Jessica sat in the front row with a big smile on her face. As pastors of a fairly traditional church, Herb and I wanted to try something new and daring. And Jessica was brave enough to give it a try on the very first Sunday.
It was 1994 and in it’s day, it was a pretty crazy concept. We had pulled out all the stops (an organ phrase for the more traditional worshipers in the crowd). We had Drama. We had Balloons. We served coffee and donuts and you could eat them DURING the service!! We were doing “Worship in the Round” with guitars, tambourines, a cowbell and drums. We even played the song, “All I want to do is have some fun” by Sheryl Crow with the words slyly rewritten to say something about church. We enthusiastically greeted each attender who took their place in the seats which were set up in a semi-circle. We were wild, man. Crazy for Jesus.
Jessica attended the university down the street and for whatever reason, she’d decided to give this new service a try. She was young, energetic and full of cheer. She was exactly our target audience. Best of all, she seemed to enjoy herself. She seemed to get what we were doing. And she came back. Often.
Fast forward six years. I walked into our local elementary school for my son’s first day of kindergarten: Myself, my son and 28 mothers and their 28 five-year-old children. To my amazement and delight, Jessica was standing there with that same wonderful smile. It turned out that Jessica would be my son’s teacher for the first (and one of the best) years of his school career. He had several very good teachers but Jessica was one of those that really loved him well.
Seventeen years after that fun surprise in the elementary, and twenty-three years after that worship service, a smiling redhead approached me at our church between services. She hadn’t changed a bit. She still loves children: She’s now on staff at our church working with preschoolers and first graders. She still loves church: Nearly a quarter of a century later and she’s still sitting in the front row…only now she has a family around her but she still has that wonderful smile.
Almost twenty-five years ago our lives intersected, even if it was only on an occasional Sunday morning. It is impossible to know the impact of those encounters might have had but certainly a relationship was forged. Seventeen-years ago, our lives intersected once again. Jessica was a force of love and grace to our family. She introduced creative, caring instruction to our son and made a blessed impact on our family’s life.
Here’s the thing: I really don’t think this story is so very odd. It happens more often than we know. The problem is that we simply fail to pay attention. Who did you meet this morning, talk to this afternoon, engage this evening that will be in your life two decades from now? You have absolutely no way of knowing.
Who was a part of your day who might still be with you a quarter century later? Your guess is as good as mine.
But you might just be lucky enough to have connected with someone like Jessica…or they might just be lucky enough to have someone like you.