There has been a very smiley, friendly older gentleman I've noticed several mornings. Two weeks ago when he passed me he exclaimed, "Sure hope this walking helps us live longer!" I stumbled over my words and only came up with, "Uh-huh! Sure do!" What?! What kind of a response is that? I kicked myself around the track thinking of a hundred better responses I should have had. Opportunity missed.
Yesterday I headed out at 8:00 to walk my track circles. Guess what? The same very smiley, friendly gentleman passed me. The first time we passed each other we both smiled and said good morning. I recognized him and remembered his live longer comment from our last encounter. As I passed him the second time a huge smile stretched across his mustached face and he exclaimed, "Sure hope this walking helps us live longer!" I responded with a profound, "Uh-huh! Sure do!" What?!? Are you kidding me? I missed the opportunity again?
If my body language showed any aspect of what was going through my brain I was kicking the dirt and wringing my hands. I lamented to Jesus telling him that I've been pondering hope so much and the sweet older gentleman spoke to me of one of his hopes and all that came out of my mouth was "Uh-Huh?" I asked the Spirit for another chance and to give me good words.
It "just so happened" he was coming around the track again. I could see him many yards ahead. If you know me, you know that I don't mind introducing myself to anyone at anytime. When were were just a couple of feet away from each other, I stepped in his lane and stuck out my hand. He didn't even flinch. His smile broadened.
I told him that I had a different reply to his comment on hoping to live longer by walking. And then I introduced myself. "My name is Angel." He replied, "I'm George. Nice to meet you."
As I began to share my answer about hope, the conversation took on a serious tone. Sometimes when I meet someone for the first time and have a spiritual conversation I feel as if they look at me like Monica (Roma Downey) from Touched by an Angel, not because I'm super spiritual and holy, but because my name is Angel. If I had a dollar for every time someone who just met me said, "You really are an Angel" then I could demonstrate my super spiritual holiness and give away a lot of dollars.
I wonder if I look a little like this to people who think I'm glowingly holy.
If it makes my story more entertaining imagine me saying the following words to George with Roma Downey's Irish accent. I'm sure my head was totally glowing as I spoke with him.
"George, I wanted to respond differently to why I come to walk every morning. You see, I've been thinking a lot about hope lately. Last August I had a stroke and four weeks ago I had heart surgery."
(My head really started to glow after I said that.)
"Because of my health challenges hope in my life has been refined. I learned that my days are numbered and I don't have any control over it, so I put my hope in Jesus. And the reason I walk every morning is because I hope to live stronger, and not necessarily longer."
He got a little teary, hugged me, wished me luck, and told me to keep walking.
My head stopped glowing, but my heart was full. Of course I don't see myself in a touched by an angel light, but it's fun to make fun of myself.
The point of this silly story is a public confession that I miss opportunities and a personal reminder that opportunities can often be redeemed. If this very holy week of Easter reminds us of anything, it should remind us of redemption...in our days, in our relationships, in our conversations, in our souls.
Be wise in the way that you act to outsiders. Make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
(You should read that verse again with a wonderful Irish accent. I think it's a good way to end this post.)