The Habit of Recognition

Baby Pointing

Revelation 3:20: Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

I don’t know how everyone goes about gaining the attention of someone that they want to approach. Last Thursday, I went into another ESOL teacher’s classroom to say hello before I went to my class. When I walked into the room, she was concentrating on what she was writing on the board, and so didn’t notice that I had come in. I did what I usually do and stood there, waiting until she did see I was there. I prefer to do this rather than shout “I’m here!” or leap dramatically into the room. Shouting could have startled her and caused her to throw her book in the air, while jumping into the room could have gotten me stabbed with a pencil, and I wouldn’t have blamed her.

I found myself wondering how long I would stand there, waiting, but never found out since she turned to me in a few seconds and said, “Oh. There you are.”

“Yes, I am. And there you are.”

Since we had agreed that we were both present, we had a short conversation which didn’t go beyond remarking about our health and the weather. It was an important exchange, though, since it served to recognize and strengthen our relationship. My Southern aunts knew this because they told me, time and time again, “When you see someone you know, you should speak. You can always speak.”

I did this, since I did not want my failure to do so to get back to my aunts. I imagined someone I ignored asking them, “Your nephew didn’t speak when he saw me yesterday. Is the boy just simple or maybe he wasn’t fetched up right? I couldn’t tell.”

Then they would say, “It’s probably both, but don’t worry. We can remind him of how he was raised.”

I wondered at the time I started doing this what I should speak about, but after a few encounters with various people, I figured out it didn’t matter. As long as I made eye contact and sounds came out of my mouth, I was good, and they thought I was smart and polite.

It occurs to me that Jesus would have made a good Southern boy. He spoke to everyone, and treated them with respect. One of the many differences between Jesus and us is that what he had to say was always important, especially when he was asking  a wide variety of people to follow him. He posed the question and then he waited, and he was and is willing to wait as long as he could, until there was no possibility of a positive answer. I think that Jesus rejoiced when someone became a disciple, and likewise, he mourned when they did not. But he never forced anyone to follow him. That decision is strictly up to us.

We have perhaps hundreds of thousands of conversations in our lifetimes and I think we would agree that most of those are not that important except to the extent that they maintain and enrich our relationships. Asking someone to consider becoming a follower of Jesus is without a doubt the most important conversation we can have with them since that decision has consequences for this life and the next. Praise God for encounters with others, for recognizing and loving our fellow humans, and for the opportunity to offer them, through God’s power, the treasure of love, grace, mercy and eternal life. Amen.

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