So, I went to an organization’s celebratory luncheon the other day. It was a festive time and as I walked down the hallway to the meeting room, the chattering of so many people felt inviting. I could hear through the general din words like “Oh, thank you!” “So glad…” “We’re so grateful for all…” I walked in, past the buffet tables and servers, waiting to be focus of attention. There were slides on three walls sharing images of the good work that had been done over the past year, round tables where folks were seated but throughout the room were scores of people greeting, talking, laughing and even eyeing the delightful dessert table. I stood and looked around and realized I knew no one.
As an introvert, I have to say… put me in a room with 300 people who aren’t looking for me, sit me at a table of 8-10 of folks who, it turns out, all know each other… and it feels like heaven. Well, not exactly, more like the opposite. But, I’m up for a challenge.
I looked for an almost empty table and, sure enough, I found one where there were only a couple of people who didn’t know each other either. Good start. I was welcomed and began small talk, and then the woman next to me spotted a friend and excused herself to go to the friend’s table. That left me with a couple of members of the organization. And we chatted about the organization, its work, direction, all good things… for like 2 minutes. Then the table began to fill, and it was all people who knew and worked with the people who were first at the table.
Have you ever become an obligation? You know, where people turn to you because they realize that they’ve been carrying on with their friends for 5-10 minutes and you’re just sitting. I’ve taken those kind of moments in hand and struck out into them (not unlike an explorer in a wilderness), asking questions of ohers, even to people across the table. My attempt is to get everyone talking all together, especially at a round table.
Being the “obligation” is like being the in-law when the other in-laws don’t really need you in their lives. It’s the grandparent who is across the country or in “the home” and isn’t part of “how busy we are.” It’s the kid who’s new. It’s the teacher seeking a real conversation with a student. It’s the friend who is trying to share stories or reconnect after realizing they haven’t been for like 8 months. It’s even the person who wants forgiveness after screwing up badly.
God must feel like that…like the obligation, sometimes. God must be in people’s lives when they feel like they have to start up a conversation or acknowledge God’s there, around, still here. It’s got to feel so distressing to feel like an obligation rather than a desire.
I stuck at the meal until there was a moment when I could comfortably excuse myself and did. Do you think God does that in people’s lives? Thinking about, “As a deer pants for water, so my soul pants for you…” (Psalm 42:1) and getting to that.