January 25 – In Defense of Insignificance: Snakes, Bats and Scorpions

I once worked for a pastor who was a significance snob. Tom (I’ll call him) said that conversations about the weather and sports, a find on the clearance rack or great new restaurant in town, were empty and meaningless; a waste of time. So he didn’t waste his time at the coffee hour after worship or the Wednesday night potluck that were staples in the life of that congregation. Tom thought that unless you were talking about significant things – doubts and fears, pain and sorrow, questions of meaning and purpose – you weren’t connecting with the other person.

Tom was my boss, so I didn’t say much at time, but I disagreed. I still do.

Becky and I waste our time at the Faith Acts dinner every week. Last night we sat at a table (a round table – let me sing the praises of round tables!) with a family we don’t know so well and some folks we’ve known and loved from the day we arrived in Langhorne five years ago (this week).

The conversation never got around to doubts and fears, pain and sorrow, questions of meaning and purpose. My old boss Tom would have declared it insignificant and a waste of time.

I’m pretty sure we touched on the weather. Who doesn’t talk about the weather when it’s 18 degrees outside?  And then the conversation took on a life of its own, as conversations often do. Somehow we ended up telling funny stories about things that had happened once long ago. The time Becky and I found a scorpion in the sleeping bag in which our youngest daughter had just slept the night. The family, with the kids joining in, told about the time they encountered a rattle snake on a hike through the Blue Ridge Mountains (the three-year old at the time spotted it before anyone else). And we heard the story of waking up in the middle of the night realizing that a bat had just fallen on your face. And that led to a whole bunch of other bat stories.

Such insignificance. Such a waste of time. Really?

Good relationships, like a strong stone house built one rock at a time, are built one funny story told, one scary incident recalled, one insignificant conversation at a time. And who knows, if you laughed together when you told the story of how your three-year old was the first to spot the snake on the trail, you might just be willing to talk about how all these years later he is struggling with his journey through life.

In Acts 18 Luke tells the story, just in passing, of how Paul met a couple in Corinth by the names of Priscilla and Aquila. Paul was newly arrived in Corinth from Athens and Priscilla and Aquila had just come from Rome. Turns out that like Paul, Priscilla and Aquila were tent makers. They ended up working together at tent making and then at building the Kingdom of God. I wonder how many insignificant conversations about their common trade and learning to get around Corinth were had before they realized that God had common plans for them. My guess is quite a few.

My old boss Tom never bothered himself with coffee hour conversation or dinner table story telling. It just wasn’t significant enough for him. A waste of time.

Oh, there have been Sunday mornings when I thought the coffee time was a waste of time and Faith Acts dinner conversations that were just about as insignificant as they could be.

Becky and I have been in Langhorne for exactly five years. You can build some pretty significant relationships in five years, and we have (or should I say, God has). Most of them have started in the most insignificant ways – a comment about the weather or a headline on ESPN; the new restaurant in town or a funny story from long ago. Stories about snakes, bats and scorpions.

I know that Sunday morning coffee hour and Thursday night at Faith Acts are not for everyone. But, please, never say they just aren’t significant enough. And if you’re willing to engage in a little insignificance, I have a feeling that God just might want to do something pretty significant in your life.

I won’t see most of you on Sunday since I will be on the Men’s Retreat. But Becky and I will be there next Thursday at Faith Acts. I guess you might say “same bat-time and same bat-place.”