Here we are in the middle of summer. Target and Walmart have their back to school items on the shelves. Our summer camps have come to an end. Plans for the fall are starting to take shape. The month of July is the slowest month for a church as young families try to squeeze in that last weeks of free time before the schedules over take them. Attendance may drop but time for casual conversation rises.
It is a Wednesday morning and the list of items to complete is not as hectic as they usually are when there is a knock on my door. Jim Poynter, a retiree, widower, golfer and life-long Lutheran pokes his head into my office. He fills me in on the latest stories from the Golf Club and the wonderful stories of his family. We commiserate over the buyout of Jos. A. Banks by Men’s Warehouse. We are classic men when we decide to be, and the Men’s Warehouse idea of style and attention to detail is disclosed in their name.
None of this really matters to anybody else and it certainly lacks any attention to or care for world affairs. It isn’t helping boost church attendance or addressing the growing number of homeless in Gwinnett. No, it is just ordinary run-of-the mill chatter. The kind that binds friendship for the day when the waters get rough and life demands a deeper conversation. The ground work has been laid for other times.
I tell young folks who are getting married that one of the most important things they can do is talk to each other every day. It doesn’t always have to be a deep conversation about the up-coming presidential election. It can be as silly as “What do you think about the latest episode of Bachelorette?” It is the simple useless chatter that is sprinkled with an occasional, “Have-I-told-you-lately- that-I-love-you?” that really counts.
I learned about this particular chatter before we had an automatic dishwasher. I observed as a child how run-of-the-mill, daily routines and deeper issues, as needed, got addressed. Before modernization, someone washed and someone rinsed and put the dish ware in a drip rack. This daily ritual, no matter how you felt, got done. For the most part you talked about the day’s affairs as you did the routine chore together. When there was silence, you knew there was trouble in the air. I tell young couples that this was the glue that helped hold relationships together when the going got rough, because in a day or two the dead conversation came back to life. Anger and forgiveness had met and the commitment to and love for each other was reborn. The question before them was who is going to wash and who is going to rinse today.
Life and relationship is deeply rooted in ordinary routine conversation. Ask anyone who has had a loved one die. What you do you miss first? The answer usually is “the sound of their voice”. The truth is, if life slows down for a month and families have time together apart from going hither and yonder in a dead heat run we won’t lose anything. Quite the opposite, instead we have gained a precious jewel. That pearl of wisdom is relationship. We will have bonded deeper to the people we love.
I believe church is a place where we practice this type of conversation. We practice honest conversation with each other. We learn to respect our differences and affirm and appreciate “the other.” We talk to God honestly and come to appreciate the strength of that relationship in forgiveness, unconditional love, and undying devotion. We learn what it means to love and be in relationship.
On our better days, we carry that gift of gab into the bigger arenas of work, neighborhood, marketplace, and school. We go beyond the familiar into the unfamiliar. We bring our skills of listening and appreciation. We make room in our minds for other ways of thinking. We become enriched with culture and language and dress and food and perspective. We become in touch with God’s creation.
It all starts with “hello.” A couple meets. The next thing you know they are washing dishes together or sitting outside under the stars. They make friends, shop for groceries, take the kids to school, go to work, attend church, and community is born.
~Take time this summer…… and reconnect.