We get together with our friends Christie and Cory a few times a year to try out new restaurants somewhere in or between Chicago and Milwaukee. (We live between Chicago and Milwaukee and they live in Milwaukee.) We eat. We laugh. We linger. That’s what we do when we get together with them.
They are “foodies.” I am less discriminate and generally eat whatever is in front of me and am just thankful I didn’t have to prepare it. They are especially adept at asking questions of the server and commenting about the food, which usually leads to a deeper conversation. They know how to draw people out.
I love people who are good at that; you know, those individuals who graciously draw strangers into conversation and have a sincere interest in the life of somebody they just met. We all need connection with other human beings who enrich our lives. We love it when people are interested in us, but loving other people is, perhaps, even more rewarding.
Jesus ran the gambit with his personal conversations. He conversed with a vast variety of people. The esteemed religious official, Nicodemus came to Jesus at night and had an in-depth spiritual conversation with him. The Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar had a meandering conversation with Jesus, in which they talked about true satisfaction in life, the nature of worship, and her own difficult life. Jesus finally revealed his true identity to her, and she was so excited she ran back to her village and left her water pot at the well.
He had an interesting encounter with a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery and was about to be stoned to death. He turned to the judgmental crowd who was poised to perform her execution and asked the person who was without sin to throw the first stone at her. One person walked away, then another, and another, until not one accuser was left. Jesus asked the poor woman, “Where are your accusers?” She replied there was no one left to condemn her. Then, Jesus said he didn’t accuse her either and commanded her to go and sin no more.
I am doing better at this now, but I have always struggled to be free enough of my own preoccupations, agenda items, and insecurities to be fully present in the moment and spontaneously engage people. With his life, Jesus teaches us how to be fully engaged and fully engaging, totally present in the moment and totally interested in the other person.
From my book, An Irreligious Faith.