Last week, me and 12 of my besties went to California for the PDC…Purpose Driven Church Conference. I will leave my learnings, findings and gleanings for another time. Suffice it to say…it was the bestest!
One morning, we had arrived on the church campus to find our place in line to enter the auditorium and get our preferred seats. Since I am not a morning person, I never made it down to the hotel breakfast area to get any breakfast and/or coffee while we were there. So each morning, as we got to Saddleback Church (so early that God wasn’t even awake yet), I had David and friends go get in line and I went to the coffee area and got David his second/third cup, and got myself my first cup.
On this particular morning, as I was filling our cups with coffee, I heard a couple of gentlemen talking at the cream & sugar “doctoring” table to my right. And I’ll just say, they were two very handsome African-American men…the older was probably my age or a tad older, and the younger was in his 30’s, I would guess.
I heard the younger tell the older, “I’m from Houston, Texas.” Well, that immediately sparked my interest and attention, because I, too, am from Houston, Texas. I didn’t want to butt in and let them know I was eavesdropping, but I just couldn’t resist.
“Hey, I’m from Houston, too,” I turned and told the younger gentleman. He asked what part and I shared that I was from the southwest side of Houston…Missouri City. He was familiar.
I walked over to the “doctoring” table and began fixing mine and David’s coffees. The younger gentleman went on to say, “Well, I’m not from Houston originally. I am living in Houston now, but I grew up in Nashville.” My attention was quickly alerted again, and I told him, “You’re kidding? I went to college in Nashville. Belmont College,” to which he replied, “YOU’RE kidding?? I grew up just a few blocks from Belmont…on 15th Avenue South.” I told him I lived only a block from Belmont while there…on 18th Avenue South. We laughed and felt an immediate connection.
I quickly introduced myself to the older gentlemen who told me his name was Juan, and then to the younger, who introduced himself as Charles Wallace. I almost had to sit down. “My father and my son are both named Charles,” to which the older man said, “Y’all have just GOT to be related somehow.” We all three had a laugh at that, after agreeing that we are indeed related because we have the same heavenly Father.
Charles said, “Actually, my last church staff position was up in New Hampshire,” to which I replied, “Well, you got me there. I’ve never even been that far up in the northeast.”
And then Juan, the older gentleman, said something extremely profound that I will always treasure.
He said, “See what happens when you open your mouth?”
Oh my! If Charles had not been talking to Juan, and if I had stood there at the coffee dispensers all quiet and introverted (which is my default) and had not shared that we had something in common, I would have never met these two fine gentlemen…and my life would be the lesser for it.
That statement Juan spoke is a mile-and-a-half-deep in gospel truth.
So often, especially those of us who are more introverted, stay out of conversations and groups and crowds. And in so doing, we many times miss moments of critical connection…a connection that could literally make someone’s day. Make them smile. Make them laugh. Make them think.
The Bible speaks about this kind of interaction at least 59 times in the Bible, in what’s referred to as the “one-anothers.” And as my father-in-love used to say, “You can’t ‘one-another’ if you’re not around one another.”
Here are just a few:
Love one another (John 13:34,35; 15:12,17)
Be devoted to one another(Romans 12:10)
Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
Accept one another (Romans 15:7)
Greet one another (Romans 16:16)
Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
Speak to one another (Ephesians 5:19)
Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11)
So many one-anothers. Yet so many of us stand over by the wall at the dance or at the party or at the church service, and we rarely if ever engage with other people, especially people that we don’t know.
It seems silly that Jesus would have to “command” us to “speak to one another.” That’s a pretty simple task, even for the most introverted amongst us. Yet a good plenty of us would rather stay in our own comfy cocoon, over in the dark corner (or the restroom) where no one will engage with us or talk to us or ask us anything.
But that’s how we grow, isn’t it? Stepping out of our comfort zone and being like Jesus? Meeting people where they are and engaging in meaningful…or hey, sometimes not-so-meaningful…conversation? And it doesn’t even have to be very difficult or terribly “intimate”…just convos as simple as finding out their name and where they grew up. Not complicated at all. But for shy/introverts?………overwhelming.
At last year’s PDC, I met an amazing man who has now become such a dear, dear friend. His name is William, but everybody calls him “Big Wil”. He is a very present and involved member at Saddleback…and he, too, is an African-American man (seems to be a theme here). I met him during last year’s Wednesday night worship night, and because I spirit-sensed that he was a strong man of God, I humbly asked him to pray for some tough stuff in my and David’s life at the time.
He was sitting in the row behind David and myself at the worship night, and he immediately leaned forward, put his head between David and me, placed his strong hands on our shoulders, and began praying one of the most powerful prayers I’ve ever heard spoken outloud.
David and I wept.
So this year, I told Big Wil I was going to be there again…and we found each other at the worship night and reconnected, praising God for the work He’s been doing in William’s life and in ours. And sharing the passion we have for God and His work and His praise!
And lookie, kids…….I woulda missed this precious eternal friendship had I not listened to God…and opened my mouth.
Here’s what I’m saying: you simply cannot neglect opening your mouth and connecting with people. People need to hear you…and you need to hear other people. I know being an introvert is very powerful in our lives and will keep us on the bench and on the sidelines and against the wall. But the benefits and the blessings and the beginnings of opening our mouths and engaging with other people, whether they are like us or not, far outweigh the benefits of the safety of the wall.
Open your mouths, my friends.
And see what happens!!