the old guy gets schooled

The three of us sat around the table in my office engaged in deep conversation about things that matter. Mallory and Joslyn, soon to wed, literally quivered with the happy vibrancy of incarnate love and the lambent vigor of heartfelt expectation. I felt the palpable sweep of their energy, vicariously carried along with them in the details of their planning, my spirit wheezing as I sought without success to keep up with them…

For her, a transcontinental move.

For him, migration to the United States.

For them, relocation to a city far apart from their vast and supportive circle of family and friends.

For her, settling into a new job.

For him, entering a graduate degree program.

For them, “eventually,” they said with panting excitement, which really meant, “within two years or so”, the coming of children.

For an instant, all was quiet; the three of us catching our collective breath. They peered at me with eyes of wonderment, asking, without words, for my comment. I, with the experience of years of pastoral ministry, particularly engaging, being with couples in contemplative preparation, not only for their wedding day, but for married life, had an immediate thought, really, a caution. I opened my mouth to speak. But not wanting to sound negative, which was not my intention, much less judgmental, which was even far less my aim, I paused, searching for that proverbial “right word.” After several moments, I said, with a thoughtful scratch of my head and a smile, “Well, that’s a lot!” Their bodies sagged. Clearly, I felt, they were expecting something profound, which I knew I hadn’t the slightest ability to offer.

C’mon, Paul,” Mallory enthused, “we know you’re thinking something. So, tell us.” She looked at Joslyn who nodded in vigorous accord.

Slowly I exhaled. “OK. I think your plans are wonderful and if anyone can pull them off, you can. What I wonder…worry about,” I took a deep breath, “is that you’re taking on a good many life’s stressors in a concentrated period. They are positive stressors, but still stressors. Conventional wisdom suggests that we try to spread them out over greater periods of time.”

Together, they pursed their lips. On immediate reflection, I felt they were paying me the honor of considering what I had said. Then Joslyn, rubbing his chin pensively, said softly, “Yes, Paul, we see that. We really do. But, for now, we get to choose.”

Feeling my eyebrows knit together, I cocked my head, yearning for more.

“You see, Paul,” he continued, reaching out to take her readily offered hand, “we intend to be together for life. We know at the end, death will come. And along the way, no doubt, other not so positive stressors, which we won’t want and wouldn’t choose. Here, now, we get to choose.”

A spontaneous tear trailed down my cheek. I sat in the presence of two people, who, embodying the righteousness of love’s courage, in that moment of sacred sharing, became my tutors. “Amen,” I whispered. “Amen.”

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2 thoughts on “the old guy gets schooled

  1. An excellent and powerful lesson!!! I believe you can learn something from any and every person (people) you come in contact with, and you’ve certainly proven that with this story. Some folks miss opportunities and lessons like this by being too proud to admit they’ve been “schooled”. Thankfully you aren’t one of them!! I think we all like to “choose” our actions and course in life, even when they/ it may not make much sense to others! Love it!

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  2. Yep, I agree wholeheartedly any of us can learn from anyone else. One of my mantras, for years, has been the paraphrase of a defense statement made by a guy named Arminius when on trial for heresy at the Synod of Dort in 1619. Tho’ he was condemned, it has been recorded that he said: “Simply because one is adjudged to be a heretic does not mean that he never speaks a word of truth.” I can remember now nearly 40 years ago when I first studied the Synod of Dort and came across that word how it stuck with me (literally in my heart and soul) and became a byword helping me to remain alert to what anyone said about most anything and leaving me never to dismiss it out of hand, even and especially if it contradicted something I held to be true. As opinionated as I can be, there is that part of me that seeks to listen, always. I see and hear that in you – that wondrous willingness to remain open.

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