A college friend came to see me a few weeks ago. He was celebrating 25 years of marriage by taking his wife on an Alaskan cruise. As part of the celebration he didn’t tell his wife that Nette and I were to pick them up from the airport and take them to our house to spend the night. We hadn’t seen them in almost 15 years. When they came down the walkway through security the wife looked right at me and instantly recognized us. How could that happen? We laughed and hugged and laughed some more. They have aged well. A little grey here and there, a pound or two more than when they were in their early twenties. We laughed and bragged about our children.
The next morning we took them to Patty’s Eggnest for breakfast before we drove them to Vancouver, BC to board their ship.
One thing about growing older is that you have wonderful memories. When I was the pastor of my first church, this friend and his wife came and joined our little country church. I knew back then that he would be very successful at whatever he decided to do, but at time he was working as a recruiter for our Alma Mater. I asked him to be in charge of opening our worship services with a greeting and sharing upcoming announcements. Jokingly we came up with the title, “Minister of Announcements.” He went on to get a couple of graduate degrees and is now in his 10th year as pastor of a large church in Oklahoma City.
But when they were with us this last week he wasn’t the pastor of a significant church, they were just our very precious friends. I now pastor a small church in a very secular culture. In fact, it is the same size as that little country church during my college years. My friend is pastoring a large church in the middle of the Bible belt.
We drove the 4 hour trip across the Canadian border and dropped them off at the port in Vancouver, hugged them, took some pictures and then Nette and I drove away. We sighed and said almost in unison, “That was so much fun seeing them again.”
I reflected on our conversations over the course of our time together. He asked me a few questions about the worship style of our church, and other minor things. But there was one question that was conspicuous because of it’s absence.
My eyes burned with a tear when it dawned on me what he didn’t ask. He broke the unwritten rule between preachers. All of us do it. It is ingrained. Whenever preachers get together they always ask the same question. Oh, they are coy about it sometimes. They demur. But sooner or later the question get’s asked.
But not my friend. Maybe he didn’t ask it because he didn’t want to put me on the spot, embarrass me for where I was and where I had boasted I would one day be when we were younger men. Perhaps he didn’t ask because my church didn’t matter to him. (not a chance) Maybe he didn’t ask because it never occurred to him. Or maybe he didn’t ask me the question because he is a large-souled man who does not measure his place in the world by comparing himself against where his friends are.
I smiled and let the tear well up. I mentioned to my wife THE question that he didn’t ask. She smiled and said he is too big of a man to ask such a small question. I agreed and then decided to text him while we drove away and thank him for not asking.
Sometimes the best answers come from questions that are never asked.