put in a defining box based on one character trait. Mary, for example, was completely offended by a topic in conversation she overheard, and refused to introduce herself to Gary and Mike. She missed out on two new Facebook friends, seeing pictures of Gary’s little girls, and the opportunity to show kindness to strangers. Darryl, a Jew, was thoroughly enjoying a band that is Christian, meeting and greeting everyone who passed by.
But here’s the best part: if we believe that God is real, our heaven starts now. We are talking and serving and living with people that we’ll spend eternity with. No matter what we think about them, our opinions, judgments, prejudices, labels…as people with souls, they will be living on in eternity. I don’t know about you, but I’d like a big welcoming committee when I get to heaven. I want it full of people I spent a ton of time with and those that I met once in passing…who will say, oh! You’re that girl from the Needtobreathe concert who tried to start a snap-clap that didn’t catch on. Glad you’re here!
And if God is real, and every interaction we have matters, let’s make the most of them. Wasting time categorizing people we meet, weighing their pros and cons, figuring out if they’re worth our time before we even say hello – these attitudes aren’t growing our welcoming committees. Let’s drop the boxes we’re lugging around, packed full of neatly labeled people and ideas and what we think “Christian” means. (Especially if you’re not a Christian: no need to label me as such and offend the rest of the group. Let’s settle with a glass of wine and a conversation about Jesus.)
In between the sunrise and the sunset a few short hours spin by, during which we can have a great time being un-offended and making friends. In the words of OneRepublic, we only live once. Enjoy the music… and the people.