Archives, Biography, Pondering, Songs of Assent, Wheaton


I got on the plane after another gloriously intense session of the Institute for Worship Studies. IPod and book in hand, I sat down next to a strong, muscular guy in his early 30’s. His earbuds were dangling from the collar of his t-shirt. Thought: This is going to be a quiet ride. Reality: It was a voyage on the high seas. We began with the normal chit-chat.Where are you going? Home? Business? What do you do? “I teach.” What? Realizing that he was talking to someone who was “religious,” he leaned back, looked at me with a rather cynical eye, and said, “So you believe there is a God? Why? ”The wind that filled my sails at the moment sang out: “I need someone greater than me to worship.” With the slightest grin, he shifted the direction of boat: “You can worship me.” And with an emerging awareness that, despite all odds, I was talking to a potential friend, I took the tiller back and said, “Nope. You have as many problems as I do.”

The boat was launched into the deep and we had one of the swiftest and (at least to my mind) most fascinating rides I have had in quite some time. He quickly went on to tell me that he had just wanted to know what I would say. He had been raised going to the Baptist church once or twice a month, he believed in God and in Jesus, and went to church when he wanted to, and his kids went fairly frequently. He’d been to a lot of churches over the years, told me about the church with the cappuccino machine that kept flowing until five minutes before the preacher’s sermon, and expressed a preference for the music of his childhood over new songs.

We found a lot of common ground. He learned his trade on the job. So, in many ways, have I. Our conversation bounced from military vehicles to self-publishing to family (What ARE you giving your husband for Father’s Day?) and circled round again to issues of faith. But the moment of commonality that will long stay with me was when, in this voyage of so many delightful turns, he said, “I actually have a tattoo of Jesus.Want to see?” Sure. He lifted his t-shirt, and the entire left side of his chest was covered with a tattoo of Jesus’ face framed with a crown of thorns. I didn’t see that wave coming .I carry Jesus, too. It’s just that he has emblazoned himself on the inside, rather than the outside, of my heart. 

But after this conversation I find myself wondering how many other unlikely new friends are carrying Jesus along on their journeys in ways that would surprise me. So here’s to an exhilarating ride home. To a new friend that I would never have met unless thrown together in the cabin of an airplane for a couple of hours. Fare forward, fellow traveler. Jesus has a permanent grip on you. And here’s to one more reminder that Mary’s “Do whatever he tells you,” has the potential of some very interesting rebounds.

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