You never know who you’ll run into at a horse show. Yesterday, I ran into a guy named Tom. I haven’t seen him in 15 years, and it was 15 year before THAT (yes, that’s 30 years ago) that Tom was part of a small band of 20-somethings who came to one of our local churches to run a retreat. He and his compatriots were part of Zion Ministries, and they blew their entire weekend on us – a small group of high school students in a little church in a little town.
There was great singing. There were games. There was time just hanging out, where we learned that people who seemed to be WAY older and WAY cooler than us were struggling to walk with Jesus…and that walking with Jesus was the best thing you could possibly do.
Tom’s still walking with Jesus, and with the passing of years, he and I have grown to be the same age. Two guys with some grey in their beards (I’m winning that contest) with wives and kids and responsibilities and a horse show to go to.
Back in 1982, I’d bet Tom was a guy who had plenty of things on his plate that could have kept him from committing his entire weekend to a bunch of high schoolers he didn’t know. There are always things to do.
But I want Tom and the Zion folks to know that they didn’t waste that weekend in 1982, because it changed my life. We talked about things that really matter. We had fun. We had goofy conversations that ranged from sublime to ridiculous. We worshiped with songs that came from the heart.
At one point, we discussed C.S. Lewis’ Weight of Glory, and I’ll never forget it.
It is a serious thing, to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations… There are no ‘ordinary’ people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.
“It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.
That weekend I learned that my walk with God could be fun, celebratory, and joyful…and that it is incredibly important, all at the same time.
I learned it from Tom and the rest of the Zion Ministries gang. I doubt that they knew at the time that I’d still be thinking about that weekend 30 years later, but I am.
So, today, whether you’re helping with some kids at church, or sitting with an elderly neighbor, or having coffee with an old friend, remember: Our time with people matters more than anything. Every moment is an opportunity to somehow encourage each other toward God’s best for us. There are no ordinary people. There are no wasted hours, no “borrowed time” when we’re gathered around the word of God.
I may run into Tom again in 30 minutes or 30 years, I don’t know. But I know I’ll run into him at some point in heaven, and the best things about the weekend I spent with Zion Ministries will be the things that we celebrate in glory forever.
I’ll let C.S. Lewis close this out:
This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously — no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner — no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.”