A Guy Walks into a Room....

I love my family (well, most of them), and I’m not going to deny or apologize for it. For all that, though, I’m not blind to their faults. Maybe I make allowances for some things because they are family, but even if I keep my mouth shut, I see to the heart of what’s actually going on. This brings me to the strange case of my father and his friends.

The people my dad looks up to are usually impressive on a global scale, like Professor Blackstone or Dr. Findley Baird, giants in their field. When it comes to friends, though….

A pastor, which my father is, is expected to be friendly to all, but perhaps because of his position, or what he represents, usually does not have a large number of friends himself. My dad certainly has more friends than I do (or ever will), and perhaps more amazingly, is able to return instantly to the easy patterns of friendship with people he hasn’t seen in years. I guess when you’re a missionary and then a pastor, living all over the world, you learn to get past the formalities in a hurry.

I remember a time a few months ago when we were going to meet one of dad’s friends. The way dad was talking about him I expected a cross between Billy Graham and Hulk Hogan. When finally met the man he was wonderfully nice, funny, all that.

But he wasn’t a patch on my dad. With all due respect, he wasn’t even in the same league.

I talked this over with my mother, and slowly an idea began to form. Whether it be from a humble nature (which my dad certainly has, at least away from a board game, where he is Braggart Incarnate), or humble beginnings, or just the serendipitous and circuitous paths he has traveled in life, my dad does not seem to realize his own worth.

This has never been my problem, and I doubt you have it too. No matter what we may act like on the outside, the character we play, whether overly-modest or overly-confident, I think we know pretty quickly our standing in a room of people. I know I do.

Physically these things are obvious quite quickly, and this holds true on both ends of the spectrum. (I know this, from high school when I was often the most athletic person in the room to now…where I’m not.)

Intellectually it may take a little while, since often people hide what they truly know, and there are so many different ways to be “smart.” Nonetheless, spend an hour with a person, and if you can’t sense hidden depths, chances are you don’t have any.

But I’m not talking about either of those things, or any other category we could enumerate. I’m talking about an all-encompassing way of looking at people. You KNOW what I’m talking about. Maybe it’s uncomfortable, and maybe we don’t mention this in polite society, but the fact remains: it doesn’t take too long in any room to sort out who’s better than who.

This isn’t some “class” thing. In my opinion the blueness of your blood doesn’t raise anything except maybe your nose. No, I’m talking about something more holistic, maybe even metaphysical, though all the more real for it. That indefinable quality that people have, that we can instantly read, judge and respond to without even realizing it. We know who we are compared to other people. If we are decent folk we like to surround ourselves with those higher up, to learn, to emulate. If we are the other sort we like to surround ourselves with parasites, so at least we look good by comparison. (And sometimes we don’t have much choice in the matter, a situation I’m willing to bet you’ve found yourself in more than once at school, work or standing in line at the movie theatre.)

This brings me back to my dad. I’ve lived some years now, and more importantly, I’ve LIVED those years. I’ve lived all over the world, places most people haven’t, done many things most people will never try. I’ve met people all over the spectrum of the human condition. I’ve met politicians and the penniless, people who lived on the streets and people who owned the streets. I’ve seen people die, I’ve seen people kill. I’ve met criminals I’d trust my life to, and men of the cloth I’d just as soon strangle as look at.

Through all that, I have rarely, and we’re talking a one hand count-off, met anyone better than my father.

This isn’t hero-worship; when you live with someone, you learn his faults and foibles, and we all have them. No, I’m talking about that “impossible to define but we all know what it is” intangible I wrote of earlier. That inner quality that we read without trying.

What I’ve come to realize is that my father, for all his good qualities, has one glaring weakness. He doesn’t seem to get, and perhaps never will, that the moment his foot touches the floor he’s the best guy in the room.


Lady Jane Scarlett said...

What a wonderful tribute to your dad. I hope he had a great birthday! :) LJS

Anonymous said...

Here's to a wonderful man! Pastor J. you are a remarkable person. May God bless you and your family. Well said Hyp.

Sparky Duck said...

maybe its his job that make him humble, but this is a great tribute to a person that should mold most of your life.