Keenly aware of his own shortcomings, Jack still liked to think of himself as a decent enough man.
Complex by nature and misunderstood by most, Jack walked around most days with an invisible guard that only few could permeate. Very few.
He didn’t necessarily like that about himself, but the circumstances of his every-day life reinforced his intrinsic nature. At least that was his excuse.
But made aware of an injustice against a brother or an urgent need, he could be provoked to radical 360-action in the blink of an eye.
Jack lived a busy life with a good day job and lots of peripheral interests. His phone would ring dozens of times during the day and he was selective in the calls he took, and the ones he let go straight to voicemail.
When his phone rang at 9:14 that morning, he only vaguely recognized the number, but it was familiar enough that he decided to take the call. On the other end was a welcome voice – an old friend wise in years and experience that called every couple of months just to check in on Jack.
He did it because he was a good man, and he cared.
“How ’bout a cup of coffee with old friend,” Simon asked, “… say around 9:45?”
It was impossible to say no to Simon, the man who had counseled him through tough times and even conducted the wedding ceremony for Jack and his wife Diane almost three years ago.
“See you then,” Jack said, knowing any visit with Simon was a time to treasure.
Simon arrived three minutes late whipping into the parking lot at breakneck speed. “Sorry I’m late,” he said, “I had three people come into the church and wanted to talk and I just told them I had an important meeting.”
Simon was an elder-emeritus at a church that over the past year had been on the brink of chaos. A split in the congregation had created deep wounds that compelled Simon to action and take the reigns to lead the healing process. It had become his full-time job. And it was beginning to wear on him.
Jack and Simon exchanged the normal pleasantries and talked about the important things happening in their lives, and Jack noticed an unusual burden on the man he so loved and respected.
“Are you okay,” Jack asked.
“I’m fine, just tired. I’ve made a commitment to the church to see us through until we find a new pastor and then I’m going into hiding for a while. I’m tired,” Simon said.
Jack shared with Simon his plans for a vacation adventure on his schedule in the coming week and Simon’s eyes lit up with curiosity.
“Boy, I wish my wife and I could do that. I need a break,” he said. “I guess I’ll have to live vicariously through you. Will you send me a postcard?”
Jack reached across the table and grabbed Simon’s arm. “This is what I want you to do,” he said. “Think about yourself today, forget everybody else, go and make a reservation to somewhere tropical and get out of here tomorrow.”
“Well you don’t understand, I’ve made this commitment and I’ve got to see it through, and I don’t think we could pull it off anyway.”
And Jack’s wheels started turning.
The conversation continued, the two parted ways, and as Jack drove away he determined to respond to call he believed came straight from God.
“It would only take about $2,500 to send Simon and his wife away on a surprise and well-deserved vacation,” Jack thought to himself. “And we could have him in Bermuda shorts within a week sitting on some Caribbean beach. I’ll chip in my share,” he thought, “and make a few calls to friends who love Simon the most and we’ll have him on his way before the sun goes down. Everyone would surely understand and be compelled to help.” He just knew it.
Over lunch Jack made a quick list of a half-dozen people to whom he could call and make the case. How exciting! What a great surprise for this wonderful man. A few calls here, a few calls there, start the chain call for the cause and the deal will be done.
Jack, the naive dreamer. Oh, the humanity.
“It’s a great idea and well-deserved, the recipient of the first call responded. My first thought is it would be better to do this later, but we’ll pray about it and see what happens.”
“I don’t really have time to give this the thought I’d like too, but it’s something we ought to do,” the second call recipient responded. “The timing may not be right for the church to pull something like this off. I think it’s something we’ll just have to pray about.”
“I’m glad you’re taking the initiative,” the third call recipient responded.”I want to pray about this.”
Let’s pray about it.
Jack saw the writing on the wall. He tried not to be angry, but it was hard.
“The timing’s just not right,” … the message from those he called kept running through his mind.
Maybe we’ll pray about it for another six months and Simon will be so spent that it’s too late.
Maybe instead one day we’ll spend thousands of dollars on flowers for his memorial service and talk about what a great man he was. “We sure did appreciate and love him. He was a great man,” we’ll say with our posthumous honor and glory.
“Let’s pray about it…”
Or just do nothing. That works.
Does this assume that Jack has indeed heard the Spirit’s intent in the situation, simply because he means well? Is the normative thing that God’s people get on board with good and godly ideas without reflection and consideration of the facts?
Such a situation is frustrating, of course. But I’m not sure you are taking into consideration that God takes commitments very seriously and that sometimes the timing *isn’t* right for a vacation. Then again, sometimes people’s schedules NEVER allow for it, which requires drastic action by friends and spouses in order to preserve everyone’s sanity! 🙂
I guess it’s never as simple as your story makes it out to be.
Yes. It’s a complex scenario for Jack. A lot of history there. I think he was just frustrated with a consistency of perceived apathy and excuse.
I’ve heard more than one use prayer as an excuse to do nothing because who is going to challenge someone that says they’re going to “pray about it.” I believe there are many things God puts before us that don’t need prayer. Do we have to pray about being kind to others? Forgiving? Loving? That’s my take filtered through my experiences.
I think you’re right, Debby. Sometimes we just have to act. PS: I came across your blog because I liked the phrase “choose adventure.” I had a related post recently when my wife and I were in Ecuador for 10 days. Just us and a rental car looking for a possible second home. We were lost many times, but fumbled our way through and it was an experience we’ll never forget. People have asked us many times : “How was your vacation?” …and I just laugh and say I wish you could have experienced that “vacation” with us!