You may be like me. I’m sitting in the Atlanta airport right now waiting for a flight. I started my day half way around the world and have now sat for nearly 18 hours in 3 different airports. And it’s not my last airport of the day. One miss-timed arrival led to one missed flight, which led to one delay after another, and now I’m hopeful my wife and I will be able to catch the last flight to Tulsa before midnight!
Regardless, these hours in the airport have afforded me the opportunity to take a closer look at people. And I have to say, “I really like the idea of people!”
I’ve seen people of all shapes and sizes. Some are dressed comfortably, obviously stealing themselves for a long day of travel. Others are dressed to the nines coming or going to the next billion-dollar business meeting, or perhaps a wedding, or maybe just a weekend excursion with someone special. Two Nuns dressed in full Habit sit directly across from me. Questions flood my mind. While just over their shoulder I see another unexpected sight.
There goes a dude that’s not really dressed like a dude at all. I’m not exactly certain what look (s)he was going for but the look alone captured the attention of every passerby. A Delta agent told us Bradley Cooper was supposed to be on the last flight we missed to Tulsa. He missed it too. Maybe he was the dude not dressed like a dude trying to travel incognito!
Everywhere I look there are people, glorious people! Each has an interesting story to tell, an amazing life to live, and unimaginable potential to discover. Sitting in this airport I’m surrounded by magic, enchanted with possibilities, enthralled by the undiscovered country that surrounds me in the lives of these travelers. I really like the idea of people!
Here I am, surrounded by a thousand stories, yet the only significant conversation I’ve had all day is with my wife. I’ve spoken with Flight Attendants, Security Agents and Café employees, but those weren’t real conversations – more an exchange of pleasantries followed by an exchange of currency, than a real conversation.
I sat next to a nice, newly married couple on one plane. But I don’t know that because we took the time to get to know one another. I know because I was the third wheel in what was clearly the honeymoon row of the plane. I did my best to discretely ignore their attentions for one another and they were kind enough to ignore me.
There’s a group of traveling high school musicians seated at a terminal down the hall from us. I know because the t-shirts they wear tell me they are ‘Ambassadors for Music’ on their whirlwind world tour. I’ve been tempted to ask about their trip and request a song, but I haven’t. I don’t want to embarrass my wife. Besides, it’s easier to listen to my iPod instead.
I’ll bet you’re not too different from me. I really like the idea of people. But, truth-be-told, in these airports today, people have been more of an obstacle to overcome than a story to discover. They’ve been more a product to be managed than a person to be engaged. Not one of us has really unplugged from our gadgets, books, newspapers or travels long enough to notice the glorious magic unfolding all around us. I really like the idea of people. But people themselves…
Well…we smell. We’re moody and difficult. We are under-educated, under-motivated and sometimes, under-handed. We cut in line. We complain about circumstances beyond our control while doing nothing about circumstances under our control.
I really like the idea of people, but I’m not convinced I really like people all that much. My actions today are evidence of this. I’ve watched and listened, been entertained and delighted in my imaginings about all that could be, yet never once genuinely engaged one person.
Jesus likes the idea of people. Proverbs 8 tells us that when God designed the world that Jesus was with him and that once God breathed life into humanity we became His delight. It’s better than that actually. It says He rejoiced in the sons of men and we were daily his delight. Jesus really likes the idea of people.
But more than this, Jesus likes people. He doesn’t stand afar off imagining the possibilities or observing our actions. He became one of us. He got right in the middle of our humanity. He made time for conversation. He went to our parties, wept when we mourned, and challenged our way of thinking. He was at home with the religious elite and the chief of sinners. He was interested in the least and the great, the seemingly wise and the utterly foolish.
This was no passing interest. That which began as delight grew to passion. And that passion became personal.
I long for this – to delight in people, to passionately pursue significant relationships with everyone God would entrust to me. I’m not satisfied with liking the idea of people. I want to really like them – and be liked. I want to follow the example of Jesus.
The Bible tells us not to just say we love people, really love them. I think this is the starting point. Delight in people, discover their story, and devote yourself to their good and God’s glory.
I think I’ll walk down the terminal and see if the Ambassadors for Music might tell us a story and sing us a song.