We received our annual Christmas card from Carol. It is always a delight to catch up with her family. Typically, it is our only contact with them during the year. They were members of the congregation where I was pastor several decades ago.
Carol and Jason have been married for around 40 years. Carol had married young, fairly soon after high school, and her oldest son Scott was born early in the marriage. Too soon Scott’s father was no longer part of the family. It was necessary for Carol to work full-time to support herself, her son, and her mother who became the primary daytime caregiver for Scott.
Somewhere along the way Carol met Jason. The courtship was brief, and they married fairly quickly. The first time I met Jason I could tell he was a really nice guy. He was quiet, reserved, but friendly. From the very beginning he worked hard to be a great husband to Carol, and a father to Scott. It was not more than a year or two until Carol and Jason had their own child, Rebecca.
Jason’s quiet nature meant that although he attended worship on Sundays, he said very little if anything to people. Periodically when he was in a small group he embraced the childlike watchword of “being seen and not heard” as his pattern of interaction.
My relationship with Jason was fairly surface. We exchanged niceties. I inquired about his job, his home, his personal life in a fairly routine manner. Carol was definitely the dominant vocal personality in that household. Even when talking with Carol and Jason conversation was primarily with Carol.
Therefore, I almost fainted the Sunday morning Jason stepped out into the aisle and walked toward me, took my hand, and said he wanted to publicly profess Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. I was in shock. I was embarrassed. I was overjoyed. I was at the point of tears.
I had never had a direct, in-depth conversation with Jason about his spiritual life. There was always a crisis with Carol, her mother, one of the children, and even the period of time when Jason was laid off from work. I had never circled back around and had that one-on-one conversation with Jason about his personal spiritual formation. My bad, for sure!
I’m so thankful for the grace of God for Jason and for me as a twenty-something pastor who failed to raise the most important life question to one of the nicest guys God has placed on Earth.
When Jason made a public commitment to engage in a Christ-centered, faith-based, spiritual journey, he came alive. He was truly a changed person. Transformation was obvious in his life. He became more proactive. He became more verbal. He showed an instinctive leadership ability that had not previously been exhibited.
I do not know all the reasons for this. Certainly spiritual transformation can change our focus. However, the barriers between our church made up of mostly professing Christians, and a really nice guy who had not yet had a Christian reconciliation experience in his life, may have caused Jason to be quiet.
It was interesting that at that point, Carol, Jason, my wife and I became friends outside of being involved in church together. We were an inner city congregation. Carol and Jason did not live in the inner city. We regularly found ourselves in their home. They are one of the few families we have kept up with for almost four decades.
This inner-city church is now closed. Jason and Carol were one of several families who discovered the need to have a church closer to them as their three kids became teenagers, and wanted and needed deep interaction with people within their community context. Years before the church closed in 1989 they had moved their membership to church near them.
Carol’s newsy Christmas cards always told us what was going on with she and Jason, their children, and now the grandchildren. At least all we could know in a note of a couple of hundred words.
When Carol’s card arrived this year and told us their church is currently without a pastor, and Jason is chairperson of the pastor search committee, I smiled a really big smile. Just think. Very nice, but quiet Jason, is now far enough along his spiritual journey that he is recognized by his congregation as a key leader who has the maturity, ability, and respect to serve in this most significant role for the congregation.
I like God surprises like this. Do you?